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Article Specs

Article ID: 9071

VoxAcct: 151679

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

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You May Destroy; We Will Rebuild!

Author: Jemma Hawtrey
Posted: December 2nd. 2007
Times Viewed: 3,799

About four years ago, a young red-headed girl might often be found in the forest clearing a space by hand while a slightly-deranged black Labrador bounced around and got in the way as much as was non-humanly possible. If the girl was in a mischievous mood she might mention the c..a..t word to her four legged companion and smile broadly at the result as the animal capered away looking for that scourge of Doggie-Kind, having probably forgotten that a face-full of claw can be painful. The teenager had to stop to rest from time to time. But although the long illness had sapped her strength, it never took her determination.

That young girl is now a young woman of eighteen summers. She’s older, maybe slightly sadder than she was, but that devil-may-care look is still in her eyes. Sadly her furry companion has crossed the veil these last months and she is much missed and fondly remembered.

She’s found another companion, though of a slightly different sort. Bit by bit she’s let him into her life, shown him things of herself, even after much cajoling, shown him poems she’d written in the past and present ones about the both of them

And in all that time, that space in the forest was where she went, to commune, to celebrate, to cry when she felt so sad and alone.

Fairly recently she introduced her new companion to this place. At first it felt slightly hostile to him, as if he were an invading force there. But seeing the love shown to its mistress, in a short time the hostility faded to be replaced by welcome.

It wasn’t long after that this place of memories and ritual was totally destroyed.

It may have been just kids playing around who didn’t know the significance of the place, though I doubt it. All the markers had been removed and hidden and the circle erased. It was so well done that we weren’t sure that we were in the right place, that we had gotten lost and disoriented somehow.

Our first reaction was probably stunned disbelief. Why would someone come and destroy something that was obviously there for a reason and had been for some time?

Then came the anger. Why did they do this? What did we ever do to them that they should do this to us?

After a while we just sighed and started work to repair the damage that had been done. We searched to find the quarter markers and found the Stang intact. Natural wands and other items were missing, likely scattered all over the forest. We remade the circle and replaced the markers. As the circle was remade stronger, so we became.

After two or so hours we looked at our work and saw it was good. But as we trudged down the soggy path we resolved that this should not happen again, that people should know about what happened here, and know about the significance of places special to other Pagans and how to treat them.

So we wrote a letter to a local paper. We said what had happened and that the site that had been erased was as important to us and had as much spiritual significance to us as Pagans as a church to a Christian or a Mosque to a Muslim.

In due course a journalist was dispatched to our little corner of Suffolk and we spent a productive 2 hours or so standing in the ‘trying-to’ snow and the shelter of a stand of Laurel bushes telling her and her camera-man all about our life as Pagans and our feelings over this event.

“Its like us walking into a church, taking it down brick by brick, using the site as a rubbish dump and setting fire to it.”

That one quote sums up our feelings perfectly.

But why did it happen?

I myself am sure that it wasn’t any accident. The removal and hiding of specific objects such as the markers and wands would indicate to me someone who at least had some knowledge of Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism. That the Stang, although well hidden, was undamaged, indicates that the person maybe didn’t have a extremely deep knowledge as this item is not generally on the outsiders checklist for Witches paraphernalia.

A person or persons found the site and decided that it should be taken back to the state their God, in their eyes, intended. They then took it upon themselves to do so. About the only thing I can commend them for in this action is their attention to detail. By all other standards I find this to be a reprehensible and insulting act.

That covers the physicality of the event itself. But does it cover the thoughts behind it?

I think those are much more important. I also think that the thoughts that resulted in the desecration of a sacred site, stand as much as the fault of the Pagan community as they do with any other.

For far too long many Pagans have been content to act, think and do as if they are in a little bubble each of their own devising. Too many of us still see interaction between ourselves and other faith communities as them and us. We are still all too quick to condemn people on the simple basis of their faith tradition or otherwise. I know I have been.

It’s only been very recently that I have seen the caring and friendship inherent in the Christian tradition. It took me finding another Pagan and her Christian family to do it.

I want to ask the Pagan community in general to do two things, and for once they aren’t even that difficult. Firstly, actually look at the person behind that prayer book. It will probably surprise you to find they are just like you, they have faith like you, and they laugh and cry like you do.

Second, reach out in your community and be an educator and teacher of your tradition. Be the one who is open with others, because when you are others will respond.

Granted, some may respond in ways you might prefer they hadn’t, but some will think and realize that maybe this person with their interest in the environment and their quick smile might be someone worth knowing better.

However, here I have a gentle word of warning. Don’t trust before you have reason to. Be careful in your dealings with people and be sensible. Naivety is a wonderful quality but it can be a powerful weapon in the hands of someone who would do you harm.

Many things happen in life that we’d rather had not. There is a saying that “in every disaster there is an opportunity waiting to flower”. For my partner and I the vandalism of a place so important to us counts as one of the things that we would far rather had never happened. We could have raged about it, we could have cursed and railed at cruel fate.

We took the other course.

We remade our place and we have tried to educate our wider community. We found the opportunity in the disaster, I hope the rest of the Pagan community can follow us on that path.





Copyright: Copyright (2005) Durin ab Iceni



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Jemma Hawtrey


Location: Colchester, England

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