Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Modern Wiccan Handparting and Its Meaning

The term ‘handparting’ is used by many modern Wiccans and some pagans to indicate a divorce. At the handfasting, the Wiccan equivalent of marriage, the couple swore to remain together ‘as long as the love shall last.’ If, at some point, the couple decides that the love between them no longer exists, the couple is permitting a handparting to sever the union.

Morality of a Handparting

In some religious traditions, divorce is seen as a negative, a violation of the vows given at the time of marriage. Most commonly, these vows include, ‘’til death do us part.’ In Wicca, however, this vow is not given, and so the handparting is an end to the relationship without this difficulty. Wiccans do not generally see divorce as a negative occurrence.

Appropriate Time for a Handparting

Any time agreed upon by the couple is appropriate for a handparting. Usually only after both parties have agreed that the handfasting is truly over. If the original handfasting was also a legal marriage, then in general, the handparting occurs at a time around when the divorce is also final and legal; some couples may choose to do this sooner. If the handfasting did not involve civil law, then the handparting will not either.

Who Should Participate in a Handparting?

At the minimum, the priest or priestess and the couple should be present for the handparting. However, if one of the couple cannot be present, for whatever reason (relocation, health, possibly restraining order?), then another of the appropriate sex may stand in for the missing party. This is permitted only if there is a signed agreement from the other party. Without this, a separate ritual, perhaps a ritual of emotional release, would be more appropriate than a handparting.

Family and friends can be involved, if the couple so chooses. Children of the couple, unless they are adults and choose to participate, should generally not be involved.

The Ceremony

The exact ceremony will differ according to the wishes of the couple, and generally follows the pattern of most Wiccan rituals. The ritual can be either very short and to the point, and longer, allowing time for emotional reflection. Regardless of the length of the ritual, it is common to incorporate the following components.

The ceremony must be opened. This usually involves the casting of the circle and the calling of the quarters. These may be specific to the handparting. For example, when the quarters are invoked, they may be invoked as:

East as Wisdom
South as Decision
West as Clarity
North as Strength

This is not necessary, but can be a nice touch.

The priest or priestess will at this point usually ask both parties to confirm their intentions. How this is done is at the discretion of the couple. For some rituals, the priest or priestess will ask a question such as:

Has the time come that your love has ended and you wish for the parting of your hands?

In other cases, the priest or priestess will ask, “Why have you come here?” and the couple must answer in their own words. The goal is that the couple parts in peace, and so the ritual will reflect that. Sometimes, depending on the wishes of the couple, the priest or priestess will also ask about provisions make for the division of property and the care of any children of the marriage, but often, in the case of less amicable handpartings, this is left to other venues, such as a lawyer’s office.

At this point, rituals are very different indeed. In some cases, the ritual will simply be closed, and the couple goes their own separate ways. Sometimes, there may be a few words from the priest or priestess, or from the couple themselves. If there was a handfasting cord, this is now cut, and typically burned. If there was a handfasting chalice, this is usually shattered. The pieces are either kept by the participants or scattered in flowing water. This washes away the bonds of commitment, freeing the couple to pursue other relationships.

In some cases, where the couple intends to remain friends afterwards, a meal may be shared. If there is a great deal of animosity, this would not occur. After this has occurred (if it does at all), the circle would be opened, symbolizing a return to normal time and space. The couple then goes their separate ways.

A handparting is not seen as a failure of a handfasting or marriage. Rather, the couple is assumed to have grown and changed, as all do. And in their growth, they have found that their love is no longer what it once was. This is not a failure, but a natural conclusion to a relationship. This is not to say that all couples will or should experience a handparting. But if a couple is lead to this path, then they are not to be judged for their choice.

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