The search to find other Pagans in Scotland - Jean Fowler
I was brought up in the Church of Scotland, but there was something that didn’t quite resonate with me - being in a building - I liked nature and read more about nature beliefs. There wasn’t an awful lot of material around on Paganism because that was the early 70’s. But I continued searching and then started to find books that resonated with me, about Paganism and Wicca. By this time I’d met my husband to be, so we talked about our beliefs, but we thought “there can’t be anyone else out there who believes the same”. I read this book [about Wicca] which had an address which you could write to to be put in touch with Pagan groups… we started to realise that there were other people out there. We wrote off to this chap called Alex Sanders, who was involved in Wicca at that time, and we eventually got put in touch with a group around 1972.
At this time there was no-one else practicing in Edinburgh, so we had to travel to Dundee to see other Pagans. Before going to Dundee we would just go on walks in the countryside, and revere Spring or sit in awe of nature: it wasn’t until we met the group that we were able to formulate a form of worship. Our first experience of the group was scary and overwhelming. At this time press coverage of Paganism was very sensational [and inaccurate], portraying them through old stereotypes such as ‘devil-worshippers’. Meeting the group in Dundee for the first time was nerve wracking as you don’t know who you’re going to meet and whether it’s bone fide or not. We first met this very smart gentleman with a huge presence, we were going to his place, and he said “did you know that there was bodies washed up [on the beach] the other day?” We thought what have we got ourselves into- will that be us?! But he was just making small talk! So I suppose it was all very cloak and dagger at that time, because people were very guarded and they didn’t want - for the sake of their jobs and various other things - they didn’t want other people to know.
It was a very private thing; getting to know somebody [Pagan] was difficult. That was why the Pagan Federation formed, so that people could write to an organisation, and they could be put in touch with either groups or other people that had the same belief. At the end of 1991 we were asked to be regional coordinators for the Pagan Federation. We started to think: “how do we find some way of getting lots of Pagans together?” So we started doing this conference in the Pleasance, in ’92, which has kept going ever since.