“FaithS in Suffolk”.



Imagine you are a Pagan

The Pagan Roots of Ipswich

Pagan Festivals

Druid Festivals

Heathen Festivals

Roman Festivals

Wiccan Festivals

Serving our Community

The Goddess Within

Pagan Woman & Sexuality

Pagan Women in Worship, Family & Work



You follow the polytheistic or pantheistic religions
of the ancient world,
in ways adapted to modern life.

You see the divine in everything around you,
especially in nature.

You believe each tree, rock, river and creature
has its own spirit.

You are called ‘Pagan’ (‘peasant’)
after the country-people
who first practised your way of life.

Your holy times are determined mainly by the tides
of the moon, sun and earth,
and are celebrations of the changing seasons.

You like to worship outdoors,
in quiet places like forest groves
and lonely shorelines.

Your religious teachings derive mainly
from a study of nature.

You have no holy book,
but you study ancient mythology,
seeing it as a rich source of wisdom.

You try to live in harmony with nature,
and avoid causing harm to other creatures.





The area we now call Ipswich has been inhabited for a very long time, for the most part by polytheists following the old gods and goddesses. Our local museum includes a gold stater coin minted by the nation of the Eceni Magni, whose most famous leader was the warrior queen Boudica. The coin was found in Ipswich and shows the head of an unnamed figure, clean shaven and with flowing hair suggestive of a woman (though feasibly it might be that of a young boy). Part of the design may be an ear of corn, whilst an elongated abstract design with hooked ends that might be a farming implement. Whilst it may depict the head of a tribal leader, it is perhaps more likely to show one of the ancient goddesses of the fields and fertility. Other Eceni coins depict horses, boars and wolves ~ animals held sacred by many British tribes during the Iron Age. Ipswich is also famed for the discovery of the Belstead hoard of intricate golden torcs, worn by chieftains and druids as a sign of their service to Gods and tribe ~ such a deposit implying that this was once an area of considerable spiritual significance to the British tribes.


The museum also has a small jet panel from the later Romano-British period, excavated from Castle Hill, showing the god Atys. This deity was primarily worshipped in Phrygia (the modern day Balkans) and associated with vegetation cycles. A handsome youth beloved of the goddess Kybele, he was killed by a boar. Every year his death and resurrection were symbolically re-enacted in late March by eunuch priests carrying a sacred pine tree, felled and decorated for the occasion. Whether the person bringing the worship of Atys to our area was actually a eunuch remains unknown! The Roman Empire brought numerous cultures to Britain, with an Egyptian temple on the site where St Paul’s Cathedral now stands.

In nearby Capel St Mary a small bust of the demigod Antinous was unearthed, dating from the 2nd century. Antinous was the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, but tragically drowned in the Nile in the year 130 CE. Inspired by various visionary experiences, the grieving emperor declared the dead youth to have been translated into a demigod and started a cult that spread all over the Roman Empire ~ including to our own town, it would seem. Love between people of the same sex was widely considered a matter of personal taste amongst most ancient pagan cultures, and not an issue for moralising or condemnation.

The Wuffinga dynasty arrived in Suffolk in the late 5th century, bringing Swedish Heathenry with them. The most famous son of that line is, of course, King Raedwald whose tomb goods draw tourists and historians from all over the world. One of the most impressive of the treasures is the garnet-laden image of Odin, leader of the gods, and his two wolves. The tomb also contained an ancient British stag-mounted sceptre, an antique even in Raedwald’s day, and an Egyptian wand depicting the wolf god Wepwawet ~ Britain remained a vital, multicultural land even after the withdrawal of Rome. Raedwald himself embraced Christianity in later life, yet kept altars to the Gods of his heritage and those worshipped by his wife, who never converted. Duality of faith was common to a culture which accepted the notion of many deities.

The glass beads and Anglo-Saxon keys reflect ones found in the graves of a number of women buried in the Heathen Cemetery under what is now Hadleigh Road. These women would have been familiar with the mythology of the goddess Frige, the High Wife of Woden, one of whose symbols is the bunch of keys held by the chatelaine.  The strings of beautiful beads reflect the considerable craftsmanship of these ancient peoples. It may well be that when Gippeswyk was founded by Heathens as a trading community, a temple to the Queen of the Gods was built for daily worship. It is highly likely that the Wuffinga dynasty had a direct involvement in the creation of our town. The conversion of Ipswich was a slow process, and partly influenced by the insistence of some continental trading partners who would only purchase such things as Ipswich Ware pottery from Christian craftsmen.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn 3 Even though Ipswich became mostly Christian by the 8th century, interest in and practice of pagan mysticism seems to have continued and enjoyed sporadic revivals. Magical practices continued throughout the centuries in Ipswich, as in the rest of the country.  In 1795 the Ancient Order of Druids held meetings at the Sun Inn (now a shop on St Stephen’s Lane). Throughout the 1700s and 1800s fascination with Celtic, Egyptian and Scandinavian mysticism flourished across Britain and Europe, with numerous Lodges, Orders and groups forming all over. Paganism has never truly gone away, and is now actively represented by organisations such as the Ipswich Pagan Council which has been going since 1994.

A talk delivered by Robin Herne at the Mayor’s Celebration, 2012




Below is a small sample of some of the festivals celebrated by various traditions. Many of these festivities do not have fixed calendar dates, but are geared to happen in response to variable natural events ~ the flowering of certain trees, the time the corn is ready to harvest, the flooding of a particular river etc.


The Ancient Celts celebrated a number of minor festivals, usually called feile (singular) / feillean (plural). They had 4 major festivals each year.

Samhain - (early November) the New Year and the start of winter, also a time to honour the spirits of the dead.

Imbolc - (early February) the festival of Brigit, goddess of the sacred fires and agricultural concerns generally. This time of year marks the lambing season.

Beltane - (early May) the festival marking the start of summer, when great bonfires are kindled to honour Belinus the sun god.

Lughnasadh - (early August) the festival marking the start of the harvest, a time to give thanks for the crop brought forth by the farming goddess Tailtiu.


The various Germanic and Scandinavian tribes had a number of festivals, called blots (singular) / blotar (plural.) Some of the more widely held ones are given here.

Modranecht - (midwinter solstice) marked the start of the year for some tribes, a time to honour the mother goddesses and ask their blessings upon pregnant women.

Eostreblot - (late March or into April) honours the goddess of spring, flowers and new life ~ after whom the Anglo-Saxons named one of their months

Winters Night (usually late October or early November) marks the beginning of winter, frequently a time for honouring the dead and communing with nature spirits. Also called Alfablot, Disablot or Freyrsblot.


The Romans also had countless festivals. A small number of them are given here.

Matronalia (March 1st) held at the start of the New Year to honour the goddess Juno, in her role as matron of mothers everywhere.

Lupercalia (February 15th) held in honour of Lupercus, to ask for his blessings on the flocks and for the granting of fertility. Also a time for honouring the Great Wolf Lupa who suckled the twins Romulus & Remus, who later founded the Roman Empire.
Floralia (April 27th to May 2nd) a long festival to mark the beginning of spring, honouring Flora the goddess of flowers.

Saturnalia (December 17th to 23rd) a long midwinter party, at which it was common to give gifts of candles, to honour Saturn, a patron of agriculture.


Wicca is a modern form of Paganism, largely inspired by the writings of Gerald Gardner who lived in the early part of the 20th Century. Wiccans have 8 major festivals that they call Sabbats.

Halloween (31st October) marks the start of the New Year, and is a time for honouring the dead.

Yule (midwinter solstice) is seen as the time where the sun god is reborn.

Candlemas (1st February) is seen as the early signs of spring, and is a time when the Virgin Goddess is honoured.

Eostre (spring equinox) is the full flood of spring, when the Flower Maiden is honoured.

May Day (1st May) is seen as the start of summer, and is the time when the marriage of the Earth Mother to the Sky Father is celebrated.

Litha (summer solstice) is the celebration of the Sun God at his peak.

Lammas (1st August) marks the beginnings of the harvest tide.

Modron (autumn equinox) marks the end of the harvest tide, and is a time of Thanks-giving. Some traditions also celebrate the harvest of the first fruit of the orchards.




The Pagan community of Ipswich is made up from a myriad of smaller communities, of which the Heathens are one. We derive our teaching from the Eddas which are the ancient stories of the old Scandinavian Gods of our faith. Enshrined within the Eddic works is 'The Havamal', the words of Odin that advise humanity on matters of conduct and ethics.

The Havamal would have been familiar to the Heathen founders of Ipswich, probably the driving text behind the first laws of this our town. On matters of service, 'The Havamal' is still a valid reference point Firstly, we are advised that each of us has a part to play in creating and improving the community within which we live. Regardless of ability or status we are duty bound to contribute:

The lame rides a horse, the maimed drives the herd, the deaf man is brave in battle

Everyone's contribution is valid, no matter how great or humble its content. We are duty bound to ensure that everyone is allowed and encouraged to exercise their right to contribute. We are also advised that our actions should always be with a gladsome heart and never begrudingly given. We should scorn and recoil from those whose actions are purely self-serving.

With regard to government, our Anglo-Saxon forebears would turn to the God Tyr, our God of Justice and Government. It was he who sacrificed his hand for the greater good, saving the world from chaos. This act in itself reminds us that to govern is to serve, and service requires a preparedness to sacrifice of ourselves for the greater good of our community.

If we should find ourselves in a position of power within our community the Havamal advises how we should act:

"A prudent man wields his power in modest measure

With brave men he finds that none is foremost or excels in all things"

'The Havamal' says that listening is a virtue to be valued. Debate in the process of decision making is healthy. Our actions and deeds should be for the common good, never dependent upon mere praise from others.

This advice speaks not only to us in our dealings within our own community, but with our dealings in the greater Community. We believe that by serving our own community well, we are also serving the greater community that is Ipswich.

The Pagan Contribution to the Ipswich Civic Celebration of Community 2006




Why did I become a Pagan and a Witch? by Sue Smith Jennings

For as long as I can remember I have always had a deep love of the natural world. One of my earliest memories is watching baby birds hatch in our garden with my father and twin sister.

My father was a conservationist in the 1950s before it was a popular concept, and many ridiculed his views about man's destruction of the natural world.  My parents ran a village pub.  They were excellent publicans and had high standards which were proven by the number of people who frequented the pub.  My mother and father worked as partners to run the business, both utilizing their individual skills to ensure the public house ran efficiently.  All customers received the same welcome, whatever their culture, including 'tramps', Gentlemen of the Road, Romanies and cultural minorities.  At times this caused my father ridicule from intolerant village regulars, but my father would always stand up for the rights of all. I have carried these views throughout my life.

On reflection I was very lucky as a child for I grew up along with my twin sister in a close immediate and extended family.   My maternal grandparents were both still alive.  My grandfather died 6 years ago at 90 and my grandmother is now 94.  My paternal grandmother lived until I was 15.  There were always cousins, aunts and uncles around.   My sister and I were never short of friends to play with or get into mischief with.   I was always very different from my sister.   She was a pretty little girl in every sense of the word.  I definitely wasn't.  I hated dresses and dolls, enjoyed climbing trees, bike races, and getting dirty, and my mother must have despaired of me frequently, for no pretty dress stayed that way when donned by me!!   I remember frequent rebuffs from her for my wilful behaviour.   But my sister was never short of a champion for I was very proud of her being a twin.   If anyone dared to insult her or hurt her I would rush to her protection without thinking, which again brought conflict with teachers and my parents.   "Stubborn" was given to me for a middle name ‑ a title I was proud of.

From an early age I always went to one of my grandmothers or a very dear elderly friend of the family, Aunt "Bevvi", for encouragement.  They were always more tolerant of my 'wilful' behaviour than my parents, and Bevvi actively encouraged me to follow my instincts and think for myself rather than follow 'the norm';  to be non conformist and question what I did not understand or perceive as just, which has developed within me a deep respect for the older generation.  This eventually led me into my career in Social Services working with older people.

I was married at the age of 17 because it seemed the right thing to do, as I was pregnant. My husband was brought up by his maternal Victorian grandmother who doted on him.   I had two sons.  Surprisingly they have grown up as well adjusted men who are supportive to their partners, looking upon them as equals.   They have a deep love of the natural world and stand up for the rights of all.  My marriage was very difficult, and I tried to conform to the expected mould for 18 years and in the end left to make my own life.

The thing which sustained me through these years, apart from my sons, was my career which began 18 years ago as a Care Assistant in an elderly persons home. Through the help and encouragement of my sons, parents and colleagues I gained experience and qualifications which led me to become a  Social Worker.

As a child and teenager I was a member of a local church choir and Sunday school. As I started to develop my own views I questioned more and more what I perceived as the male dominated principles, and I couldn't conceive why supposed peaceful religions continually argued and fought amongst faiths, and were intolerant of other religions.  I feel our society continually supports a social hierarchy which appears to worship material wealth at the cost of self expression and cultural equality.  In the past I dealt with these issues by becoming a social worker.  For many years my career made me feel I was at least trying to do something on a personal level in some small way to address the balance and assist others.   In recent years this has not fulfilled my desire to help our sick planet and those who occupy it, and this has concerned me more and more.

I then discovered Paganism.  Until recently I had no conception of this religion, except to associate it unjustly with Satanism.  To me the concept of Paganism is the old world religion, a dualistically equal faith working with the cycles of the natural world, in tune with nature and oneself, using the divine forces of the earth to make magic.  The union of my positive, negative, intuitive and logical forces all combined together within the greater sphere that is the Universe.

Within Paganism the previously stated basic beliefs lead to many traditions which branch off.  Therefore each person takes the path which they relate to.  The traditions include Druidism, Wicca, Nordic and Shamanism, and their origins can be found in the annals of prehistory.  I follow the Nordic Path, worshipping the Goddesses and Gods of the Vikings.  That doesn't mean that I worship idols, but what Stewart & Janet Farrar termed "archetypal symbols which are ritual components of the human collective consciousness."  They go on to say "Paganism's basic personification of this ultimately is in its creative polarisation of female and male aspects, as the Mother Goddess and the Father God.

The Goddess represents the formative nourishing synthesizing, intuitive right brain aspects.  The God the fertilising, energising, analysing, intellectual left brain function aspects."  There are aspects of all these qualities within each individual.

In relation to the female the Goddess has three main aspects - the virgin, mother and crone - and within each woman all three exist, personified in the years cycle.

The spring represents the virgin.  A time of purity and promise when the buds are beginning to open, the animals and birds are finding partners, the earth is fresh and green and we plant seeds.

The summer/early autumn is the time of the Mother, when young animals and birds grow, the fruits of the earth swell and ripen to be harvested in the early autumn.

The late autumn/winter is the time of the crone (it is so sad that this term is now so derogatory.)  This is the time of the elder wise woman, and for reflection, rest, preparation and wisdom.

All the aspects are as important as the others and are revered for their differing qualities: the virgin for her purity and youthful vigour, the mother for her child bearing/rearing skills and sexuality, and the crone for her wisdom, knowledge and teaching skills.


Within Pagan belief, sexuality is not seen as a base instinct, sexual activity is divine and should be treated with the reverence it deserves.  Within the Craft you are encouraged to explore your own sexuality in a positive way individually, with your partner or group.  This doesn't mean promiscuity or have anything to do with orgies, but something which is very special.  Sexual energy is very powerful and can be used in a healing capacity if used correctly.  In many cultures, when a woman starts her first menstrual cycle she is looked upon with distaste and is something to be hidden.  In the Pagan religion when a girl has her first period it is a time of celebration for she has become woman.

Woman are viewed as having their own innate powers and energy bringing them closer to the Goddess through their own cycles in a religious perspective.

I am sorry if I disappoint you but it is a myth that witches' covens indulge in orgies of depravity.  The case is just the opposite.  Pagans have a code of ethics and morals which are high, for Pagans believe that every creature is special and should be treated with the highest respect.  It is a Pagan belief that if individuals commit any wrong which may hurt others they will be paid back threefold, an excellent deterrent and one that makes one think twice before committing any misdemeanour.  Our motto is "Do as you will but hurt none."



Within Paganism women are equal to men in many paths and senior within the group (coven or hearth).  Women frequently (in some traditions always) lead the group in worship and teach less experienced members.  Due to the support received within the Pagan community the women are not afraid to voice their beliefs or develop their public speaking skills, and there are many women who are well known public figures who are well respected for their knowledge.   It is felt that both men and women have equal importance within the group, and bring differing qualities, but to make the whole you need all of the components.  Women within the group take their ties of sisterhood very seriously, expecting and giving support to the young.  The Virgin, Mother, and Crone are all equally important and they need each other equally.  This follows through in all Pagan life, both work and home based.  Pagan marriages are a 50/50 commitment.  Pagan men are very supportive towards their partners, encouraging self fulfilment and expression.  The women  are never seen as inferior or undervalued by their partners or group.

Women are encouraged by partners and group to develop their skills, intellectual and creative, in whatever is their chosen field.  All within the hearth or coven, be they male or female, are encouraged to have a specialist role to benefit the group. Teacher, priest, diviner, naturalist, conservationist, musician, storyteller etc are all equally valued.

Parenting is seen as a joint venture with both partners equally involved and taking a dual role, which is interchangeable, assisting the nurturing and encouragement of the young to be caring self-fulfilled adults, in tune with the natural world around them.  They are taught to question in order to gain knowledge and respect for themselves and others.  Our religion is not 'taught' to our young.  They are encouraged to gain as much knowledge as possible about all faiths, to question and to make valid judgements.  When they have formulated their own views they are encouraged to follow them, whichever direction they wish to go.

It is sad to see in our society how undervalued the older citizens are, but in Paganism elders are greatly respected and revered for their life experience and great knowledge.  They are looked upon as the teachers and wise women/men of the group.


Financially you will not find many rich Pagans, for wealth and material possessions aren't as important to them as self fulfilment and care of the planet.  Pagans are aware that money is needed but only to exist on a mundane level.  There aren't many rich Pagans but most of them are happy.

From all that I have written you may think that Paganism is an easy path to tread, but it isn't.  There is much prejudice and misguided fear against us for our beliefs. Our religion dates back to pre‑Christian times, but we are tolerant of other religions, who we believe are seeking the same truths in different ways and with different names.  We are not Devil worshippers, for we do not believe in the devil, so how can we worship him?  We believe that there is a negative and positive side to all creation, and you need both to exist.

It is very hard work to be a Pagan and witch. It involves a great deal of self discipline, study and deep self analysis, and therefore will not suit everyone.  We therefore do not seek converts.  You must be aware of and control the negative side of your nature and channel it and use it for good, and to enhance and develop the positive.  It has been for me an experience that has helped me be aware of ME, and to love myself as well as others.  It has enhanced myself expression and encouraged me to take up crafts I hadn't attempted for many years like art and music. (I'm determined to master that penny whistle!) I am also writing!  I never dreamt I would ever have the courage a year ago to write this!

My faith has taught me to value each stage of my life, for I will soon be classed as the crone when my first grandchild arrives.  I look forward to a time of cherishing and teaching, of love and laughter, and walks in the countryside, passing on my knowledge and love of nature.  So the circle turns and comes back to the baby birds hatching in their nest.

A story extracted from SIFRE’s book - “Finding our way”