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Paganism in South Africa

 

The Birth of public Paganism in South Africa
1995 - 2006

Damon Leff

 

 
 

So much has happened in our national Pagan community since the publication of Penton's first issue in 1995. I don’t think it is possible for there to be a definitive telling of the birth of public Paganism in South Africa without retelling hundreds, if not thousands (1) of individual accounts from the Pagans who themselves were instrumental in achieving this. These stories remain to be told.*

My own piece-meal tale is therefore not in any sense definitive of the momentous ‘awakening’ that took place in South Africa between 1994 and 1996 and which in many respects is still taking place as South African Pagans strive daily to achieve true equality and dignity in a new and free democracy.

My involvement in the birth of the public Pagan movement in South Africa began in 1995 with the publication of Penton Pagan Magazine. The first issue in December 1995 featured articles on the Horned God and Nature, the Gardnerian revival of Wicca and Goddess spirituality. Subsequent issues explored Paganism and Pagan related spiritualities and paths.

I saw through Penton an opportunity to connect self-identified Pagans and an opportunity to break the strangle-hold of Christian apartheid propaganda on the social and religious psyche. It was and still is a platform to educate, inspire and explore ancient and modern Pagan spiritualities and related religious expressions.

In its second year of publication Penton was approached by Donna (Darkwolf) Vos and requested to publish a questionnaire on a proposal to form the first representative Pagan Federation of South Africa. Donna Vos is the author of 'Dancing Under an African Moon' (2002).

The Pagan Federation of South Africa (PFSA) was formed in 1996. Its first Annual National General Conference took place in Cape Town in June 1996 at which Donna Vos was elected its first President. Norman Geldenhuys (Quasimodo) took over as President from Vos in 1999.

The PFSA has never been and is not affiliated with Pagan Federation UK.

Many diverse Pagan groups have been formed since 1996, reflecting the independent spirit of diversity so characteristic of the modern Pagan movement in South Africa. No one person or group may be said to speak for all Pagans in South Africa.

The most visible of these groups include:

The Grove was founded in 1996 in Gauteng by Druid Morgainne Emrhys and Damon Leff. The Grove is an eclectic South African Pagan Mystery School dedicated to the exploration of Pagan gnosis and the practice of neo-Paganism. The order is an initiatory tradition founded on the praxis of ancient and modern Pagan traditions. The Grove is currently administered by High Priestess Shannon McCardle (Tamra).

CORD was founded in Gauteng in 1997 by Mayrek, Rufiki, Era and Spiral. In 2000 CORD began networking nationally with the Pagan community, co-ordinated gatherings with other established Pagan groups and facilitated in the sharing of information and ritual experiences with other groups in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The coven "went public" in 2001 and began publishing the CORD Newsletter. CORD was dissolved in 2003. (see Firefly below)

The Clan of the ShaddowHorse was founded in Gauteng by Carol Nowlan (Epona Moondancer) in 1998. The Clan is no longer in existence but members went on to form the House Ouroborus which has Clans in Cape Town, Durban and the UK.

The Clan of Ysgithyrwyn was founded by Damon Leff (Ariel Damon) in 1998 in the southern Cape. The Hearth of Ysgithyrwyn was formed as a Pagan circle of fellowship and ceremony and is the foundation stone of an eclectic Pagan Coven.

The Lunaguardia Tradition was founded in December 2000 by Aurelius Rex Maximus and Morgause Fontléve in Nelspruit. Lunaguardia is an eclectic coven aimed at personal identification with Divinity and the Solitary path.

The Circle of the African Moon (CAM) was founded in 2001 by Donna Vos, President of the Pagan Federation of South Africa from 1996 to 1999 and author of ‘Dancing under an African Moon ‘ (Struik, 2002). CAM promotes itself as a proactive educational network dedicated to correcting misinformation about Paganism through interaction with the media and engaging in dialogue and interfaith activities.

The Celestine Circle was founded in 2001 by Fey Fand in Kwazulu-Natal.

The House of Ouroborus (THO) was founded by Epona Moondancer and Arias Indlovu in 2001. In 2002 the Temple Of Epona was registered as the first Pagan Church in South Africa. The House of Ouroborus has continued to adapt with time and aims to remain a useful entity to the South African Pagan Community

In 2002 the Correlian Nativist Church (CNC) was launched in South Africa with a visit from Ed Hubbard, founder of the American Correllian Nativist Tradition. A number of Correllian Temples have been formed in Gauteng and the Western Cape since 2002.

The Pagan Freedom Day Movement was founded on 11.11.2003 through the cooperative efforts of the Pagan Federation of South Africa, CORD, The Grove, Lunaguardia, The House of Ouroborus and other non-alligned Pagans. The Pagan Freedom Day initiative was launched to facilitate an annual national and regional Pagan celebration of 10 years of Religious Freedom in South Africa on Freedom Day 27 April 2004. In January 2004, this initiative was formerly chartered as the Pagan Freedom Day Movement (PFDM).

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) was founded by Damon Leff in 2004 as a Pagan human rights activist alliance. In 2006 Sapra was reformed as a democratically constituted body with an elected executive. The Alliance was constituted to promote the guaranteed liberties and freedoms enshrined for all South African Pagans in the Bill of Rights, Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996), and to assist South African Pagans, whose constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms have been infringed due to unfair discrimination, to obtain appropriate redress.

The Clan of Kheper Temple was formed by the Rev Raene Adams (PFI SA Western Cape) in Cape Town in 2005. The Clan of Kheper is a Temple of the Correllian Nativist Tradition dedicated to the study of Correllian Philosophy and Training in the Correllian degree's of Clergy. CNT is not associated with CNCI.

The South African Pagan Council (SAPC) was formed in December 2006 by Luke Martin and Morgause Fontleve.

Non-Pagan press and media coverage on Paganism and Witchcraft since 1996 has been fairly positive but largely sensationalist and stereotypical. No serious public debate or discourse has taken place between Pagans and members of other faiths in the public media or press. Public discourse on the subject of contemporary Paganism in South Africa is thus still largely preconceived and inaccurate. Media headlines like “Today the Witches flew into Parliament” relegate important reported news on Paganism and Pagans to the realm of the imaginary and only serve to reinforce public disbelief in the credibility of Pagans and of Paganism as a credible religious minority worthy of more than amusing or mocking attention. There are always exceptions to the rule.

Many new South African Pagan newsletters have also appeared to network a growing and diverse national community of Pagans seeking to identify with and to shape the emerging identity of South African Paganism as a minority religion.

In honour of Pagans everywhere who have dedicated their time and energy towards the birth of the public and insular Pagan movement in South Africa, I offer, in perfect love and perfect trust, a libation of blessing to your continued well-being.

May all Pagans and Paganism in South Africa thrive and prosper in peace.


* If you have played a part in the birth of the public Pagan movement in South Africa please contact me. I'd like to help you tell your story.

 


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