Handfastings.org News and Views  Summer Solstice 2010

In This Issue
New Officiants
Iceland's Explosive... Gay Marriage Law!
Pagan Federation of Ireland - The Ray Sweeney Interview
June Weddings and Sacred Goddesses
Midsummer Magic
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Hello Once Again My Friend,

Merry Midsummer!  There's some hot stuff for you in this Summer Solstice issue.  I'm excited to unveil the Ray Sweeney interview (below). He discusses with me the new legal status of Pagan handfastings in Ireland.  In this month's letter, find out why Iceland is heating up.  We'll also discuss why June is the most popular month for weddings.  We've included a brief but useful list of Goddesses of marriage, hearth and home.  And finally, we unleash a little Midsummer Magic!
Have a Blessed Litha and a great summer.
Welcome New Officiants
A big welcome to Rev. Michael McBride of Florida; Rev. Ray Sweeney of the Pagan Federation of Ireland; Rev. Peter Hertzberg of Wisconsin; Rev. Anita Vaughan of Illinois; Rev. Anne Hanrahan of Washington State;
Rev. Cindi LaMar
Cindi LaMar
Rev. Cindi LaMar of Washington State; and Rev. Kathleen Snow of Florida (there IS Snow in Florida!).  Please check out their listings on the Handfastings.org website.

I am so proud of our ever-growing group of handfasting officiants from across the country and around the world.  Glad to have you all in the happy Handfastings.org family!
Iceland Passes Gay Marriage Law in Unanimous Vote
(Reuters) - Jun 11, 2010 - Iceland, the only country in the world to have an openly gay head of state, passed a law on Friday allowing same-sex partners to get married in a vote which met with no political resistance.

The Althingi parliament voted 49 to zero to change the wording of marriage legislation to include matrimony between "man and man, woman and woman," in addition to unions between men and women.

Iceland, a socially tolerant island nation of about 320,000 people, became the first country to elect an openly gay head of state in 2009 when Social Democrat Johanna Sigurdardottir became prime minister after being nominated by her party.
Iceland's prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir
Iceland's prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir

"The attitude in Iceland is fairly pragmatic," said Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a political scientist at the University of Iceland. "It (gay marriage) has not been a big issue in national politics -- it's not been controversial."

The prime minister's sexual orientation garnered far more interest among foreign media than in Iceland, where the attitude toward homosexuality has grown increasingly relaxed in the past two or three decades, Kristinsson added.

Iceland's protestant church has yet to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in church, although the law says "ministers will always be free to perform (gay) marriage ceremonies, but never obliged to."

The largely protestant countries of northern Europe, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark, have all endorsed some form of civil union between same-sex couples, but the issue creates more controversy in Mediterranean Catholic nations.

In the United States, gay marriage remains a frought political issue, with laws varying widely from state to state. Vermont was the first state to allow same-sex civil unions in 1999, followed by Massachusetts and Connecticut and others.

(Reporting Birna Bjornsdottir and Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Noah Barkin)


You can also read about this in PinkNews, Europe's largest gay news service:

An Interview With Ray Sweeney, Pagan Federation of Ireland

 Getting handfasted in Ireland was never so - legal!

Four short months ago, Handfastings News and Views broke the news to our readers that Ireland had legalized Pagan handfastings.  It was our most-read newsletter to date!  Today we interview none other than Ray Sweeney, National Coordinator of the Pagan Federation of Ireland, who spearheaded the movement.

Pagan Federation of IrelandWhat is the Pagan Federation of Ireland?
The largest representative body for Pagans in Ireland.

PF Ireland have any statistics on the number of Pagans in Ireland?
Between 2,000 and 3,000 active Pagans.

How many officiants in
Ireland (that you know of, anyway), perform the handfasting ceremony (either legal or not)?
Eight publicly available, twenty available through PF Ireland

Now that the ceremony is legal, do all people who want to perform a legal handfasting have to be registered with the Pagan Federation of Ireland?
At the moment, yes.

What is now the registration process for a Pagan High Priestess or High Priest to perform legal handfastings?
They can attempt to become personally registered, which is a nightmare, or they can apply to PF Ireland.

How did the handfasting ceremony come to be legal in Ireland?
I applied for it, and then fought for it with the tenacity of a cornered rat [smiles].

Wow, sounds like it took a lot of determination.  Are there parts of
Ireland where performing a handfasting is still not counted as a legal marriage?
Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, does not yet recognise Handfasting as legal.

Were there petitions? Protests?
No petitions, but serious protests, ministerial appeals, equality tribunals,

the lot.

Irish  flag
Who is behind the change of law (i.e., particular politicians, individual advocates, non-profit groups, covens, etc.)?

It was a governmental review of marriage legislation in general, which [PF Ireland] contributed to in the draft stages.


Did the initial governmental review of marriage legislation in general  include legalizing gay marriage as well?  What is the government's view on that issue?

No, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) couples were not included in the legislation.  In the uniquely Irish way of dealing with a controversial issue, a Civil Partnership law is currently being enacted, which will give LGBT couples a Civil Partnership entitlement, but not full civil marriage.

There is debate in the LGBT community as to the merits of the Civil Partnership law, with some seeing it as a welcome first step, and others seeing it as enshrining discrimination in law.

The government (at the moment) is a coalition, and includes the Green Party, who are publicly committed to full civil marriage for LGBT couples, so we are hopeful that the bill will pass, and further progress will be made on gay marriage.

How long has active advocacy been happening in order to change the law?
10 years or more - we jumped in 5 years ago.


Do you mean that in the years of advocacy before that, there was no one advocating for Pagan handfastings at all (only general  marriage reform advocacy), or that there was, but PF Ireland then included itself as an advocate among others for Pagan handfastings?

The government, through various statutory bodies, had been undertaking a review of marriage legislation since 2002, but only opened for public submissions years later. That was when we dived in, with a pre-legislative submission on marriage recognition for non-mainstream religious couples.

Our original submission was largely to the effect that any group, who shared common religious beliefs, and could prove a need by having more than 1000 adherents, should be entitled to nominate a legal Solemniser from within their group. This would enable a couple to be married in a personally meaningful religious manner, by a member of their peer group.

When this, and other logical suggestions we made, were totally ignored, we narrowed our focus to our own specific religious path of Paganism, and moved into combat mode. And, five years later, we won the battle.

What does the actual new law state in terms of legalizing the handfasting ceremony?
It states that the religious ceremony of any authorised religious body (that's PF Ireland) is the concern of the religious body alone, once certain legal declarations
 are included.

What is the known (recent) history of the handfasting ceremony in your country (or area)?
It used to be a private Pagan affair, but Janet Farrar/Gavin Bone and others carried out Handfastings beyond the traditional Pagan community and attracted interest in that way.

Do you think that the modern handfasting is gaining momentum in
Ireland? If so, how?
From my inbox, I can tell you it definitely is.  People, even those from non-Pagan backgrounds, see in Handfasting a union in beauty of two people.
This contrasts with the reasonably mechanical "normal" wedding, and attracts the more romantic sort of person.  And as divorcees cannot remarry in a church here, a lot of couples in this position are seeking a spiritual union beyond the confines of a (much disgraced) Catholic Church.

What kind of attitudes from the general public have you encountered toward Paganism? Towards the rite of handfasting?
To be Pagan here is to be considered oddly eccentric. But Ireland loves and accepts eccentrics more than most countries [smiles].  All handfastings we have carried out have been well received, and we take the time before and after to explain the ceremony to guests.  We've had more than one guest request our number for future reference.

What steps does a couple from
Ireland have to take to become legally handfasted there?
Contact PF Ireland, and then the local Registrar of Marriages.

In the interest of those who are not from
Ireland but would like to travel abroad and get married there (i.e., a "destination wedding"), what are the legal steps non-residents must take in order to be handfasted?
Contact PF Ireland, and then the local Registrar of Marriages.  The couple can do the paperwork with certain Registrars by post, but must turn up, in person, five days before the Handfasting to sign legal declarations.

What is now the legal difference between getting married in a Christian church or getting married in a Pagan handfasting ceremony (if any)?
Only the building and ceremony.

Equality feels good.  Is there anything else that you would like to add about handfastings in
Beware the weather!  Have an indoor alternative available.  And a beautiful woodland setting might seriously attract midges [blood-sucking bugs]. We once had to conduct a ceremony a light speed, to prevent becoming human sacrifices to the great midge lord.

Gross!  Any fun facts about yourself, either personal or professional, that you would like to share with our readers?
I'm a Ninja (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu) instructor in my spare time. I also brew my own mead for the Handfasting ceremonies with the water that outflows from Brigid's sacred well in Kildare.


Impressive.  Thanks again to Rev. Ray Sweeney and the great folks of Pagan Federation of Ireland for standing up for Pagan rights! 

To learn more about the Pagan Federation of Ireland click the link below:


Some Like it Hot! 

June is the hottest (most popular) month for weddings.  Why?


There are many Pagan roots of common events.  One such life event is the wedding ceremony, filled with ritual and symbolism.  The month of June has proven to be, over the course of thousands of years, the most popular month for weddings.


The ancient Druids may have believed that it was important not to compete with the Goddess during Beltane in May so all weddings were pushed to the month of June.  Later, during the time between Beltane (May Day) and Litha (Summer Solstice), many couples found that after the May Day frolic, they were "expecting" and so June became the most popular  - albeit the most necessary - month for weddings.

June wedding 

And some would just argue that June is popular because of its agreeable weather.  But the weather is a result of the turning of the seasons which are sacred to Pagans - and Deities, legends and ritual are used to help illustrate these mysteries.


Author Patricia Telesco writes in her book 365 Goddesses that in Roman folklore, "marrying today ensures a long, happy relationship.  So if you're planning a wedding or an engagement, or even moving in together, Juno [Roman Goddess of Marriage] can bless that commitment if you time the big step [in the month of June]!  As part of your devotion ritual, don't forget to wear special clothing (perhaps something your partner especially likes) to invoke Juno's attention and loving energy."

Juno snuggles with her hubbie, Jupiter


Marriage and Hearth Goddesses


Juno (Roman) is the patroness of marriage


Vesta (Roman) Goddess of the hearth

Hera (Greek) Goddess of marriage, family and home

Hestia (Greek) Goddess of hearth and home

Frigga (Norse) Goddess of marriage, household management, and love
Isis (Egyptian) Triple Goddess, protectress of the home, Goddess of magick, Earth, the Moon, love, wisdom, fertility and mothers
Matka Gabia (Polish) goddess of home, hearth, and patron of their care
Mokosh (Slavic) Goddess of fertility, home and Earth
Ot (Mongolian) Goddess of fire and the home
Uba (Japanese) Goddess of fidelity
Fun Fact:

The June Full Moon is called the "Honey Moon" which is from where the root of the name of our modern-day honeymoon emerged.  June is the month of the honeybee - I see a theme emerging...

365 Goddesses by Patricia Telesco





Midsummer Magic

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
summer solstice

This year on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere at 7:28 AM EDT (in the UK at 11:28 UT), the great Summer Solstice occurs.   The sun is directly over the tropic of Cancer. 
It is the longest day and shortest night of the year.   From the moment of Summer Solstice, the sun immediately begins to wane.  The journey into the harvest season has begun.

The sun is life-giving, and today we celebrate its transformative properties as the sun reaches its zenith at its furthest distance from the equator in the sky.

There are many myths and celebrations across the world used to usher in the Summer Solstice.  In an ancient Celtic tradition, it is at Midsummer that the Holly King, God of the Waning Year, has encountered the Oak King and succeeded in usurping the reign of the year.

Today is a special day to bask in the glow of the sun, inviting its power and its life-affirming warmth within.

Chanting is a magical way to bring the sacred sun's powers of transformation and purification into your life.  Here are a few suggestions for inspiration:

Rhiannon's Mid Summer Chant

Hail to the Lady, One in Three.
Midsummer fires burn in me.

Hail to the Goddess, 3 times 3.
Midsummer passion flame in me.

Hail Rig-a-tona, blessed be.
Midsummer power I am thee.

Fire is passion, passion is thee
Midsummer power so mote it be!

[ Goddess Within.]

Litha Chant

"Oh great Goddess and God,
All nature vibrates with Your energies
And the Earth is bathed with warmth and life.
Now is time of forgetting past cares and banes,
Now is the time for purification.
Oh fiery Sun,
Burn away the unuseful, the hurtful, the bane,
In Your glorious power.
Purify me! Purify me! Purify me!"

- Scott Cunningham

Let me be One With the Infinite Sun  (video chant)

Chanting by members of the Global Chant circle in Tucson, Arizona. Sioux chant:

"Let me be one with the infinite sun, forever and ever and ever. Kee-ay wah-tay lenya lenya mahotay, hi-ah-no hi-ah-no hi-ah-no."

I couldn't figure out how to embed a video in the newsletter, so here is the link to the beautiful chant described above:




Wicca: a guide for the solitary practitioner (p.144) By Scott Cunningham

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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.
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Love and Light,

Artemisia Shira Tarantino
Joining Hearts in Perfect Love™ 

Contact Information 
email: shira@handfastings.org
website: www.handfastings.org


Free Hugs! 
All Handfastings.org News and Views readers are entitled to One Hug by yours truly.  May you always be inspired by the wind that brings hope, the sun that brings transformation, the oceans that bring love, the earth that brings sustenance, and the Great Spirit(s) that brings the mystery of Life.  Blessed be! - Shira 
Offer Good Always