There’s a short pause in the ceremony.  The couple holds hands, and a wide, crimson, silk ribbon is tied securely, but loosely, around their wrists.  The shining red ribbon ends sweep down almost to the ground and dance a little in the breeze.

It’s breathtaking, the simplicity and beauty of this gesture.

I hold your hand now and forever.  

We choose freely to be bound together, whatever comes.  

Our bloodlines are connected through this red thread , my beloved.

This ritual is the origin of our common expression…to tie the knot.  The  phrase is an ancient one, throughout the Celtic world.   Boats,  gates,  bells … and weddings.   All were made fast through tying the knot.

The beautiful braided, knotted works of  Celtic art honoured the interweaving of all life forms… human, animal, and mystical.

To make fast by tying the knot also meant to link with all that was, all that is and all that will be.

In a modern ceremony, the symbolism is the same.  Handfasting can  honour a betrothal, a wedding, or a renewal of vows.

It may be used in a leavetaking ritual between close friends as they prepare to separate and move away.

In a mothering celebration, women pass a ball of red cord around the circle and wrap it around their wrists, signifying their connection with the mother- to- be.   Before leaving,  they cut and tie a short piece around their wrists and leave it on until the birth to symbolize the red thread of compassion with her labouring.

Tying the knot and making fast …. ..a way to celebrate our lifelong connections through colour and beauty.

Read some more about this ritual of Handfasting by my Vancouver Island colleague Celebrant Barbara Densmore.