Titled: Divorce, Separation, Parting ways, Handparting
When: It can occur at anytime when a person has decided that it is time to officially and spiritually release old ties to something. This may be anything from a former religion, an old home, an addiction or any other association that has become painful or unhealthy.
Often it is a person with whom ones relationship has changed, be it a relative, a friend or most often, a romantic partner. Generally, this sort of ritual would not take place until after any physical or practical means of parting have taken place to avoid re-establishment of the old bond.
Why: This ritual recognizes that previous bonds are untied, releases the partners and helps re-establish personal independence which may have faltered during the relationship. It helps restore the emotional and spiritual health to a person after a traumatic break or help smooth the establishment of a new and different relationship between former partners. It can be tremendously empowering, especially for someone who felt dependent upon or dominated by the now unbound relationship. While many people may feel that such a ritual is unnecessary in a case where a handfasting was done on a short-term or traditional year and a day basis, it may be helpful to recognize the end of such a relationship as well, especially if there are ill-feelings or negative energy between the two in question.
I’m going to start by talking about handpartings or divorce rituals. It is beneficial to have both parties of such a separation present and participating in the ritual and as many handfastings are short term relationships, this may be more easily done then in traditional marriages which are expected to last a long time and can be quit traumatic when they don’t. Since it is not always possible or even preferable to have ones former partner present, I’ll also talk about alternatives for solitary independents before I talk about more general partings.
Many handparting rituals trace the steps for handfasting in reverse, which makes sense. Other features might include discussing the relationship, avoiding any contentiousness, bitterness or blaming and focusing instead on the positive things, the lessons learned, the favorite memories and what has been achieved in their personal growth through the relationship.
Tokens or symbols of the partnership may then be destroyed or cast away.
The now parted couple may then focus on and discuss what they intend to do with their new independence and liberty and what their future plans are, including any agreements the parted couple has reached regarding the parts of their lives that may not be able to disentangle, such as mutual property, children or mutual friends.
The support of the community may also be expressed by others attending the ritual.
For people whose former partners are not able to attend or aren’t invited to the ritual for personal reasons, the person may find a stand-in, such as a priest or priestess to speak as and for the absent partner or may find a symbol or object to represent that person.
Two candles or other symbols may also stand in for both partners so that equal actions can be enacted upon both.
Displays of independence might also be enacted.
In a case where the person is parting with something other than a partner or human friend, similar symbols of the thing left behind may be used and the ritual easily adapted to fit the circumstances.
What are the general themes? Appreciating the bond that is untied, paying respects to the past, and establishing independence for all parties. Making things as right as possible for everyone and focusing on moving forward without bitterness or anger.
Examples? Untying or cutting of handfasting cords or any cords that represent the bond, stepping backwards over the broom, compiling lists or symbols of mingled lives and independent lives, then separating these symbols (cutting the page, ripping up and/or burning a picture, wedding ring broken, buried or thrown into the ocean). Getting counseling from clergy during the process of unmingling the partners’ practical lives can be an asset.
As a display of independence, a person might take ceremonial steps along a path. Symbols representing the couple could be candles, poppets, or gifts from the courtship or marriage, such as rings. Reciting or writing down what each partner is thankful for, the grievances for which forgiveness is being offered and apologies. A souvenir or post-card may stand in for a departed home, a religious symbol may stand in for the old religion, a drawing or picture of the addictive material may be used in the case of old addictions, a method which may be useful when combined with other spellwork and practical work to beat addictions.
I loved this idea from a blog by Princess Poison Ivee who suggested that the partners exchange stuffed animals or poppets representing their partner, returning each to the person they represent. Once the ritual is over, she says,
“Take your stuffed animal, which is you, home with you, and treat it as you would be treated in a loving relationship. Comfort it when you are feeling down, encourage it when you are feeling good, ask it to take you to the park when you are feeling lethargic, etc. This might seem strange, but it is a very effective method of sympathetic magic, and it also can re-direct your caretaking tendencies back to yourself if you are more comfortable taking care of other people than yourself, or loving other people more than yourself.”
I thought this was a beautiful idea and you can see how it could be adapted to situations where only one partner is willing or able to participate.
How is the person’s life changed after the rite? At this point, new bonds are still possible, however, it needs to be approached as an effort to start completely fresh. Mostly, however, a person can move forward in their lives, embracing their independence from relationships or associations that were harmful or no longer serve them.