Tag Archive: Heathenry


Pagan Godparenting

A conversation in a pub moot last night seems worth discussing here. The topic being what do we, as pagans, do about godparents?
The traditions of this country reflect the christian perspective which appoints people to take an interest in the spiritual development of the child. That, obviously, would not be appropriate for most pagan paths which tend to be non-evangelical.
However, having said that, this statement was met with some derision from the Heathen contingent who wanted their children to be actively involved and brought up within their faith – which some of the more vocal Wiccans suggested was tantamount to evangelism.

Now admittedly at this point in the pub one of the more traditional disputes between Heathenry and Wicca happened until a number of those disputing went out for a healthy cigarette or two. I’m not suggesting anything about their lungs but the conversation certainly benefited from the break.

In the lull a serious-minded Druid pointed out that the other main function of godparents, that of being surrogate parents should anything happen to the original set, was very useful and that surely the spiritual leanings of the parents should therefore be reflected in the godparents.
That was the point that I looked around the moot and mentally reflected on what a very wise Heathen once told me; “Ask a dozen Pagans about Paganism and get two dozen answers”

I think as with anything, whether you’re approaching your paganism from within a set tradition with particular practices (a la Heathenry or traditional Wicca), or whether you’re forging your own path in the eclectic manner you need to address openly what you want to do about the spirituality of your children. Leaving it open would not seem to be doing right by them and addressing it does not mean that you will be codifying there beliefs but perhaps deliberately engaging them to consider for themselves what their spiritual path is. Perhaps it is more difficult for the average pagan to find godparents following the same path as they are for their children but perhaps we value those two dozen answers from a dozen pagans and it’s less about finding people to navigate our exact path with us and more about finding people to show our children how to make similar lanterns to see the paths we follow?


Handfasting Time Again

It seems like you open your eyes and suddenly it’s April and people are getting handfasted again. We have a fairly good guide to getting handfasted for people to have a look at.

It covers the preparation necessary, the sort of things you need to ask your officiant and what sort of thing to bear in mind when you come to budgeting.

It also covers the idea that you should have a good relationship with your celebrant, remember this is an important day for you emotionally – so try to remember that everyone present should be adding to the positivity of your experience.


How To Get Handfasted

It’s that time of year again. We know about it in the north-west because this is the time of year when our mailboxes are over-flowing with handfasting requests, some of them are better than others…

So here it is, a bit of advice for how to get handfasted and how to get it done right!


First of all, think about what sort of pagan path you’re on and how you want your handfasting to reflect that. If you’re both Heathen then maybe a Wiccan celebrant won’t provide the sort of ceremony that you’re looking for!

In the north-west Janet Budd co-ordinates the celebrants, if you’re looking for a ceremony that is Druidic, Heathen, Shamanic, Wiccan or something completely different then if you give her enough time she can probably find the right celebrant for you.
This brings me to the phrase ‘enough time’, if you want to get handfasted tomorrow then that’s great but we probably won’t be able to all jump to attention and come and do it with you! The more time you allow to get to know your celebrant, to discuss what you want with them the more likely it is to happen the way you imagine.

Most celebrants are very serious about their relationship with their god/s and/or spirits, they will probably want to talk to you about why you want a handfasting and what your relationship with your spirituality is. You can use this conversation to work out if their path is compatible with yours – remember this is your handfasting and they are there to facilitate that.

If you want the handfasting to take place in a particular venue then you are going to be responsible for booking that venue. A lot of popular pagan sites aren’t bookable as they are public spaces such as stone circles and the like – is it going to bother you if your handfasting has a whole bunch of tourists taking pictures in the background? (More about this when we get to the legal stuff later).

    Forever or For A Year And A Day?

It’s common in many pagan paths for the handfasting vows to be first taken for a year and a day and at a later date for longer. This can be seen as being similar to an engagement – this is often a useful analogy for any family members who are not Pagan who you would like to attend. In regards to celebrants then you might like to consider whether you would like the same person performing both ceremonies (if you intend to have two – one for a year and a day and the second for life).

The duration you are promising to commit to each other for will need to be reflected in your promises and may need to be reflected in any vows or promises you are having your witnesses make.

A handfasting for a year and a day is not reflected in any British law so you don’t need to worry so much about the legal stuff as you may need to do when you’re promising for life. However, some celebrants may not follow the paths you do or may not participate in year and a day handfastings – remember to ask them if this is the case BEFORE your big day!

Discuss what vows you intend to make, if you’d like to jump over besoms, tie each other up with string or have other people involved in the ceremony itself before the big day. Your celebrant may be happy to play around with the format of a handfasting which they are used to or they may be expecting to stick rigidly to a set ritual which forms a part of their tradition. You need to know what you want and if this coincides with what they want.

    Legal Stuff

If you are getting married in Scotland be aware that Scottish Marriage Law is different to Marriage Law in England and Wales. The main difference is that there are Pagan Celebrants in Scotland who can perform legal religious marriages – this is not the case in England (see below).
If you want to get handfasted in Scotland then you need to get in touch with the Scottish Pagan Federation, you can contact their Celebrants Register Co-ordinator at medionemeton@blueyonder.co.uk. Unfortunately because the celebrants in Scotland are only licensed to perform legal religious ceremonies they can’t perform legal civil partnerships though this may change in the future, more information is available here.

But if you want to get married in the north west of England different law means that the religious part of your handfasting needs to be conducted separately from the civil part (ie. the marriage registration).

Some Pagans choose not to have their marriage recognised by the state which, although it is the simplest option, may leave you with legal problems later on as the state counts your life partner only as a cohabitant.

Some Pagans choose to have their religious ceremony entirely separately and head down to their local registry office at some point before or afterwards. (This is the case if you want to be handfasted at a particular sacred site or stone circle as these places are usually not recognised by English law as places where a wedding can be reigstered.) This must be worked out with the registry office in advance though they do not need to know about your handfasting plans, similarly your Pagan celebrant may like to be kept informed about what you’re doing with registering your marriage but there is no need to give them the specifics.
The registry office will need to see certain documents as proofs of identity and they will need to record your intent to register as married 15 days in advance. This will cost £45 and a copy of the certificate will cost a further £4. More information on this is available on the government website.

The third option is the one that requires quite a bit of planning and often a bit of money. There are some places which are approved for civil wedding ceremonies. You can find a list here. You can also find out which registrars the places use by contacting or visiting them. Different registrars are comfortable with different levels of how separate the two ceremonies (the religious and the civil) actually are. You will definitely need two separate locations within the venue and some registrars may insist on two separate days – if it’s a hotel then it may be doable for you to get married by a Pagan Celebrant, stay over and have this registered for the state the next morning. It may be an option to rent out whichever room is commonly used for marriages, have you and your partner sign everything with witnesses (which can often be provided by the venue), before heading out into the garden/below the marquee to have the actual handfasting performed.
In order to do it this way though EVERYONE (you, the registrar, the venue, the celebrant) needs to be happy with the plans beforehand and know what is expected. Obviously you don’t need to invite your guests to the registration of marriage and though it is usually common for the witnesses to be people who are involved with the religious ceremony.
This can be used as a useful way of getting family members who are not pagan involved in the day itself by having them witness the civil part of the ceremony.

    Your Relationship With Your Celebrant

Some of the celebrants that Janet (or Google) can put you in touch with won’t charge you for performing a handfasting (depending on where they live they may ask for a contribution to travel costs), some will as that is how they make their living. You need to decide what you feel is fair (and what you can afford), some celebrants may refuse to accept payment as they view celebrations as part of their spiritual path – you can always offer to donate a sum to a charity they suggest or invite them to the wedding feast if you’re having one.
Remember that in order to get to know you and help you decide how you want your handfasting to be performed they are drawing on their years of experience and spirituality.

Be friendly, though you should expect a certain level of knowledgeability and understanding your celebrant is less likely to want to work with you if you go in with a demanding attitude.

It will help your relationship if your celebrant is on a similar path to you or is used to performing handfastings which are in alignment with what you want. If you don’t know what you want then most celebrants are happy to suggest things. Remember to communicate honestly about what you’re looking for and expect them to do the same.

Once all the prep is out of the way – have a really good day!


What Is Paganism? Some Thoughts

It can be said that modern paganism has its roots in the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe but that it has evolved and adapted to the circumstances of modern life. It couldn’t be proved exactly what those roots are and I can hear all the strict reconstructionists drawing sharp breaths.
Different Pagans tend to mean different things when they describe Paganism as having it’s roots in pre-Christian religions. There are a hard-core few who steadfastly cling to the idea that they are following a path that has been handed down directly for the past thousand years. Most however, admit that oral traditions allow for variation and that proving that direct line is not possible.
Some are re-constructionists, keeping up with academic and archaelogical thought as to how best to reconstruct the paths of their ancestors.
Others still see the links are being of a poetic nature, not a direct or reconstructed route of ceremonies and rituals but a connection that is of the same feeling and spiritual meaning.

The re-emergence of Paganism in the U.K. parallels that observed in other Western countries, where it has been growing rapidly since the 1950’s. The 1950s in the U.K. were certainly important when it came to the emergence of Wicca and Druidry (which were the two religions that provided the initial impetus to the Pagan movement) however you can trace the interest in things Pagan since the end of the 19th century and the movement to gather folklore. The interest that many at the end of the 19th century had in the occult can be regarded as problematic by those Pagans involved in the struggle to have this path taken seriously, but it gave a context within which people could find themselves discovering what today might be recognised as Pagan or New Age paths.
According to the 2001 Census, Paganism is now the seventh largest religion in the United Kingdom (HMSO, 2003). We’re awaiting the latest data of course but given the PaganDash movement to make sure Druids, Wiccans, Heathens et al all had themselves counted under the Pagan banner it seems likely that this will be confirmed.

Paganism is a religion of diversity. Pagans understand the Divine to be manifest within Nature and recognise divinity as taking many forms, often finding expression in Goddesses, Gods, Landwights and other types of Spirit or Energy. There are many paths and traditions within Paganism, though it’s often useful to describe them to people outside of Paganism as being like the “denominations” of other faiths this can actually be quite misleading. After all, with our variety of paths, some worshipping different Goddesses and Gods from utterly different pantheons, some devoted to one particular deity or group of deities, some worshipping Nature or the Life Force and others having a more atheist bent – seeing gods as being part of the poetry of nature, there sometimes seem to be more differences in our paths than similarities.

One of the differences that is sometimes seen as being key between Paganism and the more mainstream UK faiths (based around the Abrahamic religions) is that Goddesses are worshipped and often held to be of particular importance within certain paths (for example Dianic Wicca, named for the Goddess given particular veneration). There are varying reasons which draw people to Paganism and the Goddesses have definitely drawn certain kinds of feminist to the fold. As a result amongst particular groups the feminism and female mysticism which can be found within Paganism is given a great deal of prominence. This is not to disregard other paths found within Paganism which have a dualistic equality to them.

The point I’m trying to make about Paganism is it encompasses a lot of paths; some are formally structured, with membership, initiation and ordination, others are informal and spontaneous, though no less effective in bringing spiritual contact and attunement. Over the years in which Paganism has been a public movement different parts of the whole have been emphasised depending on the media, the people involved and what was important at the time.

Within modern Paganism there are those who are content to define themselves as Pagans, whereas others identify themselves with a specific path within Paganism such as Druidry, Heathenry, Asatru, Wicca, Shamanism, worship of Isis, Witchcraft or Women’s Traditions. Some who claim those particular paths no longer wish to identify as Pagan because of poor experiences or a desire to distance themselves from the Pagan Movement as a whole.

Most pagans see nature as sacred and understand the natural cycles of birth, growth and death observed in the world around us as carrying profoundly spiritual meanings. This is especially evident in the religion of Wicca, which has at it’s centre a cycle of religious festivals known as The Wheel of the Year. Wicca was an especially prominent path during the 20th century rebirth of Paganism on the public conciousness.
In Wicca human beings are seen as part of nature, woven into the great web of life along with other animals, trees, stones, plants and everything else that is of this Earth. This is a common thread held in many pagan paths and many people see it as a key way to define and connect all Pagans.

Paganism includes many Nature-venerating paths and modern Pagans are often at the forefront of ecoawareness. If you see human beings, with their powers of mind and spirit, as a part of Nature then it is not so great a leap to feel a great responsibility for maintaining the balance of the natural world. Local deities and the “spirits of place” (sometimes known as landwights) are traditionally respected in Paganism, a part of fostering good relations with these wights is often maintainence of the land in which they live.

People come to Paganism in a variety of ways. Some come to it through reading the myths of our ancestors. Some through experiencing a sense of the “Divine in Nature” – a feeling that spiritual forces are in the trees, forests, fields and hills. Others arrive at a Pagan outlook through an awareness that their inner response to the divine is through Pagan deities.

As a religion which expresses diversity and has undergone many changes in its long history, Paganism respects all religious paths as manifestations of the human urge to spirituality. Pagans take it for granted that different people will experience the divine in different ways, and are thus very tolerant of other religious beliefs.


Teaching Paganism

This is an entry that’s going to get updated quite a bit I suspect. I thought it might be worthwhile to have a link to teaching resources for those of you who want to teach about Paganism in your classroom.

Well here’s my link to the TES page.

More to come as and when I find it.