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Setting the record straight on Pagans
08 August 2008
Paganism conjures up a raft of stereotypes - stone circles, witchcraft, devil worship, The Wicker Man.  But one man is determined to set the record straight from a quiet Ainsdale cul-de-sac.

Committed Pagan, Pat Regan, has recently had his second book published - The New Pagan Handbook, in which he highlights the negative images unfairly linked with the religion over the centuries.

He says 'Pagan' is "one of the most widely abused words in the English language... often a term used to vilify others as barbarians, thugs or unenlightened non-religious fools."

Although they have faced prejudice in the past, Pat, 51, and wife Cath, 45, are proud of their religion.

Pat began learning about Paganism as a boy after becoming disillusioned with his Catholic upbringing.

"My mum used to take me to church and I didn't like it," he said.

"I found the images of crucifixion horrific and I used to faint and be carried out of church every Sunday."

Pat's love of nature grew to an interest in Paganism, an ancient religion strongly linked with the earth.

"I have always known there is more to it than just enjoying that lovely sunset or appreciating trees and birds, so I did my own research and it appealed to me."

Cath chose Paganism when their first child, now 21, was born.  The couple married at Southport's Town Hall.

Paganism is a flexible religion based on the individual.  Followers must take responsibility for their own actions as they have no devil figure to hold to account for bad behaviour.

They also choose their favoured gods to worship from the ancient Celtic, Roman and Greek deities and how and where to worship them.

"Sometimes we will cast a circle and honour the gods with a few words, but mainly just at the festivals," Pat said

There are eight annual Pagan festivals, the next of which is Lughnasadh at the end of August - a celebration of the harvest.

Worship can take different forms, from meditation to rituals involving ceremonial circles, candles and incense.

The Midwinter festival takes place on December 21, predating Christmas by thousands of years.

"We eat drink and be merry, the same as everyone else at that time of year but on the 21st not the 25th," Pat, founder of the Pagan Anti-defamation Network, said.

"We decorate the house, have a tree - that has very Pagan origins - and 'Father Christmas', who is based on Odin, delivers presents."

Pat has even made appearances as Father Christmas at Pine Pixies pre-school, run by Cath from church halls.

The family came under huge personal strain in 2003 when their religion was revealed in local press. 

"I had quite a lot of explaining to do to the church ministers when it came out I was a Pagan," Cath, who keeps religion out of her pre-schools, said.

"It's like you have to prove to people that you're a good person.  It was something awkward I shouldn't have had to go through."

The Regans have four children and although they tell them their beliefs they say each is free to pick their own religion.

Pat's latest book (Lear, £10.95) explores Paganism's ancient origins, its suppression and explains how modern Pagans can express their faith.



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