Updated: Dec 3, 2022
I was invited to create and perform a very special Handfasting ceremony. Not for two people but for eight people! Eight beautiful friends to be precise who very much wanted to honour the deep and meaningful bonds of their friendship. I didn't have to be asked twice, I adored the idea! We met on the beach in Fanore, Co. Clare on a stunning September evening and the magic began to unfold...
In the days leading up to the ceremony I spent lots of time drinking Cacao and meditating on the bonds of friendship. I got to thinking about the lucky ones among us who can count on a dear and close friend to be there for us no matter what. They are the kind of friends who always have our back but will call us out on our BS when it's necessary. They are who we can be real with because they know us inside and out. They are our biggest cheer leaders, our greatest advocates and hold our comfiest shoulder to cry on. They are our wisdom seekers our truth sharers and our wisest counsel. They are someone to lean on when times are tough and are the first ones to pull us to our feet to dance when times are good. They fiercely and jubilantly celebrate our achievements and when we experience the pain of failure they sit quietly with us until the pangs subsides.
The Celtic tradition recognised such people as our Anam Cara. Our Soul Friend. The belief was that certain people come into your life because you have a soul contract together, you have walked each others path before and when you meet in this life an act of ancient recognition occurs. It is a bond that transcends earthly friendship, it is a bond at soul level. The great Irish Philosopher and poet John O'Donohue spoke on this beautifully in his book of of the same name, Anam Cara. John's untimely death took place in 2008 and the world was left mourning the loss of a beautiful soul who had so much more wisdom left to share. In a beautiful coincidence John's grave is in the little graveyard in Fanore village which looks down onto the beach where we are about to hold our Handfasting Ceremony. We feel his loving presence wrap a cloak of warmth around each one of us and help to ready us for this very important ceremony.
Our first step is to create a sacred space. We use willow branches, eucalyptus, peacock feathers and all manner of flowers and foliage. Interspersed among these are candles and sea stones, incense and crystals. At the heart of the ceremony space a candle is lit and offerings to the land are made in the form of blackberries and sycamore seeds. We have all four elements, water represented by seashells and a bowl containing sacred well water from Brigid's Well. Air in the form of feathers. Earth in the form of pine cones and berries. Fire in the form of a lit candle and incense. Participants have been encouraged to bring objects meaningful to them to place at the centre of the space...a loved ones photo, a crystal pyramid, trinkets and mementoes all placed in the centre to bear witness to our ceremony.
Our eight friends gather in circle. Their hands are cleansed with the Brigid's Well Water using a swans feather to sprinkle the droplets. They then hold hands, wrist to wrist and I ask them to gently close their eyes so that they can tune into each others energy, each others pulse. I encourage them to call to mind the times when their Anam Cara has been there for them. Times when they have shown their love and loyalty. Times when they have honoured the bond of this special friendship. I then place the handmade woollen crios, or belt in Irish across their hands tying them into a loose knot. When all hands have been tied I tell everyone to take the ends of the crios and slip out their hands as they pull to create a knot! All at once eight beautiful friends are connected through the ancient Celtic tradition of Handfasting. It was a sight to behold how they held the crios aloft in the air with such utter joy and was beautifully reminiscent of a childlike game of Ring o' Rosie such was their innocence and pure joy. They sang together, they swayed to music, they laughed and hugged. The ceremony was then concluded with a jubilant dip in the sea as dolphins could be seen jumping in the wake of the setting sun. Pure Magic!
I will be forever grateful to all of them for trusting me with this beautiful ceremony and for their valuable input towards creating it. I have a feeling this may not be the last I see of Friendship Handfasting!