A special guest post written by Niamh Dempsey Trua
A handfasting is the making of a contract of marriage in which the hands of the marrying couple are bound together using a cord. It is an old Celtic custom still practiced widely in alternative, often outdoor, ceremonies. Indeed it is the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot.’ In Ireland the Crios, (pronounced “kriss”) a traditional woven woollen belt, made especially for the occasion, is used as a handfasting cord.
Handfasting using a colourful cord, especially woven for the occasion is a truly lovely, symbolic addition to a marriage ceremony. Essentially the tying of the hands is, in and of itself, non-religious but can be used in a religious setting, being a striking visual symbol of their union, showing all present the joining together of a couple in a unique and beautiful way.
Thanks to Anna Scully for this lovely photo of her handfasting
I first learned to weave a crios six years ago when I worked as a costume maker for the theatre in Dublin. I have always had a love of wool and I enjoy the weaving process immensely. Since my own handfasting ceremony in August 2008 I have specialised in weaving them for couples getting married. I realised that there was an opportunity to provide a unique service when the man who performed the ceremony for us, Celtic Monk, Dara Molloy informed me that he could no longer source the traditional crios. Dara lives on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands off Co. Galway, the last stronghold of the crios-making tradition. There was nobody on the Island still making them for sale.
I now provide a custom order service in which I work with the colours chosen by the couple to be married. I really enjoy weaving colours that have a symbolic meaning for the couple, and seeing their colour combinations come to life. Often they will choose colours that represent themselves in some way, like the colours of their national flags interwoven.
Alternatively, it could be colours that represent something the couple value, like the balance between the masculine and the feminine, or colours that represent the sun, moon and stars. Traditionally a crios has six colours with undyed cream-coloured báinín (pronounced "bawneen") wool as the weft.
This crios represents the four elements.
I feel very privileged to be involved in this traditional craft and to help keep it alive and relevant today. It’s rewarding and exciting to play a small part in the preparations for a wedding, and of course it’s wonderful to have lovebirds for customers!!
For more about Niamh and her work, visit her website here.