Scottish pagans bid to win legal right to worship outside village

Pagans who want to worship at a field outside a Scottish village, are seeking permission from the council.
Pagans celebrate at the Beltane Festival in Edinburgh.
Picture: Jane Barlow 2016Pagans celebrate at the Beltane Festival in Edinburgh.
Picture: Jane Barlow 2016
Pagans celebrate at the Beltane Festival in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow 2016

They need a “certificate of lawfulness” so they follow their beliefs in peace and without fear they are “being watched”.

The group hope to use land on the edge of Monikie, just north of Dundee, for eight seasonal festivals on the Pagan calendar.

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Jan Steel, who owns the land in Angus, has submitted the temporary use application for “outdoor religious gatherings”, but said she felt she had been forced into making the formal planning bid by the authority because of the Pagan link.

“This is a waste of a piece of ground; it has sat for more than 40 years and we wanted to do something with it,” she said.

“The reason I felt I had to go for a certificate of lawfulness was that whenever we were on it for anything we felt like we were being watched.

“Folk get a bit iffy when they see something that is not in the norm.

“If they see 10 or 15 people around a bonfire, holding hands, they get all sorts of ideas.

“If you were to take my belief system completely out of it and I simply met there with my friends for a barbecue, would they have insisted on a certificate of lawfulness?”

Supporting information submitted by her planning agent sets out the eight festivals on the Pagan calendar but Mrs Steel said she doubted more than a handful of gatherings would be held during the year.

She said there is a core of Pagan followers in the Tayside and Fife area, but many continue to keep their beliefs private to avoid controversy.

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“A lot of Pagan people don’t actually come out – it is like you are in the broom cupboard,” added Mrs Steel.

“I am quite happy to come out as being Pagan but there are others who are not and my message would be that anybody is welcome to come along and see how Paganism works.

“It is basically sitting around a campfire telling stories but I didn’t want there to be a problem with this because we didn’t know who might jump out of the bushes.

“I wanted to make sure everything I was doing on a piece of ground I own was above board,” said Mrs Steel.

The planning bid has a determination deadline of April 11.

Pagans have no buildings set aside for worship and ceremonies take place in a variety of outdoor locations.