Derry couples seeking Pagan weddings - claim

There has been a rise in the number of Derry couples wanting a Pagan wedding, it has been claimed.

Raymond MacSuibhne, of the Pagan Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), says the peace process has allowed "interest and participation in Paganism" to flourish in Derry and across the North over recent years.

He says changes to marriage laws in the South has seen Derry couples further explore that interest.

" The appointment of the first legal Pagan Religious Marriage Solemniser in the Republic of Ireland in December 2009 has allowed Pagans there to avail of the same legal marriage rights as others of differing religions.

"Many couples from the Derry area have expressed their intent to be married this way, according to rites and customs relevant and significant to their own beliefs, and to have the marriage then recognised in Northern Ireland."

He says the PFNI is lobbying to have a Solemniser registered in Northern Ireland.

Mr MacSuibhne says that, despite the rise in interest, the ancient religion remains misunderstood.

"Paganism is commonly mixed up with Atheism, a belief that no Divine being exists. Within the Pagan community, belief in the Divine, as manifested in the world that surrounds us, is very strong, and for many Pagans it forms the core of their belief systems.

"Other misconceptions concern Paganism being anti-Christian. But as Paganism pre-dates Christianity by millennia, this is obviously incorrect."

He says Easter is as important a time for Pagans as it is for Christians.

"Many people are surprised to learn that Easter was originally a Pagan festival, with the familiar symbols of Easter bunnies and brightly coloured eggs having a history that pre-dates the foundation of Christianity by thousands of years.

"The name Easter originated with the name of an ancient Pagan deity, Eostre, who was the Great Mother Goddess of Northern Europe. The symbol of the Easter Bunny came from worship of Eostre, whose earthly symbol was the Rabbit."

He says the tradition of Easter eggs also has its roots in Paganism while modern day Pagans view Easter as a "a time that the renewing signs of life become evident, and a time to celebrate the first buds and shoots that emanate from Mother Nature."