Pagans On The Solstice

Lynne Kiesling

So last week in Pittsburgh Mike and I went to dinner at the Church Brew Works, a brewpub in a “decommissioned” Catholic church. Good food, good beer, and good company. In the course of our conversation, I joked to Mike about being a pagan, so he emailed me this morning to ask how I was celebrating the solstice. I told him that I was putting on my white robe and mistletoe as I prepared to come to school and meet with our grants coordinator …

And then at lunch while browsing, I found this fascinating article in the UK Spectator about pagans in Britain (registration required).

Pagans, I discovered during our second pint, are also united by their sense of the injustices done them by Christians. The last 2,000 years of history, as explained by Steve, is a heart-wrenching tale of innocent occult revivals squashed by ignorant, scaredy-cat Christians; of forced conversions by English kings desperate for Roman approval; of goddess-worship suppressed by chauvinist orthodoxy and cries of ‘Burn the witch!’ Eventually, after a tour through the Enlightenment (good), Freemasonry (also good), Constantine (bad) and Dominican monks (Satan spawn), we reached the 20th century, where, said Steve, paganism was once again revived by a man called Gerald Gardner. In 1957, after 20 years of frolicking with a coven of witches, Gardner wrote Witchcraft Today — a mix of folklore, Masonic rituals, nudism, sex and Aleister Crowley-style magic which became a sort of handbook for the modern Wicca witch and inspired the whole postmodern frogspawn of spiritually and sexually liberated pagan sects. ‘Paganism today is continually evolving,’ said Steve. ‘There’s no right or wrong thing to believe, so even if we disagree, it’s impossible for pagans to be schismatic.’

Only fitting reading for the solstice. The other interesting thing he said was the spike in practicing witches in Britain that coincided with Buffy …