Sunday, November 05, 2006

Glastonbury & Youth 2000

Readers of this blog will know that I drove down to Glastonbury to be present for one day of the recent Youth 2000 retreat there. This week there have been articles in the national press giving the impression that Christians and pagans were involved in some sort of pitched battle. So what really happened?
First of all a little context. It is some fifteen years since I was last at Glastonbury. In that time the pagan element in the town has become much more visible. It is a little disconcerting, but also rather comic to see people wandering round dressed as witches, druids and the like. Tourists on the pagan trail waving 'wands' - branches taken from trees and bushes waited patiently while we finished our prayers on Glastonbury Tor. Those attending the Youth 2000 Retreat were told by the organisers not to go into the shops. Of course you didn't have to go in to see what some of them were selling: cauldrons, spells and all sorts of parephanalia more at home at a Hogwarts set. I said it was comic, and it was, but there was also something sinister. Some people were clearly put out that we were present in such large numbers in 'their town'. When I went into a local pub for lunch (wearing my collar) I was first told that the kitchen was 'closed'. It wasn't. It still had another hour to go...
What of the young lad who was arrested? He wasn't on the Youth 2000 retreat. He is a member of the Travelling Community and had come with his wife, who is expecting their second child, to Glastonbury. It seems that while we were up on the Tor he and his wife had gone into one of the pagan shops and, surprised at what he saw, asked in a none too subtle way, why they were selling spells and weren't they evil things? This led unsurprisingly to a confrontation with the owner who wanted them to leave her shop but also took photographs of them. If I were a vendor of spells, I wouldn't take a photograph of a Traveller and his heavily pregnant wife...
The police came. He was arrested and carted off to be processed for an on-the-spot fine(£80) and his wife was taken to the Church - which is where I met her, petrified that her baby had been "cursed by a witch". I was still with her when her husband was dropped off by another policeman who didn't 'want to get involved' but said 'I wouldn't have arrested him'.
Later that evening I met the arresting officer and asked why the Traveller had been arrested when he claimed that he had been abused for being a Catholic and other youngsters had said similar things. The answer? 'I had a complaint from the owner of the shop which I investigated. I haven't had any other complaints from the Catholics. If I do receive a complaint I will investigate it'. So that's okay then...
What about the pagans complaining that they were 'pelted with blessed salt' during the Blessed Sacrament Procession. Sadly I had already gone back to the parish so I don't know what happened there. Traditionally being sprinkled with blessed salt is a sign of protection against evil. I guess whoever did it, Traveller or otherwise, couldn't have realised how utterly terrifying it must have been to the pagans.
The truth is that at one level this was a non-event. The young people got on with praying in the Church, on the Tor, and during the Blessed Sacrament procession. But at another level the Glastonbury retreat has its own significance. The presence of such a large number of exuberant, young Catholics in a town re-defining itself as the home of 'ceramic green men' and the 'Realm of Faerie' can only be an embarassment its pagan occupants would rather not have to put up with.


Tom said...

Perhaps people should make a habit of visiting Glastonbury to perform dangerous rituals, like saying the Rosary, more often.

Catherine Fearnley said...

Dear Fr. Stephen,
It seems a shame that religion by both pagans and catholics alike as well as other denominations is being used to start arguments, rows, wars etc. I agree with what Tom has said maybe more people should be in the habit of going to Glastonbury to pray the rosary or the Lords Prayer. Everybody should be allowed to practice whatever religion they like providing they are not hurting others.

The gentleman who was arrested for asking such a simple question should be awarded a medal.

I will soon be a convert to RC having been a Pagan for so many years but I have seen that Christianity is the only true way to Happiness or should be if it is practices correctly and faithfully.

Catherine Fearnley

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Catherine
Congratulations on deciding to become a Catholic. Pope John Paul was a great defender of religious liberty. I don't think we need trouble ourselves too much about witches and worlocks - as Christians our task is to drown evil in an abundance of good. We should keep praying for the poor old pagans of Glastonbury!

Catherine Fearnley said...

Dear Fr. Stephen,
Thank you for your kind words of support.

I entirely agree with you. Paganism is not evil if it is in the right hands although naturally it can be like any religion I guess. When I was a Pagan, I found myself really miserable most of the time and I was unhappy.

Now that I've started going to Church again, I'm a lot happier (well most of the time anyway), a lot calmer person and definately feel the need for God in my life.

The time I realized that this was where I wanted to be was half way through the Maunday Service. I don't know what came over me but it was as if a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I have not looked back since. Thanks to the kind support of my Priest and the Congregration of our Church. It's made me feel part of a community rather than being on my own, and I've made lots of new friends.

I look forward to hopefully being able to comment more on your blog.

Best wishes, Catherine Fearnley

Fr Stephen said...

Hi Catherine
Thanks for your comments. What you say about being unhappy as a pagan is interesting. The person creating problems for Y2K in Glastonbury strikes me as being deeply unhappy and trying to fill an inner emptiness with 'paganism'.
I am always happy to receive comments on this blog, so don't give up! It's good to hear from you.
Fr Stephen

Catherine Fearnley said...

Dear Fr. Stephen,
Thank you for your kind comments,rather than post on your blog would you be kind enough to email me directly. I know that you are busy but I'd really appreciate it as I really don't want to clog your blog up with general discussion when it is a blog for promoting Priesthood which in itself is special vocation and takes a special person to do this. But I will certainly post on relevant general topics such as this.

To be honest I don't think that Paganism does feel you with spiritual happiness, you cannot do this with Paganism, the only way is to do this is try and be closer to Christ. I find that going on Retreats also help as you have the peace and tranquility to do this. My favourite retreat is Ampleforth but I guess this is going off topic slightly.

I will close for the moment but look forward to either posting on here or reading your emails. Either way will be fine. God Bless,
Catherine Fearnley

NB: I very much enjoyed our Latin Mass last night, we are lucky enough to have a Priest who is able to do this and we try to attend the Latin Mass as much as possible as well as attending every Sunday.

I do like your blog by the way it gives an interesting outlook in the Catholic community.


I think you need to go round some of the shops for yourself and ask them what happened. There WAS intimidation going on by some of your nice young Christians.