Unconventional gas extraction, glossed by activists and journalists alike under the umbrella-term of fracking, is currently dominating UK green politics. Despite assurances from both industry and government that fracking is safe, even vital; many people remain dubious about the prospect. Reports of significant environmental damage and lacklustre economic benefits from parts of the world where the technology is commonplace are informing a growing grassroots movement against its presence in the UK. The fact that Caroline Lucas, an MP for the Green Party, has been arrested for protesting against exploratory drilling at Balcombe in Sussex indicates not only the scale of the police crackdown, but also the importance of what is becoming a keynote issue in British politics.
One community that has been particularly vocal in opposing unconventional gas extraction has been Britain’s Pagans. Although – as with any political issue – there is a spectrum of views within the Pagan community, a great many Pagans are involved in protesting against fracking where it occurs, and in raising awareness about the risks amongst the general population. While the Church of England has voiced naïve hopes that the technology will address fuel poverty and has compared the anti-fracking movement to controversy over the MMR vaccine (while using the dash for gas to enrich itself), a number of Pagan leaders – from Philip Carr-Gomm to Starhawk – have come out against the practice. And, on 28th September, a Pagan ritual centred on Glastonbury Tor will be taking place, dedicated to raising a web of power that will protect the island of Britain from all hydraulic fracturing. Currently, over 1300 people have agreed to attend this event, dubbed The Warriors’ Call.
Such protective rituals are nothing new in British history. Tacitus tells us of the druids’ last stand on the isle of Angelsey, holy women yelling curses across the Menai Straits at the approaching Roman legions. Medieval romance brought us the image of Merlin the conjuror, defending the realm with wise counsel and spellcraft; after Nimue imprisoned Merlin, Camelot fell soon after. In the 17th Century it was claimed that John Dee, an Elizabethan wizard, conjured a great storm that helped break up the Spanish Armada. Even if these latter two examples are fanciful myth, rather than historical fact – their antiquity shows that the idea of magickal wards being erected by the adepts in defence of the nation has been around for centuries.
The 20th century occultists that took part in the Pagan revival did not shirk from their duties either. A widely known account describes how the coven of Wiccan high priest and home guardsman Gerald Gardner undertook a rite at Rufus Stone in the New Forest, raising a cone of power against the threat of Nazi invasion. “We were taken at night to a place in the Forest, where the Great Circle was erected; and that was done which may not be done except in great emergency… The command was given: ‘You cannot cross the sea, you cannot cross the sea, you cannot come, you cannot come.’ Just as was done, we were told, to Napoleon, when he had his army ready to invade England and never came. And, as was done to the Spanish Armada, mighty forces were used, of which I may not speak.” Gardner reports that five of the seventeen witches present died due to the spiritual and physical exertions involved; something which, it was felt, added to the potency of the work.
Gardner was not alone in using magick to fight Hitler. Dion Fortune, another luminary of British occultism, led her followers within the Fraternity of Inner Light in a series of meditations…