Honoured as we all were to have been invited to share in the joy and love that was Wertperch and Grundoon's handfasting ceremony, it was not without a little trepidation that I approached the wonderful Freemason's Arms on the brisk, but dry and sunny morning of February 5th, 2005.
The reactions of my friends and family on hearing that, not only was I going to the UK to celebrate the union of two people I had never met in person before, but that it was also to be a pagan ceremony, were mixed and quite humourous. Many were convinced that a Pagan ceremony meant that everyone attending would have to be naked. And let's face it, who wants to stand around, outside, in the UK in February with a bunch of naked geeks?
But I trusted Wertie's assurances that there would be no nudity involved. In fact, all those that attended were particularly well dressed (for a bunch of geeks). Grundoon was radiant in a long, lilac velvet dress and wine-coloured cardigan & velvet scarf.
While Wertperch sported a warm & colourful knitted cardigan which seemed to reflect the warmth, comfort and variety that their life together is sure to hold. Pandora and Wiccanpiper (the co-celebrants) were also appropriately attired for the occasion; Pandora in a floating blue skirt & grey shawl, and wearing her hair up, bedecked with tiny white flowers, befitting a priestess (although La Petite Mort was a little worried that she would catch her death of cold). Wiccanpiper was also dashing in a striking emerald-green billowing shirt.
Before the ceremony, we all met for a pre-handfasting libation and quick introductions at the welcoming Freemason's Arms pub. Princess loulou's extraordinary honey cake soothed away any ghosts of Saturday morning hangovers that were trying to invite themselves to the celebrations.
The procession of over thirty noders and well-wishers that made their way through Hampstead Heath to the tumulus, (the wisely chosen, sacred site at which the ceremony was to be held) was most impressive. On arriving at the tumulus itself, a grassy clearing between three groups of trees, on a hill in the middle of the huge park that is Hampstead Heath in north London, all those in attendance formed a circle around a small altar. Ably led by Pandora and Wiccanpiper, we then separated into an inner and an outer circle, according to our preferred level of participation in the ceremony itself. The circles were blessed, and the corners were called. This involved the invoking of the blessings of the four elements, wind, water, earth and fire. Heyoka, Gnarl, princess loulou and Lady_Day kindly assisted in invoking the blessings of the elements on the happy couple during this part of the ceremony, and offered gifts of water, fire ( a candleflame), wind (a fan) and a small rose-bush (earth) in thanks to the gods.
There was a blessing given to the Happy couple, who then exchanged very touching vows and declarations of love & intention which they had written themselves. Unfortunately, Christine was standing with her back to me, and with her soft-spoken voice and the wind on the Heath, I couldn't make out her vows too clearly. But I am sure, if Kevin's are anything to go by, that they were equally as beautiful and inspirational. It was indeed an honour to witness their love and happiness. And I would like to thank them both (as I'm sure would all who attended the celebration) for inviting us to share in their happiness and warmth. Tessie (Christine's daughter)'s permission was sought before the union could be officially blessed. She warmly accepted Kevin into her family, and played her part in making this happy occasion possible.
After vows were exchanged and the happy couple were officially handfasted, they signified their crossing over into their new life together by jumping the broomstick. Meanwhile, the thoughtful and well-prepared Spiregrain refreshed us all with some delicious, warm, mulled cider. After some quick photo opportunities and a beautiful group portrait on the tumulus, we trundled back down through the Heath with the absolutely radiant couple, and re-grouped in the marquee at the back of the Freemasons Arms for speeches, blessings, cake-cutting, toasts to the future happiness of our friends, and general drinking & noder-gossiping.
Much wine, beer and oven-fired pizza set us up for the long day of celebrations to follow. Wertperch gave a beautiful speech showing his & Christine's appreciation for all those sharing in their joy and wishing them well. Wrinkly made what is sure to be a very touching tribute to Kevin & Christine; a video, in which he interviewed all willing guests as to how they met the happy couple & their wishes for them on the very special day of their handfasting. StrawberryFrog rang with best wishes from South Africa. Kevin and Christine cut the beautiful wedding cake that TheLady made for the occasion, in which we all shared. TheLady and The Debutante bestowed a traditional Jewish Blessing on the Happy Couple's union. TheLady read the blessing in Hebrew while The Debutante read the English translation. It was a lovely sentiment, and very much appreciated by all.
Around 3pm, Wertperch and Grundoon slipped out to go and "rest" for a couple of hours before the evening proceedings and Britnoder-meet part of proceedings commenced. Many London-based noders used this as their opportunity to slip away and freshen up, too, while the foreigners and the hardcore Britnoders continued drinking and went on an expedition en-masse through the London underground to reach Penderel's Oak at around 7pm. More drinking followed here, in anticipation of the happy couple's return. Mr & Mrs. Wertperch did, in fact, return at around 9pm, for more congratulatory drinking and toasting. However, someone failed to warn this trusting noder that English pubs close at 11pm, and not 12, like back home, and, much to my dismay and disappointment, i found myself drinkless in London. But La Petite Mort soon got on the case, and rustled up the troops to move on for further libation. Indeed, from what I hear, herself & Wiccanpiper showed their true colours singing show tunes at 3am in Trafalgar Square!
All in all, it was a very beautiful celebration of what is sure to be a very happy and harmonius union. And that a bright and shining future was wished for Wertperch and Grundoon together was the overall feeling that enveloped the days celebrations. It was a wonderful day, which I and many others I am sure, felt proud and blessed to be a part of. Thank you very much Kevin and Christine, and I'm sure I speak for all of us on E2 when I wish you every happiness and good wish for the future.