UK Pagans reflect on the Platinum Jubilee that begins this weekend

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LONDON – On February 6th, 2022,  Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her platinum jubilee, the first British monarch to have done so, marking 70 years on the throne. The coronation itself was held in 1953, but the Queen acceded to the British throne immediately on the death of her father, George VI, on February 6th, 1952.

The Royal Family released a statement that said “To celebrate this unprecedented anniversary, events and initiatives will take place throughout the year, culminating in a four day UK bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th June. The bank holiday will provide an opportunity for communities and people throughout the United Kingdom to come together to celebrate the historic milestone.”

Although the support of the monarchy is not in itself a Pagan issue and many UK Pagans are skeptical of a monarchical system, the symbolism and ritual of Royal events do speak to a number of pagans here, who take a variety of esoteric approaches to the monarchy, quite apart from any political opinions. We asked British pagans for their views.

Queen Elizabeth II

Autumn Stellar, a Thelemic practitioner, said “I see the Queen as an embodiment of Britannia, Goddess of this land. Whenever we have a Queen, it seems that magic and spirituality flourishes – Queen Elizabeth I had John Dee as her adviser, important magical groups such as the Golden Dawn started during the reign of Queen Victoria, and our own Queen had her coronation around the time that Wicca and modern Druidry began.”

Stellar added “She was on the throne as neo-paganism and new age movements grew into what they are today. In 2002, the Queen celebrated her golden jubilee – this is the same year that the Glastonbury Goddess Temple opened. I feel that the Queen represents sovereignty, the Goddess, and all the mythical queens- of the Tarot, alchemy, and myth. She is an elder, and channels crone energy. She is Britain’s spiritual Grandma.”

Mike Stygal of the Pagan Federation, reflected “I’m wondering how a Pagan perspective might be any different to the perspective of any other UK citizen……unless it’s to do with her role as head of the Church of England?”

Stygal noted that “I don’t feel the queen has had any effect on my life as a Pagan, either negative or positive. ”  Stygal added “If that’s the case, I think it needs to be placed in the context of societal attitudes at the time she came to the throne. British society was much more inclined to consider itself Christian in the early 1950’s, although even then, numbers of people attending church on a regular basis were in decline.”

Looking in the future and succession, Stygal said that “I think it will be interesting to see how Charles implements his concept of expanding his head of the Church role from defender of the faith to defender of faiths. I certainly expect there to be further changes to the outlook of the monarchy once the Queen dies. But I don’t think that is going to make any difference to the practice of Paganisms and the lives of Pagans. Any positive changes have been taking place already, and because ours is a constitutional monarchy, it’s actually government that enables those changes, not the monarchy.”

As for the jubilee specifically, Stygal noted “We’ve not had one of those before. One of the big initiatives taking place is they plant a tree for the jubilee thing. That can’t be such a bad thing.”

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Both Realms)

 

The Queen is both the head of state of the UK (and other nations in the Commonwealth) and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Some individuals reflected on the nature of that system.

Druid Jonathan Woolley said “I have two levels of thinking about this. Firstly, the Queen’s main religious role is as head of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith. As such, she is officially, as well as personally, devoutly Anglican. This is a religion that many British Pagans have left behind, and thus have decidedly mixed feelings about. Secondly, the British Pagan community has a stoutly anti-institutional, non-conformist streak.”

Woolley added that “These two things combine to create a certain apathy, if not antipathy towards the monarchy in most Pagan circles – reflecting their tense relationship with the British establishment as a whole. I remember a Beltane camp that coincided with the royal wedding of William and Kate, a great deal of gentle mocking of the Crown went on (referring to a handfasting that took place as the “real royal wedding” etc.) While I’m sure some Pagans will happily join in with Platinum Jubilee celebrations, most will just ignore them.”

Wooley continued “Many non-Christian faiths and philosophies flourish here, of course. But they all arrived after this island was Christianised – and so were outside of the scope of the original pact our ancestors were bound by – or had not even been created. Is it impossible that the British Pagan Community could be being hamstrung by old proclamations, made by kings long dead? So I wonder if something the Pagan Community could be seeking this Platinum Jubilee is a historic easement from the Crown – a formal repeal of the ancient edicts that this land abandon the old ways, in favour of Christian ones. Due to the magical power held by the crown, perhaps it is not enough for the British State to tolerate us: maybe it must formally give our Community its blessing?”

Stygal switched hats and added, “HOWEVER. With my practicing occultist hat on, I have a particular pet theory that might be relevant. I feel the British Pagan community is weaker than you’d expect it to be. Despite being one of the largest and oldest Pagan communities globally, we have few dedicated temples, our community organisations often struggle to attract funds, volunteers and a solid membership, and we struggle to influence the government and other large institutions. Despite the popular appeal of many of our practices, from seasonal festivities to astrology, and surging numbers of young practitioners, the average age of people actively involved in “the community” is rapidly increasing. I’ve wanted to do more to resolve this for years, but magickally it’s always felt… well, blocked.”

Stygal added “Recently, I realised something: the process by which this country rejected the worship of spirits and gods of nature, in favour of Christianity, was intimately bound up with the choices of kings. The notion that the crown is divine predates Christianity, and when each king of the Heptarchy (including the kings of Wessex, from whom the English crown descends) rejected the Old Ways, their subjects were spiritually bound to the new faith too. While people had leeway in private, all spirituality expressed at the level of the community had to remain officially Christian. And those ancient magical pacts have never been rescinded.”

Alison Goodchap considered these magical pacts also and the role of the monarchy to the land itself.  Goodchap said, “I don’t know if I can articulate this properly. I’m definitely on the left politically, and as a lefty would prefer this country to be a republic. Not to be confused with American republicanism. As a human being, I respect her and her dedication to her duties. She is the nation’s beloved NAN. But decades ago I had an experience that made me rethink the monarchy ever since. I now see her as the sacred head of the people. She is the representative of our lands. I don’t mean in title. I mean an actual conduit, or voice of the land. Kings once married the land. If the land suffered so did the king… As a female monarch, she IS the land. It doesn’t matter what religion she belongs to, the land has first claim to her. QE1 I believe understood this. She played with the idea, dressing in green to go hunting and carrying a silver bow. She knew alright. So I hold three different views on her. Still have loads of respect for her though.”

Caitlín Matthews, a writer and Shamanic practitioner, noted that “The Queen is the queen of everyone in the territories over which she reigns, and that means all of us too. As an exemplar of service, she has done her duty over and above the retirement age of most people.  Matthews considered the Queen’s service to her nation, however.  “The Queen’s long service is what the Platinum Jubilee is about, and we have not had one of these previously in history.”   Matthews remembered an earlier Royal celebration, “I was part of a street party in our region of East Oxford, along with neighbours who hailed from as far distant as Iceland to New Zealand, and from Oregon to Taiwan. We sat and shared food from all those regions, under a jury-rigged set of garden pavilions, in the middle of our roped off street in the freezing rain of a chill day.  It was one of the more pagan days of my life, from the point of community, as it exemplified the togetherness of complete strangers, the enjoyment of each other’s company, and the collective celebration of a very esoteric concept of tribal belonging, all done in complete peace and concord. There are not many of us who can claim that singular felicity.”

Writer and Pagan practitioner Nimue Brown said,  “As a Pagan, I just keep hoping she’s going to rewild her estates. The monarchy holds a lot of land, and could make a difference. There’s also the issue of the massive impact of grouse moors and the harm they do. It would be nice to have a head of state who felt responsible for this land.”

Druid Tim Hawthorn some events that happened during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.  “The significance for pagans is really that her reign has been contemporary with the repeal of the witchcraft act, the year before her [accession], and therefore the rise of neo-paganism,” Hawthorn said adding, “Although she is an honorary bard (and possibly druid?), due to the fact that she’s the head of the Anglican church, I wouldn’t have thought the celebration of her longevity would be of particular interest to most pagans.”

Hawthorn noted that some might consider the Queen as a divine avatar but was ambivalent about the sentiment.  “I suppose you could see her as some kind of incarnation of the goddess or some sort of magical Britannia archetype, I’m a long way over projecting that kind of religious nonsense onto random women, but your mileage may vary, ”  Hawthorne said.

Druid Liz Cruse echoed the sentiment and considered the politics of the moment. “In the apparent world I have little patience with it. But l like to think she bears the role of Lady Sovereignty, and that esoterically her presence may be doing something. But there’s all the dark magic of the Tories and capitalism to contend with and the concept of sovereignty has, in my opinion, been well and truly hijacked. I do remember the magic of all those trees in Westminster Abbey for William and Kate’s wedding – at Beltane too.”

Among the events to commemorate the milestone will be Thanksgiving service today, a Platinum Party at Buckingham Palace,  The Queen’s Green Canopy to protect 70 ancient trees and woodlands, and the Platinum Pudding competition. 

A typo on commemorative tea crockery produced in China noting the event as the “Platinum Jubbly” has added, in its own way, to the festivities.

The celebration of the Platinum Jubliee will continue through the Queen’s Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) on June 2, 2022, which begins a four-day bank holiday.


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