Pagan Federation marks 45 years and looks to an inclusive future

Preston Manor gardens

The 45th anniversary of the Pagan Federation was marked with an event in Brighton on the first day of May.

The meeting at which the Pagan Federation was formally inaugurated had been held on the same day in 1971 at Madge Worthington’s house in Chiswick. Doreen Valiente, who was one of the driving forces behind our inception, had presided over that meeting and written a short ritual for the occasion, so it was entirely fitting that we should celebrate in the house where material from the Doreen Valiente Collection is now on display to the public until September.

We have supported the Doreen Valiente Foundation in putting on the exhibition in Preston Manor because we believe that Doreen’s legacy is part of the heritage of all Pagans.  There is material on display relating to Druidry and Heathenry as well as to witchcraft and Wicca, and we hope that all of it will contribute towards making society as a whole more familiar with Pagan practice.

Robin Taylor opened with a few words about our achievements in the first 45 years, mentioning our work both in dialogue with official bodies and also in providing support to individual Pagans in discrimination cases.  We have continued to publish Pagan Dawn, which now has its own website, and which can be a lifeline and source of information for isolated Pagans.   More recently we have been involved in the formation of the Pagan and Heathen Symposium, which is a networking group for those actively working to support our communities, and have become members of both the Inter Faith Network and the Religious Education Council.

Prudence Jones then spoke about Doreen and the other founders of the Pagan Federation.  Rebecca Beattie (rebeccabeattie.me.uk) gave a talk about literary Pagans and how their work was a backdrop for Doreen’s writing and poetry.  Richard Levy talked about how Doreen was inclusive towards the LGBTQ community, and also to solitary witches and those outside the Gardnerian framework.  Julie Belham-Payne, one of the Trustees of the Doreen Valiente Foundation (doreenvaliente.org), reminded us of the interactions between Paganism and popular culture from the time of Doreen and her colleagues through to the present day.

After an opportunity to see the exhibition, we went into the garden for a short ritual based around the chant Doreen wrote for the first meeting, which was read out for us by Arwen Matthews.

In the East we reached out to artists, writers, explorers and defenders of our environment.  In the South we sent out a clear message that all genders, sexualities, and ethnic origins are welcome.  In the West we reached out to Pagans with disabilities, many of whom cannot easily or at all take part in our community.  In the North Naomi Jacobs (stoneontosand.weebly.com) called upon the many Gods for the polytheists among us.

We would like to thank the Royal Pavilion and Museums staff at Preston Manor for their support and for helping to make the event a success.

Parts of the event were recorded for our online Beltane festival.

A Chant for Beltane by Doreen Valiente (1971)

Friends that in the circle stand
Heart to heart and hand to hand
Bringing Beltane to the land
Let the sleeper wake!

Let the flames of Beltane burn
May the old ones now return
May we of their magick learn
Let the sleeper wake!

Let the streams and fields be pure
Earth and sky be clean once more
Love and laughter long endure
Let the sleeper wake!

Forests spreading, peace returning
There the Pagan fires are burning
Now the inner light discerning
Let the sleeper wake!

May the Lady’s touch again
Rest upon the barren plain
With the sunshine and the rain
Let the sleeper wake!

Beltane magick here we sing
Chant the rune and dance the ring
Joy and blessing shall it bring
Let the sleeper wake!