Welcome pagans

WE’VE come a long way, haven’t we, when this respectable family newspaper runs a warm story and cosy photo of a pagan extolling the virtues of paganism! Ah, but in which direction? Up or down?

Within the memory of most people alive in the Hunter a news report of paganism that didn’t extol horror and condemnation would have been a scandal, with the Hunter’s major and minor bishops queuing on the phone to give the editor a verbal whipping. In earlier days one or two would have donned their finery and required the presence of the editor for something other than high tea.

But not a murmur now. Paganism is just something that some people believe in, just another creed, another religion.

So there in Thursday’s Herald was Diana Allen in her temple, eyes closed and open hands over a pot of mysterious significance, a candle throwing an orange glow over her and a few figurines, a weird scene. Well, no more weird, maybe not as weird, as the droning incantations, swinging incense pots on rattling chains and lurid priestly get-ups to be seen in Christian churches most every day. Whatever floats your boat is a fine thing by me, and by most people these days. As I said, it wasn’t always that way.

Ms Allen, who describes herself as a high priestess of witchcraft, told our readers that paganism gave its adherents a happy and positive life, that its followers lived with the earth, ate food in season and respected the seasons. They cared for the planet, she said. Instead of a male god they saw male and female in everything, and they didn’t have to go to someone else for forgiveness.

Pagans, I read, are not so much godless, a description used by those who claim the only god, as non-subscribers to Christianity or the world’s other main religions. And they copped a raw deal when the Christian church stole their celebration of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere on December 25 and claimed it as the birth of some bod called Jesus Christ.

That Christians seized the date so they could claim the party and the crowd is clear enough, and clearer in view of the fact that December 25 was not Jesus Christ’s birthday, that it was more than a few days earlier and most probably some time in September. And it seems to be more than coincidence that the Romans had set December 25 as the birth date of their sun god, Mithras, who had been promising eternal life long before Jesus Christ was born on another date.

Diana Allen was in the Herald as she and fellow pagans and witches in the Hunter prepared to celebrate the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere on Thursday, the longest night of the year and thus a time of renewal as days lengthen, and while I like the idea of moving the birth of Christ back from December 25 to June 21 in the southern hemisphere I have a better idea. Let’s move the birth of Mithras, the Roman sun god, back to June 21, so we’ll have Merry Christmas still at the end of the year and Merry Mithras half way through.

All Australians would appreciate another holy day for another piss up. And we deserve one too, given our new respect for everyone’s beliefs. We’ve come to accept that no faith is better or more flawed than any other, that all believers are about as desperate as each other.

Diana Allen’s mystical figurines are no less credible than the statuette of the Virgin Mary miraculously weeping tears of rose-scented oil near Perth a decade ago, even if the then Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, said he was satisfied there was no trickery involved. No one points the finger of scorn at her religion simply because she doesn’t have a statuette weeping oil or bleeding blood. The spells cast by Ms Allen and her fellow believers are no less powerful than the blessings bestowed so freely on people and animals and objects by Christian clergy.

We all have our lucky charms, superstitions, motifs and omens, and we have a new tolerance to go with them. And Merry Mithras!

Is paganism any less a religion than any other? Do you share my delight that paganism floats a pagan’s boat?

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