NHS Tayside, one of the Scottish regions of the UK’s National Health Service, has agreed to allow Pagan chaplains greater access to patients.
“For some NHS hospital patients it would seem the help of one god is just not enough. Pagan chaplains are, for the first time, to offer counseling and prayers to the sick in Scottish wards. NHS Tayside has agreed with Scotland’s 30,000 Pagans a ground-breaking deal that will allow bedside healing rituals, meditation and special prayers. But some of the more exotic aspects of Paganism – not least the carrying of flaming torches – will have to stay outside. Pagan patients will also receive advice on getting well soon, including keeping a “healing goddess” next to their bed.”
The article makes special note that Pagans won’t be allowed to proselytize, but then again no chaplain of any faith is allowed to do that according to NHS policy, they also “balance” the article by finding local Christians who don’t like Pagans.
“…the move has angered church-goers. Moira Kerr, a Kirk elder who in 2005 campaigned against a move by Tayside to remove a communion table from a hospital chapel in case it offend non-Christians, said: ‘I’m very saddened to hear about this. Scotland needs to get back its Christian heritage which has done so much for us over the years. There’s no doubt the devil is at work in this.’ Gordon MacDonald, the parliamentary officer for the Christian values charity CARE, said: ‘I would question what the point is of all this. Very few people in Scotland identify themselves as being Pagan by faith and I would have thought a health board would have better things to do. This is a sign of how much confusion there is in society nowadays. People need to think through the values which we have received from our Christian heritage, such as respect, the value of the individual, and personal freedom.’”
Is 30,000 “very few”? Perhaps I’m a bit hazy on the concept of “very few”, or is this a by comparison sort of thing? But while conservative Christians are (suprise!) upset at Pagans being allowed greater access, other minority faiths in Scotland are able to look at the bigger picture.
“Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said: ‘As a minority faith ourselves, I don’t think Muslims would object to others receiving pastoral visits. Nothing illegal would be happening and people have the right to spiritual care.’”
This looks like a big step forward in terms of mainstreaming Pagan faiths in the UK. Perhaps this is a harbinger of how the entire NHS system will eventually approach modern Paganism. In not too long it may not surprise anybody to see a Druid or Witch roaming the hospital halls with Anglican and Catholic clergy.