UK Pagans respond to London terror attacks

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LONDON — The English capital city saw a number of terrorist incidents on the night June 3, when 8 people were killed and 48 injured. The three identified attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, and then got out repeatedly stabbing people in nearby Borough Market before being shot dead by police.

Since the attacks, the mood in London – a city that endured bombings throughout WWII and by the IRA campaigns later in 20th century – remains calm and defiant. Citizens have been taking to social media to deny that the population is in shock.

London Bridge [Wikimedia]

The Pagan presence in London is considerable, and the area around Borough Market is of special interest to many of them, because it contains the Crossbones Cemetery, a Medieval burial ground for prostitutes and the outcast dead. Pagans frequently attended events held there and further down in Southwark, the stamping ground of Austin Osman Spare, who was an early 20th century esoteric artist.

Some members of London’s Occult and Pagan community were actually caught up in the tragic weekend events.

Marco Visconti, the online shop manager of esoteric bookshop Treadwells, says, “I was not in London Bridge but in Borough Market, and in fact we were leaving the place on a bus as things happened.”

“I was still able to see all the ambulances, police cars, helicopters rushing towards the event, I heard a loud bang and saw the smoke rising a couple blocks away from me. In fact, if we didn’t decide to leave we would have been caught right in the middle of it all.”

Other London Pagan, who did not witness the attacks live, have had diverse reactions. Mike Stygal of the Pagan Federation told The Wild Hunt: “In addition to being a Pagan, I’m also very involved in Interfaith work, and my Muslim friends were deeply affected by the attacks. Not only were they attacks on their London, but, as things have unfolded, they were attacks by people who were falsely claiming to carry out those attacks in the name of Islam.”

“The attack caused alarm and fear at the time they were taking place,” he continued. “But London is a cosmopolitan city with people from all nationalities and faiths working peacefully, side by side. London rejects the aims to create division in society from the terrorists. Largely, London Pagans reject that goal of division

What concerns me is that some Pagans in the UK seem to believe that all Muslims are responsible for these acts of terror. It concerns me particularly because we know what it is to have a very small number of people make claims to perform terrible acts in the name of our beliefs. We know there are some who claim their Paganism gives them justification to abuse others, and we know that we reject and denounce their actions in the same way that Muslims around the world reject and denounce the terrorists and their claims that the actions are in any way justified by Islam. We should know better. But it seems some within our Pagan community do not.”

Deja Whitehouse, who is currently undertaking doctoral research into Lady Frieda Harris the artist of the Thoth Tarot deck, also commented. Whitehouse’ daughter narrowly missed being caught up in the attack, and the designer she was working with was there, but got home safely.

Deja describes her feelings as follows: “Relief my kid escaped, the fact it’s getting closer to home, the complete incomprehension as to why people would do this…  ”

“Also the knowledge that most people living in this country, whether they were born here, moved here or just passing through absorb the ‘Blitz Spirit’ that always manifests when we are under attack,” she says. “I believe this has a lot to do with what Paul Weston calls the Genus Loci, what Dion Fortune and other wartime magicians tapped into to repel the Nazis. It’s still there even if non-Pagans are unaware of it. I’m very proud to be part of this even if I’m not taking direct action.”

Blogger Angharad Lois, who knows the area of Borough well and who had a friend injured outside the Southwark Tavern in the attack, turned to the Tarot for advice.

“Yesterday I drew the Four of Swords in the morning and kept it in my mind all day. This is a card of conscious retreat from the noise of the world outside the head, to confront the noise of the world inside the head. Meditation. The three hanging swords point at the head (thoughts), heart (emotions), and gut (passions) of the knight’s effigy: this meditation will bring us face to face with our emotions and our passions as well as our thoughts – not on their own terms, but as they manifest in our minds.”

There have been calls throughout the UK’s Pagan community to focus on protective magical work and prayer, and to remain centered in the face of any social media attempts to whip up religious dissent.