The Festival of Akshaya Tritiya or Akha Teej

The Akshaya Tritiya festival is also known as Akha Teej and is a highly auspicious and holy day. The phenomenon of child marriages, which are celebrated in April on the occasion is still widespread in Indian rural areas to the belief that they bring benefits to agriculture, facilitating the obtainment a good harvest.

The pagan ritual is related to the goddess Ostara of Germanic mythology which brought light and fertility after winter. That is why all the rituals of this day have to do with fertility and renewal. The Celtic ceremony of marriage has a deeper meaning than that given in other religions today. Like almost all Celtic customs, the complete rite is somewhat unknown.

As is traditional in all festivities of Celtic origin, marital unions used to be associated with the Beltane festivities, with a party closely related to spring and fertility rites. In addition to Beltane, Lughnasadh was a time for weddings and it was even customary to hold weddings during the full moon. Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest season, the maturation of the first fruits, and was traditionally a time of community gathering.

Honeymoon for example is a custom that originated with the Celts. Legend has it that its origin is due to the fact that the bride and groom observed the moon for several days only by drinking a drink, the honey liqueur or mead during the 30 days following the wedding. This was done as a ritual of alliance between equals, which had to begin with the best omens, purification, and possible strength.

As a social act, among the Celts, when a girl entered an age considered suitable for marriage, which generally for girls was done at age 12 and for boys at 14, a great feast was organized, inviting all the unmarried boys. Girls in a ritualistic act with a deep mystical sense chose the one that she had previously chosen, in reciprocal correspondence, and offered water to the young boy to wash his hands. This protocol was the open public commitment that they both loved and wanted to bond their lives forever.

When the betrothal was celebrated, all the relatives of the married couple were present, since the act of leaving one family to form another, was a fact of paramount importance for all, that had previously a rapprochement and agreements between the families of the future spouses in which the dowry was fixed, regardless of the social class to which they could belong.

For the man who betrayed had to pay a kind of symbolic price for his future wife. In this case, this was intended for the father of the intended, but only if the woman married for the first time. If it was the second marriage of the woman, the father only received 2/3 of the dowry and the remaining third appropriated for the intended one. For third wedding, the father only received half and the bride the rest and so on. If the father had already died, this right fell on the older brother of the betrothed.

The veil, it seems to be, is a very old tradition that also goes back to late Celtic ceremonies. Before the bride put on her veil she was a maid. When placed, she became a goddess in her own right, thus representing the mystery of everything that represents femininity. When the bridegroom removed the veil, she returned to this changed world, giving way to a new beginning.

It is known that marriages were a contract that lasted only for few months and could be renewed if things went well. This is what is called Handfasting because, while looking each other in the eye, the couple takes their right and left hands together forming the symbol of infinity while the rope is tied around the hands in a knot. This action of joining hands comes from ancient Indo-European traditions on the fusion and harmonization between man and woman.

These handfastings or also called test marriages, generally lasted a year and one day, with the option of finalizing the contract before the new year or the next Lughnasadh and thus formalize it as a more permanent marriage. There are many variants of how the Handfastings have been made, which seem to change with the course of times and regions. Some used only one string or ribbon, while the others used up to six.

In some versions, the rite of Handfasting is made only for the duration of the ceremony, but in other cases, the rite remains in force until the marriage is physically consumed. The ancient Irish were well aware of the need for requirements and rights in such unions. In fact, they had 10 different forms and degrees of marriage. Any relationship that gave rise to the birth of a child was considered a marriage in order to ensure the rights of the child.

Some Celtic wedding accessories have survived the times and are still used today, such as the wedding ring, to signify the ultimate loyalty in the marriage. This ancient Celtic rite was performed outdoors, where nature could bless the union. Presumably, given the love that the Celts professed to nature, the principal places of marriage were made in the woods, probably surrounded by their sacred and most representative trees.

It was customary for the bride and groom to have on their heads a crown made of twigs of ivy and other herbs to symbolize love and good wishes. Next, a circle was created around the couple decorated with flowers, stones, tree branches, a custom that still persists in many current Celtic weddings. Then the druid blessed and consecrated the circle, symbol of eternity.

Then the gods or spirits of nature were honored and the offerings were deposited in the place that the druid had appointed. The bride and groom's parents then exchanged gifts honoring their bloodlines and blessing the new union that almost always led to requests for fertility and prosperity toward the couple. Once the rite was over, the banquet took place, a custom that has reached our days and the fertility parties where the newlyweds were honored with different dances and rituals.

It is the eve of the Akha Teej, a date of good omen according to the Indian calendar, in which traditionally, thousands of young boys of rural India marry with girls of their same age. Akshaya Tritiya is also the largest gold festival, which takes place in India, after the Dhanteras which is held in November.

In this way, and as it is traditional in the festivities of Celtic origin, most marital unions were celebrated in the heat of the festivals that were celebrated between April and September. Although according to the few chronicles that have reached to our days, during Litha and Lughnasadh, the festival that marks the beginning of the harvest season, the maturation of the first fruits, unions were held, most couples expected in Beltane, to unite, or to renew before the community the union they had held in private.

Thus, during the Buidhe Bealtaine, when bonfires were lit in honor of Belenos to celebrate the union of God and the Goddess, couples gathered with other members of their communities and taking advantage of the celebrations, united their souls under the sacred union of the Gods.

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