The Old Way and the Old Bill

Wiccan Rede * Spring 1990 by Bertilak

When Elen (the Pagan Federation membership secretary) received my application to join the Pagan Federation a few months ago, there was one thing in my introductory letter she hadn’t come across before – I was a police officer, of all things.

After all, everyone knows that policemen are normal, conformist, conservative types who like things orderly and simple. They certainly don’t go around joining weird religious cults and being hippies, which is how someone outside both the Force and Federation would probably view matters.

Elen pointed out that I might find my job and beliefs in conflict at some time, and this is an expansion of my reply, illustrating how I view the two together. This, I would hope, might show there is less of an ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ divide between groups in society than some would have us believe.

First, there is no bar on a police officer’s religion. There is nothing in the rule-book to say I can’t be pagan, although if I were in the Manchester force under james Anderton I would probably have been burnt at the stake by now! Actually, paganism is quite apt for the police, since our Oath of Service is made not to parliament or Prime Minister, nor to the Church, but to the Queen, who as monarch of Britain is, in pagan terms, the direct embodiment of the land – so really our loyalty is to the land itself.

Quite a romantic notion in the face of modern life? Perhaps, but young policemen are quite a romantic, principled lot when they join. Several of my colleagues admit to joining because of the ‘White Knight’ syndrome. No one who joins for the pay will stick it – the trick is to avoid becoming cynical or embittered as some older officers can. “From my perspective ‘White Knight’ is a good analogy: traditionally the monarch had his loyal warriors -his knights or house carls who answered only to him, and were the enforcers of his law and peace – a job I have inherited today.

Elen told me: “As a police officer you are a representative in our society of the archetypal force represented by the planet Mars.” I’m not sure that a war god such as Mars is appropriate. Rather, let us say a force representative of a power that will bring to justice one member of society for the greater benefit of the whole, such as Herne – the Guardian of the Woods, who will slay one member of his herd, so the others will live. This ‘good swineherd’ figure seems a recurring one in Celtic myth, and the policeman’s totem animal has long been the pig – our symbol as swineherds?

As to the question of my job conflicting with my beliefs, I can only say that this is going to affect every officer at some time in his career, religiously, politically or whatever. My ‘belief’ is to remain true to myself, which means keeping my oath to serve the law impartially. I can’t envisage coming into serious conflict with any true pagan, although in the legends this seems another popular theme – the warrior who must confront his friends, like it or not – Lancelot and Gawain or Cuchulainn and Ferdiad being good examples.

I’m not trying to prove any particular argument or theory her in my ramblings, just to show that because an organisation wears a uniform, it doesn’t mean we have uniform minds. I may not sound the average policeman, but is there one? After all, the Pagan Federation exists in part to dispel the myth of the ‘average’ pagan as some ’80’s hippie. So the next Mr. Plod you meet might even be me, although you probably wouldn’t realise it – the Chief has turned down my application to graft antlers onto my helmet!

Reprinted with permission from The Wiccan, Samhain 1989, (number 94). We’re very happy to print an article like this: some pagans are very negative towards policemen and army personnel joining the Craft, and this article may give them food for thought!

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