Letter

Dear Editor I am writing with reference to an article that appeared on the Gazette's website entitled 'Devil worship fears as goat is found in ditch'. The first line of the narrative on the website suggested that this was a 'pagan-style' ritual. As a Pagan myself, I was appalled that this dreadful attack might be associated with members of the Pagan community. There are many misconceptions as to what pagans are about and I would like through the medium of your newspaper to enlighten your readers and allay any fears they may have about what paganism is about.

In the simplest terms, Paganism is a religion of place, or a native religion, for example the Native American's religion is Pagan, Hinduism is a form of Paganism. All Pagan religions are characterised by a connection and reverence for nature, and are usually polytheistic i.e. have many gods and/or goddesses. Paganism in the west takes a number of forms including Wicca, Druidism, and Shamanism.

Pagans revere nature. Often you will find Pagans at the forefront of environmental concerns, such is our love of Mother Earth. Paganism is not just a nature religion but a natural religion, which is as old as mankind and its traditions are still being rediscovered. Pagans see the divine as immanent in the whole of life and the universe in every tree, plant, animal and object, man and woman and in the dark side of life as much as in the light. Pagans live their lives attuned to the cycles of nature, the seasons, life and death. Pagans regard the divine as female as well as male and therefore there is a Goddess as well as a God. The Goddess represents all that is female and the God represents all that is male. But because nature is seen as female, the Goddess has a wider meaning. Often called Mother Earth, or Gaia, she is seen as the 'Creatrix' and sustainer of life, the mother of us all, which makes all the creatures on the planet our siblings. The taking of a creature and its subsequent torture and killing is therefore totally abhorrent to us.

Historically, many pagan cultures did kill animals as offerings to their gods, as many cultures still do, but the meat from the animal would be used in a celebratory meal rather than left to rot and wasted. Modern pagans are likely to seek out organic meat for their own celebratory meals, or will often be vegetarian. They are extremely unlikely to be involved in a hack and slash killing of an animal.

Western Pagans have no fixed temples in which to worship (apart from Hindus), but instead we (usually) make a circle around themselves (or form ourselves into a circle) in a room, or in a clearing, or on a beach, or find a naturally occurring circle, such as a grove, or use one of the ancient stone circles. Pagans have no hierarchy like the established religions, so Pagans are free to follow whatever spiritual path they choose. We have our own values and ethics and believe we are responsible for our own actions. There is no absolution as such, what we do to others will come back on us and we are therefore ever mindful of the effect our actions have on others, including animals The Pagan view of the universe is one of complementary opposites - light/dark, yin/yang, earth/sky, male/female; the concept of Lucifer, the fallen angel, (The Devil), was adopted by the church in 447. Consequently it is impossible for Pagans to adopt the concept of the Devil, which is a Judeo-Christian concept. Hence the reason so called 'Devil Worship' could never be a part of our beliefs.

Pagans come from all walks of life. We count among our number manual workers, teachers, nurses, civil servants, journalists, solicitors, secretaries, web designers, mothers, fathers and grandparents too. In short, we are just people just like you.

Christine Stewart

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