Paganism encompasses a wide range of ritual practices and is best described as a group of religions and spiritual traditions that are based on a reverence for nature. Like Hinduism there is no single founder, scripture or religious philosophy but most pagans believe in the divine character of the natural world, hence Paganism often being described as an “Earth religion”.
In Denny Bradbury’s second novel, “Borvo II”, the healer Borvo often finds his pagan past at odds with the trend of Christianity in the 9th century in the Kingdom of West Sussex but there are many within his village that rely upon certain rituals and beliefs to guide them through the difficult times.
According to the 2011 census almost 57,000 people in England and Wales identify themselves as Pagan which makes Paganism the largest non-mainstream religion and whilst twelve centuries ago the people of Borvo’s village had a general sense of unease and suspicion when it came to welcoming strangers into their village, there was also a belief in certain rituals and spirits that could aid, help, curse or assist in whatever particular problems they were facing at the time.
In Chapter Nine, ‘Seith makes amends’, when Seith queries with his mother why she did not tell him about his father she talks of how she always knew that Seofon would come back one day “..I sought the advice of the wise woman beyond the hill. She cast her runes and told me with great conviction that he would come back and claim you. I believed her….Shame really, she was beaten out of her living and has not been seen since. They do say she cursed those that hurt her and two of them have had bad luck walk beside them since that very day”…
The turning to other worldly spirits is also in evidence in Chapter Fourteen ‘Gwynne and Liliflead’ when Gwynne, the wife of Cedric the freed slave and companion to Borvo and Seofon during their journey through Wales, gives birth prematurely to a baby girl. The three youngsters, Durwynm Eadmund and Aenis are all deeply affected by the helplessness of Gwynn’e situation and Denny writes of how their mother Sunny “..told them to go out to the orchard, pick blossom from their favourite tree and send a wish to the highest spirit they could name and ask for help. After this they were to go to the stream and throw the blossom bough into the water. This she said would help the baby in this life or the next. Whatever her fate the little baby needed their love to guide her.” Durwyn is the first to speak when the three children go to the stream and throw their boughs into the water, saying “ To the god of my father and my mother, I ask that Gwynne and the baby are made well. The blossom on the bough help them live their lives with fruitful labour.”
Borvo himself, whenever needing guidance or inspiration, always looks to his pagan river god of healing, after who he is named and in Chapter Fifteen ‘Borvo finds solace from the past’ when he is seeking the answers as to how best to integrate Mairwen and Yssild into the village community, instead of being visited by his god he is visited by the spirit of his mother who offers to help him by saying he must listen to what his heart tells him. When Borvo says “I have need of you now, the way is strewn with trouble”, his mother replies “Your heart Borvo, your destiny is in your hands. Take it and be true to who you are.”
A message – whether it be from spirits past or present; those closest to us in this lifetime or from a mystical god we never see – is one that stands the test of time today.