Asatru Wedding Traditions
by Chris Haviland
I hope to post more interesting bits of wedding tradition and ritual here as time permits – but for the nonce, I will satisfy myself with listing out some basic elements of the modern Asatru wedding. Feel free to contact me with any questions and/or input!
Key Elements of the Asatru Wedding
· The most important element of an asatru wedding is the blessing of the bride with the hammer. Traditionally, the bride is seated, and after signing her with the hammer (making the sign of the hammer, an inverted”T”), the hammer is placed into her lap for a moment. THis is done to assure fertility in the marriage.
· A key part of the ceremony is to have the groom ceremonially give the bride a set of keys, which symbolize her receipt of responsibility for the home and finances of the family.
· In modern asatru, the bride would typically reciprocate with the gifting of the groom with an heirloom weapon such as a sword or axe, symbolizing that he is responsible for protecting the family. Because few modern households posess an heirloom sword to pass down, most asatruar brides to be purchase an heirloom-quality sword for this purpose.
· There is occasionally a portion of the service in which the groom’s kinsmen wrest the bride from the bride’s family, either by staging a mock struggle for her, or by threatening anyone in the crowd should they be considering threatening the conclusion of the ceremony (by a show of force with swords, for example).
· Like almost all weddings, garb for the wedding party is an important part of the festivities. The bride will often wear a reconstructed viking women’s dress with over-apron and twin turtle brooches, and the groom a tunic and trews. The bride often wears an amber necklace, representing Freyja’s tears, and the man wearing a token of his faith such as a thorrshammar or valknut pendant.
· Like all asatru ceremonies, the drinking horn is key part, with the couple sharing a draft of mead from the same horn. In ancient times, it was a sign of marriage or courtship for the couple to drink from the same vessel, and for the man and woman to feed each other choice bits from the same trencher or plate. Thus, they will ususally follow the modern tradition of feeding each other a bit of bread or wedding cake to honor that ancient tradition as well. Mead, is of course the traditional beverage for this occasion – to honor the ancient honeymoon tradtion from which this derives.
· Music is often a part of the modern ceremony, with some traditional pieces such as the Bridal Chorus from Wagner’s Loengrin being ver common. The Wedding March from Osterdalen as played by Bukkene Bruse is a personal favorite of mine.
A basic example framework for an Asatru Wedding
1. The Godhi performs a hammer working or similar blessing fo the space around the area where the wedding is to take place. This may be done prior to the arrival of the wedding party and guests.
2. It is often a good idea, when the marriage service will be attended by folks who are unfamiliar with our ways, to have the Godhi say some words about the ceremony, its ancient roots, and the traditional symbolism of the ceremony. This helps to place the ceremony into perspective, and to tie it to the kinds of weddings they will undoubtedly have seen before.
3. The Groom’s party comes into the area in reverse order, with the best man followed by the groom last. If they are carrying swords, they may choose to present arms in a formal fashion.
4. The bride’s party comes in while a processional music plays. Again the bride will be last, and ideally she will be escorted by her father. If the groomsman are armed, I have seen them make an arch of swords for the bride’s party to walk through.
5. The father gives the bride to the groom and takes his seat.
6. It is traditional in America at least to give the audience a chance to object to the union at some point early in the wedding ceremony. Because marriage in Viking times was in part sanctioned by the community, this is harks back to that. This is a good time to have the groomsmen threaten the crowd .
7. A symbolic gesture showing the union of the couple is often done here – like tying the hands of the bride and groom to each other. (Handfasting)
8. The ceremonial eating of the cake/bread and drinking of the mead might take place at this point.
9. The exchange of the keys and sword might occur next.
10. The blessing of the bride with hammer fits in nicely here…
11. The formal announcement of the marriage and the tradition kissing of the bride is a great way to finish off the wedding ceremony, with the grand processional of the wedding party out of the immediate area afterwards.
12. In most weddings, the bride and groom then shake hands with the attendees in a formal receiving line after all this.