Halloween may be populated with people dressing as witches, wizards, ghosts and ghouls for a scream, but Paganism is actually one of Britain’s oldest religions.
With the world’s largest gathering of occultists will take place in Croydon next month – SW Londoner caught up with one of the real life witches attending Witchfest 2015.
Author Tylluan Penry is a solitary pagan witch who grew up within the craft before branching out on her own.
She has been involved in Witchfest since 2008, she will be giving the opening blessing, two talks – one on knot magic and another on Anglo-Saxon magic.
Ms Penry said: “Being a witch, I feel, opened my own eyes to the many worlds around me.
“The best part of being a witch, I think for me has to be the close contact with and appreciation of nature. I really love the sense of connectedness.
“Probably the worst part has to be the secrecy that still enshrouds wicca and witchcraft.
“People do still find they are misunderstood by family, friends and work colleagues and it really shouldn’t be like that.
“Witchcraft for me belongs to the people who are usually ignored in history – yet they are the very people who carry this history within them.
“There are so many of us – once I get talking to people I’m amazed how many will eventually tell me something similar. But someone has to start that conversation, it doesn’t start itself.”
Although she is a pagan her husband isn’t and she insists her children have always been free to choose as she doesn’t believe in forcing her beliefs on other people.
“We have great discussions about religion generally, and I think my husband offers me greater perspective than I would have had otherwise,” she said.
Ms Penry was first drawn to paganism was her interest in the history, the folklore and the freedom to explore spirituality, she wrote her first book Seeking the Green as a way of preserving what she had learnt.
She said: “As I grew older I realised that everything I’d learned was going to be lost, and those who came after me would have to start over. So in a way, it was a book to describe how I found my own particular path, I thought it was good to pass this on to others.
“Since then I’ve been amazed how many people have told me how much it means to them – it’s lovely.”
Approximately 57,000 Britons identified themselves as pagans in the 2011 census, 1,958 as heathens and 11,766 as wiccans – paganism is the 7th largest faith group in the UK.
Christianity was found to be the most popular religion with a following of 33 million people but this has declined from 37 million in 2001.
Organisations such as the Children of Artemis and the Pagan Federation been directly involved in raising understanding and awareness of their religion.
Ashley Mortimer, director at the Centre for Pagan Studies in Sussex, said: “Pagans are still misunderstood in society (hence the need for organisations like us) but I think things are moving in the right direction at long last.
“Under the religious equality laws, pagans are finally beginning to be treated properly and respectfully as just another collection of religious and spiritual paths in an ever increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith society.”
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