Making Paganism Visible

Nov 12th, 2015 | By | Category: Articles

jhp551bfc27c579fBy Nimue Brown

I grew up in a Paganish household – my parents both explored Wicca when I was a child. I understood that it was best not to talk about it, that it might not be safe to mention. There were Pagan Federation folk in my small town who did try and put a positive view of Pagans into the local media – often at Halloween, but back then, they had to do it anonymously. Second generation Pagans, and Pagans who have been Pagan for more than twenty five years will remember this sort of thing, and outside the UK some places are still like that.

Changes in European Law made freedom of religious expression a right, and work laws explicitly changed such that people couldn’t be fired for being Pagan. As a Pagan Federation member from the age of 18, I knew that one of the things the PF did a lot of back then was to send expert witnesses to court cases, and submitting to family courts so that people were not unfairly treated based on misconceptions about what their Paganism meant. The private nature of this work meant that it was never discussed in detail, but it was certainly happening. If it happens now in the UK, I think it’s to a much lesser degree, because bodies with power are more alert to the idea of religious intolerance in the first place.

I remember the debates in my twenties, about whether Pagans should be working to be more socially acceptable. Would we have to water down our beliefs to be tolerated? Would be it safe, if the culture shifted after we’d outed ourselves? Should these things be secret? There were a lot of opinions and no clear answers. The overall trajectory of the last fifteen, twenty years in the UK has been towards more visibility, and more acceptance. There are now at least 2 Pagan charities, after The Druid Network spent years convincing The Charities Commission that Paganism is a legitimate faith. The census makes clear that we’re growing. We’ve got Interfaith Council representation (that was another fight) we get Pagan chaplains into places they are needed (including prisons). Slowly, slowly the media moves away from reporting us as ‘weird people dressed silly doing stuff we don’t understand’ – Lucya Starza and Steve Andrews in the Metro recently being fine examples of this.

Publishing Pagan books is an ongoing process of putting Paganism into the public domain. Probably most readers are Pagans, or pro-Paganism, but anyone can read what is published, and there’s now rather a lot to read. Back when Paganism dared not speak its name, books were few, and not easy to find out about, especially for those of us who did not have access to the London bookshops. The more we publish – in book form, in blogs, in newspaper articles – the more we speak with our own voices. Rather than being spoken of – as Satanists, lunatics, or whatever brush our critics choose to tarnish us with, we can now speak with our own voices. This is incredibly important. It is now Pagans who get to say, for the greater part, what Pagans are. It is our version of what we do that is increasingly taken seriously, not the fantasies, fears and projections of others.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Comment