I saw that the Pagan’s friend the Daily Mail took another stab at us recently asking if we were really innocent tree-huggers or a ‘dangerous cult’. Interesting that they are still giving Paganism the column space considering that we haven’t been in the news for a couple of weeks – I guess we still help sell newspapers. Having said that the time around Samhain is always a little crazy when it comes to the press. I remember sending out letters on behalf of the Pagan Federation to our local newspapers trying to draw their attention away from the fear-mongering of certain fundie Churches, who were also on their own campaigns to make the media aware of how ‘dangerous’ Hallowe’en is, and back to what it was really about.

There is obviously still a need to offer accurate information to the press to counter the fantasies of certain journalists and groups, but one thing I wouldn’t like to see is the Pagan community having to water down what we do, or who we are, to gain some kind of public acceptance. Recently I’ve had a couple of conversations with other Pagans about how we shouldn’t wear robes, should stop talking about Magic, should forget all of this nonsense about the Faerie. That all the time we do these things we will never be accepted as ‘normal’. I really can’t agree with this. If we have to drop anything within our traditions that is not ‘normal’ just to get mainstream acceptance I don’t think that’s acceptance at all. To me that’s being forced to conform, and one of things that I love about Pagans is that conformity is not high on our agenda! When I am in ceremony I wear a robe, be that in a private Grove, or at a public ritual. Just as a Christian Priest dons their dog collar, or a couple dress up in their very best clothes to go to Glydebourne to see an opera, so my robes help me shift from everyday reality to that Other space that lets the Spirits of Place, myself, and the people at the ritual, know that we are here to do ceremony. Nothing wrong with that.

Magic. I guess we either believe in it or not, and with many aspects of our Pagan Ways there is no ‘Thou Shalt Believe in Magic’ to follow. But I do believe in this strange occult power, and I’ve felt and seen it at work. I’m not about to drop this belief just because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable.

And then there’s the Faerie… Not those dainty winged creatures created by the Victorians and so loved by Disney, no not those Faerie at all. I am talking about the Sidhe, the Spriggan, the Elf, the Wight – beings that live in another reality, another realm, a place so close to our own that sometimes they meet. This realm has many names but the one I use is Annwn. I ask no one else to believe in this realm, but I will not deny something so important to me just to fit in. It’s too important to me.

I’m quite happy to exist on the fringe of society and still hold true to my feelings. It’s nothing new for Druids – look at the myths surrounding Merlin, the Wild Man of the Woods, and Suibhne. The Druid, like the Shaman, has always had one foot in society, and the other in the mists. Indeed almost any inspired poet who looked beyond what was accepted by society, who had never lost the wonder of the child (or maybe another way of saying the same thing would be succumbed to the cynicism of adulthood) has been viewed as a weirdo. So what.

So if it takes me to drop all of the things that make me Damh just to be accepted by the mainstream press, or society as a whole, well, I’ll be in the woods, or on the moor, running like a lunatic, screaming to the Moon, stepping through the Gateway in the circle of stones, and playing my mandolin with the Seelie court. I may be some time.