In October, The Pagan Federation, an international organization that was founded in 1971 to provide information on Paganism and counter misconceptions, celebrates its 40th anniversary. What was originally started in Britain now has branches throughout the world, including Mexico, Russia, and the United States. While the Pagan Federation (PF) is a vibrant force in Europe and the UK, many Pagans in America might not know of their work or understand the importance of this organization, so I’ve turned to Council member Vivianne Crowley to help us understand the PF’s accomplishments and future challenges. Vivianne Crowley is author of “Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World,” and a Jungian psychologist. She recently joined the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary.
Why was The Pagan Federation necessary? How did it first come together?
Forty years ago there was little understanding of Paganism and many people thought ‘Pagan’ meant ‘Satanist’. The Pagan Federation was established to provide accurate information about Pagans and their practices and to ensure that Pagans were not discriminated against. The Pagan Federation also acted as a contact point for Pagans to find others. In pre-internet days, finding others of like mind wasn’t easy and we can easily forget how hard it was for people and how isolated many people felt from people of like mind.
At 40, what do you think The Pagan Federation’s greatest accomplishment has been? How successful has the PF been in fulfilling its mission to “support all Pagans to ensure they have the same rights as the followers of other beliefs and religions?”
There have been many successes in establishing Pagan ministry in healthcare settings, in prisons and other state institutions, but there is still a long way to go. The Pagan Federation is an international body, so the situation varies across the world. In some countries, the Pagan revival is only just beginning. Despite 40 years of the Pagan Federation, we still have problems with the tabloid press, though not quite as extreme as in previous decades. But nowadays, it’s not always Wiccans and Witches that are targeted. One of our UK tabloids seems to loathe Druids, which is strange in a UK context. Most British people love their Druids.
You joined the Pagan Federation as Secretary in 1988 (Ronald Hutton calls it a “refounding”). Could you talk a bit about the work you’ve done with the organization? What’s your current involvement?
I sit on the Council of the Pagan Federation, which is the body gives guidance and advise to the elected Committee. I’m involved mainly in talking about the work of the Pagan Federation to government bodies, universities and the media. I also represent the Pagan Federation at interfaith events. Unofficially, currently I’m also the President’s part-time PA and fielder of his media calls. My husband Chris is in the second year of his three year term as President.
In October the Pagan Federation is holding a celebration for its 40th anniversary, marking “the achievements of the past and seeking vision, energy and new inspiration for the challenges to come.” What challenges in the future do you feel are the most pressing?
One of the main challenges is what I call ‘mainstreaming’ Paganism – embedding Pagan thinking in the everyday life of wider society. Many of today’s ideas about sexual equality, freedom of lifestyle choices and environmentalism were once seen as Pagan and radical, but they can rapidly become the norm of generations. I see Pagans as people at the leading edge of where social and cultural thinking are going. Our challenge and task is to contribute to shaping the future of our societies so that humankind can survive and adapt to the planetary challenges ahead.
As a Pagan academic and psychologist, what do you feel are the most significant changes and advances made within the realm of modern Paganism in the past 40 years? How does The Pagan Federation fit within that?
The Pagan Federation’s role is to create an international community of like minded people who can support and encourage one another in the development of a Paganism that is vibrant and meaningful to our generations and those that are to come. While our roots are in ancient tradition, we are creating a spirituality for the future that can sustain people when the monotheisms wither and fall away, as inevitably they will. As a psychologist, I remind academic colleagues from other disciplines that monotheism is just a short blip in the history of human religious practice and one that we are now outgrowing. The challenge ahead is to create a meaningfully spirituality that helps create a sense of common purpose across diverse societies and ethnicities, and between nations.
I’d like to thank Vivianne Crowley for taking time out of her busy schedule to do this interview. For more information on The Pagan Federation’s 40th anniversary celebration, a two-day event in London that will feature speakers like Ronald Hutton, Emma Restall-Orr, Graham Harvey, Philip Carr-Gomm, and Caitlin Matthews, check out the Pagan Federation website.