The Daily Wail piece provoked a few interesting responses. On facebook a chap expressed fear that it would make us look dangerous. I posted a smiley back. According to one school of popular thought, Pagans are a bunch of tree hugging, hippy vegetarians – minor nutters and fringe lunatics, amusing but not dangerous at all. Then there’s the right wing fascist-christian (which is NOT mainstream Christian) view that paints us as Satan worshipping baby sacrificers out to pillage your children and molest your goats.
Who do we think we are? There are pagans who want us to stop talking about magic and fairies so that people will stop thinking we are nutters and start taking us seriously. Damh the Bard wrote a beautiful response to that point here. (More Daily Wail issues, and an excellent post). I agree wholeheartedly with him. I don’t want to water my beliefs down to make ‘normal’ people comfortable.
If the wrong folk consider us dangerous, we’ll be back to the bad old days of persecution, when you could lose your job for being pagan, and social services might want to take your children away. If the Daily Wail brigade seize power, we’ll be nailed up alongside the immigrants, gays environmentalists, academics and other hate figures. So by making it very clear that we’re not dangerous at all, that we won’t rock the boat or cause offence, we are protecting our interests and our way of life. Come the revolution, we will not all be shot.
Bollocks to that, I say!
When I think about my pagan ancestors, I think about Boudicca standing up to the Romans, and the Druids who would not submit to Roman authority. When I think about my Gods, and the heroes of myth, I am short of examples of people who ‘heroically’ kept their heads down and didn’t make a fuss.
Being a Pagan means having values. Anyone who has no values is not, as far as I am concerned, any kind of Pagan at all. We might not have a book of rules, but we have honour, we have ethics. The wiccans have ‘an it harm none, do what you will’ which is a complex, powerful tenet. The Heathens have their nine noble virtues to guide them – and damn fine virtues they are too. Druids have all the values of their Celtic ancestors to look back at, and some fine modern writers as well – Brendan Myers on Pagan Virtues and Emma Restall Orr’s book on Pagan Ethics are fabulous texts. We are a people with values, ethics, and a sense of honour. Sure, there will be exceptions, and any pagan who wants to self identify as having no values is very welcome to go ahead and post a comment. I’m prepared to bet there won’t be many.
We chose Paganism to some degree because we are free thinkers. We chose it conscious that it would not be easy and that we’d be out on the edges for so doing. We found our paths in courage and in trust, in hope of making something better than we had. We may disagree about what is best, but I’ve yet to meet a Pagan who doesn’t care passionately about a range of issues.
In any kind of decent society, all of the above means we’re a bunch of hippy tree huggers who the mainstream is slightly puzzled by. Not dangerous, but a bit weird, in a ‘makes a good filler story for the news’ kind of sense. In America, the government is trying to crack down on free speech. In the UK, the government is poised to sell off nationally owned forests and keep poor people out of higher education. In a society that throws away its values for the sake of short term political convenience, someone with principles is highly inconvenient. A whole community who will not shut up and submit to the ‘necessary evils’ others feel entitled to inflict. Yes, in that situation we could choose to be very dangerous and make ourselves unpopular.
It’ll be a matter of personal choice. If the going gets tough and basic human rights are threatened, if the environment is further put at risk, do we go quietly and keep ourselves safe by saying nothing? Perhaps we should all pretend to be agnostic and hide our opinions until it’s safe to come out again?
If it’s a choice between safety and honour, I see no choice at all.