Pray teach us, say Pagans
PAGANS ARE campaigning to put their religion - Britain's seventh largest - on the curriculum.
There are nearly 40,000 Pagan worshippers in Britain, according to the last census. But the faith has yet to make it on to the national framework for religious education, which concentrates on the six big religions and humanism.
Morgan Rhys Adams, of the Pagan Federation, which embraces a range of nature-worshipping faiths, said that the inclusion of Paganism was "long overdue".
"This is a multicultural society and it's unfair to ignore one significant group of people," she said. "There are more Pagans than other minority religions mentioned on the syllabus, like Jainism."
The lack of education about Paganism contributed to "fear and ignorance"
about the religion, she said. "The stereotype is wrong. These days you get Pagans in all walks of life, from barristers to doctors and even teachers."
Fiona Edden, a part-time student, has raised her three children as Pagans and would like to see their faith represented at school.
As a co-ordinator of the Durham Pagans, she has logged a petition to the Government on the Downing Street website.
"I feel it's abhorrent that they can't discuss their beliefs openly and I know many Pagan parents feel the same," Mrs Edden said.
Her eldest child, Abbey, 14, raised the issue with her teachers but was told there were no plans to teach the topic.
Mrs Edden feels the school has a duty to acknowledge her daughter's beliefs and religious festivals, as it does with other groups.
Emma Restall-Orr, a spokeswoman for the Druid Network, said: "So many schools, particularly Church of England schools, believe Paganism is anti-Christian, but in fact we share a common history. In addition, Paganism allows children to learn about our heritage and folklore and connect with nature."
Ms Restall-Orr complained that many children of Pagan families still felt unable to discuss their beliefs without being teased. "A curriculum that portrays our celebrations and beliefs as normal is critical," she said.
Adrian Rooke, of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, said: "In some senses Paganism is a persecuted religion. It was actually illegal to be a member of Wicca (Pagan witchcraft) organisations until the 1950s under the 1736 Witchcraft Act."
Schools are required to focus their religious education on Christianity.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has drawn up guidelines suggesting other faiths, including Jainism and Zoroastrianism.
A spokesman for the authority said there were no plans to incorporate Paganism into the national framework.
FOLLOWING THE FAITH
There are nearly 40,000 Pagan followers in England and Wales.
There are many types of Paganism: Wicca, Druidism, Shamanism and Heathenism.
Paganism is based on pre-Christian religious beliefs. Followers honour nature and worship a pantheon of gods and goddesses.
There are eight big Pagan festivals, including Beltane (fire celebration) and the autumn equinox.
Historic sites such as Stonehenge and Farnborough Henge are places of pilgrimage.
Wiccan worshippers subscribe to the Wiccan Rede: "An it harms none, do what ye will."
Followers may wear symbols such as a pentagram or Thor's hammer.
For more information or to contact local speakers visit www.paganfed.org