Pagan Heathen Symposium

The Pagan and Heathen Symposium is a group of Pagan and Heathen organisations who actively co-operate on a variety of issues and projects, and who met most recently in Bristol in March.

The background below is adapted from an original article written by Mike Stygal and published in Greenmantle magazine after their first meeting in London in July 2014.

"The Pagan and Heathen Symposium was an idea that I’d had about a year ago. For many, many years I’d been watching Pagan and Heathen organisations engage in conflict with one another, set up rivalries between each other and trying to provide the same services as one another. At the same time, I’d watched wider society move from a position of distancing themselves from an unknown and feared ‘Pagan and Heathen’ community, to a position of curious interest.

As long as I’ve been an officer of the Pagan Federation, I’ve had an interest in building bridges with other Pagan groups, feeling that if the Pagan Federation is to honestly meet the expectations of those official bodies who regard us as representatives of the Pagan community, then we really needed to explore ways we could actually hear that community in as broad a range of its diversity as possible. The more interest Paganism and Heathenry gain from the wider community and official bodies, the more it seemed to be important that we try to find ways of working more closely and supportively together. It would serve our community better if we found ways to point to the expertise found in our collective organisations and to pool our skills where services were needed, but didn’t already exist. Also, that wider society has preconceived ideas concerning the provision of services by faith communities and while we undermine one another in setting up rival services, we struggle to match up to those ideas.

I’ve been very fortunate to find friends in ‘senior’ positions in a number of Pagan and Heathen organisations (senior is in brackets because we all seem to struggle with notions of seniority… none of us are willing to suggest we are in some way better or more advanced than others) and through discussion with those friends, it seemed we were all of the opinion that it would be good to find ways to put aside old rivalries and conflicts and see if we could explore ways to work together, each organisation remaining distinct, that distinctiveness being something to celebrate, but not to isolate from inclusion in collaborative projects and in providing specific services they had developed to a high level of expertise. We agreed we would each contact other Pagan organisations we were in touch with and see if we could gather together an initial group of Pagan and Heathen organisations for a meeting.

That meeting took place on 12 July 2014 and included representatives from many of the main Pagan and Heathen organisations in the UK. There was a little apprehension that things might not go according to plan. But there was also a great deal of shared intent that we would all do everything we could to make the gathering a success. A success it most certainly was. Since then, we have continued to explore ways we might work together, projects we might collaborate upon and ways we might signpost to one another the expertise found in our respective organisations. The Pagan and Heathen Symposium meeting was always intended to be a first step, and thanks to the wonderful enthusiasm and positive intent of all who attended the meeting, that first step was a big one. We’re all still feeling our way with developing our working relationship. But anyone who has been around Paganism and Heathenry for any length of time will know that even that is a major improvement on the past. Where will the symposium go? Well while I conceived of the idea and was very much involved in bringing it into being, I have no intention of dictating where we go. That is something for us to decide collectively. But where ever we DO end up going, my hope is that we go as partners, colleagues and friends."

Mike Stygal, Pagan Federation President, 2014