Witches, Wiccans and Pagans will gather Croydon this November to celebrate Witchfest International 2015, the world’s largest festival of witchcraft.
A celebration of the mysticism and mythologies, covering everything from popular Pagan fiction to infamous occultist Aleister Crowley will take place in Fairfield Halls on Saturday November 14.
The event is run by Children of Artemis, the UK’s largest Wicca community, who are based in Croydon. They aim to present an accurate view of Wicca and witchcraft to those outside the community.
Witchfest 2015 will include talks from the likes of historian Professor Ronald Hutton, who specialises in contemporary Paganism and English folklore, former President of the Pagan Federation Pete Jennings and author Tylluan Penry.
Mr Jennings said: “I think paganism is difficult for people to understand as it’s a broad term, we do have a spiritual path but not an overall God. Spirituality is one of the greatest taboos – but at Witchfest we are out and proud!
“Everyone has a different definition of it, most people believe both feminist and masculinist beliefs, and that a strand of nature runs through it.
“It is not an organised religion, meaning it doesn’t believe that it has all the answers or in prophesising for that matter.”
“Spirituality is one of the greatest taboos – but at Witchfest we are out and proud!”
Witchfest was founded by Children of Artemis in 2002 after their members talks and events became so popular they realised they needed something bigger to feed the appetites of curious Pagans.
In its second year more than 5,000 people came to Witchfest, and numbers have been growing.
Co-founded Merlyn Hern has been with Witchfest since its inception.
He said: “Guests can expect a jam packed event of talks and workshops from leading authors, high priests and priestesses and academics who specialise in the area.
“A ticket will get you into everything with the evening boasting a party with live music and entertainment from dancers and drummers.”
Despite the popularity of the festival, Paganism, witchcraft and Wicca have not always been accepted or understood by society.
Professor Hutton, a leading historian specialising in witchcraft in a global context, said he was originally interested in witchcraft as it was underrepresented and therefore wide open for new research.
In defining paganism Professor Hutton said: “It is an umbrella term for a complex of modern religions inspired by images of the near east and ancient Europe.
“It can be seen as having three characteristics: feminism, environmentalism and lastly the idea that morally people should be able to express themselves without hurting anyone else.”
Professor Hutton, 61, a lecturer at Bristol University, will be giving a talk on modern Pagan festivals.
When asked to define witchcraft, he said: “Well actually it has four definitions, number one –magic that can hurt other. Number two is magic that can be used for any purpose – good or bad.
“Number three relates to the witch as a woman who is persecuted by men for being independent and all powerful.
“Lastly, number four relates to witch practitioners of pagan religion that is centred on nature and the environment. Number four is the definition that Witchfest embraces.
“I enjoy the sheer numbers of people that Witchfest attracts who all have such a wide range of interests.”
Picture courtesy of Kevin Flaherty and Laura Wildish, with thanks