Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Bound for Eternity: The Custom of Scottish Handfasting by Jenna Jaxon

Handfasting as a means of joining a man and a woman in marriage has been known in the Celtic world since ancient times. It is believed to be part of the heritage Scotland owes to the Danish culture, where “the Danes [had] the option of ‘hand-vesten’ to show their commitment. Then a woman who lived publicly with a man and prepared his meals for three years became his lawful spouse.” Originally the handfasting ceremony was performed almost as a stop-gap measure, allowing the couple to live as man and wife for a year and a day as they waited for an official member of the clergy to arrive and bless the union in a regular marriage ceremony. Lacking a clergyman, the couple could swear their intention to marry, have their hands bound (preferably before witnesses), and they would be considered married.
The tradition of handfasting was a medieval form of marriage in use until the mid- 1700s, when it fell out of favor. Until then, the Roman Catholic Church, and somewhat later the Scottish Protestant Church, allowed that if a couple said the words, “I take you to be my wedded wife,” (present tense) or “I will take you to be my wedded wife,” (future tense). The couple’s right hands were bound with a strip of cloth, signifying that they were bound for eternity. If this ceremony was followed by sexual intercourse, the couple was considered married both in the eyes of the Church and the State. There need be no witnesses and no clergy present, although witnesses were encouraged. Interestingly enough, during the Regency period in Scotland, handfasting was actually still a legal means of marriage. Although the church changed its laws to ban the ritual, the civil law allowing handfasting as legal remained on the books until 1939 when the marriage laws were reformed by the Marriage Act (Scotland) of 1939. After that, handfasting was no longer recognized as a legal form of marriage. In my soon to be released romance novel, The Widow Wore Plaid, which is set in Scotland, I had to research the legalities and technicalities of a
handfast marriage, as my hero and heroine consider the merits of it while under duress. The Widow Wore Plaid is currently on pre-order on Amazon and other e-book retailers. Argyll-Bute Council. “Handfasting Ceremony.” 2018. The Scotsman. “The Origins of Handfasting at Scottish Weddings—When Scots ‘married’ for a year and a day.” Feb. 14, 2019.

No comments: