Pagan People – Nimue Brown talks to Pete Jennings

Jul 9th, 2013 | By | Category: Pagan People

417163_10151335298103023_1996432803_n[1]

Pete Jennings is a Pagan of the Heathen tradition, and High Gothi of Odinshof as well as retired President of the Pagan Federation.

 

 

 

Something like ten years ago, I put Pete Jennings up as he was speaking at an event in the West Midlands, and I also took him along to the folk club I was then running. We’d since fallen out of touch, so it was great finding out what he’s been up to. Even by regular standards of Pagan work-diversity and productivity, Pete stands out as a man who is doing a lot of stuff… 

Nimue: I know you from way back as a Pagan Federation activist and President, author and Heathen, but it’s been a while, so, what are you doing these days? 

Pete: It has been a long time!

I have gone through many changes since retiring as the President of PF: when I left school I was a telephone engineer, then sales manager. I eventually got tired of that and changed career again to working as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, which felt much more rewarding and useful, if not as well paid! Fortunately after about 8 years of that I was encouraged to train as a social worker. My employer sponsored me through university to get a BA (Hons) degree (at the age of 55) to add to the BACP Diploma in Counselling I had already gained through 4 years of part time study. I have been a social worker for nearly five years now.

For the last 19 years I have been handfasted to my partner Sue: on 29th February, 2012 she proposed that we get legally married, which we did on her 60th birthday. I am 60 in 2013. We have 4 adult children and 6 grandchildren between us, plus two springer spaniels, and live in an Essex village not far from the border of my native Suffolk.

Since retiring from my PF post, I have done a lot less as an organiser in the Pagan world, but have continued to write and lecture both in the UK and abroad. There have been about a dozen books so far, with another to be published in 2013 (Penda: last Heathen king of Mercia and his Anglo Saxon world) and another I have just started work on about the Wild Hunt.

I presented a folk show on local radio for about 20 years, but that finished a few years ago. It has left me a little more time to concentrate on another passion, Anglo Saxon re-enactment with the group Ealdfaeder. We are semi resident at the best Anglo Saxon venue in the UK, Sutton Hoo, and also perform at other historic venues such as West Stow and various museums. (See www.ealdfaeder.org) I also continue to run ghost tours in Ipswich with a friend, and do the occasional bit of acting. 

Nimue: You have been busy! Having spent some time in the Midlands, I have a small awareness of King Penda – just enough to know that he’s one of those characters from history who deserves to be much better known. Could you give us a few more lines about who he was and why we ought to be interested in him.

Pete: Penda became a king of Mercia in the turbulent times of the early 7th century. There were several kingdoms vying for power in England and beyond, including King Edwin in Northumbria, the next door neighbours and traditional enemies of Mercia. References to Penda are scant, but I found enough to build a picture of him: a successful warlike leader intent on dramatically expanding his kingdom, mainly by conquest but sometimes through political alliances or allying himself with the Welsh. A Pagan who nevertheless allowed Christian missionaries into his kingdom and allowed his own son and daughter to be baptised. He loathed hypocrites though be they Christian or Pagan. He was able to command the respect of some Christian kings who ended up fighting on his side.

The illustrated book I have written looks at his ancestors and descendants as well, the politics and the Anglo Saxon culture of the period in which he lived. It should be published by Anglo Saxon Books in 2013. 

Nimue: That sounds excellent. So, what are you working on at the moment? Any other projects under way? 

Pete: I have just started writing a book about the Wild Hunt and its followers. I will be looking at the variants of the myth across North Europe, and the characters involved, such as Woden, Herne and Black Shuck. As part of the book I will be also looking at what the Wild Hunt means in magical and psychological terms, as well as detailing some documented historic sightings. It is not likely to be published for at least a year I guess, but a publisher is lined up. 

Nimue: Oh, that sounds good! It’s one of those ideas where, as soon as you hear it there’s a moment of ‘how have we got this far without such a thing?’ What gets you motivated to write? 

Pete: Yes, I know what you mean. I guess I will never end up writing a mass market blockbuster, (I wish!) but some small niche stuff (particularly the first book in a field) sells steadily for years rather than a lot for a few months and die. I wrote a book ‘Pathworking’ on a style of meditations in 1992. It has never had spectacular sales, but has never been out of print for 20 years. It is not a big market, but mine was the first book dedicated to it. There have been a couple of other good books by other authors since, but mine was there first so has got established in people’s minds. 

Nimue: I have read your pathworking book, discovering that there really was only that one doing any kind of deep pagan meditation was part of what motivated me to have a go at Druidry and Meditation. As a source of pathworkings to pick up and run with, that book of yours is an excellent thing. Glad to hear it’s still out there. If you could get one thing into the wider public consciousness, what would you want it to be? 

Pete: As the Meerkat says “simples!” Ignore the so called experts (including me) and do what seems right for you. It will be. Sure, read a range of books to get some ideas, but do not be bound by them. Most of the world’s great ideas came from people ignoring conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box.

Having said that, I despair of it ever happening: I meet so many people who work, eat, watch TV and repeat endlessly. There is nothing wrong with that intrinsically: we all have to do most of those things, but there is more to life than soaps and reality shows. I will plead guilty to watching some rubbish at times on TV for a laugh or to relax, but I try not to let it dominate my life. Maybe my low boredom threshold plays a part in that, but there has to be more to life. Take up a hobby, create a garden, socialise, do a sport or whatever, but get your money’s worth out of life. I guess some people only feel safe in what is familiar, or are simply lazy, but if one more of them says ‘how do you find the time to write books, lecture, re-enact, read, sightsee etc. on top of a full time job’ I swear I’ll lose it completely one day. I work to make money to live, then spend the rest on doing things I enjoy.

(gets off soap box and wanders off muttering ……) 

Nimue: Good advice, but if feels like a war some days, not succumbing to the sheer weight and pressure of the banality out there. Where can people find you, Pete? Online, events, anything of that ilk… 

Pete: Yup, you are about right there!

People can find me at my website, which has a list of forthcoming appearances, (in my different guises as lecturer, storyteller, re-enactor etc.) updated fairly frequently. The URL is www.gippeswic.demon.co.uk Go to ‘Entertainment’ then ‘My Appearances.’ I am not doing quite so many lectures at the moment due to the heavy re-enactment commitment (and no particular book to plug!), but I can usually be found at a few Pagan events each year, shooting my mouth off and flogging books.   For Ealdfaeder Anglo Saxons re-enactment only, go to  www.ealdfaeder.org

I also still conduct ghost tours in Ipswich, but share duties with another couple of friends, so am not there every time. (1st Thursday of the month, 8pm, Ipswich Tourist Information Office.)
regards

Nimue: Thanks for sharing, I shall be keeping an eye out for those books.

nimue brownDruid, author, bard and dreamer. Nimue is OBOD trained, a founding member of Bards of The Lost Forest, Druid Network member and previous a volunteer for The Pagan Federation.

Leave a Comment