Witchcraft and Weddings at Preston Manor

For this year’s national Volunteers’ Week, Jennifer Milarski-Stermšek writes about how volunteering at Preston Manor inspired her to choose it as the venue for her Pagan wedding ceremony last year.

I have always found volunteering to be a rewarding and inspiring experience, but never so much as whilst volunteering at Preston Manor during the Doreen Valiente exhibition last year. The exhibition, using artifacts from the Doreen Valiente Foundation’s collection, gave a never before seen insight into the life of the ‘mother of modern witchcraft’ and Brighton’s most famous witch.

Black and white photo of Carving of Janus by doreen Valiente
Carving of Janus by Doreen Valiente

I had the opportunity to invigilate the exhibition and also take part in the talks and even a public Pagan ritual in the walled kitchen garden. It was during the ritual that I had the idea to get married at Preston Manor. My then husband-to-be and I were still in the early process of thinking about where we wanted to get married but everything we had seen was just not very ‘us’. Seeing that Preston Manor was so open to the themes and beliefs addressed in the exhibition, and that they were given such a brilliant and public platform confirmed to us how open minded and welcoming Preston Manor is.

Due to the fact that we felt comfortable enough to express ourselves and our beliefs whilst also being in a gorgeous setting that we felt connected to and accepted in, we opted for a handfasting ceremony. Drawing on ancient Pagan traditions, a handfasting is a union between two individuals which involves the wrapping of cords around the couple’s hands in order to bind them to one another.

Close up photo of bound hands as part of Handfasting ceremony
Courtesy James Pike photography

The ceremony took place outside in the walled garden on the Winter Solstice (21 December). As if by magic the rain held off whilst the ceremony took place and the otherworldly atmosphere of Preston Manor only added to this sense of wonder.

Photo of wedding couple standing either side of a seated Father Christmas
Courtesy James Pike photography

 

We even got to have our photo taken with Edwardian Father Christmas!

More information

If you would like to find out more about about volunteering please visit – http://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/get-involved/volunteering/ You never know how your experience will inspire you!

For more information on Doreen Valiente visit the Doreen Valiente Foundation website – http://www.doreenvaliente.com/

Wedding hire information can be found here – http://brightonmuseums.org.uk/prestonmanor/weddings-and-hire/weddings/

Jennifer Milarski-Stermšek, Volunteer