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Handfasting and Wedding Rituals: Welcoming Hera's Blessing Paperback – December 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (December 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738704709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738704708
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Raven Kaldera is a pagan priest, intersex transgender activist, parent,  astrologer, musician, homesteader, and the author of "Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook" (XLibris Press). He is the founder and leader of the Pagan Kingdom of Asphodel, and the Asphodel  Pagan Choir. He has been a neo-pagan since the age of 14, when he was converted by a "fam-trad" teen on a date. Since then, he's been through half a dozen traditions, including Gardnerian, Dianic, and granola paganism, Umbanda, Heithnir, and the Peasant Tradition. He is currently happily married to artist and eco-experimentalist Bella Kaldera, and they have founded the Institute for Heritage Skills.

...'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.'



Contrary to popular legend, Tannin was not born in a log cabin in Springfield Illinois. She did, however, spend her entire childhood living on the Jersey Shore. It is in this notably non-New Age environment that her interest in Pagan/Occult matters began. Over the past 15 years, she has dedicated a significant part of her life in pursuit of various spiritual arts privately and professionally. Tannin has studied diverse practices and paths such as Gi Gong, Shamanistic energy techniques, Gnostisism, Afro-Caribbean religions, and even a pinch of Ceremonial Magick. Before she opened Bones and Flowers in the of 1997, she served as "Madame Espiritual" to two different Worcester Botanicas, a spiritual counselor in a New Age shop, as well as making countless house calls. At present, the proprietor of Worcester's only occult specialty store is also a crafter in diverse media ,and a legally ordained minister.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

chapter 1
pagan couples

As Pagan clergypeople, one of the great parts of our community service work is marrying people. It has been our pleasure and duty to bear witness to couples' commitment to one another, their faces shining with joy and love, before the gods and their community. However, the days or months leading up to that point had often been fraught with a good deal of trial and tribulation for Neopagan couples who wanted to write their own ceremonies and had very little to choose from. There were certainly a number of handfasting rituals in the books of the Neopagan "old masters," and many of those had some truly beautiful lines, but they generally tended toward the same format. We found that the needs of modern Neopagan couples were too varied to resort to one-size-fits-all wedding ceremonies. Some were deep in the broom closet and wanted a nondenominational" ritual that had Pagan overtones but could pass in front of intolerant non-Pagan family members. Some wanted it openly Pagan, but light-a ceremony that reasonably tolerant non-Pagan guests would find inoffensive and not uncomfortable. Others wanted it Pagan all the way, but with a theme other than the "traditional" format- combining it with semihistorical aesthetics, Tolkien elves, Native American words, science fiction, fantasy faeries, or any number of other interesting ideas.

In some cases, one partner was Pagan and the other practiced a different religion that they wanted incorporated into the ritual. These couples usually felt that it would be easier to incorporate Jewish or Christian imagery into a ceremony performed by a Pagan clergyperson than to attempt to push Pagan ritual into a more conservative church or temple structure, and they needed inspiration.

Then there was the problem of nontraditional marriages. Although queer weddings are certainly not disallowed in our faith, there was little attempt to create ceremonies for nonheterosexual couples (one exception to the former was Z. Budapest's lesbian wedding tryst in The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries), and none at all for polyamorous group-weddings.

We've found quite a few books on the market that contained build-your-own wedding materials-pieces of texts and invocations-but they were all geared toward a Judeo-Christian world. It can feel unsatisfying for many couples to simply change "God" to "Goddess" half the time, and go from there. We have had couples turn to us confused and frustrated when they were told they would, in essence, have  to choose from a few similarly formatted rituals or create their own from scratch. "I asked the High Priestess who was going to perform our ceremony if there was a reference book we could buy on the subject, and she laughed!" was one dejected groom-to-be's comment.

Handfasting and Wedding Rituals is that reference book. Even with all the rituals -whole and in pieces-that you'll find in here, nothing may suit you exactly. That's all right. Feel free to mix and match, pull out a vow here or a circle casting there. Maybe only a few lines may inspire you, but if they spark you to write the words that you really need, then this book has done its job.

You will find all the rituals and ritual segments in this book labeled with level 1, level 2, or level 3. This denotes the level of obvious Pagan content. A level 1 ritual can be performed in front of non-Pagans to whom you do not wish to explain your religion. These rituals are a way to incorporate subtle Pagan aesthetics into your wedding and still be "stealth," if that is what you require. No deity names are invoked in these rituals, and they can be passed off as fantasy or folk tradition. Level 2 rituals are "Pagan Lite"; they may invoke deities, but they do not require the guests to have any knowledge of Paganism, and they don't contain activities that might upset most non- Pagans. Level 3 rituals are for the hardcore Pagan couple who are not concerned with the shockability of their audience. Deities are invoked repeatedly, in all their glory, and no attempt is made to lighten the tone.

getting started
Have your ceremony planned out as far ahead as possible. You, your clergyperson, and the participants may find it much less stressful to have copies of it months ahead of the wedding date so as to be familiar with it when the time comes. When Raven and Bella married, their complex ritual was put on paper literally two days before the wedding date, and poor Tannin, who was marrying them, only got handed the final copy an hour beforehand, and she stumbled through the complicated wording as best she could. Be kind to the people who are helping you make this day special, and give them plenty of time to get familiar with it and not make fools of themselves-or you.

You will also want to think about how long you actually want your rite to be. Once you've decided on the wording and plan of action, do a walk-through with people reading the parts and making the motions (this doesn't have to be the actual people who are in the ceremony; you can find friends for stand-ins) and see how long it takes. Take note of how your vows sound. The vows that seemed perfect on the page may be wrong or awkward when read aloud. Remember that juggling props like chalices and knives and scrolls and cords takes more time than you might think, and candles can suddenly refuse to light. Don't keep people standing in a circle for longer than half an hour, and provide chairs for the elderly or disabled and those with small children. Don't rush through it, either; slow is better. People are actually going to want to hear what's going on. With this in mind, if it reads as an hour in a simple rehearsal, it's going to be an hour and a half in real time, and you might want to shorten it.

We've found, by trial and error as Neopagan clergypeople, that anything under twenty minutes feels too short for people who may have come a long way to watch a ritual happen, and anything over an hour and a half can be too long for an audience to remain focused. Also, the more people present, the shorter the ceremony should be. (We've found that the more people in a crowd, the shorter the attention span of everyone in it.) Use the above time guideline for a crowd of fifty onlookers, and subtract a minute for each additional person until you get down to an hour, and then subtract a minute for each two additional people. If you have a really big crowd, keep it at about half an hour. If it's an elaborate ceremony, practice with props and restrictive costumes in advance. Don't overschedule things to do; for instance, one couple wanted to plant a tree as part of their ceremony, but someone pointed out to them that they would both be clad in flowing silks and probably didn't want to go digging holes and shoveling dirt in their expensive and fragile outfits.

Rehearsal also helps with estimating space. Sitting people take up more room than standing people but are less comfortable. Any kind of dancing, musicians, or even ritual walking about or gesticulating requires room. If you are going to use friends to call the quarters, make sure that they have four clear spaces to move to without pushing people aside. Also, make sure the props are appropriate for their users. We know of one very small priestess who was asked by the groom to cast a circle with his five-foot claymore, which she found in midritual was too heavy for her to lift and dangerously sharp, as well. She had to draft a helper to hold the tip up and walk around her in a circle while she staggered under the weight of the hilt.

You may also want think about the problem of volume. If there will be two hundred people present in an outdoor area, will everyone be able to hear you? If they can all hear you, will it be so loud that it disturbs the neighbors? In this day and age of portable sound equipment, it's easy to miscalculate the noise level, and, onversely, unamplified voices are not as loud and distinct in the open air as you think.

The religions of relatives are often a touchy subject in Pagan handfastings, especially legal ones. We strongly warn against using your wedding as your coming-outof-the-broom-closet statement. It's akin to inviting your parents to a drag show you are starring in as your way of telling them that you're gay. It's far more respectful, and safer, to talk to them about it beforehand. One bride, the daughter of fundamentalist parents, sent them a very Pagan-oriented invitation, and then explained the situation over the phone. She said, "If you're not comfortable with this, I respect that, and I'll understand if you can't make it. If there's something that I can do to make you more comfortable, tell me, and I'll decide if it's workable."

Respect aside, you should never assume that the public nature of a wedding will keep people on their best behavior. We've seen terrible outbursts at weddings from disgruntled relatives. It's better to make sure that everyone knows everything beforehand and that there are no surprises. This also goes for relations who are currentlyfeuding. If you just can't bring yourself to talk to your family about your religion (or any potentially explosive family situation), then maybe you should either talk to a therapist about it or else not invite them. Some people actually hold two weddings, a secular one and a spiritual one, or they hold weddings with different guests, in order to make everyone comfortable.

For that matter, if any of your guests may be uncomfortable with any part of your ceremony, let them know about any unusual activities on the invitation. If you're expecting people to participate in something (more actively than watching, anyway), let them know this as well. It's best not to surprise anyone with a ritual role on the day of the wedding; let them know well beforehand. And even if you have designed your ceremony for the maximum number of active participants, please make room for guests who are shy, uncomfortable, or don...

More About the Author

Raven Kaldera is a Northern-Tradition Pagan shaman, herbalist, astrologer, transgendered intersexual activist, homesteader, and founding member of the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel. He is also a teacher of BDSM spirituality, and an educator and presenter on many topics. He has written (or co-authored) all the books here and continues to add to the pile.

Raven's "hub" website, with links to all his other specific websites, is here:

http://www.ravenkaldera.org

and his shamanism website is here:

http://www.northernshamanism.org

'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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There are several other good ideas in this book, and I used many of them.
Carla J. Boardman
If you can overlook this tone then this book certainly has some useful ideas, but in certain situations it can aslo pose as something of a setback.
Victoria Engle
This book contains myriad blessings, invocations and ceremonies for diverse pagan beliefs.
Lady Oakmoon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Carla J. Boardman on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
It turns out that the first Pagan ritual I ever wrote was my own handfasting. I was having a difficult time coming up with a Welcoming of the Quarters that I was happy with. My husband and I are both musicians, and this book contained a wonderful idea of a musical welcoming of the quarters. It was perfect!

There are several other good ideas in this book, and I used many of them. Ideas were rated for general use, "Pagan Light", and more in-depth Pagan rituals. Since 75 of my guests were non-Pagan friends and family, I found several good ideas here about keeping the ritual Pagan but still something that non-Pagans could easily understand and relate to.

This book also addresses creative ways to handle various situations - inclusion of children from a previous marriage, interfaith marriages, and commitment ceremonies.

I can't recommend this book enough!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Leigh Raven on January 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a must have for every Pagan library, and for non-Pagans alike! Not only are the Pagan handfastings & wedding rituals included that have been so sought after, but interfaith and alternative (gay & polyamourous) weddings as well. There is no other comprehensive book out on the market today that will give you a such a great deal of information and wonderful hints for planning & writing a Pagan/Alternative wedding ceremony. A thousand thanks to Raven Kaldera & Tannin Schwartzstein for writing such a needed book for the Pagan community!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stacey L. Rambo on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is wonderful resource for those practicing earth-based religion, or simply non-traditionalists. (I try not to use "pagan.") The book details each part of the of the handfasting ritual. It is divided into sections and includes several options of verbage for each part of the ceremony. You can use exactly what is written or take pieces of ritual and create your own. I really enjoyed reading this book and I found numerous ideas that I will incorporate in my own handfasting. Also, the author has a rating system for each ritual. From generally spiritual to heavily "pagan." This is so useful when planning a wedding for a mixed-religious audienced. I highly recommend this book for those who want a true handfasting.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tralean on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is great if you are looking for rituals and vows; however it offers little in the way of help for cords, astrological timing and many other aspects that will affect that special day.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lady Oakmoon on August 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book contains myriad blessings, invocations and ceremonies for diverse pagan beliefs. It also explores variations of them used for any one needing customized commitment ceremonies. There is something for everyone who performs unions.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By We, The People... on September 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book came at the right time for us. There was no information in it new to us - we had plenty of data. Still the organization of the book providing organization of a handfasting was very good. The "calm down and get through it" attitude was very good. Once again, the organizaiton and the calm approach were worth the price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cara Fenton on November 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
I found this book wonderful. I was having trouble writing our ceremony as I'm the Pagan and my husband is very Atheist. We wanted something that would honour my way of life, and as long as hubby didn't have to say anything he was happy. This book has some fantastic mixed-faith ceremonies, which really came in handy for us. I recommend this book to all my Pagan friends when they say they're engaged and planning their handfasting!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LissaCat on September 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My fiance and I are non-pagan wishing to incorporate this ritual into our ceremony. This is important to note up front, because the level of usefulness of this book does depend on what you're looking for. We were looking for instruction on constructing this ritual in a respecting way for its tradition and respecting who we are as a couple.

To us, there were a couple of useful PAGES in this book. We found a very lovely Level 1 vow that we will use (and that has saved us from searching through countless other books to find our vows or writing them....so that was extremely useful). We also decided to do a very subtle level 1 call to the elements/quarters (poetic). It's beautiful, and very doubtful that anyone will recognize it. We're going to use the Maid of Honor, Best Man, Bride, Groom, and Officiant for this.

We're Unitarian, and because of this, we have at our disposal the whole host of beautiful wedding traditions. We're not 'locked into' any one particular rite. We're going to adapt what we use into our Chalice lighting (a rite that happens at the beginning of each Unitarian service, and we would like at our wedding).

That being said: I was looking for the meanings of the cords rather than the ceremonies for Pagan - Catholic marriage. The authors have clearly put a lot into this work and making a wonderful pagan wedding reference.

But if you're not pagan (or neopagan), much of what they are offering is not going to work in your slightly non-traditional non-pagan wedding ceremony. Understand you'll be using only a few pages of this reference, and be good with that. I will also grant: The pages you use will be VERY valuable to you.
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