Pagan Dawn, formerly The Wiccan, is the journal of the UK's Pagan Federation, and has been published since 1968. Its current editor, Christina Oakley, has recently sent her publication to the US to start an exchange of information between Pagans on both sides of the Atlantic. I have always heard that American and British Paganism are quite different in flavor: ours a larger and more open movement, theirs more closely guarded in smaller groups; ours eclectic, theirs more solidly planted in native tradition; ours a constitutional right; theirs more dearly won. With this in mind, Pagan Dawn is a fascinating read. Its articles and regular features evoke an "old world" essence that just isn't present in the American Pagan movement though most of us yearn for it.
The text reads in a crisp three column layout with few illustrations and spare title treatments. This gives the feel of a clean density of information with lots to read. While some people might feel overwhelmed with the volume of information, I like having plenty to read and to come back to.
Pagan Dawn's past issues have featured an interview with Alexandrian witch Maxine Sanders, feature articles on the evolution of the Pagan movement in Britain with views from such noted Pagans as Frederic Lamond, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, and Caitlin Matthews, Samhain as celebrated in Ireland, and an article on Pagan parenting. The continuing series on Folklore with Pagan Roots is fascinating. In his article "Ireland's Lughnasad Today," Ivor Davies writes of one of the oldest public Lughnasad festivals still heldin Killorglin, Co. Kerry, Ireland on August 10th through 12th. Davies's description of this festival is marvelous: the catching and crowning of a wild goat as King Puck, Market Day filled with the buying and selling of tools, horses, and cattle, the call to the people to enjoy the freedom "to act the goat" while the goat "acts as king." To hear descriptions of local British "pagan" celebrations gives us a glimpse into the possible origins of our own practices.
Two pieces in last year's Lammas issue, one on the fertility shrine at Sheppey and the other about midsummer rites at Avebury, made me long for such places in this country. "Midsummer at Avebury" opens with an account of the desecration of stones at Avebury on midsummer eve. Vandals had painted unintelligible "graffiti-like symbols" on eight of the large stones; Glastonbury Tor had been similarly vandalized on the same evening. The article expresses the concern of British Pagans for their national heritage of sacred sites and about the conflicts and controversies surrounding public access to these sites. With the current dismay, even in this country, about the planned Stonehenge theme park, British Pagans' attitudes to their sacred sites is educational, and is reminiscent of Native American struggles to preserve and use nationally co-opted sites sacred to Indians in this country.
Past issues of Pagan Dawn have other lovely tidbitsa funny page of "how many Pagans/Druids/Alexandrians/etc. does it take...?" jokes, reviews of Pagan websites, and a section on news bites for British Pagans. The classified ad section includes a large listing of Pagan moots that's a lot of fun to read: the Maidstone moot at the Thirstly Pig; the Twickenham moot at the Eel Pie Pub; the Barnet moot at The Moon Under Water. These listings make me truly rejoice in at least some of our differences.
Pagan Dawn gives a thorough, informative, and entertaining view of British Paganism. It's enlightening to learn how American and British Pagans are different, and comforting to know how we are alike.
Reviewed by Myrriah Lavin
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