By JANE WALSHE , IrishCentral.com Staff Writer
Published Sunday, February 21, 2010, 7:17 AM, updated Sunday, February 21, 2010, 12:05 PM
Pagan weddings, in many cases performed by a recognized druid, will now be allowed in Ireland.
Following a five-year campaign the Irish state has now recognized the right of the Pagan Federation Ireland to perform weddings.
Couples will now be able to be legally married after a ceremony that concludes with jumping over a broomstick to mark crossing over from an old life to a new one.
Pagan weddings are also known as hand-fasting and most recently, the nephew of Richard Branson got married that way and they have become increasingly popular.
Ray Sweeney, coordinator of Pagan Federation Ireland told the Irish Sunday Times that there are 40 couples ready to be married now by the old tradition of binding their hands with ribbons, literally tying the knot.
Kate Deegan, a wedding coordinator says she has couples ready to go including an American pair.
“When Ray Sweeney informed me that they are now legal, I thought he was pulling my leg,” Deegan said. “A white witch I worked with conducted the hand-fastings, bringing in the elements of fire, earth, wind, and water. We’ve done them on the Cliffs of Moher and further up the coast at Fanore.
“The couples used to have a civil marriage in a registry office first, but they often did it on their lunch break because they considered the pagan blessing more important.”
The tradition of hand fasting goes back to the Celtic pre-christian era. Currently eight marriage solemnizers or druids are being trained in how to carry out the wedding. 250,000 people in the last Irish census revealed they followed no organized religion.
Sweeney prefers to keep pagan weddings low key for fear of drawing a Christian backlash.
“We don’t want people shouting at us and singing hymns over us,” he said. “There are too many misconceptions about paganism. Some people think it’s Satanism, but it’s a pre-Christian religion, so how can it be anti-Christian? It’s not about dressing up in silly medieval costumes. I wear a suit with no tie.”
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