In October I had the deep honour to perform a Handfasting ceremony for a couple celebrating their 30 year wedding anniversary. Spiritual seekers from their youth, in more recent times they had found their Homecoming within Druidry, and wanted to celebrate their 30 years with a ceremony that was both social and sacred.
Imagine a circle of candles and jars of sacred water, water that had been gathered at Brighid’s sacred well in Ireland. Imagine too, a wrought-iron fire pit in the centre of the circle and three lines of sand reaching outward from the centre, creating the triple spiral.
Outside this circle wait family and friends who have been blessed by incense and oil and drumming. And as the sun sets, a procession begins, drumming accompanying the reverence of the moment, as we enter through the gate in the South and make our way once around the inside of the circle. As the drumming continues I call to the energies of that place, singing as I walk another circle.
And then we call to the couple.
Radiate by the Chemical Brothers begins to play, and bride and groom appear from the North, meeting to exchange beautifully handcrafted leather and metal half moon bracelets. Then they separate to walk opposite sides of the circle down to the South gate, where I meet them, and ask them:
“Why are you here?”
A moment of hesitation, as they then turn to each other and smile. “Because I wish to be wed again,” is the answer as I welcome them through the gate. They are blessed with oil: upon their forehead that inspiration may be within their minds; upon their throats, that words spoken from love may ever arise; upon their chests, that they may listen to that inner wisdom; their feet, that they may walk with strength and grace; and their hands, that they may both give and receive freely and honestly.
Druid tradition speaks of the physical world having three realms – the Land, Sea and Sky – and tonight we honour both the couples’ Druid spirituality, and their own Celtic ancestral roots.
We start at the centre of the circle, where the groom lights the sacred fire and the bride and I whisper and blow our breath into the new flames to encourage its growth. Once it burns strong, we begin walking the first spiral as everyone watches on. The spiral winds to the edge of the circle and we call to the spirits of Land, and this beautiful earth we call home. We call to the spirits of beings who run and leap on the Land, to the trees and mountains and blossoming things that grow upon the Land, and the gods who watch over us.
Then we spiral back toward the centre and I can’t help it, I begin to smile and almost dance as we travel the second spiral.
Here we call to the spirits of the Sea, and the great waters that kiss the shore on our Central Coast home. We call, too, to the many beings who float and swim within the Sea, and the gods who watch over us when we venture into Their waters. Then I am tugging the couples hands, and in a line we are laughing and rushing back down the spiral to the centre of the centre, and immediately off again onto the third spiral.
To call to the Spirits of the Sky. To the many beings who fly and glide through currents of air. To the winds themselves, and the storms and the stars, and to the gods who watch over us from above. And then we are literally dashing and dancing back to the fire and the laughter of friends and family.
I call everyone to come close and surround the couple, as they speak the Story of their love – how they met, the love that grew, the ebbs and flows of their relationship. They speak back and forth with jokes as they weave this beautiful tale that has taken thirty years to be told. As they finish, I speak the words of mystic and poet, Khalil Gibran – the same words that were spoken at their first ceremony:
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Then they are exchanging gifts with each other – black pearls, the item that represents 30 years of marriage – and there are as many smiles as there are tears within the whole group. We all watch as this couple, as in love with each other this night, as any other couple in the first blush of love.
It is now the moment for the Handfasting – the wrapping of blessed cloth around their hands. As I weave the cloth around their clasped hands, I speak the words:
“You are like the to halves of the Moon, and when you are together your love and strength is there, for everyone to see. May you follow Her example and continue to wax and wane together. May your lives wind together as you walk your spiritual path, side by side. And may the Gods watch over you, and continue to bless you with love, laughter, joy and openness. So mote it be.”
As the ceremony finishes, they walk around the circle, hands clasped, being offered words of blessing and giving hugs. The Chemical Brothers being to play again, and we all give in to the frivolous wildness of the moment, drumming, dancing and laughing.