Cornwall Celebrants

Observing a Pagan Handfasting Ceremony

handfasting close up

Last week I was privileged to attend, observe and photograph a pagan ceremony. Megan will use her next blog to explain the family connections and her own role in the ceremony so I will restrict my comments to giving my take as a non-pagan and official photographer.

clensing a pagan circle

The setting was befitting the occasion and the pre Christian roots of this religion – a Cornish cliff top over-looking Tintagel.

The celebrant had created a circle marking the 4 points of the compass with symbols of earth, fire, air and water as appropriate. And the circle became the arena in which she performed the ceremony.

Ceremonies are theatrical experiences full of drama meaning and emotion. And it’s not surprising that passers-by who had set out for a cliff top walk stopped to ask about what was happening while the circle was set up and cleansed, and then either waited or returned to witness the spectacle.

The celebrant explained the meanings of each part of the ritual calling in the appropriate goddess to witness and support what was taking place. Each of the symbolic elements were used in turn as the celebrant circled the couple 3 times for each one and called on the power and meaning of that element to give blessings to the couple.

The Couple had previously prepared their own vows and declarations of love for each other and they read these out at appropriate points linked to the fire, earth, air and water symbolism in the ceremony.

The finale was the handfasting itself a plait of ribbons woven by the couple was used to bind their hands while the celebrant explained the meaning. Then those in attendance were invited to add a ribbon to bestow their own wish for the couple’s future happiness. Not surprising the passers-by who had stayed to be a congregation were delighted to participate and wish the couple well and to take part in the drama of the occasion. The ceremony was very moving for all concerned and the couple had spent large parts of the ritual with their eyes closed which clearly added to the meaning and emotion of the celebrant’s words and incantations.


Throughout the ceremony I was observing through a lens as I tried to get the pictures to record everything that was unfolding on this windswept precipice and with 350 clicks of the camera I hope I captured the drama and joy that was manifested in that circle.


April 2019

A Cornish sunset
A Cornish sunset
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