One of the things I love to do is visit churches and cathedrals. Amongst the pews of a Christian church is not the obvious place to find a Pagan but I find them quite compelling.
I have a love of history which makes England the perfect place for me to live. With the arrival of Christianity in the 1st century A.D. there’s probably no other invasion which has had such an impact on our history. By the 10th century the rich land owners were beginning to build chapels on their land so the common folk could have the services of a priest. However, the Lords who owned the land wanted to ensure their new investments would be used so what better location to build a church than on Pagan sacred ground? The general public were not all for the new Christian faith and they held on to their Pagan practices so the new religion swallowed the old up.
The workmen who were used to build the churches were not all converted to Christianity, at least inwardly, and they took the advantage of incorporating Pagan symbolism into the masonry and carpentry. Green men, Sheela-na-gig figures, pentacles and a wide collection of mythological beasts can all be found. There are hundreds of churches scattered around the country which were constructed during this time so with a careful eye you can usually spot something which would look perfectly at home on a Pagan altar. Later additions to churches and cathedrals are gargoyles and grotesques, which I find fascinating, but also seem to also look out of place on a church.
Last month I visited Winchester Cathedral and felt perfectly at home there. In one section of the building (it’s huge) there were stone, ornamental carvings which looked exactly like pentacles and, at the front, an extremely large Christmas tree was on display. And, as you know, a tree or log at Yule is an old Pagan tradition
Church graveyards also have an interest for me as I have a fondness for the paranormal. From a quiet village church to a busy cathedral, there is usually a local ghost story attached to a graveyard (and sometimes even the church itself). And nearly every abbey or ruined monastery has it’s resident spirit. Just in my local area I’ve been out looking for the ghost of Florence Nightingale and a wandering monk! It’s not really surprising that paranormal activity attaches itself to a church as many were built on ley lines.
In the UK, the church doesn’t have the appeal or the power it once had. So it’s not unusual to visit a church and be the only (living) soul there. And in our crowded, bustling society how many places can give you solitude and peace?
So next time you pass a church, especially if you live in England, don’t automatically pass it by because it’s a building not associated with your faith. The building itself might sit on ancient Pagan holy ground, the architecture could have hidden Pagan symbolism and it’s a good place to hunt ghosts!