Ted Hughes and Paganism

It isn't only Romanian witches and politicians who live in pagan stories.

English poets are very fascinated by pagan and gnostic worldviews.

Ted Hughes was one of the most gifted British poets of the last century. He was also fascinated by the occult. At Cambridge he experimented heavily in the dark arts. He and the American poetess Sylvia Plath got married in 1956 and they spent many hours playing with the Ouija board. Ted Hughes once asked the 'spirits' if he and Sylvia Plath would become famous. "Fame will come", the Ouija board answered, "but at an enormous cost". In 1963 his American wife Sylvia Plath committed suicide. Tragically in 1969 Ted's new partner Assia Wevill killed their four year old daughter and then also committed suicide. In 2009 Sylvia and Ted's son Nicholas committed suicide after battling depression.

Ted Hughes was a Gnostic. Gnosticism is a complicated worldview but it contrasts strikingly with both materialism and Christianity. Gnostics are often intrigued by non-Christian forms of spirituality. Indeed Hughes was very influenced by early animist and pagan religions. In these religions there is a strong sense of unseen forces and spiritual powers that can be contacted and befriended. This can help us to understand Hughes' fascination with the occult.

We need to understand both secularism (consumerism, materialism etc) and paganism (gnosticism, rat worship etc) if we are to understand how people live and how to engage intelligently with them about the Christian faith.

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