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Isn't skyclad a preference? Sybil Leek never performed ceremonies skyclad. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Two16 (talkcontribs) 10 January 2003

Yes, it is preference. --Morningstar2651 17:27, Apr 12, 2005 (UTC)


The history section of the article doesn't actually say anything about the history of the tradition. The second and third paragraphs in particular don't even seem to be about handfasting, unless it is meant to be inferred that this is about how the tradition became less common. That section should be modified to have the history of the tradition itself, and to avoid a tone critical of other traditions.

Jumping the broom[edit]

I am a Modern Orthodox Jew. My wife (civil marriage) is African American. Soon, she will have completed her conversion, and we will have an Orthodox Jewish wedding. In order to incorporate the a-religious African American tradition of Jumping the Broom, I need to determine if it is a religious act as currently practiced by any other culture. If it is, then we will not be able to incorporate this. The Rabbi is researching. I am, sort of, counter-researching. This article is not very detailed, other than saying that it is sometimes done, and is symbolic. Yeah, got that. Is it religious, is then the question. In West African culture, it is simply a custom, as benign as carrying the bride over the threshhold - which can have plenty of symbolism (entering a new life together, support, and so forth). I would say that the difference lies in the purpose, possible origins, and the ritual aspect. Eventually, after we argue a little, the Rabbi will issue a psak (ruling that I must abide by). So, I need my face time to be good and filled with evidence.

Insights? Further explanations?

Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jndrline (talkcontribs) 5 May 2006

The jumping of the broom is a folk-custom or a tradition, not a specifically religious ceremony even where it occurs as a symbolic element in a neo-pagan rite. Its place in African-American history was as a folk substitute for a legal wedding, which slaves were not permitted. By all means, include it. It is no more idolatrous than crushing a glass in a napkin. (talk) 14:41, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

tying the knot?[edit]

Is it not a hindu ritual as well. RhettFester 18:12, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

It's also a Catholic thing, though it's not so much a binding, as wrapping a Bride and Groom's hands together for a short period while kneeling. It is POV to say that its definitive orgin is in handfasting. In general, it is POV to assert a definitive origin for most anything. Phrases like "possible origins","may have come from", "generally accepted", "modern scholars believe", and "commonly thought" are your friends. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jndrline (talkcontribs) 5 May 2006

Beware of weasel words. -Phoenixrod 05:35, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
better than completely unsubstantiated possible psuedoetymologies. Novium 19:39, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
“So to the priest their tale they tell: he ties the knot” ( Matthew Prior, ‘’Alma’’, 1717). OED gives this as the first recorded usage of the phrase “to tie the knot” in the sense of “to marry”. 1717 is only a few decades before the declining custom of handfasting became illegal in England (1753). As it seems very unlikely a ceremony which had existed since at least the twelfth century would have given rise to an expression only as it ended, I deleted the unsupported assertion that the use of cords to bind the hands during a betrothal gave rise to the saying. Anyway, historically “handfasting” referred to the custom of holding hands during a betrothal. Using cords or ribbons to tie them together doesn't seem to have been practised in England at all. RLamb (talk) 09:23, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Different Conclusions[edit]

This article draws a different conclusion to the page Historical Handfasting that it references at the bottom of the page. For the sake of consistency, shouldn't either, the content be altered, or the webpage deleted as a reference?

Just wondering.--Jcvamp 23:42, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Riddled With Inaccuracies[edit]

Sorry, but much of the information based on the early history of Handfasting is based on medern neopagan concepts, and has little to do with any historical reality. I'll clean it up as soon as I get a chance.


I agree.--Jcvamp 06:56, 20 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, this needs serious help. I'll deal with a couple glaring things right now, but don't have time for a full-scale edit tonight. --Kathryn NicDhàna 04:49, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Permanent or Trial?[edit]

I like how the article concludes that handfasting was a trial marriage, and then references a page, Historical Handfasting, that says the exact opposite. What references do we have that say handfasting was only a trial marriage? LadySunflower 16:59, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

The Oxford English Dictionary's entry on handfasting quotes a book several centuries old that say so. I suspect that about five centuries or so ago, when that book was written, it was used in that way, and that may be one of a number of reasons why the church objected to it (another being that it was not one of the church's sacraments), and that in ancient times (e.g. more than 15 centuries ago) it was the usual permanent marriage ceremony. But at this point I need to reserve the right to change my mind when I learn more. Michael Hardy 17:54, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
The only books the Oxford English Dictionary quotes that claim that handfasting was trial marriage are 18th century and later books talking about something that their authors (mistakenly) believed used to be practiced a century or (usually) more before their own time. The 1541 Coverdale quote does not say handfasting was trial marriage -- to the contrary, Coverdale's use of of the term "handfasting"s is clearly with the meaning "betrothal":
In some the Handefasting ther is made a greate feaste and superfluous Bancket, and even the same night are the two handfasted personnes brought and layed together, yea, certan wekes afore they go to the Chyrch.
The OED's interpretation that it is an example of the definition "Formerly treated as an uncanonical, private, or even probationary form of marriage" is most charitably interpreted as a confusing reference to the fact that in Scotland and England in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, if a couple had sex on the strength of having exchanged future tense promises to marry (that is, if a betrothed couple had sex), they were then legally (permanently) married, though such marriages were considered "clandestine" or "irregular". -- 04:20, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

It turns out that the "trial marriage" is a product of late 18th to 19th century Romanticism. The term handfast is attested (per OED) from the 13th to the 16th century, simply meaning "marry, betroth". I suggest this article should focus on the Neopagan ceremony. The discussion of marriage laws in Early Modern Scotland would belong on Marriage in Scotland. dab (𒁳) 10:51, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Asked for her hand...[edit]

Did that expression also arise from this custom? Michael Hardy 19:53, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

A Neopagan POV[edit]

This article has a HUGE slant toward Neopagan practices. This ceremony is performed by MANY people of many nationalities and many religions (I am having a handfasting because of my Irish ancestry and I am Christian). It is a Celtic tradition, not a Neopagan tradition. It is not exclusively Neopagan and that needs to be clarified in the article, especially in the modern usage section. I will tag the article as necessary and clean it up a little when I can. However, it would be nice to get some help with this. --132 19:55, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Lawful, not legal?[edit]

I'm not totally sure, but my hunch is that "legal" in "Currently, handfasting is a legal Pagan wedding ceremony in Scotland,..." would better be "lawful". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:09, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

keep it as legal.  rdunnPLIB  10:20, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

Is it really Celtic?[edit]

Given that the word's etymology is Norse or Germanic, and that much of Scotland was settled by Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians, do we really have evidence for the fact that the custom is Celtic in origin? I notice too that the earliest medieval cites in OED for the word "handfast" (v.) meaning "betroth" are not from Scotland and don't deal with matters Scottish. The first OED cite is from the Ormulum, which was written in Lincolnshire around the year 1200 in a heavily Norse-inflected dialect of Middle English. (talk) 17:44, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

"Celtic" covers more than just Scotland. --132 19:56, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
Certainly it covers more than just Scotland. But I the etymological point handn't occurred to me before. The word is clearly Germanic. Michael Hardy (talk) 22:54, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, of course all of England (and much of Europe) had a Celtic culture in ancient times. I didn't word my comment very clearly. My main point was that at least as far as the words "handfast" and handfasting" go, they seem to date back only to the Danelaw in early medieval Britain, whose culture was not (or at least not directly) Celtic in origin. I was wondering what evidence exists indicating that handfasting is originally a Celtic form of marriage rather than a Germanic form of legally recognized and binding betrothal. (talk) 13:55, 1 April 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. It must also be kept in mind that the Hebrides have not always been the Gaelic strongholds that they are now; ironically, they used to be distinctly Scandinavian through most of the Middle Ages, and were only Gaelicised in the modern period. According to Einar Haugen, The Scandinavian Languages, Norse was spoken in the Hebrides as late as the 16th century. If handfast is a loan from Norse, as seems likely, the early appearance of the custom on the Hebrides would point to Scandinavian rather than Celtic origin. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:24, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
I have now simply changed "Celtic" back to "European". --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:06, 23 October 2012 (UTC)


This article has a serious plagiarism problem. Much of the historical discussion is clearly lifted (though subsequently mangled) from an article listed in the External Links section but given no credit as a source. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:47, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Details please. It's not obvious to me. Also, merely summarising and paraphrasing research without passing it off as original work is not plagiarism, in any case. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:27, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Summarizing and paraphrasing a work that is _not cited as a source_ is the very definition of plagiarism. Summaries/paraphrases must be footnoted just as quotations are. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:35, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
See WP:PARAPHRASE for more detail. I'm not sure if this case crosses the line of too close paraphrasing, but you can turn to WP:CP and report the problem if you think that it is plagiarism. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:01, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

German "handfest"[edit]

There is a adjective in German, "handfest", which is wordly the same as English "handfast".

The use is (at least today) not related to marriage. The meaning is "coarse, real, not sophisticated, peasant-like, not diplomatic, above any doubt" etc.

Examples: I want to see "handfeste" evidence". (evidence beyond doubt)

He hired some "handfeste" men. (men ready to brawl)

He ate a "handfestes" breakfast. (A typical farmers breakfast to start a day of hard work) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:13, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

Burgos cathedral

Old relief[edit]

Some kind of medieval or early-modern ceremony seems to be taking place in this image, but I don't understand the details, or whether it's fully relevant to this article. AnonMoos (talk) 12:00, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Also File:Marriage of henry and Catherine.jpg... -- AnonMoos (talk) 21:39, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Need to separate modern "Handfasting" from historical usage?[edit]

Having googled it, it seems to me the word "handfasting" as used today most often refers to the modern (often neopagan) marriage rite involving the binding of hands with ribbons. Unfortunately this seems to be a whole different beastie from the historical "handfasting", which for centuries (in England at any rate) was a legally-binding betrothal instantly creating a union which carried exactly the same obligations as Christian church weddings - no adultery and till death, etc. No historical accounts I've seen mention any use of ribbons in English handfastings, either; but I can't help feeling that people looking up "handfasting" have exactly this bit of the ceremony in mind.

Maybe we should separate the historical handfasting out and put it in with the article on betrothal? Just put a line at the top of this article specifying it's really about the modern handfasting ceremony, and a redirection 'For the historical meaning of Handfasting, see under Betrothal'?

I'm also not sure whether the opening line about the Celtic origin is accurate. Betrothal practices common to much of northern Europe seem to have evolved from a combination of Christian ideas and existing customs under Germanic law. The English word is Norse in origin. Obviously there must have been Celtic betrothals and culturally distinct marriage practices; but would they not have a Celtic-language name, did they involve the hand-binding rite, and were they ever meant to be for a limited duration?RLamb (talk) 12:53, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

sigh, the article is completely garbled. In almost unbelievable innocence, it conflates the topics of

  • terminology: "handfasting" as simply a historical term for "marriage contract" in the Early Modern period
  • "handfasting" in the meaning of temporary marriage, apparently limited to 17th-century northern Scotland
  • "handfasting" interpreted as a ceremony of symbolically tying the marrying couple's hands with a ribbon
  • "handfasting" as a Wiccan euphemism for "wedding"

This isn't salvageable. The terminological stuff should be exported to Wiktionary. The "history of marriage" section should go to an article about the history of marriage in England and Scotland, and the neopagan stuff should go to an article about neopagan weddings. Conflating all of this under the title of "handfasting" is just a red herring. --dab (𒁳) 11:11, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Origin of the Wiccan term[edit]

The Wiccan use of "handfasting" for "pagan wedding" seems to arise around 1970. The earliest use I could find is due to Hans Holzer (1969). Holzer apparently wrote several books about Wicca, either "dramatized" documentaries or pseudo-documentaries. He probably didn't come up with the term but he may have contributed to its becoming "standard" in the pagan subculture. I would be interested in any reference to a Wiccan "handfasting" predating 1969. OED is of no use here, it is aware of the Wiccan sense, but its earliest (and only) reference is dated 2001. The "literal" interpetation (ribbons and so on) arises around 2000 and is not yet known to OED.

Clearly, the Wiccan term was taken from "Celtic folklore" books, OED cites Emyr Estyn Evans, Irish folk ways, 1957 "Like the Scottish hand-fasting, the system allowed the husband to test the usefulness and fertility of the wife" and the term seemed to fit both the "Celtic" the "sexual-liberation" flair of the Wiccan subculture perfectly, so at first, it was just made into an "ancient pre-Christian Celtic" thing allowing ad-hoc marriage (1970s to 1980s); with the appearance of "Wiccan self-help" books describing spells and rituals, apparently the "literal" interpretation of using ribbons arose (but the first evidence of this I found so far dates to 2000). With the internet, and yes, Wikipedia, this "handfasting ribbon" thing entered the mainstream, and since about 2006, you find "handfasting ribbons" all over the place, how-tos on DIY websites, and on sale ready-made on amazon[1] --dab (𒁳) 13:21, 26 July 2013 (UTC)