Newest Officiants

As Samhain is the Pagan New Year, this is a wonderful time to welcome our newly listed officiants to Handfastings.org:  Kathy Miller of California, Jim White of Colorado, Rose Baumann of Wisconsin, Reverend Moore (a.k.a Lady G.) of Kentucky, and Teri Kalgren of legendary Salem, Massachusetts.  Welcome all!

Happy Halloween!
trick or treat
Halloween or Samhain?

By Shira

For some, Halloween means spooky ghosts and goblins.  But for others, it is a night of sacred play.  Where does Halloween come from?  Why do we dress up in costume and parade about the neighborhood asking for treats?  The answer lies deep in our collective ancestral roots.  Back in ancient Celtic times, people celebrated their new year (called Samhain - pronounced "sow-in") during the final harvesting of the crops.  There was, in fact, some fright involved - fear that the coming winter would render them without enough crops to sustain them through the silent season: a legitimate dread.  

The ancient Celts, as do present day Pagans, also believed that during this time the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest.  To illustrate their belief, the Celts dressed up as their ancestors and went around to the townspeople asking for a sacrifice to the Ancestors.  The townspeople in turn would put out a plate of food for the "ancestor" (person in costume) to take away.  This is a form of sacred play.  

samhain ritual

Later, this ancient belief broke off into two very different, yet closely related, celebrations:  Halloween and Samhain.  Both celebrated on October 31st, Halloween's version of the Celts' ancient tradition is dressing up in costume and trick-or-treating.  In America, Halloween is a big deal to many people, but rarely is it considered a sacred holiday.  Samhain's version, the one celebrated by today's Pagans and Wiccans, is at once somber and festive, highlighting the sacred play of this ancient tradition.  

Samhain today is celebrated by creating a sacred circle and performing a ritual in honor of our ancestors.  An ancestor is anyone that has passed on and gone before us.  This could be your Grandmother, your Great-Grandfather, or even someone beyond them whom you haven't even met.  They are the people who handed down your traditions, values, knowledge and stories.  And one certainly does not have to be blood related to be handed down a family tradition.  Those who have gone before us, blood related or not, are our ancestors.  We learn from their ways and carry on their rituals.  

jack-o-lantern During this time of the year, the veil between the worlds is very thin: we can take a peek into the other side, talk with the dead, divine a question from them and seek answers to our lives here in the land of the living.  This is the time to connect with your ancestors, to thank them through ritual and sacrifice.  People today will drop some wine out of their cups and leave a bit of food on their plates as a sacrifice. 

There are many things that you can do this coming Samhain to honor your own ancestors.  Place pictures of your relatives who have passed on or trinkets of their memories on your altar. Light candles in their memories.  Wear a special piece of jewelry that was handed down to you.  Eat a sacred supper in silence while meditating on your ancestors - don't forget to leave a piece on the altar for them!

I hope that this Samhain you have a wonderful, sacred time.  Blessed be!

Honoring Your Ancestors at Your Wedding
old photograph
Consider honoring your ancestors during your handfasting ceremony.  As you are invited up to the altar, your officiant may ask you whom you would like to honor before you approach.  You may choose whomever and as many people as you like.  Remember, you are honoring them at your wedding - not inviting spirits in!  That's a whole other ritual...
For example: "We would like to honor my grandmother Mary Rose Smith on our special day of Handfasting..."
Make Your Own Besom

By Patti Wigington of About.com


For Patti's full article with illustrations, click here.

The besom is the traditional witch's broom. It's associated with all kinds of legend and folklore,
including the popular notion that witches fly around in the night on a broomstick. besomIn addition to being good for playing Quidditch, the besom is a great addition to your collection of magical tools -- it's used in many traditions as a method of cleansing or purifying a space. In some cultures, the rite of jumping the broom was considered an important part of a marriage ceremony. This ritual has seen some resurgence in popularity as more and more Wiccan and Pagan couples celebrate handfastings.

While it's easy to just buy a broom, it's also pretty easy to make one of your own out of different types of wood. Although the items that follow are for the more traditional style of besom, you can use nearly any types of branches available to you. You'll need:

    A four-foot length of ash or oak for the handle
    Thin branches of birch for the bristle part (you can substitute a woody herb like mugwort or thyme for the bristles if you like)
    Lengths of willow or heavy cord to bind everything together

You'll also need scissors and a bucket of warm water.
Whatever you'll be using for the bristles - whether it's birch, an herb, or some other wood - should be soaked in the warm water overnight to make them pliable, as should the willow binding, if you're using it.

Lay the handle on a table or the floor, and place the bristles alongside it, lined up about four inches from the bottom. Point the bottom of the bristles towards the top of the broom, because you're going to flip the bristles in a minute.

Use the willow branches or cording to wrap the bristles around the broom. Add as many as you want to make the broom full. Make sure you tie the cording off securely so your bristles don't come popping out later.

ostara eggsNow, take the bristles and fold them down over the willow binding or cording so that they're pointing towards the bottom of the broom. Tie them down again at the base of the broomstick to secure them. As you're wrapping the cord in place, visualize your intent for this besom. Will it be strictly decorative? Are you going to hang it in place over a door? Perhaps you'll use it ceremonially, or maybe even for physical cleaning. Focus on what you're going to be doing it, and charge it with energy.

Let your broom dry for a day or two, and when it's all done, consecrate it as one of your magical tools.

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The mission of Handfastings.org is to link people in the Pagan and Wiccan communities with ordained officiants who perform Handfastings, Wedding Ceremonies, Commitment Ceremonies, Sacred Unions and
other Rites of Passage and celebrations.

Love and Light,
Artemisia Shira Tarantino

Joining Hearts in Perfect Love™

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website: www.handfastings.org

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