In this Zoom talk, illustrated with several pictures, Silverspear explored some features of interest to modern paganism in “The Wind in the Willows”, a book which taken at face value might seem an odd subject for pagans. But to help make the issue very much clearer from a pagan and Nature-based perspective, Silverspear wrote the following brief outline, which was sent to those on Pagan Pathways' Zoom list. The talk was followed by discussion where, in keeping with Pagan Pathways custom, everyone was welcome to express his or her own views on the issues without condemnation or judgement.
The Wind in the Willows – A Warning for Our Time?
(or perhaps not; you decide)
Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows has been described as a book for adults that children can read. It has long been said by some commentators, though sometimes in rather hushed tones, that paganism runs like a thread through the narrative. The story begins in spring and, like a journey around the Wheel of the Year, the four seasons remain a backdrop to the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger. The Great god Pan, described as Friend and Helper, and who is referred to with the capitalised personal pronoun “He”, is featured too.
There is also a focus on the threat of increasing modernity to the idyllic and much preferred qualities and traditional values of middle-class rural Edwardian England. When The Wind in the Willows was first published in 1908 it was a time of much social, industrial and political change, as illustrated by the two attached photos taken within fifteen years of each other, but which clearly are worlds apart. The cosy rustic values reflected throughout the book, however, tend nowadays to be unfashionable and even reviled by many progressives as being too narrow and conservative in a technological and digital world that seeks perpetual change, novelty and innovation. The homely values that underpin The Wind in the Willows are now derogatively and sarcastically dismissed as belonging to “Deep England” or “Merrie England” – a Golden Age that never was.
On the other hand, progressive values today promise a “Brave New World” – a “Golden Age” yet to come based on more and more technology. And yet, almost as a reaction to that, the simplicity, security, stability and the importance of loyal friendships which underpin The Wind in the Willows have a modern appeal, particularly nowadays when many young people are fearful of a grim future, or even an impending apocalypse, owing to the threat of climate change, ecological disaster, and pandemics.