46-year-old Kevin Cottam is not the world’s biggest Star Wars fan, but for the last two years he has never left home without his iconic Jedi robe and trusty lightsaber. He is the UK’s only full-time Grey Jedi.
Cottam says he became a follower of Jediism six years ago, after doing some research online. He had become frustrated by all the rules most religions follow so he decided to look for something more suitable. “Before becoming a Jedi, I was a Zen Buddhist, but I was frustrated with the different precepts and mandates that came with the religion,” he says. “I researched other religions online and came across the Djedi of ancient Egypt, which inspired the Jedi in Star Wars.”
He learned that Jediism didn’t have any holy texts or commandments, only three basic laws: the cycle of knowledge, wisdom and compassion. Through the application of knowledge we gain wisdom, and through wisdom we become compassionate. He felt that this simple principle provided more guidance that thousands of restrictive and often times nonsensical rules ever could. So he decided to ditch Zen Buddhism for Jediism and became a Grey Jedi. “All Jedi believe there is a force that creates everything. But unlike the Jedi and Sith, who see the force as light and dark (ie good and bad), the Grey Jedi see it simply as a natural force. It is how we use the force that dictates whether it is good or evil,” he says.
Kevin says that when he told his family and friends that he was going to become a Jedi, they all thought it was cool, but two years ago, when he told them he would start wearing a Jedi robe and carry a lightsaber with him at all times, things didn’t turn out so well. “My girlfriend of six years left me, as she did not want to be seen in public with someone dressed like me. I had been happy with her, but I also had my faith to follow and if I lost that, I would no longer be who I am,” Cottam wrote in The Guardian. “Some friends have stuck by me. One loves going out with me and we travel all over just so she can show me off. The reactions I get can be mixed, but children always ask if they can have their photo taken with me, and I’m happy to oblige. I find that the greatest reaction is from women over 50, who tell me they love the way I dress and the fact that I take great care with my appearance.”
The reactions he gets from passers by on the streets are the worst, though. “People judge me, give me strange looks and shout abuse at me in the street but I just want to get the message across to people that this is who I am, so just deal with it,” he told Caters News. “There was one incident that’s really stuck with me when I was walking into town one day. This man had three young children with him and one was excitedly saying ‘look it’s Batman’, while another one was saying he was wrong, and that I was a Jedi. The man turned to the children and said ‘no it isn’t, it’s that f***ing weirdo’ – I was mortified.”
But it’s not all bad. The Grey Jedi says he has been surprised about how accepting local authorities and the police in Rhyl, Wales, have been about his unusual appearance. It was they who suggested that he register his lightsaber as a religious item, allowing him to carry it at all times without getting in trouble with the law. He didn’t have one at first, but that always seemed to disappoint kids who asked to have their picture taken with him, so he eventually gave in and got a lightsaber. “If I can bring a little happiness to others, then that makes me happy,” he says. Unfortunately, the real-life Grey Jedi left his £750 lightsaber on a bus, in August, and set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a new one.
After being turned down by women who couldn’t accept the way he dressed and who he was, Kevin Cottam says he has accepted the fact that he will probably remain single for the rest of my life, but refuses to change who he is. However, if someone willing to live with a Grey Jedi comes along, he says he wouldn’t try to convert them to Jediism, as that is solely their decision.