by Denise Pickering
A TEENAGER plans to marry a schoolgirl in a pagan ceremony next month with the bride’s mother officiating.
Using a simple length of rope Alex Stewart-Pole and Jenni Birch will become partners for “a year and a day” through the ancient ritual.
A handfasting lasts just a year and a day before it is renewed for the same or a longer period, and aside from the lashing of hands, sees the couple jump over a fire, chant, and recite vows.
Mr Stewart-Pole, 19, who studies design at the Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE’s Mt Gravatt campus, said: “We’re planning to one day go to Northampton in England which is like the pagan capital of the world to do our ‘10 years and a day’ handfasting.”
A life-long pagan, Holland Park High School student Jenni, 16, said of the handfasting: “You can renew it if you want to but we’ll just see how it goes.”
Performing the ceremony will be Jenni’s mother and pagan high priestess Sue Birch, of Lawnton, who said she happily approved of her teenage daughter’s betrothal.
Paganism takes in a range of spiritual beliefs including druidism, wicca, and modern witchcraft, and is based on the worship of nature and its cycle of birth, growth, death and renewal as represented in the four seasons.
According to 2006 Census data, 3355 Queenslanders identified themselves as pagans, but the Pagan Awareness Network believes the true figure is closer to 13,000.
Eileen Harlow, an Ipswich-based marriage celebrant and one of only three people in southEast Queensland licensed to conduct legally-binding handfasting ceremonies, said: “There’s much more awareness now, but unfortunately peoples’ picture of paganism can be very superficial and a little bit Hollywood,” she said.
“It can appear very dramatic but to the people involved paganism is a heart-felt, nature-based faith that centres around health and healing and an holistic approach to life.”