London, UK - Being serving police officers, they would no doubt leave their sun worshipping, mead drinking and naked dancing for their days off, not to mention the annual practice of leaving food out for the wandering dead.
As of today, however, pagan police have the right to take their festivals as official holiday after their support group won formal recognition from the Home Office.
The Pagan Police Association was announced by co-founder PC Andy Pardy, who, when he is not patrolling the beat in Hertfordshire, is a heathen worshipper of Norse gods including Thor and Odin.
“As of May 2010 the Police Pagan Association officially received the support and endorsement of the Home Office and the National Policing Improvement Agency and is now a recognised Diversity Staff Support Association for serving and retired pagan police officers and staff in the United Kingdom,” said PC Pardy, who despite his interest in hammer-wielding Norse gods still speaks like a police officer giving evidence at a magistrate’s court.
By allowing pagans to set up their own organisation, the Home Office has officially sanctioned a string of wicca and pagan-related holidays — including, naturally, the festival of lactating sheep. Thus, while their fellow officers are spending the summer at Center Parcs, or possibly jetting off to Florida, pagan officers will be drinking mead and dancing naked to celebrate the coming harvest.
The eight main festivals include:
• Samhain — On Hallow’een (October 31), pagans celebrate the dark winter half of the year by leaving food outside for the wandering dead, dressing up as ghosts and casting spells
• Imbolc — the festival of the lactating sheep held on February 2. Pagans pile stones on top of each other and make “priapic wands” to celebrate fertility
• Beltane — on April 30/May 1, pagan and Wicca worshippers celebrate the Sun god. In Celtic times it was an opportunity for unabashed sexuality and promiscuity
• Lammas — On July 31, pagans celebrate harvest time and go on country walks
• Yule — On December 21 pagans go door-to-door singing and burn a yule log to honour Kriss Kringle, the Germanic god of yule.
• Ostra — On March 21 pagans celebrate spring and heap praise on the Sun god
• Litha — or summer solstice. Members drink mead and dance naked to celebrate the harvest
• Mabon — pagans celebrate the autumn equinox with an outdoor feast.
Pagans, including druids, witches and shamans, will have to take their official religious festivals as holiday days, but each day is given the same respect as Christmas for Christians, Ramadan for Muslims and Passover for Jews.
Pagan officers will also be allowed to swear upon their own religion in court now, pledging to tell the truth not before God but by what “they hold sacred”.
One unscientific estimate suggests that there could be as many as 500 pagan officers in the country. In 2001 there were 31,000 pagans in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
“The recognition of paganism is a slow process, but the progress is evident,” said Pc Pardy.
“Officers can, for the first time, apply for leave on the festival dates relevant to their path, and allow them to work on other dates such as Christmas which bear no relevance to them.”
He added: “Pagans do not set themselves above or outside nature, but recognise their place within it.
“The Pagan Police Association understands and promotes our co-dependency with the Earth and therefore promotes the tenets of community and the pursuit of peace and prosperity.”
One officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “When they talk about political correctness gone mad, this is exactly what they are talking about.
“I mean, what has it come to when a cop gets time off so he can sit about making spells or dance around the place drinking honey beer with a wand in his hand?”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.”