Northern Ireland approves first Pagan priest in modern times

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GLENGORMLEY, NORTHERN IRELAND — It took a combination of patience, paperwork, and publicity, but Patrick Carberry has been approved by the Northern Ireland government as a Pagan priest. His is the first person to be so designated in this country and, by some reports, the first “since the time of Saint Patrick.” Carberry is the sovereign of the Order of the Golden River, which he founded in 2009. Now he will be able to perform weddings and otherwise function as a member of the clergy for that group.

Patrick Carberry

Patrick Carberry [Courtesy Photo]

According to a February report in the Sunday World, Pagans have been licensed to perform weddings in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland since 2009. However, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have not been so forthcoming with similar credentials. Carberry brought his story to the World after he’d waited nearly four months for his application to be processed. He had hoped that it would speed things up.

“Five months was a very unacceptable time, and religious discrimination,” Carberry told The Wild Hunt. “I followed up and was told they were taking legal advice, which was very unusual.”

But this was not the only unusual step which was being taken. Carberry said, “We had to prove how often we worshiped and when, I was even asked to whom I worshiped and how.” As he noted to the World reporter, “They wouldn’t ask a Muslim how they prayed.”

Once his story was on the front page of the Irish newspaper, the process didn’t seem as daunting. “After that, I got a very quick reply. The Order of the Golden River was made an official denomination called Golden River, Glengormley, which is the area in which we are based. The letter said ‘Mr Carberry has been registered as an Officiant for the above denomination and Church under the provisions of Article 11 of the Marriages (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and is therefore authorised to solemnize marriages in Northern Ireland under this Order.’ ”

Hostility toward Pagan religions is strong in this largely Christian country, and Carberry’s order was originally quite secretive because of that atmosphere. “We were underground but at a meeting the Order members agreed to speak out about our faith and stand up for our beliefs,” he told the Belfast Media Group. The move toward a more public face and practice has led to other stumbling blocks, such as when Carberry was confronted last September, outside of a storefront outlet he was operating at the time.

I have been attacked and verbally assaulted and threaten[ed] in a shopping centre in Belfast last September. This was because I am a pagan, the headlines of a newspaper read [that I was] attacked because I’m a pagan priest. This man was shouting in my face, but I couldn’t go anywhere out of his way or get security, he was blocking my way calling me the devil, evil and vile. I could feel his saliva hitting my face, he then shouted from half way down the mall, ‘you’re going to get it,’ not what you like to hear in Belfast. Things didn’t stop there; I went though a few weeks of intimidation, [and] the police lost all the evidence CCTV footage. They couldn’t find the vehicle the man was driving, despite having the registration, make, and model. Nothing could be done.

Reports call Carberry a “full-time Pagan priest,” but he’s not exactly living high on the hog. “Income is difficult,” he admitted. “I work spiritually and I’m a Celtic Shaman working with healing, readings, past life regression, soul retrieval, [and] clearing evil sprits from homes. I put all my income no matter what the source into the Church, and draw only what I need to survive, I’m not in this for the money, just to get by. My love and trust in the Gods and Goddesses, the Spirit world and our ancestors always provide. When I’m stuck something always happens that gets me by.”

Carberry wants to be able to perform weddings at ancient sacred sites. His license permits him to wed throughout Northern Ireland, and he’s not planning on restricting his work only to those in his order, which currently has about 30 members. “We provide services to everyone who seeks our help, people don’t even have to be pagan, everyone is welcome,” he said. “We see people every day from all walks of life asking for help, so we have also set up a charity to provide help to people who cannot afford holistic treatments. The aim is to promote holistic, cultural and other types of spiritual healing and make it available to everyone.”

While his own tenacious desire to act in accordance with his will — as well as a well-timed front-page story — certainly made this achievement possible, Carberry doesn’t give himself the full credit. “I can only credit all this happening to the Gods and Goddesses and the Spirit World. Only they know what our true plan is, and they guide us towards that plan. They guide us in our lives if only we trust them, I trust them with my life every day. Having the battle Goddess the Morrigan, and the Lord of the Hunt, on my side, plus being a fighting Celt . . . how can you go wrong?”