All right then, dear readers, here’s a talking point for you.
As you may or may not know, our illustrious legal system here in the UK has got around to recognising that not everyone appearing in court is a) Christian or b) atheist. As a result, the Powers That Be have allowed those of us of a pagan bent (ahem) to swear By All That We Hold Sacred, rather than having to swear By Almighty God, or simply Solemnly, Sincerely and Truly Declaring and Affirming, according to the previously available choices.
I must admit, I’ve always wondered what would be so wrong about starting with “I, open square bracket, personal name, close square bracket, do solemnly swear by, open square bracket, insert deity/ ancestor/ spirit of choice, close square bracket, to …” and go from there.
Having recently been summonsed for jury service at the Coroner’s court, I thought I was going to get the chance to try out ‘the pagan oath’ for myself. When I asked her if I could use it, the nice lady making the jury arrangements did have to go and find out what I was talking about, but that done, she seemed keen to ensure it was all done right. She asked me – without being prompted (at least by me) – whether I’d be requiring any alternative holy text, and whether I’d have any ritual or dietary requirements for the time I was serving on the jury. Then she told me she’d have a copy of the oath printed off for me.
I was able to take my own holy text into court, to serve the function of the New Testament copies provided to the others. For lack of a specific holy book for my particular path, I took A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith, which at least includes references to the relevant gods, and has plenty of, shall we say, customisable content.
As it turned out, though, I didn’t get as far as actually being sworn in. Because of the line of work I’m in, the barristers decided they’d prefer to excuse me, if that was okay with the Coroner. It was, and I was let go, albeit very nicely and respectfully, and with appropriately minimalistic smiles all round.
So I never got to try out the oath, and I must say I was a little disappointed not to be able to see it through – particularly since I’m unlikely ever to be called again. Still, I was pleased with how well the whole thing worked, and how accommodating the system seems to be, at least for ‘jurors-in-waiting’. I’ll let you know how I get on if I’m ever actually in the dock.
But this leads me on to two questions I thought I’d throw out to y’all, if you’re happy to answer them:
- If you were called upon to appear in court and had to be sworn in, what text would you take with you to swear on, and why?
- And although I’ve identified myself as pagan for a good number of years now, there aren’t that many occasions where the world of officialdom gets involved in my religious beliefs. So I wonder to what extent do readers like to represent their belief system in the realm of governments and laws and rules and documents and suchlike?