Interview with Vivianne Crowley on The Pagan Federation's 40th Anniversary

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 5, 2011 — 11 Comments

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.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

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.

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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.

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “[...M]onotheism is just a short blip in the history of human religious practice and one that we are now outgrowing.”

    Her optimism is inspiring.

    I sort of wish you’d asked her how her Jungian background affects her work with the PF.

    • Charles Cosimano

      Sounds like serious wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe that humanity is outgrowing monotheism.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I said “inspiring,” not “compelling.”

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    MONOTHEISM — The degenerate result which is inevitable when a culture places its once-valid Monolatry from within its wider middle-eastern religion-of-origin into the hands of ambitious politicians wearing priestly garb. Allowed to continue on for centuries in this way, instead of being rescued by those who actually serve Priestly functions, and nothing will remain but an ideology designed to support continuing rule by “strong men” who cannot afford to let their subjects build their own relationships between their own spirits and their deities.

  • Mustard

    Monotheism is what happens when the ego attains godhead,and demands all must follow the same head.This will not work much longer,it is bound to fall,like the famous tower struck by the gods of thunder. thank you.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Thank you for printing this!

  • http://pallasrenatus.blogspot.com Pallas Renatus

    I do find it interesting that those commentators who are so willing to support a group promoting religious tolerance and understanding are so quick to make blanket-statements about the invalidity of all monotheisms. Sure, monotheism doesn’t have a great track record with us, but ignoring the validity of their spiritual traditions makes us as bad as the people we’re trying to “enlighten”.

    • Don

      Let’s not pretend monotheism has any validity. It is a perverse human construct.

      • http://pallasrenatus.blogspot.com Pallas Renatus

        Fine. But if someone wants to bitch and moan when monotheists say that Paganism has no validity, they can at least be decent enough to hold their tongue when the tables are turned and be an example of how they want to be treated. Pointing at monotheists and talking about the perversity of their religious construct doesn’t exactly construct a mature image of Paganism as a movement.

        “Be the bigger man, the better person” is what I was getting at.

  • http://dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    I’m curious as to how the Pagan Federation has managed to be so successful everywhere except the US. Here was have anti-discrimination groups rise and fall, often falling right after making any kind of a dent. So what attitudes are embedded in those in Europe and the UK that make it sustainable, and is it possible to cultivate that over here?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dexpositoromero Daniel Expósito Romero

      Well, there’s a PFI Nation there, but it’s quite more complicated, though. You are at the other side of that huge water thingy caled “atlantic ocean”. And that makes, indeed, a huge change.

      It’s more complicated to lead a group at the other sead of the ocean, no regular meetings, no daily contact, a group there may feel appart.

      Anyway, the PF work outside UK-Ireland is mainly held by PF International and, as I said it has a ‘branch’ there :D