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Total Eclipse Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Pagan weddings eclipse hearts
A druid ceremony
Druids believe eclipse represents man and woman together
A pagan couple married at the moment of total eclipse in a ceremony celebrating the union of light and dark.

Special report
Special report
11 August
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"We believe there's sun god and a moon goddess inside everyone, and that an eclipse represents the man and the woman together," said Niall Fox and Sandie Wardley who married at their East Sussex home.

The couple, practising pagans for more than a decade, wed at 11.11 BST in the 1,000-year-old Handfast tradition.

The symbolic binding of the bride and groom's clasped hands is the origin of the phrase "tying the knot".

Second 'eclipse' marriage

Eclipse day was special to pagans everywhere.

Tom Tasker, 31, a GP, and fianceť Averil Stewart, 30 a trainee administrator, vowed never to let the Sun go down on an argument when they married in a pagan ceremony after watching the solar eclipse.

Archdruid Ed Prynn
Archdruid Ed Prynn: "I'm floating on cloud nine"
They took their vows either side of one of 30 standing stones in the druid's St Merryn home, close to Tintagel, legendary site of King Arthur's Camelot. Rings and kisses were exchanged through the hole in a standing stone in the garden of Cornwall Archdruid Ed Prynn.

Although the couple will marry in a Christian ceremony in Manchester in December, they decided to marry in a pagan ceremony when they learned Mr Prynn was available.

Ms Stewart said: "It was a bit disconcerting having so many people there - there were about 100 - but it was lovely, we were focused on each other and we weren't really aware of them."

Tom said: "I was initially flabbergasted but then excited about it - it's been incredible, a magical day."

Gloomy weather

The archdruid performed a series of dances ahead of the eclipse to try to draw out the sun from the gloomy weather. He said the skies parted enough for the phenomenon to be seen.

"I'm floating on cloud nine," he said. "It was as if Merlin himself pulled the clouds back so we could get a look."

Pagan priestess Sue Ward said many people would have come to the eclipse looking for a spiritual experience.

"For pagan people this has probably the same significance as the millennium to Christians," she said.

Authorised rituals were performed at sites including Boscawen-un, Men an Tol and the Hurlers. At the Men-An-Tol monument in west Cornwall, 10 robed druids beat gongs and symbols and chanted as the skies darkened, watched by 200 people.

Some wore masks of the Sun, others of the Moon, to symbolise the astronomical encounter. Druid Simon Michel said: "We all turned to look in the direction of the sun and we could see a V-shaped shadow of the moon moving across the moor."

See also:

23 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
Links to more Total Eclipse stories are at the foot of the page.


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