By Pat Regan, British Pagan author.
Answers to questions fired at me by a curious journalist...
WHAT FIRST DREW YOU TO PAGANISM AND WHAT MADE YOU CHOSE THIS PATH OVER OTHER RELIGIONS?
Pagans like me will always be quietly 'side-lined' with a polite grin by regular society, politicians and some who we may have even trusted as real 'friends'. This is because we fail to fit their generally, well-indoctrinated, expectations of what 'normal' should be. We fail to conform to their subconscious (herd instinct) ideals and naturally pay a price. What comes out of someone's smiling mouth is not always the 'same' thing as what one sees behind that look in their eyes. That is the price minorities pay for remaining liberated and it is one thing well worth preserving.
As a child I often experienced dejavu. Something told me that I had been to certain 'unknown' places before I didn't just believe this; I actually know it to be true in my heart. I also had magnificent experiences of flights over rooftops and fields, which I later found out to be occurrences of astral projection. I discovered the secret beauty of spirit in a spider's web, a nettle patch, a shoal of sticklebacks swimming in a brook; in fact I found it throughout my early years in every aspect of the natural world that I was exposed to. I also found out from my mother, that my grandmother and my great grandmother were very popular in their day with friends and neighbours when the subject of divination cropped up. They often read the cards, tea leaves and crystal ball, so perhaps occult interest has been instinctively passed down to me from ancestors of old. Romantic notion or not, I like to think that it's true.
I had no alternative concerning Paganism. It was the ‘only’ way for me because it was the only one that made any sense.
My mother was a loosely – orientated Catholic. She would visit church like clockwork on Sundays, yet she privately thought a lot of the strict Church dogmatism was unnecessary. For her, like many others, church attendance was more of a social gathering (she loved the bingo nights) than anything based on true worship. Alternatively, my father was an old soldier who thought the Church and its hypocrisy was one huge joke. I can still recall his mischievous laughter at the comical headgear sported by the stern-faced Catholic bishops, etc. Dad was very much a countryman. He delighted in showing me as child the wonder of a robin’s nest hidden in an old dry stone wall. This type of simple rustic marvel stayed in my deepest dreams and shaped me towards Paganism.
Even as a child the falsity of the Church was becoming very clear to me. Mum would drag me off to mass and I would faint each Sunday morning in the pews, after glaring at the horrific crucifixion/stations of the cross images around walls. The liberation I felt afterwards was amazing. I would get on my bicycle and peddle off to the local canal and thereby revel in the joys of nature.
The birds, the fish, the wind blowing through the reeds on a cold January afternoon; all these things moved my spirit and freed me from the terrible oppression I felt within the Church.
Nature held the key to spiritual perception and no amount of blarney from the local priest would ever change that fact. In fact the local priest often visited my mother at home. After she had given him a small glass of sherry he would habitually sit silently in front of the fireplace and before long drift into a sleep. It was always quite comical I recall.
As I got into my teens I researched the origins of Christian beliefs and traditions and discovered that this was all reinvented Pagan material. I also discovered that the alleged historical basis of the Christ figure was nothing more than regurgitated propaganda from religious elite wanting to keep the populace in its place.
I could not therefore support such a new-fangled monotheistic faith that had hijacked all of its customs, rituals etc from earlier earth-orientated faiths. I was eager to discover truth and what I found was awesome and most revealing.
WHAT IN YOUR VIEW ARE THE MAIN FUNDAMENTALS OF PAGANISM?
Paganism is the world's oldest religion and is part of the prehistory of all cultures. It stands as the MOTHER/FATHER spiritual starting point of all contemporary faiths.
Its foundation stone is the belief that everything in the world, animate and inanimate is bound together with a single life-force and therefore every person has a duty to care for every other person and every other thing in existence because we are all part of the greater whole.
Thus Paganism promotes social harmony and is one of the few spiritual beliefs which put the planet ‘first’ being inherently ecological. Its ideas fit in well with the new ecological consciousness.
The ceremonies and festivals of Paganism are many and varied throughout the world, from the highly structured classical Greek and Roman through to the ancient dances of the American Indians to the animistic tribal ceremonies of aborigines. The one fundamental thing which underpins all these rites is the need to make oneself ‘one’ with the planet; to kind of 'come home' and atone with the Earth as a living entity, which it truly is. Therefore, all Pagan ceremonies are linked to the cycles of the moon, sun and seasons in order to synchronise oneself with the planet. Most Pagans worshipped together in a tribal or family setting. Although original Pagan worship was public the Church-orientated religious persecutions, which occurred during the 14th to 16 century meant that it became prudent to worship in private.
Now in today's modern world where plurality can be seen as a distinct advantage and religious rights are protected within the British Human Rights Act secrecy is not necessary. Pagan folk can talk about their beliefs openly without fear of persecution. Nevertheless, some individuals still have to keep their beliefs secret due to intolerance from say parents, friends, politicians or even employers. The Church did such a good job throughout the ages of equating the word Pagan with evil that many still suffer due to this religious bigotry. Many trusting Pagans have found out to their cost that the 'friends' they thought they had were in fact nothing of the sort, when push came to shove.
Paganism has been the whipping boy of society for centuries and we are still in a similar position in time to black people in parts of the USA during the 1960s. Prejudice against all occultists is sadly ingrained within our society. This antisocial prejudice is frequently misused by trouble-making Christian activists against us as with the socially destructive Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) hoaxes in the 1990s etc.
I see ‘divinity’ as being both male and female (or God and Goddess) orientated, just as our ancient ancestors did many thousands of years ago. Alternatively, I see intolerant monotheistic cults like Christianity, Judaism, Muslimism etc as being unbalanced and highly suppressive towards women, due to the initial denigration of female spirituality in favour of a restrictive ‘one god only’ credo!
WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS ON THE STEREOTYPICAL (FREQUENTLY NEGATIVE) VIEWS OF PAGANISM?
The ‘negative’ views others may have about Pagans and Paganism show what a good job the orthodoxy and media have done over the centuries in vilifying the Old Religion (as Paganism is often called). Anti-Pagan stereotypes originated back in the mists of time. Every crafty bishop, politician of sovereign has been quick to play his or her hand against minorities whether they be Pagan, Jewish or whatever. The defamatory (old hag in pointed hat) stereotype of a witch appears to have developed during the witch hunt period and has done more to vilify innocent old ladies than anything else I can imagine. These stereotypes are also ingrained into us and calling someone who has upset you an ‘old hag’ or‘witch’ remains as a derogatory phrase that is still quite socially-acceptable to most people on the whole.
WHAT DO PAGAN RITUALS INVOLVE?
Rituals can be as simple as solitary meditation, lighting a candle to the gods or more elaborate rites involving family or friends within a circle. Many Pagans love to dance too. Gods may be invoked to raise power and attain magickal desires or honoured with love in festival celebrations. Some Pagans pay tribute to their ancestors, as at Halloween/Samhain.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PAGAN?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PAGAN?
I would say we are all Pagans yet most of us do not realise it! The main qualification is a desire to love the Life force and the wish to improve oneself for the benefit of the universe. It's all about personal spiritual growth yet we are never afraid to stand up and be counted when bias, based on ignorance, hits us in the face!
HOW DOES YOUR WORK HELP TO ENSURE PAGANS ARE NOT DISCRIMINATED?
PAN and SAFF have been punching out information to bypass the usual negative hype constructed by the sensationalist-seeking media and Church authorities for ages. We know that many people are both shocked and surprised to discover the truth behind many instances of defamation against the Pagan community. They frequently write to thank us for our well-meant efforts. Alternatively, we do at times receive hate mail etc from fundamentalist factions so we see this as a back-handed compliment for our work. We regularly update media, press etc with real facts about Paganism and alert them to fundamentalist crusades to counter propaganda against the Old Religion. We only write what we can prove and that is why we are still around.
WHAT REACTION DO YOU RECEIVE WHEN PEOPLE DISCOVER YOU ARE A PAGAN?
To be honest, most people are more interested in the cash in their pocket and feeding their families these days. I am an independent thinker and well able to counter anyone who wants to get ‘difficult’ about my heathen spirituality. Others may however find problems in being Pagan, especially if they are employed by say a boss who is a committed Christian, Jew or Muslim with an erroneous belief that all occultists are in 'league with Satan'. I have though been subject to some religious bias in my own town from certain factions with agendas. Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds hate.
HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF PAGANISM ARE BEING PRACTICED TODAY?
Various types of Wicca/Witchcraft; Odinism and Druidry appear to be the main forms of Paganism. You need to see ‘The Occult Census’ published by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (
for more details on statistics. Many
Pagans are not tied to denomination of any kind and simply follow their hearts.
Paganism is not doctrinal and if you ask 100 UK practitioners what they believe
you would possibly get a 100 different answers, which is the way if should be.
The Pagan Credo http://www.spanglefish.com/PAN/news.asp?intent=viewstory&newsid=35233
The Pagan Credo http://www.spanglefish.com/PAN/news.asp?intent=viewstory&newsid=35233
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO SET UP THE PAN ORGANISATION?
The Pagan Anti-Defamation Network (PAN) was a necessity to defend against fundamentalism that was (still of course is) targeting innocent minorities. PAN specialises in protecting the interests of Pagans. My wife Cath and I realised that ages ago many Pagans failed to see the dangers from religious fundamentalism to their beliefs. Unfortunately many had listened to naive Pagan leaders who even refused to accept that a concerted fundamentalist campaign against Paganism actually existed. We remember that one Pagan magazine editor when approached with evidence of the danger said that she only had "aggro" with Pagans and that a fundamentalist campaign against her beliefs was just a false conspiracy theory; such was the amazing naivety we faced also from the overtly credulous, Pagan Federation elite. Cath and I served for a time on the Pagan Federation North-West Committee. We provided (at their request) information for their newsletter on the subject of anti-defamation. Unfortunately the vast amount of data that we sent in to the editor eventually became too much for him to handle and our page was regrettably omitted from the magazine. We protested but were met with hollow excuses and eventual silence. The editor in question that merely sat on our hard-earned data eventually left. We noticed that he had later been criticised from other Pagan quarters too. The well had dried up and the only people who would suffer would have been the ordinary Pagans who knew nothing of this avoidable cut in the chain of vital anti-defamation information. We didn't ask to be put in the position as PAN leaders, it just developed; the will of the gods’ sort of thing is the way we see it. Nobody else in Paganism was taking the fundamentalist menace seriously so we had to do something; it was our duty as genuine Pagans.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT THE PAGANS THAT HAVE BEEN VICTIMISED?
We seek to give them correct information about their human rights etc and also work with other organisations that are essential in the campaign, such as SAFF. Nevertheless, many people in positions of power revert to type when push comes to shove and are happy to dredge up cultural hate stereotypes at times.
ARE THERE ANY LINKS BETWEEN PAGANISM AND WITCHCRAFT AND, IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY?
Witches are Pagan by virtue (or at least should be if genuine practitioners) yet not all Pagans are witches. Pagan and Witch remain as interconnected terms for most of the time. Both terms have been used in a highly derogatory fashion by the Church for many centuries and still are today.
WHAT ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PAGAN FESTIVALS OUT OF THE EIGHT POPULAR ONES AND HOW ARE THEY CELEBRATED?
“Significant” in what way? Possibly Samhain (31st Oct) is most significant for this is when we seek to close the breach between the living and our beloved ancestors who have crossed the bridge. It is also significant as it is the only Pagan festival that Christianity has not managed to fully hijack from us; hence the seasonal vicar-orientated (yawn) horror stories invented by them concerning evil, etc. This question is so big that it would need books to answer it. I have written several on that score, plus many articles.
CAN CHILDREN BE PAGANS? IF SO HOW DO THEY GET INTRODUCED IN TO THE RELIGION?
Naturally if one is brought up within a Pagan family or community then local beliefs/traditions may be handed down to one. Some Pagan organisation have recently lowered their joining age to 16 yrs. Some feel this may be asking for problems via fundamentalist misinformation and possible breeches against parental responsibilities if the parents of the child are not in fact Pagan themselves. Children may get introduced to Paganism like any other child gets introduced to any other faith. However, Pagans generally feel that a child should be 'free' to choose their own spiritual path through life and not be indoctrinated into any one exclusive belief system.
HOW HAS PAGANISM CHANGED OVER THE YEARS UP TO THE PRESENT DAY?
we appear to have stopped burning Pagan folks yet the very same wicked
propaganda, which led to that holocaust, is ‘still’ present in society today.
Now instead of hanging witches they seek to vilify us with tales of Satanic
Ritual Abuse and other discredited hoaxes. This is why we still have to defend
our corner from indoctrinated prejudice. Bias that has been created over eons simply
cannot be eradicated over night though. It is just too ingrained within society
thanks to the best efforts of the monopolising Church.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE CHRISTIAN LEADERS ARE SO OPPOSED TO PAGANISM?
It is not a belief it is pure fact! Christianity preaches the gospel of Christ crucified for the sins of the world. Leaders of this messianic cult have a duty to ensure that their doctrine is true to its origin, which is to preach that it is the ‘only’ true faith and that all others are at least misleading or at worst satanically- inspired. Paganism has long been regarded by the Church as an evil rival force to be eradicated. The absurd Christian fantasy of St George and the Dragon was a Church-invented analogy for them stamping out the native Pagan spirituality of our green isles. Comically today, many credulous so-called 'patriots' use St George as some type of emblem to shout out their defiant nationality. The truth is somewhat different because that religious symbolism merely exhibits the Church (from the far east) usurping our native British spirituality. How stupid can these flag-wavers really be? The same thing happened in Ireland when St Patrick was said to cast all the snakes out of the land. The snakes were in fact Pagans and this was just another fascist analogy of Christian cultural supremacy in action. Moreover, no one even bothered to check the fact that Ireland had no real snakes to start with. This is ultimately why the Church turned our wholesome British gods of field, river and hillside into devils. We had a thriving native spirituality, long before the eastern 'one god' cult arrived with its pious missionaries into this land. Many good ordinary people who call themselves ‘Christian’ have little interest in our native history and what their leaders preach and are more concerned about the way the Church is eating itself alive over issues like gay rights, clergy abuse of children, and women priests etc. I find such hypocrisy utterly sickening. Even liberal-minded clergy have to tow the anti-occultist line that their leaders throw to them at the end of the day.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF CHRISTIANITY?
I have covered most of this in several of my books including...The New Pagan Handbook, Pagan Heritage and The Devil God's Best Friend...
My own life long studies studies tell me that this monotheistic faith system has stolen all of its traditions, feast days and customs from our earlier Pagan culture. Many scholars agree with this conclusion. I have also discovered that the Christian calendar is based on a much older, heathen agricultural calendar. Many gods exhibited the same traits as the Christian deity and long before 1st century myth makers created the Jesus legend. Sadly, the Christian saga is so ingrained within society that many who do not even call themselves Christian subconsciously accept the general historicity of this man-god figure. My own investigations indicate that no such person ever in fact existed. Other people may wish to follow such a path and that’s fine with me; albeit as long as they do NOT try and persuade me that it is one based on any type of historical authenticity. I dearly wish we could all live in harmony and get along fine yet the forces of blind fundamentalism, along with greed for control over our minds, continues to dictate the course of human history.
Blind fundamentalism posing as the greater good, of all kinds, is the enemy of every freethinker today!
Mankind and this grand old planet deserve better!
Pat Regan ©