Symposium: A Gathering Of The Clans
On July 12th, representatives of a number of the largest and most prominent pagan organisations took part in an historic event, a symposium hosted by the Pagan Federation in London thought to be the first time that so many groups representing so many Pagans had gathered together in one place to talk about the Pagan community and it’s future. The symposium was held in a spirit of setting aside past differences and looking for ways to work together and collaborate on a wide range of issues to give the Pagan community, perhaps for the first time, a real and organic sense of unity. Some of the issues covered were accurate and coherent representation of Pagans and Paganism in the media, protecting Pagan heritage and the sacred landscape of the nation (and indeed other nations) and caring for the wider community in matters of education, health, social care and interfaith. Mike Stygal, president of the Pagan Federation of England and Wales, opened the meeting by quoting from a similar introduction by Doreen Valiente from the inaugural Beltane meeting of the Pagan Front in 1971 (which became the Pagan Federation in 1980.) We were all struck by the continued relevance of her words: “Unity is strength and I welcome the fraternal unity of all sincere people of goodwill who follow the Pagan path. We may not always agree with each other but we must support each other in our struggle for our right to follow the religion and lifestyle of our choice in the modern world.” The symposium concluded with agreement that further meetings should take place. The size of this meeting was limited solely by the size of the venue and we hope future meetings, buoyed by the success of this one, can be held in larger surroundings with an even greater range of representatives. Meanwhile, attendees have agreed to collaborate in a number of side projects, not least this, the first public statement on behalf of the symposium. Pagan Dawn asked all those who took part to let us know their feelings on being involved in this historic event. Here’s what they had to say:
ON JULY 12th, cats were herded in London - representatives from many Pagan organisations decided to work together. Some may be pessimistic about this but this time I really think it will work. No one organisation is trying to take this over and it looks like being an equal collaboration for the good of Paganism generally. The areas we discussed included sacred places, media, ceremonies, and community support and mental health. Sharing knowledge and expertise is good. More pagan groups are already becoming involved. Provided we each remember it’s not about us, or our individual organisations, the future looks bright.
■ Andy Norfolk, Ancient Sacred Landscape Network
The Centre For Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation feel privileged to be a part of the first steps on a road to possible unity among the modern Pagan community. The day was characterised by a real spirit of willingness to sensibly engage with each other. Finding common ground and playing to each group’s strengths could see Paganism soon develop the coherent voice it has lacked for so long. This was a historic day and there is a great deal of good yet to come from the green shoots of this fledgling ‘group of groups.’
■ Ashley Mortimer, Centre for Pagan Studies / Doreen Valiente Foundation
A HISTORIC meeting of groups and of minds representing the spectrum of Pagan and Pagan-like beliefs. This assembly was an example of how much we have matured and grown in our relationships with each other. No group rivalry or politics, instead pragmatism and a willingness to talk frankly and constructively about those matters which we deem of inherent importance to all our futures. A spirit of co-operation and open-minded sharing of ideas and opinions in a spirit of friendship and good natured camaraderie which was a model for all inter-Pagan relationships from now on. Superb!
■ Tam Campbell, Children of Artemis
I ARRIVED unsure what to expect but with high hopes for the future of Paganism. It became apparent that although each group in attendance was dedicated to making a positive difference in the Pagan world, by pooling their knowledge and resources so much more could be achieved. It was humbling to be part of this first meeting where, despite the diversity of groups in attendance, a real sense of unity could be felt as we all took the first steps to making a real difference to the future of Paganism and Heathenry in the UK- if not worldwide.
■ Diane Narraway, Dolmen Grove
FROM the first moments as everyone arrived, the prevalent attitude was positive. Smiles and greetings, hugs between friends and new introductions. As the day went on, the smiles grew wider and the laughter louder. The key word that keeps coming back to me is ‘enthusiasm’. We were all so keen, so full of ideas but not just dreams - real, practical and achievable plans. From the basic hope to have Pagans working together, that spark ignited, and very tangibly so. We all felt the excitement, that history was being made right now... and our responsibility within that.
■ Cat Treadwell, The Druid Network
THANK you, Mike, for the vision of this group. The day went far too quickly, always a good sign, showing a general engagement! In future, we look forward to days where we focus on particular aspects. Meredith and I found the day pleasant and interesting and were especially impressed with the contributions from Andy Pardy and Ashley Mortimer, and want to hear more of their ideas. We also want to thank Morgana for giving the international perspective, highlighting the very serious issues they are facing. We think it’s good to be up to date with the Pagan scene internationally. Meredith was impressed with the Moon Temple delegates, and the idea of what can be done.
■ Caroline Wise, with Meredith MacArdle, Fellowship of Isis
WHEN Mike Stygal invited me to this event I did have my doubts as to how effective it would be; I was expecting that there would be egos clashing and territorial rights being waved like battle-axes. Nothing could have been further from the truth. There was a great diversity of organisations represented amongst the small number of people there, and a total and unconditional willingness to give and share information and experiences. I heard many times that day people commenting that it was a ground-breaking and “historic” meeting that would open up a new phase for the Pagan community, for us to become a Pagan community! If the spirit of that day can be nurtured and carried forward into the future then it surely will be a day to be remembered with pride! Wassail!
■ Phil Parkyn, Kith of Yggdrasil
MY participation at the Pagan Symposium was multifold. Firstly, it was as organiser and then as General Secretary for the Pagan Federation as well as the ‘eyes and ears’ for the Glastonbury Goddess Temple (who were unable to attend due to an important dedication ceremony that day.) It was a privilege to be a part of it. My thought on the day was ‘Unity through diversity’, and how powerful it will be that Pagan organisations are coming together in this way to support one another. The genuine friendship between organisations on the day was truly wonderful. May it long continue.
■ Elle Hull, Glastonbury Goddess Temple
THREE of the council of Elders from Moonhenge were privileged to be part of the symposium held in London. It was a ground-breaking and ambitious meeting of minds that we hope will set the trend for closer collaboration between Pagan/ Heathen traditions and the wider community. As impartial observers to start with it was clear to us that we have had the opportunity to be part of something momentous. We felt that new bonds were formed and old wounds were starting to be healed, a new beginning. Moonhenge has been set up as a community sacred space to celebrate our diversity together, and as such we extend an open invitation for any future gatherings you may wish to hold here in rural Cambridgeshire.
■ Stephen Parsley, Moonhenge
I WAS asked to represent OBOD at the Pagan Symposium meeting at Neal’s Yard. The venue was well chosen. A warm day sat within a circle of warm people. I felt there was a genuine desire to respect and connect with our various paths, and I think this more than anything will be the guiding spirit if we are successful. Technology is brilliant of course but sometimes meeting physically is indispensable to fostering clarity and unity. A worthwhile day and a good beginning.
■ Shaun Hayes, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
THE recent Pagan Symposium, which was in effect an intrafaith or roundtable event, was valuable as a meeting place for Pagans to discuss and exchange ideas. Pooling our resources is badly needed when time is our most precious commodity. In a world where survival takes most of our time, spiritual matters are neglected. And yet it is our spirituality and sense of free spirit which can help us to ride out any crisis! PFI welcomes any activity which will enhance this ideal.
■ Morgana Sythove, Pagan Federation International
THE Pagan and Heathen symposium was conceived as an attempt to bring representatives of Pagan and Heathen organisations together with a view to exploring ways we might work more closely together, supporting each other, signposting to expertise found in our respective organisations and collaborating on projects of mutual interest. That meeting included representatives from many of the main Pagan and Heathen organisations in the UK. There was a little apprehension that things might not go according to plan. But there was also a great deal of shared intent that we would all do everything we could to make the gathering a success. It was indeed a success and it continues to be so.
■ Mike Stygal, Pagan Federation of England and Wales
IT WAS such an honour to be invited to participate in what essentially is a little piece of history being made. This is something that has needed to happen for quite some time and it is great to see so many being represented. To have national key players all in one room opening up communication, talking about how we can work together to bridge gaps was, in my opinion, the first step into the new generation of the Pagan community. Each organisation has a different focus and goals. We have laid a foundation for each group to not have to be all things to everyone, but to work with allies to better represent the community as a whole.
■ Esme Knight, Pagan Pride
SUNSHINE at a full moon heralded the success of this historic event. Clans gathered and much was discussed of pertinence to the Pagan community. The most important thing for me however was the willingness to work together for the good of all. Reflected by the fact that many had travelled long distances to attend, mutual support is both clearly wanted and clearly working. The Symposium gatherings will go from strength to strength for the circle has been opened and will not be broken. Merry Meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet again!
■ Eleanor Bennet, Pagan Radio
I WITNESSED a remarkable event, the coming together of several of the UK’s most influential Pagan groups and individuals, and a constructive meeting which didn’t immediately regress into a conflict of egos or goals. The Symposium was not led by any one agency, nor was an agenda imposed upon us; instead partnerships were formed, and a natural network of creativity and cohesive thinking was formed that I believe represents a new and holistic approach towards modern Paganism in the UK and beyond, which the Police Pagan Association is very grateful to be part of.
■ Andrew Pardy, Police Pagan Association
AS A long-standing member and admin of UK Heathenry, I was kindly invited to London for ‘Symposium; A gathering of the clans.’ Other attendees came from Pagan, Wiccan, Heathen, Druid, and Goddess groups, and I’m heartened to say that everyone clearly recognised the value of free communication, both for pooling relevant practical advice and for working together as and when appropriate. Several people were already aware that Heathenry is a distinct religion, partly overlapping the Pagan umbrella, which should hopefully form a solid foundation for further fruitful dialogue.
■ Jez Green, UK Heathenry