Let the magic begin… A very special note from me: http://ping.fm/Ny8RI

I’ve just joined Ping, so this is a test post to see if it goes to all of my chosen outlets. #socialmedia


NY Gov. Cuomo Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill
NY Gov. Cuomo Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill


New York – On June 24, 2011, the New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act which was signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo the same day.  This new law took effect on July 24, 2011.  The New York City Clerk has begun issuing marriage licenses and providing civil marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples. 

Happy Couple Cheryle Rudd and Kitty Lambert
Happy Couple Cheryle Rudd and Kitty Lambert


But even MORE exciting (for those of us who perform handfastings, anyway) the historic first gay marriage that took place in New York included a handfasting!  The lucky couple, Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd (above), was married at Niagara Falls at midnight on July 25 and had Baptist, Jewish and Episcopalian clergy preside over their vows.  During their ceremony, a handfasting was performed, bonding the two together in matrimonial bliss.


cute couple
I don’t know who these other women (above) are, but I just thought this picture was so cute I had to share it




But Wait – What About DOMA?


While the State of New York is the sixth state in the US to institute gay marriage, the fight for equality isn’t over yet!  Not only do we have 44 more states to go, but the federal DOMA law (theDefense of Marriage Act federally instituted in 1996) still blocks legal same-sex couples from receiving thousands of benefits, including joint federal tax returns, federal health plans for spouses, and access to spouses’ federal pensions.


In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in legal cases challenging its constitutionality.


However, the Attorney General said that the government will continue to enforce DOMA until there is a definitive ruling from the courts that it is unconstitutional, or repeal of the law by Congress.  Until then, lawfully married same-sex couples will continue to be denied federal recognition and the associated rights, benefits and obligations.


In the meantime, to combat the injustice that DOMA supports, in March of this year, The Respect for Marriage Act was filed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The legislation would repeal DOMA and end federal discrimination against legally married same-sex couples.


Currently, the US States that have legalized same-sex marriage and presently issue marriage licenses to gay couples are: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.














Defense of Marriage Act Determined “Indefensible”

February 23, 2011, Washington DC – The law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages has been determined unconstitutional!  The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is indefensible, according to the U.S. Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, Jr.  Republicans will still attempt to defend DOMA in federal courts – but will they succeed?  Only time will tell.  That said, this is still a huge step to finally open the doors for full equality rights for lesbian and gay people across the U.S. 

Read more here:


Human Rights Campaign:


Read Handfastings.org’s latest newsletter here:


A clip from the latest Handfastings.org newsletter:

Finally!  I almost didn’t remember what a chirping bird sounded like, until just two days ago I heard the little tweety-tweet-tweets of a song sparrow outside my window.  Later on that day, I caught two mourning doves outside playing tag, a sure sign of mating (or at least frolicking). Spring is just around the corner!  Perhaps the groundhog was right – the cold will soon be gone and Spring will awaken from Her slumber.

This is an abbreviated issue due to a very busy winter had by my family – my brother came back to visit for a month from his home-away-from-home in Beijing, so we celebrated Chinese New Year: The Year of the Rabbit!  We endured cold and flu season, but now we’re ready to spring back into action (pun absolutely intended).

We have four wonderful new officiants to show off, and are honored to have them grace the celebrant list of Handfastings.org.

I hope that you had a blessed Imbolc and promising Groundhog Day.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Blessed be,


Here’s the link to the whole newsletter:


Here’s an excerpt from Handfastings.org’s latest newsletter:

My husband and I just watched a fascinating account of The Real Story of Christmas on the History Chanel, which took us from the old Pagan customs of Winter Solstice, to the more designed – and sometimes very rowdy – solstice celebrations of Yule through the middle ages, to the Christianization of the holiday and how it has evolved through the years.  My favorite line was, “Traditions are never as old as we think they are.”

Religion, customs and rituals evolve through the ages.  And while our core principles may remain the same, we learn to adapt along the way, through environmental changes and other things that necessitate our development.  We take what we call our traditions every year and put our own spin on it, driving the evolution of our holiday rituals.

This Winter Solstice, take a moment to think about why it is we do the things we do.  Why am I lighting this candle?  Why am I hanging this ornament?  On the darkest night of the year, it is time to reflect on our innermost spirit.  Sitting a moment to collect your thoughts can be so freeing.

In this December newsletter from Handfastings.org, we discuss the Winter Solstice, offer up a solstice meditation courtesy of Dr. Judith Rich, and ponder the magical significance of the Lunar Eclipse on the 21st, which in its rarity this year falls exactly on the solstice.

And we are delighted to announce our first listed officiant who performs handfastings in the US capital, Washington DC!

So whether you observe the Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Saturnalia, Hanukkah, or a combination of any winter holidays, may you have a bright, warming winter and a season filled with magic and wonder.

Blessed be,

Shira and Family (including the cats)


You can find our latest newsletter here:


I have a new personal website to promote my handfasting services!  It’s in the Beta stages, so there may be a few changes to be made.


Hello Friend,

Wow, this just may be the hottest summer I can remember!  There have been such sweltering days for us here in the Northeast US, where normally you can beat the heat one way or another.  But Mother Nature had other plans.  Outdoor weddings were best when under a tent or in the shade.  Linen and cotton have been preferred over heavy duchess satin or woven crepe suits.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Fall!

In this issue we welcome a number of new officiants to Handfastings.org, one of whom is a Llewellyn book author!  We then take a fantastic “trip” to Wales to witness a couple get married in front of  Penmyarth, a popular monolithic stone, which is thousands upon thousands (upon thousands) of years old.

We discuss the most recent ruling concerning Proposition 8, the very real and yet very symbolic law prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state of California.

And sadly, we say goodbye to one of the Pagan community’s most outspoken and revered leaders, Isaac Bonewits.

Soon Mabon will be approaching and our arms will be full with picked apples and mulled wine.  Looking forward to sharing the upcoming Autumn season with you.

Blessed be,

Welcome New Officiants!

Welcome Marie “Memie” Watson of Massachusetts, Tamara Lampard of Australia, Wendy Friedel of Virginia, Reverend Laura Ann Gallant of Ohio and High Priestess Simiramis of California.

Handfastings.org also welcomes Bronwynn Forrest Torgerson of Arizona, who is the author of Cookie Cutter Magic, a magical children’s fable, One Witch’s Way, a collection of seasonal rituals and biographical journeys, and the “All One Family” section of Llewellyn 2010 Sabbat Almanac.

Getting Married on Sacred Ground

While traditional weddings often involve a church or temple, unique earth-centered weddings may sometimes be celebrated outdoors –  sometimes brought into gardens, forest groves, on a beach or overlooking the ocean.  Lisa and Georg chose to recite their vows in front of one enormous rock.
Bishop Alistair Bate presiding over the handfasting of Lisa and Georg Bishop Alistair Bate handfasting in Wales
But not just any rock!  The stone behind the couple in the above picture is a very tall menhir, a large upright standing stone.  Menhirs may be found singly as monoliths (as opposed to megaliths, a group of upright stones, such as in the well-known Stonehenge).

Standing stones are defined as single, or occasionally paired, upright stones, generally assumed to belong to the Bronze Age.

This particular menhir is called Penmyarth, or the “Fish Stone” due to its shape.  The celebrant who officiated Lisa and Georg’s handfasting, Bishop Alistair, tells me that the stone “was erected by our ancestors several thousand years ago for ritual purposes.”

The Penmyarth menhir is 4.27 meters high, which is a little over 14 feet, making it the tallest of three menhirs in the Crickhowell area.  It is located on the private Glanusk Estate in Wales and permission must be sought from the estate to visit.

Congratulations to Lisa and Georg!  May your marriage be as strong and sustained as the ancient stone that witnessed the beginning of your lives together.




A special thanks to Bishop Alistair Bate and the couple for the lovely photos.
Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional
But Marriage Equality Still Hangs in the Balance

On August 4, 2010, California’s ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional under both the due-process and equal protection clauses.

While this was a victory for supporters of legally recognized same-sex marriages, the attorneys who defended the Prop 8 ban on gay marriage, which is still in legal effect as of this writing, pursued an appeal of the new decision.

The local Court of Appeals issued a stay on Monday, August 16, 2010: according to The San Francisco Chronicle, the stay puts “[same-sex] marriages on hold until the court decides whether Prop. 8 violated the constitutional right to marry one’s chosen partner.”

In the meantime, hundreds of couples in California have had to put their weddings on hold.  The saga continues…



Isaac Bonewits
1949 – 2010
A Leader Remembered

Isaac Bonewits, Pagan leader and community pillar, passed onto the Summerlands on August 12, 2010.

My brief but heartfelt tribute to Isaac may be read at The Magical Buffet.

September 2010 Almanac

Moon Phases (EST)
Last Quarter – September 1, 17:22
New Moon – September 8, 10:30
First Quarter – September 15, 05:50
Full Moon – September 23, 09:17

The 2010 Autumn Equinox (Mabon) falls on September 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, while our friends in the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating the Spring Equinox (Ostara)!

Up here in the North, the September moon is known to many as the Harvest Moon.

This interview can also be read at Handfastings.org’s newsletter here.

Getting handfasted in Ireland was never so – legal!

Four short months ago, Handfastings News and Views broke the news to our readers that Ireland had legalized Pagan handfastings.  It was our most-read newsletter to date!  Today we interview none other than Ray Sweeney, National Coordinator of the Pagan Federation of Ireland, who spearheaded the movement.

What is the Pagan Federation of Ireland?

The largest representative body for Pagans in Ireland.

Does PF Ireland have any statistics on the number of Pagans in Ireland?
Between 2,000 and 3,000 active Pagans.

How many officiants in Ireland (that you know of, anyway), perform the handfasting ceremony (either legal or not)?
Eight publicly available, twenty available through PF Ireland

Now that the ceremony is legal, do all people who want to perform a legal handfasting have to be registered with the Pagan Federation of Ireland?
At the moment, yes.

What is now the registration process for a Pagan High Priestess or High Priest to perform legal handfastings?
They can attempt to become personally registered, which is a nightmare, or they can apply to PF Ireland.

How did the handfasting ceremony come to be legal in Ireland?
I applied for it, and then fought for it with the tenacity of a cornered rat [smiles].

Wow, sounds like it took a lot of determination.  Are there parts of Ireland where performing a handfasting is still not counted as a legal marriage?
Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, does not yet recognise Handfasting as legal.

Were there petitions? Protests?
No petitions, but serious protests, ministerial appeals, equality tribunals,
the lot.

Who is behind the change of law (i.e., particular politicians, individual advocates, non-profit groups, covens, etc.)?
It was a governmental review of marriage legislation in general, which [PF Ireland] contributed to in the draft stages.

Did the initial governmental review of marriage legislation in general  include legalizing gay marriage as well?  What is the government’s view on that issue?

No, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) couples were not included in the legislation.  In the uniquely Irish way of dealing with a controversial issue, a Civil Partnership law is currently being enacted, which will give LGBT couples a Civil Partnership entitlement, but not full civil marriage.

There is debate in the LGBT community as to the merits of the Civil Partnership law, with some seeing it as a welcome first step, and others seeing it as enshrining discrimination in law.

The government (at the moment) is a coalition, and includes the Green Party, who are publicly committed to full civil marriage for LGBT couples, so we are hopeful that the bill will pass, and further progress will be made on gay marriage.

How long has active advocacy been happening in order to change the law?
10 years or more – we jumped in 5 years ago.

Do you mean that in the years of advocacy before that, there was no one advocating for Pagan handfastings at all (only general  marriage reform advocacy), or that there was, but PF Ireland then included itself as an advocate among others for Pagan handfastings?
The government, through various statutory bodies, had been undertaking a review of marriage legislation since 2002, but only opened for public submissions years later. That was when we dived in, with a pre-legislative submission on marriage recognition for non-mainstream religious couples.

Our original submission was largely to the effect that any group, who shared common religious beliefs, and could prove a need by having more than 1000 adherents, should be entitled to nominate a legal Solemniser from within their group. This would enable a couple to be married in a personally meaningful religious manner, by a member of their peer group.

When this, and other logical suggestions we made, were totally ignored, we narrowed our focus to our own specific religious path of Paganism, and moved into combat mode. And, five years later, we won the battle.

What does the actual new law state in terms of legalizing the handfasting ceremony?
It states that the religious ceremony of any authorised religious body (that’s PF Ireland) is the concern of the religious body alone, once certain legal declarations are included.

What is the known (recent) history of the handfasting ceremony in your country (or area)?

It used to be a private Pagan affair, but Janet Farrar/Gavin Bone and others carried out Handfastings beyond the traditional Pagan community and attracted interest in that way.

Do you think that the modern handfasting is gaining momentum in Ireland? If so, how?

From my inbox, I can tell you it definitely is.  People, even those from non-Pagan backgrounds, see in Handfasting a union in beauty of two people.  This contrasts with the reasonably mechanical “normal” wedding, and attracts the more romantic sort of person.  And as divorcees cannot remarry in a church here, a lot of couples in this position are seeking a spiritual union beyond the confines of a (much disgraced) Catholic Church.

What kind of attitudes from the general public have you encountered toward Paganism? Towards the rite of handfasting?
To be Pagan here is to be considered oddly eccentric. But Ireland loves and accepts eccentrics more than most countries [smiles].  All handfastings we have carried out have been well received, and we take the time before and after to explain the ceremony to guests.  We’ve had more than one guest request our number for future reference.

What steps does a couple from Ireland have to take to become legally handfasted there?
Contact PF Ireland, and then the local Registrar of Marriages.

In the interest of those who are not from Ireland but would like to travel abroad and get married there (i.e., a “destination wedding”), what are the legal steps non-residents must take in order to be handfasted?
Contact PF Ireland, and then the local Registrar of Marriages.  The couple can do the paperwork with certain Registrars by post, but must turn up, in person, five days before the Handfasting to sign legal declarations.

What is now the legal difference between getting married in a Christian church or getting married in a Pagan handfasting ceremony (if any)?
Only the building and ceremony.

Equality feels good.  Is there anything else that you would like to add about handfastings in Ireland ?
Beware the weather!  Have an indoor alternative available.  And a beautiful woodland setting might seriously attract midges [blood-sucking bugs]. We once had to conduct a ceremony a light speed, to prevent becoming human sacrifices to the great midge lord.

Gross!  Any fun facts about yourself, either personal or professional, that you would like to share with our readers?
I’m a Ninja (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu) instructor in my spare time. I also brew my own mead for the Handfasting ceremonies with the water that outflows from Brigid’s sacred well in Kildare.

Impressive.  Thanks again to Rev. Ray Sweeney and the great folks of Pagan Federation of Ireland for standing up for Pagan rights!

To learn more about the Pagan Federation of Ireland click the link below:


This interview can be found in our complete newsletter here:


I’m very excited to announce that I was able to get an interview with the Pagan Federation of Ireland’s own Ray Sweeney for an interview.  I’ll be asking him about the recent events that have taken place that made the Pagan handfasting rite legal in Ireland.  The interview will most likely be in our next issue, Summer Solstice 2010.  Look for it!

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