Last Saturday, I was honored to officiate the wedding of a Wiccan couple in New Hampshire. Wicca is a contemporary Pagan religion which, like many other nature-based spirituality faiths, is pantheistic, meaning that the Divine is seen as everywhere and in everything. The couple chose to get married at the end of October because it is the time of the ancient celebration of Samhain (pronounced “Sah-win”), observed by Pagans and others around the world. It marks the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere), and some consider it to be a “spiritual new year”. It is also the time when we honor and remember our ancestors, because it is believed that Samhain is when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest.In addition to common features such as vows, exchange of rings, pronouncement, and kiss, this wedding incorporated many Wiccan traditions, beginning with all the guests in a circle around the couple, and included the following:
Casting the circle (creating sacred space) “I ask the God and Goddess, Guardian Angels and Spirit Guides to bless this circle. Come, come and be present with us, so that we may be free and protected within this space. So mote it be.”
Purification – This involves releasing negative thoughts and energies from within, via Native American ritual of smudging each person with sage (burning the dried herb then spreading the smoke over and around each person.) While being smudged, on each in-breath people visualize pure divine light coming in through their crown, and on out-breathe, they visualize thoughts, feeling, or energy being released out the soles of their feet.Blessing of the Elements – Wiccans honor the Elements of Nature – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – and their associated cardinal directions – North, East, South, and West, each of which have certain gifts and qualities that guide us in our spiritual journeys and our relationships. For example: “we call upon the energies and the powers of the East… East represents the element of air, spring, the dawn, the mental realm, and the sense of smell, something that is carried on the winds. Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East: Good communication of the heart, mind, and body, fresh beginnings, wisdom, and learning. Welcome East!”
Handfasting – This is an ancient Celtic ritual where ribbons of different colors, each symbolizing qualities of marriage meaningful to the couple, are tied around the couple’s four hands clasped together. In this ceremony, one of the colors was blue, signifying fidelity, unity and harmony, also calm and confidence.
Rev. Gary: And so I ask you both, will you be faithful and in harmony and peace with each other, with your unity unbroken. And will you honor and respect one another and believe in each other, and seek never to break that honor?
Couple: We will
Rev. Gary: And so the binding is made.
Jumping the Besom (Broom) – This ritual concludes the ceremony. Because brooms are often stored by the front or back door of the home, it symbolizes a threshold, the entrance of the couple into a new life together, leaving the past behind and taking a leap of faith into the future, And, as brooms are used for cleaning and sweeping, it also symbolizes the sweeping away of the old dirt of your past to start fresh, as well as the daily grind of marriage. And a broom, by its very shape, also symbolizes fertility and union.
Rev. Gary: “Everyone please count 1, 2, 3… Jump! Let’s all say this together now, then shout with joy as they perform their first task as husband and wife. Ready?…..1, 2, 3, jump! Hurray!!”
And a great time was had by all. As the Wiccans say, “Merry part!”