Pagan Stone Circle Destroyed: Hate Crime or Mere Vandalism?

Yesterday several British papers reported that a stone circle on Trinity Saint David University grounds in South Wales was damaged “beyond repair.” The circle had been used for years by the university’s Pagan Society, who called the destruction “heart-breaking”. The question now: Was it a religiously motivated attack, or simple vandalism? According to the BBC, University officials are not treating this as a hate crime.

Lampeter Stone Circle

Cen Powell, executive head of estates and facilities at University of Wales: Trinity Saint David, said: “We are aware of the situation regarding the damage caused to the site and are working with the Students’ Union to assess our options. […] “There is no reason to believe that this was a result of hate crime and would consider it to be an act of vandalism.”

However, this isn’t a unanimous opinion. Speaking to the Telegraph, police constable Richard Marshall noted the obvious religious connections to the site and its destruction.

Lampeter Pc Richard Marshall told town councillors at a meeting last week that the site had been “maliciously taken apart” and is now unsafe to use. “It is disturbing,” he added. “This is a place of worship. If this was a church I’m sure we’d be hearing more about it.”

This was far more than a few stones kicked over, the vandals apparently brought pick-axes and crowbars to demolish the site. That seems far more than drunken revelry or random hooliganism. In any case, it seems the university is not going to rebuild the circle, and is instead in talks with the Lampeter Pagan Society about finding a new site.

“We are looking to get a new space, but thanks for your best wishes. It has a 20 year history here and connects us to older students, but we are excited to be hoping to work on a new place soon.”

Meanwhile, outrage and calls of solidarity have been spreading through the Pagan community since the news of this event broke. It will be interesting to see if the vandals are caught, and find out what the motivations might have been for destroying the stone circle. Was it mere vandalism? Or could there have been a religious element? What do you think?

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  • Erika Inish Rivertree

    The fact that it was demolished to such extent with pick axes and crowbars indicates planning and specific intent. This was not just random drunken vandalism.

  • faeryprincess9_16

    “This is a place of worship. If this was a church I’m sure we’d be hearing more about it.” – BINGO! Hit the nail on the head!!! This is OBVIOUSLY a HATE CRIME!!! >:O

  • Kilmrnock

    I too believe this is a case of a religious hate crime .The way it was taken apart w/pick axes and pry bars this seems to me and should to anyone w/ brain more than just a case of simple vandlism. I fault the way the universty is classifying this situation and appluad the local police for taking this seriously as a hate crime .Also i hope the culprits are caught and procicuted . Kilm

  • Christine Snake Dizard

    The obvious premeditation indicated by the use of pick axes and crowbars certainly points to a hate crime. The statement that there is “no reason to believe that this was the result of a hate crime” is ridiculous in the face of this premeditation.

  • kenneth

    That’s absolutely the case. Having once been a punk teen myself, I know from experience that random vandalism is an act of opportunism, boredom and/or booze, and a complete LACK of forethought. It is the very embodiment of an un-premeditated crime.

    This required planning and very likely the buying or borrowing of equipment. How many people these days happen to have pickaxes and long breaker bars lying around the house? There’s probably more floating around Wales than London due to its mining history, but very few even in that country make their living busting coal or slate in tunnels anymore. Unless this stone circle had very few, very small or very soft stone, breaking it is damn hard work.

    For all that, it’s just not the sort of thing that trips the reward circuit of the idiot teenage vandal mind. In a 15-year journalism career I had read literally thousands of police reports. Aside from spray paint, almost nobody messes with stone or brick. When you subtract out the mailbox bombers and pyromaniacs, 99.99% of vandalism is about breaking glass.

    There can be no reasonable doubt that this act was motivated by hate. If it was done by a lone offender (if that’s even possible), it may have been someone off their meds or even a disgruntled member or rival of that pagan group. If, as seems more likely, it was the work of several people, it’s very hard to see how that could have been motivated by anything else but religious hatred.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy

    How many people these days happen to have pickaxes and long breaker bars lying around the house?

    To be fair, this was in Wales, where mining communities are rather common, and next to mining, Wales’ other major industry is agriculture, and so therefore there are rather plenty people who would just have those items lying around. Until the 1970s, there were more people in Wales with pickaxes than there were with electricity running through their homes and indoor plumbing (gods-honest truth, that).

    Of course, that also doesn’t mean this wasn’t premeditated and religiously motivated –after all, Wales is also home to several cities (the only ones on Great Britain) that banned Monty Python’s The Life of Brian until just a few years ago. The fact that the circle was so thouroughly dismantled is evidence enough that this was more than just random vandalism.

  • Genni-r73

    This seems to me to be motivated by anger – whether towards those who used the circle or members of the Pagan Society – I hope they catch whoever did this!! They should make them rebuild the circle as their Karma for destroying it x

  • Ryan Smith

    It looks like a hate crime on its surface but is lacking certain elements ie hateful messages, anti-Pagan slurs, something that very clearly says, “We destroyed this because we do not like this religion and the people who practice it.” I think it would be premature for the university to rule out the possibility of this being a hate crime but I also think it would be jumping the gun to assume it was. This could have been an act motivated by personal animosity or some other matter; right now it isn’t even clear who did this in the first place.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The University should be open to the possibility of hate-crime motivation if the perps are discovered. The police should investigate with the possibility of a hate crime taken into account.

    I agree that it would have been called a hate crime from the git-go had it been a Christian church. I hope the reaction of outrage puts this into focus for the University administration.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Like with the polyamory in Canada, this ain’t America, so I am not sure what the laws are. Does Wales even have a civil rights “Hate Crime” status?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    They must have the concept, or the university and the cops would not be disagreeing about how to frame the vandalism.

  • kenneth

    They do have hate crimes laws in the UK, deriving from a 1986 Public Order Act which has been amended several times since then. Their laws are arguably stricter than we have here in that regard.

    I don’t know that they typically deal out prison time, but they do have some pretty heavy fines and restraining orders for “anti-social behavior.” They also do not have a formally codified First Amendment, so you can get busted even for speaking out a little too vociforously against homosexuality etc.

    If they determine this was motivated by religious hatred, they certainly have the tools to complicate the offenders lives beyond “simple” vandalism. Another thing vandals in this country at least often don’t realize is that screwing with “state supported property” carries substantially stiffer penalties in many cases. Not sure if that’s the case in the UK, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Ruadhán J McElroy

    They also do not have a formally codified First Amendment, so you can get busted even for speaking out a little too vociforously against homosexuality etc.

    Exactly. Which is why the lack of inscriptions like “Pagans Suck” or similar shouldn’t rule this out as a hate crime. People aren’t stupid, so making one’s intentions absolutely clear would be figured out pretty quickly to make it worse on them, should they get caught. A lack of proclamation doesn’t make the motivations random.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    I believe them, yet wish there were before and after photos to show exactly what’d been done.

  • The Bony Man

    Agreed. The after photos would have been useful, if sad to look at.

  • Halo Quin

    This is my home site. The destruction *is* heartbreaking… but the hope within the society is inspiring and the support from the university is strong.

    It might be a crime motivated by hate, BUT whats important is to note that there is no evidence that it was religiously motivated. We’ve had problems since it was built with destruction and vandalism simply because it is a secluded space which can be damaged without the attackers being caught. Even the PC quoted above didn’t actually say he thought it was religious and he has not suggested this any time I’ve been involved in discussions about this with him.

    Intent and premeditation is clearly demonstrated in the actions necessary for this amount of systematic damage. Hate isn’t. The motivation could be one of several and I’m loathe to encourage people to jump to one conclusion or another. If folks are caught (and I hope they are) then I’m certain they’ll be checked out as to their motivations quite throroughly… the community here is small and strong and people watch out for each other regardless of town/gown or religious status :)

    Love and gratitude to everyone who is offering support. The site will be reborn as the sun is, of course. The destruction happened Samhain week so this feels like a releasing enforced by universal forces!

  • Guest

    It’s just rumour but I have heard the the Pagan society has faced a lot of hostility at the university including from the dean.

  • Anonymous

    i think we need to be careful assigning it intent (as we do with all things). That it was destroyed so willfully, and maliciously, with obvious tools of destruction, speak volumes. i think one of the other things we need to look at here is that people want to move it to a new location when it’s reconstucted. i understand wating to heal and the whole never again thing, and i have no wish to be one of those paranoid conspiracists, but…

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    They are moving, with regret, to a new location because the University regards the vandalized location as impossible to rebuild (the key word should probably be spelled impo$$ible).

  • Norse Alchemist

    Yeah, cause it doesn’t look like that elaborate a site to start with. I mean, what would it take, bring a few slabs of stone and set them up in the right places? Maybe add a few trees or something? Didn’t think it was that hard to set one up.

  • Paul Rousselle

    Hey! It’s not so much money here at Lampeter, but they’ve said what with lack of ambulance access, that as it’s a Students’ Union society, using a Site within University grounds it’s an insurance nightmare for them. If we can get a new place, it’ll be on the round of the campus Porters, it’ll be close to a CCTV camera while still somewhat secluded, and have access for the emergency services.

  • Norse Alchemist

    Ah, see, I thought it was the money reason they were insisting on the move.


    Religion of Peace

  • Norse Alchemist

    Wouldn’t surprise me if it was them, yeah.

  • Mathews55

    That does sound a bit too deliberate to be random vandalism. Yet, there are always those yahoos who destroy things simply because that’s more amusing than not destroying things.

  • Peter Dybing

    What ever the motivation this deserves a strong Pagan response. If needed we could bond together, raise funds and insure that the result of this criminal act is a new and improved sacred space.

  • Manda

    Regardless of whether the crime was committed out of hatred or not, the person(s) responsible should be punished for what they did. The reason why doesn’t matter – the fact is that property was damaged and whoever is responsible should have to pay for their actions.

  • Anon_mahna

    Wether or not it was a religiously motivated crime I can not sleuth with out looking at it up close or with 8×10 colour glossy photographs. I can however say that if an area is vandalized “beyond repair” or to such extent that it’s a hazard to use that space, then that is more than petty vandalism. That demonstrates malice and full intent of the action. possibly they should get some of those infared auto cameras I’ve seen in hunting/sporting goods shops.

  • Sarenth

    I find it odd that rather than repair the space they’re finding a new one. Was it just too exposed to the student body? Is the damage so complete that they can’t clean it out and start fresh? Or is the memory of their site being attacked just kind of a “the hell with it, let’s start fresh and wipe the slate clean” kind of move?

  • Niki

    Actually, it’s the opposite: the site is too secluded and so is easy to vandalize with little notice. From what I understand, the main uni chapel here (I am living in Lampeter and have been very, very loosely associated with the Pagan Soc) is discussing teaming up with the Pagan Soc to jointly create a multi-faith space, which would be more open. This idea seems not unwelcome.

  • Sarenth

    Ah, okay. That would make sense then. Pity that it has to come to that.

  • Ursyl

    If the site is now “too dangerous,” doesn’t that mean that the university has to have it cleaned up enough to remove the dangerous aspects?

  • Norse Alchemist

    Too dangerous for whom? And Why? these are the more important questions.

  • Niki

    The original site was located at the bottom of a gulley, requiring a short trek down some pretty shabby wooden stairs and rock stairs. The vandals ripped out the stairs, making getting down rather precarious. I’m guessing access is the main worry. It’s really a shame this site is destroyed. It was so lovely.

  • Jason Hatter

    Then a new site does mke a lot of sense, for accessiblity reasons (handicapped, disabled, emergency) if nothing else.

  • The Lampeter Student

    Hiya Guys, I am a student at Trinity Saint David Lampeter Campus and I have been here for 3 years now, I am very bothered by what has happened to their site and I hope the rebuild effort goes well. One thing I do know about the Pagan site and uni, is how the University itself has generally opposed the Pagans since Medwyn Hughes took over in 2009/08.

    A number of times the University has tried to take the site back as their tipping ground, thus there has been tension before. However the main reason that I think the Pagan Site is being moved is that the university Estates department had the site shut down to the public around the time of the destruction for health and safety reasons, and this was before the attack.

    Now Call me cynical, but knowing how the uni treat students, I would reckon the most likely culprits are the university themselves due to what they gain out of it and their ready access to Pick axes and crow bars in the site management tool kits.

    I would also rule our other religious groups on the groups that none, to my knowledge have any opposition to the Pagans site, at the moment. Even the University Christian Union is on good terms with the Pagan site and they wish the friendship, thus it seems to me that religious hate is not the reason, but more a secular hate from the universities greed to take land back!

    Now this is just my views on this, but this is what I would reckon has happened.

  • AnonGuest

    If it’s on their grounds, couldn’t they just take it down themselves whenever they wanted?

  • The Lampeter Student

    probably, but this uni isnt like that and they are the only ones in lampeter besides farmers with the tools to do it and they have a motive, as I said earlier the uni has a general dislike of the weirder societies such as Pagan soc and Medieval battle reenactment society and Medwyn has been know to state his dislike of the Pagan soc.

  • kenneth

    Such actions by government entities are not unprecedented. I live in Chicago and some years back, the former Mayor Daley had an agenda to be rid of a small airport near downtown. It sat on a prime piece of lakefront land he wanted for some sort of recreation and park plan.

    Aviation is a federal matter in many ways and he wasn’t willing to enter a drawn out negotiation, so he sent crews literally in the middle of the night to tear up the runways with bulldozers. One one “creates facts on the ground” it sort of renders moot any further debate about whether it should have been done and whether it was legal.

    On the other hand, if this is what the university did, it cannot remain a secret for long. A lawsuit or even a request under Freedom of Information laws, if you have such things there, would bring the truth out of them in short order.

    If the university did it, a dean or someone in authority would have ordered it, and there would be email, a written work order to the grounds department, and time sheets for the workers involved. Grounds workers, at least those associated with outdoor duties, in general have little reason to work after dark. If a crew of them suddenly had overnight work on their time cards, and perhaps overtime, that’s a pretty good indication of what went on.

    The bad news is that public agencies and institutions have a penchant for secrecy. The good news is that almost all of them suck at pulling it off. They leave clues and records all over the place.

    If you think the university did in fact do this, press them on it.

  • Cathryn Bauer

    There is no way this was anything but a very precisely-targeted hate crime, and I doubt the vandals were liquored up. Hauling the appropriate tools to the site takes planning and effort. If authorities aren’t treated this as a hate crime, they’re ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room.

  • WiccanWoman

    “. . . Meanwhile, outrage and calls of solidarity have been spreading through the Pagan community since the news of this event broke. It will be interesting to see if the vandals are caught, and find out what the motivations might have been for destroying the stone circle. Was it mere vandalism? Or could there have been a religious element? What do you think?”

    They brought and used PICK-AXES and CROW-BARS?! WTF? My heart weeps with sadness and anger.

    Whether just ignorant vandalism or deliberate hate crime… the perpetrators have sealed their own fate. With evil in their hearts, they entered upon sacred ground protected by (the) God/dess, and Karma will be a real BITCH.

  • Tfoular

    I think this is a hate crime. No one commits simple vandalism with just crowbars and pickaxes and I do agree we need a strong,united Pagan response to this

  • Crone

    It seems to me that if the perps were out for random hooliganism, it would would have been easier to break a few windows or coax a farm animal under the influence of laxitives into a classroom or Dean’s office…

  • MaelstromsButterfly

    Hey guys.
    I’m just a first year student at Trinity St David and a minor member of the Pagan Society (aka, I haven’t been to every meet up and missed the Sahmein ritual due to nerves), so my veiwpoint may not hold as much sway as others, but I would like to get it out regardless.
    The Old Pagan Site, as seen in the photograph above, was a stunning place. It’s hard to believe that it used to be a tipping site. What the photograph can’t capture is the extent of the feeling of serenity it held. The trees overhead gave it a protective feel whilst remained sparce enough to let sunlight through. The circle itself was rather simple with the low wall, a fire pit and the altar. It didn’t promote its worth. It didn’t try to show any grandeur or splendour. It didn’t have to. Nature herself did all the talking.
    I can tell you that this wasn’t the first time the site had been attacked/vandelised. Occasionally the members would find a long piece of rope tied to a branch of one of the nearby trees and know that the village kids had been in the site again. The site was open to all who respected it, the rope was removed every time it appeared. The decorations around the circle, mostly God’s Eyes and strips of cloth would be ruined. True, the wind could have be to blame if it had only been a few.
    “If this was a church I’m sure we’d be hearing a lot more about it.”
    This was my response exactly. The site was a place of worship. I don’t feel angry towards those who destroyed it, just sad. If that’s the respect they show religion to put it simply, I pity them.
    Because of the past and because of the use of tools, I’m inclined to believe that this was a pre-planned crime. Access to the site was not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish and the tools required, whilst common, are not so common as to have been able to have been found close to hand. The timing as well was too perfect.
    However, something to remember is the hate comes from fear, fear comes from ignorance and ignorance spawns from a lack of knowledge. Possibly the wisest idea would be that, when/if these people are caught and punished they are given at the very least a basic education into what Paganism is. It’s a vast and complex topic, but perhaps, eve if we just stratch the surface, we could prevent this type of action from happening again.

  • AnonGuest

    Occasionally the members would find a long piece of rope tied to a branch of one of the nearby trees and know that the village kids had been in the site again.
    That sounds just like kids playing.. the kids involved were probably disappointed someone had taken down their ‘swing’

  • MaelstromsButterfly

    “The site was open to all who respected it, the rope was removed every time it appeared. The decorations around the circle, mostly God’s Eyes and strips of cloth would be ruined. True, the wind could have be to blame if it had only been a few.”
    There’s a difference between playing and removing/destroying decorations. Further, to get into the circle from that particular direction the kids would have had to travel through a graveyard. I’m not entire ceertain how things in Wales work, but at home playing in graveyards is a no-go.

  • Entdinglichung

    there were a number of attacks by christian fundamentalists during the last years against ancient stone circles in the Penwith area in Cornwall: