"He's just asked me if I would be handfast to him!" The young witch beamed excitedly, as I emerged from my tent.
I grinned back, "Wow! Nice one! When are you looking to do it?"
"Now!" She gushed. "It makes perfect sense. Everyone is here and we have a High Priestess!"
It did make a lot of sense. We were all camping out in the Shropshire borderlands. Most of the Pagan moot was present and, as we were there during a Sabbat, we had enough paraphernalia to do this thing.
Plus it wasn't like the couple had just met. They had a home together.
She was still talking. "We're going to do it for a year and a day, then perhaps extend that to a lifetime next year. Then our parents could be there." Ah! Yes. Family. "Say you'll do it!"
It wasn't like I had much choice in the matter. I could see past her, where the news was spreading like wildfire. Pagans like nothing better than a chance to party and organize pretty things. People were already getting ready. I was fine with this. "Ok, where do you want to do it?"
Here was a camp-site. We'd taken over half of the field, but it wasn't busy. There were only a handful of other tents at the other end of the site. Alongside us, the River Clun was barely a stream, babbling its way towards the distant town. Trees lined the riverbank and the site itself. I went to fetch my athame.
By the time I was back, the circle was already forming. I'd not had time to speak with the bride and groom together to discuss how this was going to be done. They both stated that they preferred the spontaneity and they trusted me to get it right.
I didn't have time to get stage fright. I was in that circle within minutes of knowing it was going to happen! It was fun. It was pretty. It was loving. It was this great outpouring of friends, all focused on the ecstatic bride and groom. The words flooded out of me, the sun beamed down and all was wonderful.
Except for two members of our moot.
They were Heathens, not witches of any stripe. They'd organized this whole trip and liked to frame themselves as our leaders. They had been the last to be informed about this Handfasting and their faces were grim throughout.
The ceremony didn't last too long. Everyone there knew what they were doing, so there was no need to pad it out with explanations for non-Pagans. All roles were performed to perfection and it was a great atmosphere. But for those two.
The second it was over, we began party mode. In the pre-wedding rush, some members of our moot had raced to the shop. They brought out cake and bottles of wine now. We celebrated, until we found the bride in tears and the groom with a face like thunder.
"What's happening?" I asked, but before they could answer, I too was called over. It was the two Heathens, both looking stern. I followed them behind their tent and was basically told off.
How dared I hijack their peaceful Pagan outing to turn it into a wedding? How dare I not show them the respect of asking them first? This wasn't just any campsite! It was one which they came to regularly. We hadn't had the common decency to ask the owners! Now they were both outed as Pagans there too.
"Has there been a complaint?" I asked. There was no-one but us around. It was mid-afternoon and the other tents seemed deserted. No cars were parked alongside. The owners lived in a house on the other side of a henge. I hadn't seen them appear.
"That's not the point!" I was informed. But they didn't get much further. The rest of the moot, now wedding party, were equally informed now, through the tears of the bride and the ranting of the groom.
They say that there's no good wedding without a fight, but I have to say that one was quite spectacular. It ultimately split the moot apart. To this day there are a handful of different Pagan groups in the city, all dating back to the schism wrought by that Handfasting.