The Tradition of Handfasting


A Timeless Romantic Rite

Handfasting, a Celtic binding ritual and blood oath, is a tradition that has been a rite of passage for the Scottish for many centuries. At the time of a wedding, a handfasting is a romantic sacrament that involves a bloodletting by a cut on the wrists or palms. After reciting vows, the betrothed are bound, blood to blood, with a soft garment which is tied in a knot to represent a spiritual lacing of hearts—it also denotes the integration of two paths, so from that moment on the lovers walk through life together. 

Traditionally, the practice of ‘tying the knot’ was a lifelong promise of love and devotion to another and was taken very seriously by the Scottish. While the custom of ceremonial handfasting drastically faded by the late 19thcentury, the ritual is still appreciated by many who carry on their family’s traditions. Handfasting has also been adapted to be performed throughout nature-based religion wedding ceremonies (commonly Wiccan or Pagan)—though often without the inclusion of a blood oath.

Blood oaths and binding rituals such as a handfasting are traditions that have been crucial parts of my bloodline’s practices for many centuries. Coming from a lineage of hereditary blood witches, it is our innate calling and desire to manifest through the art of blood magick. Blood is life and death—it is passion and pain—the fluid of the heart flowing through the veins. Blood is the force which binds us to each other and those who came before us. Throughout the performance of witchcraft, the integration of our own blood ties us to our passions and longings. Blood is a powerful tool which can be used to intimately personalize any spell or ritual, especially one which has been crafted to sew heart and soul together in romantic love, like the Celtic handfasting rite.

Handfasting is only one of the many romantic traditions practiced by our Celtic relatives that is fading away with time. As witches cultivating our own customs and rites today, some might say that it is important to also remember, or even carry on, the practices of our loved ones who lived before us, and to know that there is much to be found in our past and our blood. As we celebrate the magical nature of connection and the witch’s coven this month, now makes for a wonderful time to ask your relatives about their roots and perhaps along the way, hunt through your history to reveal a world of enchantment that lives within you.

Effy Winter is a hereditary blood witch and descendant of the Queen of Scottish Witches. She carries on the traditions and spellwork of her witch mothers, primarily working with the Devil throughout her practice of the craft. In her spare time, Effy works as a writer for various literary publications. She is the author of Flowers of the Flesh (Rhythm & Bones Press, 2019), a collection of poetry stirred by romance and dark witchcraft.