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Did Vikings do handfasting?

When we think about Viking rituals and traditions, we probably imagine fierce warriors, raids on foreign lands, and longboats navigating through rough seas. However, Vikings also had a rich set of customs related to everyday life, including marriage ceremonies. One of the most notable aspects of Viking weddings is handfasting, a ritual that connects the bride and groom through the symbolic binding of their hands. In this blog post, we will explore the Viking handfasting tradition, its origins, and its significance in Viking culture.

The Meaning of Handfasting

The word “handfasting” comes from the Old Norse word “hand-festa,” which means “to strike a bargain by joining hands.” In Viking times, handfasting was not just a wedding ritual, but a form of an informal trial marriage. Typically lasting a year and a day, handfasting allowed the couple to live together, share resources, and decide if they were compatible enough for a long-term marriage. If everything went well, the couple would just renew their vows and continue their life together. If not, they could just walk away, without any legal or social consequences.

The Handfasting Ceremony

The Viking handfasting ceremony was simple but meaningful. The ritual often took place outdoors, near a sacred tree, a lake, or a cliff. The bride and groom would stand facing each other, holding their hands, while the officiant tied a cord around their joined hands. The cord was usually made of cloth or leather and could be decorated with symbols or colors that represented the couple’s respective families or clans.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom would exchange vows, promising to be loyal, respectful, and supportive partners. They would also exchange gifts, such as rings or tokens, as a sign of their commitment. Once the vows were spoken, the officiant would proclaim the couple as handfasted, and the guests would cheer and celebrate. The couple would then go to their shared home or tent and celebrate their union with food, drink, and music.

The Significance of Handfasting in Viking Culture

Handfasting was not just a way to test the waters before marriage. It also had a deeper meaning related to Viking spirituality and mythology. The act of clasping hands and joining them with a cord symbolized the union of two individuals, two families, and even two worlds. According to Viking folklore, the cords used in handfasting represented the destiny, or “wyrd,” of the couple, a concept that meant the interconnectivity of past, present, and future. By binding their hands together, the couple acknowledged their shared fate and their commitment to shaping it together.

In addition, handfasting was also a way to honor the Norse gods and goddesses who presided over marriage and fertility. Odin, the god of wisdom, was associated with the binding of oaths and could bless the union with his guidance. Freya, the goddess of love and fertility, was also invoked in handfasting ceremonies, as she was believed to have the power to bless the couple with children and prosperity. By incorporating these deities into their wedding rituals, Vikings showed their respect for the natural and divine forces that governed their lives.


Handfasting was a quintessential Viking tradition that reflected the practical, spiritual, and mythological aspects of Viking culture. It was a way for couples to test their compatibility, express their commitment, and honor their gods and goddesses. Although handfasting did not guarantee a lifelong marriage, it provided a solid foundation for a successful union and helped create a sense of community and harmony in Viking society. Today, the handfasting tradition has been revived by modern Pagans and practitioners of alternative spirituality, who find inspiration in the ancient ways of connecting with nature and each other.


What culture is handfasting from?

Handfasting is a wedding ritual that has a long history and cultural significance. This tradition has its roots in ancient Celtic culture, dating back to 7000 B.C in the British Isles. Historically, handfasting was a temporary marriage or binding contract made between two consenting adults that would last for a year and a day. At the end of this period, the couple had the choice to renew their vows or walk away from the relationship.

In the Celtic culture, handfasting represented a sacred union between two people, and the binding of the hands symbolized the joining of their spirits. The cords or ribbons used were often made from wool and were intertwined, representing the couple’s lives and destinies being woven together. The celebrant, who was typically a Druid or a religious leader, would recite blessings and prayers while the hands were bound, signifying the couple’s commitment to each other.

Handfasting was popular among different Celtic tribes, including the Picts, Gaels, and Scots. The ceremony was also observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and parts of northern England. Today, handfasting has gained popularity and is widely used in modern Celtic ceremonies and pagan weddings. The practice has also been adopted by people from other cultures who find beauty and meaning in this ancient tradition.

Handfasting is a unique and special cultural tradition that has its roots in ancient Celtic culture. This ritual has been around for thousands of years and holds a significant place in the lives of people who cherish it. By taking part in this ceremony, couples can connect with their historical roots and engage in the ancient practices of the past.

What were the Vikings birth rituals?

In Viking culture, birth was considered a sacred and significant event. The Norse people believed in the power of fate and that the Norns, the three goddesses of destiny, determined the fate of every newborn at the moment of birth. Thus, a baby’s birth was a very important event for the Vikings, and they had a variety of rituals and customs to ensure a successful and healthy childbirth.

Before the birth, the expectant mother would seek the support of the goddesses Frigg and Freyja, who were protectors of women in childbirth. The mother, as well as the community, would sing galdr-songs, which were mystical chants and spells that sought to protect the mother and the baby during birth. The expectant mother also sought the support of her family and friends, who would bring gifts of food, clothing, and other items that would be useful for taking care of the newborn.

When the baby was born, the midwife or the father would carefully examine the baby to determine its gender and physical condition. The father would also cut the umbilical cord, which was considered a vital task for the father to perform. The midwife would then clean the baby and wrap it in swaddling clothes to keep it warm and protected.

After the birth, the baby was given a name, which was an essential part of Viking identity. The name was often chosen based on the baby’s physical features, personality, or the family’s ancestry. The naming ceremony was a formal event attended by family and friends, and the baby’s name was announced to the gods and goddesses, as well as to the community.

The Vikings had a deep respect for the miracle of childbirth and believed that it was an important moment for the future of the individual and the community. The rituals and customs they followed were designed to ensure the safety and well-being of the mother and baby, as well as to connect the family and community to the spiritual and mystical forces that they believed governed all aspects of life.

What were Viking wedding hair traditions?

Vikings, the seafaring people of Scandinavia, had many cultural traditions surrounding important life events, including weddings. While today, weddings are often characterized by a bride’s beautiful gown, in Viking times, more attention was given to the bride’s hair. The Vikings believed that hair was important, as it was a symbol of youth, beauty, and fertility.

When it came to Viking wedding hair traditions, brides would typically wear their hair in elaborate braids, with the number of braids, the type of braid, and the accessories worn depending on the region and social status of the bride. For example, in some parts of Scandinavia, a bride might wear one large braid down her back, while in other areas, she might wear a series of smaller braids. Some braids were simple, while others were complex and ornate, incorporating intricate weaving patterns and embellishments like beads, shells, or precious stones.

Another important aspect of Viking wedding hair traditions was the use of hair accessories. Brides would often adorn their hair with jewelry, such as necklaces or brooches, and with flowers or greenery to symbolize fertility and new beginnings. In some cases, the bride’s hair would even be woven with threads of gold or silver.

While it was important for the bride to look beautiful, the focus of the wedding was on the ceremony itself, rather than the clothing. In fact, the Vikings cared more about the bride’s hair than her dress. This was because a bride’s hair was seen as a symbol of her identity, and often signified her status within the community. It was also thought that a woman’s hair contained some of her personal power, which was why it was often covered or braided in certain ways to protect her from evil spirits or to give her strength.

Viking wedding hair traditions were an important aspect of the wedding ceremony. Brides would wear their hair in elaborate braids, often decorated with jewelry and flowers. This served as a symbol of beauty, fertility, and personal power, and was often used to signify a bride’s status within the community. While many of these traditions have been lost over time, some are still observed today in modern wedding ceremonies.

What is the difference between handfasting and marriage?

Handfasting and marriage are two terms that have been used interchangeably in the past but in reality, they refer to different things. Starting with handfasting, it was a historical tradition that was popular in the Celtic and Nordic countries, particularly during the medieval times. It involved a couple making a commitment to each other for a period of time, typically a year and a day. During this time, they lived together as a married couple and were regarded as such by their community. At the end of the handfasting period, they could choose to renew their vows or go their separate ways. Handfasting was also used as a way to test out a potential marriage before committing fully.

On the other hand, marriage is a legally binding contract between two people that is recognized by the state or religious institution. It involves a formal ceremony that usually takes place in a church or other marriage-approved location. The couple exchanges vows and rings in the presence of witnesses and a marriage certificate is signed. Marriage is considered a lifelong commitment and can only be ended through a legal divorce process.

Another difference between handfasting and marriage is the level of religious involvement. Handfasting was often a pagan tradition and involved rituals that were not recognized by the church. Marriage, on the other hand, is traditionally a Christian sacrament, although it is recognized by other religions as well. In many cases, a religious leader plays a significant role in officiating a wedding ceremony.

In terms of legal recognition, handfasting does not carry the same weight as marriage. It is not recognized by the state and has no legal implications. Marriage, on the other hand, confers numerous legal benefits, including inheritance rights, tax benefits, and spousal support.

Handfasting and marriage are two different traditions that have evolved over time. While they may share some similarities, they have distinct differences in terms of commitment, religious involvement, legal recognition, and cultural significance.

What is the significance of handfasting?

Handfasting is an ancient tradition that symbolizes the binding together of two people in love. It is considered as one of the oldest forms of marriage ceremonies, mainly advocated by the Celtic tribes. During the ceremony, the couple’s hands are tied together with a cord or ribbon, which represents their union as one and the beginning of their life together as husband and wife.

Handfasting is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a deeply symbolic ritual that allows the couple to acknowledge and publicly declare their commitment to each other. The ceremony’s symbolism lies in the binding of the couple’s hands, which represents the binding of their lives together.

Secondly, handfasting also represents the importance of community in a couple’s union. It is usually conducted in front of an assembled group of family and friends who bear witness to the couple’s commitment to each other. This sense of community and support is crucial for the couple as they embark on their life together.

Thirdly, handfasting is significant because it is a non-religious ceremony that can be tailored to the couple’s personal beliefs. Unlike traditional religious ceremonies that are steeped in religious tradition and practice, handfasting allows couples the flexibility to create a ceremony that reflects their unique spiritual views and beliefs.

Lastly, handfasting is important because it creates a lasting memory for the couple. Unlike traditional weddings which are often dominated by the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, handfasting is a simple yet meaningful ritual that is focused solely on the couple’s union. The memories of the ceremony will remain with the couple for years to come, as a testament to their commitment to each other.

Handfasting is a significant ceremony that holds great importance for couples who choose to engage in it. It is a symbolic ritual that represents the binding of two individuals in love, the importance of community in a couple’s union, the flexibility to tailor the ceremony to their personal beliefs, and the creation of lasting memories.