Scots pagan loses battle to create shrine to forest god Herne

Herne with his steed, hounds and owl, illustrated by George Cruikshank, c.1843. Picture: SWNS

Herne with his steed, hounds and owl, illustrated by George Cruikshank, c.1843. Picture: SWNS

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A pagan is at loggerheads with planning officials after they refused permission for a sacred shrine to an ancient antler-headed forest god.

Andrew Cleghorn has been told his tribute to Herne the Hunter might upset neighbours, including a nearby church.

Mr Cleghorn, from Kirkburn, Scottish Borders, wanted to build an altar, “sacred well” and statue plinth on his eight-acre smallholding. The statue was to be of Herne the Hunter, a horned forest spirit and protector of the land.

Mr Cleghorn, 52, also wanted to create a cattle flotation pool for swimming therapy on his land. This too was rejected, with one councillor – a former vet – observing that cows are “not that keen” on swimming.

Scottish Borders Council rejected the scheme because of its proximity to the protected landscape of Tweed Valley.

Mr Cleghorn took his application to a review meeting in a last-ditch attempt to gain permission. In a submission to the meeting, he told the panel he “is guided by the pagan Earth gods and wishes to create a special place for private worship”.

He added: “The low-impact sacred well and altar/statue stance will be sited at the source of a spring on the hill, with a view over the valley …where private meditation and worship can be carried out without impact to others.”

Mr Cleghorn suggested he was being “persecuted to the point of not being allowed to follow his own religious leanings within his home and small-holding”.

But planning officer Craig Miller warned that the proposed development could compromise the character of the local landscape.

Plans of the shrine published by the council show a 6m raised stone semi-circle flanked by two pillars. Within it there is a 3m semi-circular sacred well set behind a 2m stone statue plinth. Is not clear how large the proposed statue was as it is not included.

Mr Miller also said Mr Cleghorn had failed to give an economic justification for the development or show that it would not have an adverse effect on nearby roads or neighbours.

The panel denied Mr Cleghorn’s appeal, also confirming the refusal of an application by him for a cattle flotation pool “for the therapy and tonal improvement of the stock”.

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