Unlike my last Pagan Blog Project entry, I'm not going to get ahead of myself and say that I'll be posting multiple entries. It is my hope to get caught up letter wise and let the blog posting count take care of itself. Life has been really busy of late and I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and post much of anything in any of my blogs. I'm lucky if I get my three pages written in my daily journal. Rambling aside, thank you, dear Reader, for being so patient and waiting for me to post. I deeply appreciate it.
Tonight, I am writing about handfasting. Some traditions call this a 'trial marriage' that is expected to last for a limited period of time. In many ways, it serves the role of engagement. We, however, don't tend to consider such things in our culture at large. Engagement is prelude to marriage and handfasting is largely unknown. In the writings of the early modern witches, handfasting was an obliquely touched upon matter. More emphasis was place upon developing liturgy and defining the relationship between witch and deity.
In my own tradition, handfasting is synonymous with marriage. There is no 'trial' aspect to it. One can have the relationship last for a predetermined period of time (such as the famous 'year and a day' period) or one can leave it as a life long commitment. Or some variation of the above. The important part of handfasting is the fact that these people are entering a solemn commitment to each other, witnessed by the divine and all of life. Oaths (an entirely different topic) are weighty things and when affirmed in such a ceremony, it is my belief that they take on greater importance.
The legal matters of recognizing a handfasting as a marriage, in my opinion, is simply a matter of paperwork. The swearing of oaths and calling upon the divine and all life to witness it is a far greater thing. Such an oath carries a deep karmic impact that can last throughout one's lifetime. It should be approached with great care and consideration. The contract between the ones who are to be wed should be carefully worded with provisions made for future concerns.
When we look at ancient marriage contracts, we find them resembling prenuptial agreements. The union made is built with considerations for offspring, financial matters, and the possible dissolution of the union. I think it is highly important that such considerations return to the discussion of handfasting (and marriages of any sort, even civil/secular ones). As romantic as the idea of 'till death do we part' sounds, there is a greater likelihood of other matters arising and creating a rift in the union. Taking time to plan for how to approach such a possible rift before it happens gives greater peace to the people who are dealing with it.
I have seen too many ugly divorces where people focused more on engaging in emotional warfare then upon peaceably dissolving the contract between them. I've seen too many situations where the children of a now loveless union become pawns in said emotional warfare, leading to deep emotional scars upon everyone involved. (It is my opinion that such behavior is emotional and psychological abuse of the children and should NEVER be tolerated.) Taking the time before one enters into marriage to consider the possible dissolution and how to make it as amicable as possible is not just wise.
It is a statement of love. It is a statement of respect for the people in the marriage and any children who may be born of it. It says 'I care enough about you to provide a respectable means to conclude this union if we find that we can not continue it later.' It is an act of compassion. And it makes me sad to see people who failed to consider such things allow the ugliness of the moment of their divorce burn away the happiness that was there with the memories of their marriage. It is a sorrowful thing and I suspect that their past selves would have been heartbroken and horrified to see it.