Question of the Week: Heroes, Saints, and Worthies

A happy and delightful and fertile Beltaine to all of you!

Who knows if I’ll be able to do this on a Sunday afternoon as I used to do, at least for the next little while, since I’m going to be on the move rather a lot in the next two months. I’ve just moved out of the house in Hamilton, and all my possessions are in storage at my parent’s house in Elora. Tomorrow I’m going to Switzerland and Italy for two weeks. And after that… well, let the winds blow high, blow low, oh…

So this week’s question messes with your reality by appearing on a Friday.

While in Montreal last weekend (see, I told you I’ve been moving around a lot!) I had a very interesting conversation with Judika Illes, author of some very large books on spellcraft. (I do mean large. One of them, “The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft” is over 1000 pages.) One of the things we talked about briefly was a future writing project she has in mind: an encyclopedia of saints, which would include pagan saints.

An interesting idea indeed. It seems to me there is already a small but growing trend in the movement to treat certain historical people as important fore-runners, whose accomplishments and life-stories are sufficiently inspirational that people treat them as saints, even if they don’t use the word ‘saint’. Judika mentioned Boadicca almost right away, as a pagan woman who many contemporary pagan women admire. I’ve put this question in casual conversation to friends a few times, and some of the names that pop up first are the ones you would expect: Uncle Gerald and Doreen, for instance. Other names that were frequently mentioned included Hypatia, Pericles, and Joan of Arc. A friend of mine who is a Thelemite said that in the OTO, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is considered an important saint.

Many communities and even whole nations already have something of a tradition of honouring the nation’s “Worthies”; this apparently begins in the middle ages with Jacques de Longuyon, who in 1312 drew up a list of Nine Worthies, historical or mythical people who exemplified the ideals of chivalry. Contemporary governments, or individuals who are rich enough, will sometimes build monuments to its best war heroes. Canada’s Fifteen Valiants include Isaac Brock, Teyendenega (a.k.a. Joseph Brant), and Laura Secord. An excellent collection of Worthies indeed, although I would have included Billy Bishop, the RCAF pilot who shot down the Red Baron.

Who are the worthies for the contemporary pagan movement? If you had to name a few worthies for our movement, who would be on your list? Why do you consider such people worthy of being called ‘worthies’? There doesn’t have to be nine of them, and they don’t have to be soldiers or military people. But they have to be historical people, and they have to be dead. 🙂

I’ll pass on the results to Judika, to help with her research.

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