Cultural Traditions: Celtic Handfasting

Still photo from Starz "Outlander"

 

It’s no secret that we here at “Let Them Eat Cake” like our costume dramas – OK, maybe we are a little obsessed with them. But whether it’s “Downton Abbey” on PBS or “Versailles” from Canal+ on Netflix, we like it and will binge watch it. So, it should be no surprise that when I (Kelly here) recently dove into the world of “Outlander” we had to research the history of the Celtic wedding traditions displayed in the first season (episode 7 if you’re interested in watching, but we suggest starting from the beginning).

Now, for those who have seen the show, there is a sword and a blood oath involved in this particular TV wedding. But, from what we have researched, there isn’t such a dramatic element to most Celtic and Scottish weddings that include the binding of hands together, or handfasting.

Hand fasting is exactly what it sounds like, the tying together of the couple’s hands. This tradition is rooted in Celtic culture and is believed to derived from the Celtic tribes that lived across Europe before the dawn of Christianity. The idea behind the gesture is simple: it’s the binding together of the couple and their commitment to each other. According to Brides Magazine, this tradition is also the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.” Celtic jewelry maker Helen Chantler of Celtic Jewelry even notes that, because of its early history, is also the origin of the handshake – but we haven’t found additional research to back up this claim. In fact, we’ve always heard that it was so that strangers and foes could prove to one another they didn’t have a weapon.

Handfasting, we’ve found, isn’t necessarily a staple of a Scottish wedding in modern ceremonies (not even receiving a mention on the visitscotland.com website), but has made a significant mark in modern wedding traditions, like an addition of a unity candle or the combining of sand.

Whether you’re of Celtic decent and wanting to bring your wedding back to your roots, or just looking for an additional representation of your love and commitment, the Celtic handfasting tradition can add that little extra flair that is sure to set your Big Day apart.

 

 

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