In Viking times, the bride and groom would have their hands tied by a cord in a wedding ritual, and during this process, they would exchange wedding vows.
In short, that is how Viking handfasting worked, but there are also various interesting details related to Viking weddings and wedding ceremonies in general.
Handfasting ritual as a pagan wedding tradition
Wedding handfasting is a symbolic ritual, and it is a part of a pagan wedding tradition. There is a set of different rituals where the bride and groom would be united through this symbolic act of tying their hands together.
The cords, or in some cases, ribbons, were made of different colored threads and decorated with small silver details, usually depicting typical Viking motifs, such as a sword, ax, and different types of coins.
At times, there would also be a coin-like decoration depicting Yggdrasil, the famous tree in Nordic mythology. This tree was believed to grow through all the worlds of Norse mythology. It represented a symbolic connection between all of them.
During a Viking wedding, the bride and groom would exchange wedding rings, which were put on the tip of the swords. Photo: Bairyna / Pixabay
The mead ceremony
The mead ceremony is another Viking wedding tradition. It was usually performed after the handfasting ritual.
Mead, an alcoholic drink based on honey, is a traditional Viking drink, and during the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom would drink mead from drinking horns to signalize their new unity. Mead was drunk on special occasions, weddings definitely being one of them, and the feast after the wedding ceremony would definitely involve lots of mead to celebrate a successful marriage.
Huginn and Muninn, Odin's ravens, were also important symbols during the Viking wedding ceremony. These two ravens were Odin's helpers and companions (Odin was the principal god in Nordic mythology). Why were they important for a Viking wedding, you ask?
Their names mean "thought" and "memory," and the symbolism behind them shows us that the Vikings were very well aware of the fact that these were important for a marriage to succeed.
Symbols of Huginn and Muninn were also made of silver and hung as a decoration on the cords used in the handfasting ceremony.
Wedding swords and wedding hammers
As we can see, Viking weddings were full of different symbolic acts. Goddesses and gods played an important role in everyday life - especially during events as important as weddings.
Weddings were held on Fridays (Freya's day, the goddess of love, fertility, and harmony). The bride would receive a hammer on her lap, as this was believed to help with fertility. The hammer represented Mjölnir, Thor's hammer, which was also an act of honoring the strongest of all gods – Thor.
Exchanging wedding swords was another tradition – the bride and groom exchanged swords to show unity, and swords served as a symbol of mutual protection.
The bride and groom would exchange wedding rings which were put on the tip of the swords. Swords were also often a symbol used as a decoration hanging from the cords for the handfasting ritual.
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