At the Pagan Parade
When my friend Geraldine Beskin, the witch, who runs the Altlantis Bookshop invited me to attend the Pagan Pride Parade, I knew it was too good an opportunity to miss. From far and wide, emerging from their secret groves and leafy bowers, the pagans converged upon Red Lion Square this weekend. They dusted off their antlers, wove their garlands of green and desported themselves in floaty dresses to meet the morn. Many are old friends who have gathered here annually in this quiet corner of the old square in Holborn for the past fourteen years to celebrate pagan rites, and they were eager to embrace the spirit of the occasion, joining hands and frolicking mischievously in a long line weaving in and out of the crowd to the rhythm of the tabor.
On my arrival, I had the honour of shaking hands with the druid of Wormwood Scrubs, attired in an elegant white robe adorned with a fabulous green beetle. “I studied theology but I lost my faith,” he confessed, raising his eyebrows for dramatic effect, “but in 1997, I was rehoused next to Wormwood Scrubs and there was a crescent-shaped line of trees outside my house and – for some reason I don’t understand – I went out to greet the dawn and discovered I had Druidic tendencies.” Next I met Carol, an ethereal soul with ivy woven in her long flowing hair, in an ankle length emerald crushed velvet dress and eau de nil cape. “I feel so tremendously privileged to know that I am not on my own, that I am loved and protected.” she said, clasping her hands, casting her eyes towards the great trees overarching the square and smiling affectionately. Leaning against the railings nearby was Vaughan – naked from the waist and swaggering a pair of horns at a jaunty angle, he was eager to show me his panpipes. “I love Nature,” he declared, beaming, “I keep my bees and chickens and I grow herbs. I love collecting my eggs and I make my own remedies – it’s such a natural way of life…”
The cheery atmosphere was pervasive, but I was a little alarmed by the police van and officers placed strategically around the square, conjuring visions of all the pagans getting arrested for misrule and ending up in a cell. But Geraldine Beskin reassured me the police were there to stop the traffic to allow the pagans’ free passage through Holborn and up Southampton Row to Russell Square. “Once upon a time we wouldn’t be allowed to appear in public, but these days we are more accepted.” she revealed, flashing her sparkling eyes,“The council have given us their approval, now they realise we are not devil worshippers.” This year Geraldine Beskin was leading the Pagan Pride Parade in partnership with Jeanette Ellis who started it fourteen years ago, the first of its kind in the world. And when the heavenly orb reached its zenith these twin goddesses gave the nod to the officers, stepping forth regally as the police motorbikes roared into life to escort the procession of ladies in flowing gowns and gentlemen with horns protuberant.
They were a joyous sight with their coloured robes and long hair drifting on the breeze, as they advanced up Southampton Row and streamed into the gardens of Russell Square where they circled the fountains. Before long, an audacious red-haired maiden in a blue satin gown was prancing barefoot in the water to the beat of a drum, then a dog and other pagans followed to enjoy a good humoured splashing match. “We’re celebrating male energy and the sap rising at this time of the year,” Geraldine explained to me in delight, as we surveyed the watery mayhem erupting before our eyes.
Geraldine Beskin - “the council have given us their approval, now they realise we are not devil worshippers.”
J.T.Morgan, the Druid of Wormwood Scrubs – “for reasons I don’t understand I went out to greet the dawn.”
Jeanette Ellis started the Pagan Pride Parade fourteen years ago.
Vaughan Wingham -”I’m proud to be pagan”
Carol Mulcahy - “I feel tremendously privileged…”
Pagans celebrate in Russell Square.
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