The Handfasting Stone
(The Odin Stone)
In Dragon Seer,
I chose to make handfasting a custom of the Picts. Like many folk
customs, we aren't really sure about the history of handfasting. It
seems to have been practiced in some form by Anglo-Saxon people in
England, and also in Scotland. It may have simply have been a kind of
betrothal (or engagement) rather than a trial marriage lasting for a
year. But the handfasting stone described in Dragon Seer really did
exist. It was called the Odin Stone and you can click on the link to read a very complete account of it on the Orkneyjar site. The Odin Stone was located near the Standing Stones of Stenness, where the Gathering was held. Click on this link to find out more about this fascinating monument.
As in Dragon Seer, the Odin
Stone was said to play a role in local marriage customs in Orkney as recently as
the 1700s. You can read about these customs on the Orkneyjar page The Odin Stone and the Orcadian Wedding.
I included the idea of handfasting in my story because I wanted readers
to get a sense that cultures in the past could be very different
from what we think of as normal human behaviour today. In fact, the way
we behave is governed by the culture we live in and customs
that seem very strange to one group can be thought of as perfectly
natural by another.