Sunday, July 28, 2002

Getting back onto the Pagan Scene

Yesterday I went with my other half to PaganCon North West 2002.

It was an interesting day - I met up and exchanged gossip with the High Priest of my first coven, had a good chat with the infamous Mad Mick, Pagan Poet extraordinaire, with whom I share many friends in common, being, originally from the same stomping grounds, participated in a workshop on the Kabala (pronounced Ka-bahhhhhh-lahhhhhhhh by the female leader, who also kept saying pillow when she meant pillar), and listened to a few of the talks. I confess I was a bit worried because my other half is not Pagan, in fact he has a degree in Physics with Astrophysics, so I was expecting him to rubbish everything. But he seemed to take everything in his stride and was even very appreciative of the concepts that Kate West addressed in her talk.

The keynote speaker was Paddy Slade who was there to give her talk on the sovereignty of the land. It was this talk that spoiled an otherwise great day. Ms Slade is a fantastic psychologist; she really knows how to push the buttons of an audience to get them onto her side. Also the fact that she is 70 and has gained a lot of respect in other ways in pagan circles tends to make people sit up and listen to her, often uncritically.

Her talk started with a dream that she had where the "Old Gods" were leaving the country because they weren't needed anymore and she was admonished because she hadn't spoken out as their power was eroded.

She gave a long and heart-rending speech about growing up in Kent during the War, about seeing the soldiers returning from Dunkirk mentally scarred and emotionally drained, about being strafed by German fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, about being evacuated and being introduced to witchcraft, by her mother and grandmother and other old women of the area.

She then went into some geologically confused ideas about how the British landmass was first populated. She moved on into the creation of the laws, and although the methodology of laws arising was logical, she gave the impression that all laws arose after the landmass was populated and that there was no social structure before that. She went on at length about the English laws first being created by Alfred, completely denying that much of the law originated from the Romans and, hence, was imported from Italy For example, she claimed that it was Alfred who introduced Habeas Corpus to English Law, when anyone who has done O-level hisory will know that this law was actually enshrined in the Magna Carta a few hundred years later. Then she complained that the British Laws were being eroded and that we were taking on laws from other areas, and by denying the laws that came from the land we were weakening our Old Gods and soon there would be nothing left to keep them here. She constantly made reference to the whole of the British landmass as being English, and later in the questioning session complained that devolution was dividing a united country, completely ignoring that, for example, Scotland is a separate kingdom that was forcibly annexed, denied it's own languages, had it's independent parliament dissolved for over 200 years and it's own true monarch denied the right to govern his people. Of course, to Ms Slade this is a successful partnership. She denies that Britain is a multicultural society claiming that within England all but 4% are English, (this figure probably only covers the Jewish population, so will obviously rise when West Indian, Asian, African, etc communities are added up) though she did modify her definitions when it was pointed out that the Scots and the Welsh were not English, and she sees absolutely nothing wrong in setting aside the laws that she feels should be sacrosanct, when they are applied to people that she doesn't see as being "English".

To say I was horrified is an understatement.

Altogether, I came away feeling that a person whom I was taught to respect, has turned out to be a right-wing fascist. She is, in my opinion, a racist, nationalistic, petty and vindictive person who would not have been out of place in the upper echelons of Hitler’s Nazi party. That she is using her position as a pagan-elder to push these views as being the "natural order" is, to my mind, horrific. This is a woman who should be drummed off the pagan scene before she does it serious harm. Of course, no one will do anything until it is too late and the entire pagan community is being held up to pay the price for sheltering such narrowminded bigotry.

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