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Handfasting; Handpar ting

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Wiccan rituals of marriage and divorce. At a Witchcraft wedding, known as a Handfasting, the couple are joined together for "so long as love shall last." When there is no longer love between them, they are free to go their separate ways, after the ceremony of Handparting. This does not encourage promiscuity, however, since Wiccans cherish their love for one another and seldom seem to part. In fact, most believe strongly in the concept of having found a "soul mate."

Handfasting takes place within a consecrated circle, usually in the waxing cycle of the Moon, and is usually witnessed by coven members and by any cowans (nonWiccans) that were invited. The ceremony is conducted by a Priest and/or Priestess. Often the couple exchanges rings, which may be inscribed with runic or other lettering. The marriage may or may not be legal in the "outside world," depending upon the standing of the Wiccan Priest in the local legal system. If he or she is legally ordained, then the marriage is recognized by the courts. The wedding's legality usually has little significance to the couple, who are more attuned to the spiritual bonding.

Ceremonies are very individual, with some couples incorporating the old custom of leaping over a broomstick and others including a binding of the hands. Some people even make small cuts in their wrists to mingle their blood with that of their partner. The couple—and the whole coven—may be skyclad (naked), robed, or in everyday clothes. Some couples include the Great Rite in their Handfasting ceremony. Although there are Handfasting and Handparting rituals included in most Books of Shadows, couples are encouraged to write their own ritual and include/exclude what they wish.