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29 October 2014

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Jumping the broom
Jim and Nicola jump the broom

Jumping the broomstick

By Martin Heath
Would you accept an invitation to a pagan wedding performed by a witch? What would you see when you got there? We've been given the chance to watch Jim and Nicola go through a traditional pagan handfasting ceremony right here in Northamptonshire.

"You only have to look around you to see why we wanted a pagan wedding", says Jim as he arrives at Everdon Stubbs near Daventry.  "The setting, the trees, the wind, the earth, the air - it's what we're about really".

In a small clearing floodlit by the sun breaking through the tall trees, a circle is marked in the ground with fern branches.  A Priestess dressed in a brown hooded robe carefully works out where the northern edge of the circle lies, and sets a candlestick in the ground to mark the spot.   Three more candlesticks represent East, South and West.

Sacred space

"It was nice that everyone could bless us because in Paganism, like Christianity, the family is important."

Jim and Nicola's friends and relatives assemble around the circle, some in medieval dress.  The Priestess tells them not to go inside the area marked out by the ferns - that's a safe, sacred space just for her and the happy couple.

Then, she leads Jim and Nicola into the circle.  Nicola has been a pagan for as long as she can remember, and this is the only way she wants to get married.  Jim passionately believes in a faith that cares for the environment and wants to be close to nature when he makes his vows.

From each compass point, spirits are summoned to the wedding.  They're asked to bring their own qualities to the union; the spirits of the East bring the qualities of the hawk - the essence of freedom, intuition and inspiration.   The spirits of the South bring love and passion.


Jim and Nicola's wedding
Back to nature: Jim and Nicola's wedding

The last two honoured guests are summoned to take their places - the Lord and Lady of the Greenwood - who will give their protection and blessing to the handfasting.

The Priestess faces Jim and Nicola for the vows, which would seem reasonably familiar to anyone who's been to a Church wedding.  There's no mention of any Gods, though - it's just the couple pledging themselves to each other.   "I take thee, Jim", says Nicola, "to my hand, my heart and my spirit".   Jim promises to be by Nicola's side "in all things".  

Jim and Nicola hold out their hands for the most symbolic point of the ceremony… the Priestess ties a red ribbon several times around their hands and announces that "in the name of the Lord and Lady of the Greenwood, you are husband and wife".   They kiss, just as they would in church or at the register office. 

With the words "Hail and Farewell", the Priestess thanks the spirits for their attendance.   Then, the relatives and friends gathered round the circle celebrate the union with surprisingly strong mead and a simple biscuit.  

The Priestess uses a broomstick to break the circle, and the couple are invited to perform the last act in the ceremony by jumping over the broom to signify crossing the threshold from the old life to the new.


Nicola says the whole thing went very quickly, but the actual handfasting was the most important part of the ceremony.  For Jim, the best memory will be the sharing of food and drink at the end.  "It was nice that everyone could bless us", says Jim, "because in Paganism, like Christianity, the family is important".

The bride's mother and father both came to the ceremony in medieval dress.  She may have once dreamt of a wedding in Church, but Nicola's mum enjoyed the simple outdoor service.  "My daughter's had strongly-held pagan beliefs for a long time now," she says,  "and this meant more to her than this morning's civil ceremony at the Register Office which the law insists on.  It was absolutely delightful".

Nicola's Dad has a smile on his face.  "It was quite unusual," he admits, "but we live in an unusual age.  The important thing is that, whether it's in a Church or a wood,  you have two people who have pledged to each other.  The handfasting was a very poignant moment, especially for a father".

last updated: 05/08/04
Have Your Say

Holly Edwards
Nice to see such a tolerant article. Brightest Blessings to all!

Absolutley wonderful, my man has asked me to jump the broom !! on valentines day.It felt like the sun had burst inside me, i never thought i would be so lucky to have a dream come true.

shelley bamfield
My partner and I are having a handfasting ceremony on the march 2008 but have no priestess to conduct the ceremony. Please help!!! xxxx

the wedding was beautifull,but do u have to have any religion to have a pagan wedding,as me and my partner have talked about a pagan wedding, but i would like to no more,although we quite spiritual,but would like to no how to arrange it with the seasons.

for the last few years I have stopped hiding my way of life, I am a pagan and proud of it, sites like thishelp others understand morethanks, blessed be

Northamton Pagans
Ref comment on how to join.. go and fill in the application.Sorry I didn't post this earlier

im at a christian school which is quite hard because they find it hard to understand me and what i belive. and when i talk of having a pagan wedding they think of witches and spilling blood. to me thats quite the opposit! i just want to be part of mother earth!

I want a Pagan wedding and don't know how to go about it. And also will we be legally married? This was a brilliant wedding story.

It's good to see more openess and understanding about us that follow the pagan path. Heather is correct we need more of these articles to show the world that we are not like the stereotypes. Blessed Be John, Member of Nothampton Pagan's a group for all pagans in the Northampton area.

im fasinated by the idea of paganism and when im older would love a pagan wedding. my dad is a vicar but also loves the idea. i think he is a pagan at heart!

yeah, this is really nice to see. i myself am exploring the pagan faith, and have just got engaged. so this has come at the perfect time for me to look into it more! thanks

I have always thought that I would hate a normal wedding. I feel i am conected to the earth and now see that there is an alternative. Thank you for opening my eyes

lauren agnelli
Thanks for a very moving and lovely remembrance of a slightly "different" take on a marriage ceremony. In July 2006, my sweetheart and I are marrying in our home town of Chester, CT, and we are spiritual, not church, people who also love nature. Due to the unsettled nature of Connecticut weather, we are opting for an indoor wedding in an old historic building. Happily, we are surrounded by much foliage -- mature trees, bushes, flowers -- and a rushing brook just outside the building. Being inspired by the "jumping the broom" and the words, ". . .I take thee to my hand, my heart, and my spirit," I hope we can incorporate these small but significant parts into our own civil ceremony. All the best & love, all ways!

My family is Pagan. My brother recently had a Handfasting. I decorated and gave him and his wife to be a Broom to jump. Believing that it was the Pagan thing to do...However, My brother wife to be is A beautiful Black woman. Who took offense to my offer of the Broom. Knowwing her to be Pagan too, I never thought I would have to explain the Pagan Aspect of the Broom and why I choose it. However, the Handfasting was beautiful and they did jump the broom. History is amazing. People and culture is wonderful. Once we open our eyes to the Bigger picture. We can all learn to see with eyes unclouded by hate. I AM VERY GLAD TO SEE OTHER PAGANS JUMPING THE BROOM.

Laura Field
I am hoping to have a pagan wedding ceremony but don't know how I am to go about it. I would like to recieve some infomation on it if it isn't too much trouble please. ^_^

me and my partner are going to have a handfasting and its lovley to hear how others have gone and how much u enjoyed it bright blessings

A fantastic article.

Sybil MacLure
Tom & I have been together 4.5 years and have a 2.5 yr old daughter. Neither of us want to get legally married as we don't agree with the historical 'ownership' implications of marriage and don't follow the christian faith. We both love nature and we live at Crystal Waters, a permaculture community in Queensland, Australia. I have been attracted to the holistic, caring and nature-loving aspects of pagan beliefs for several years. We are planning our committment ceremony for this July. This article has helped bring it all together for us, thanks!

Jane Carter
Just what I am looking for! We would like a blessing and have consider a pagan one. Great for people who are not intune with the bible but are earth and nature lovers!

Fabulous - its nice to finally have it shown that us witches are loving caring people and not scary hallmark fantasies with stripy tights and warts!!

Michael Morrell
It's amazing how ignorant the public is as to to extreme Roman Paganism of most matrimonious weddings. Certainly not Biblical.

Get real - its not all nicey nicey - this is serious stuff! Dangerous...

Graham Price
I agree, it is a lovely article and it is nice to see the facts for once. Shame the lady above didn't say how you could join the Northampton Pagan Group. Blessings to all, Graham

Heather Pinfold
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing such a wonderfully understanding and acurate article.. the Pagan community needs more of these sort of articles to finally be accepted as the gentle, loving, caring spirituality that it is. Thank you again Blessed Be Heather Founder of the Nothampton Pagan's a group for all pagans in the Northampton area.

russ baxter
nice to see a Pagan ceremony treated seriously for a change, without trying to make something scandalous of it.

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