As Handfastings Go Mainstream, So Do Pagans

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 4, 2008 — 2 Comments

Lisa Cupido, writing for The Modesto Bee, has a very informative and interesting write-up of the growing popularity of Pagan handfasting ceremonies among couples (both Pagan and non-Pagan) looking to wed. Cupido interviews a wide-ranging assortment of sources for the piece, from author Raven Kaldera (who touches on same-sex marriage within modern Paganism), to trained celebrant Lamira Martin.

“Lamira Martin is a celebrant from St. Louis, Mo., who trained with the Celebrant USA Foundation, an institute that teaches people to officiate at weddings, funerals and other personalized ceremonies. She has been performing pagan and nondenominational weddings for only a year and a half but has wed 60 couples of all ages and backgrounds. Her most popular requests include handfasting, unity candle lighting and sand ceremonies … ‘Most of the couples I meet are in their 20s and want something beautiful and spiritual, but not religious … A lot of people have lost the connection to their churches, but they still want a ritual and to write their own ceremony.'”

In addition to covering the growing popularity of handfastings, Cupido also digs into what is feeding the popularity of handfastings (Paganism’s explosive growth over the last twenty years), and the economic ripples this new popularity creates.

“As some vendors of pagan items can attest, there is no shortage of customers for popular Wiccan and Celtic wedding items like costumes, Renaissance gowns, handfasting ropes and candles. Kimberly and Bill Tuttle, the owners of Gryphon’s Moon, started their company 13 years ago, unaware that their moonstone pendants and incense would attract so many pagan clients. The most popular item on their Web site, gryphonsmoon.com, is their handfasting ring, which features the inscription “Hearts as one,” in Runic, an early Germanic alphabet.”

In a final note on this very well-written and researched article, I would like to congratulate Cupido on being one of the first journalists to (indirectly) include the data about Pagans from the recently released Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. A survey that gives a big boost to the estimated Pagan population in America.

“A 2001 survey by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that the number of followers of Wicca, one of the many religions that fall beneath the pagan umbrella, increased from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, making it the fastest-growing religion in America in terms of percentage increase. Marty Laubach, a sociology professor at Marshall University, says the number of followers of pagan religions is even higher now, citing a 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey that put the estimate at 1.2 million. ‘My suspicion is that the first number was way too low due to people not responding,’ Laubach said. ‘The 1990 study was conducted at the height of the ‘satanic panic,’ which kept many neopagans in the closet.'”

One of the best articles dealing with modern Pagans I have read in awhile. I suggest reading the whole thing. Kudos to Lisa Cupido, this is what journalistic coverage of Paganism is supposed to look like.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Bill LaLonde

    I’m a bit concerned that the author refers to Raven Kaldera as “she.” As far as I’m aware, Raven self-identifies as male (his bio certainly indicates such) and to refer to him otherwise seems disrespectful (unless there’s been some change in status that I’m not aware of?).–Bill

  • Kelly

    I enjoyed the article…great read!