Saturday, 4 November 2006

Spiritual Warfare in Glastonbury

Interesting article in the Times today about a clash between Catholics and Pagans in Glastonbury (the wicca HQ), during a Youth 2000 festival (cleverly named 'lightswitch @ glastonbury').

Bad vibes in Glastonbury after Catholics turn against pagans

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

BY THE light of the full moon, witches in Glastonbury will tonight be casting a “circle of protection” around Britain’s centre of mysticism after a group of militant Christians cast salt at them in an attempt to “cleanse” the town of paganism.One Roman Catholic was fined and two cautioned by police after the “alternative Hallowe’en” festival in Britain’s centre of magical mysticism turned into a spiritual battle between Christianity and paganism.

Now even the local Catholic priest has told his fellow Christians that they are not welcome in the town. The Christians were visiting for the Lightswitch@glastonbury festival, the eighth such event organised by the Catholic charity Youth 2000. Promotional material tempted them there with slogans such as: “Has the light on your halo gone dark? Have your wings gone a bit grubby? Just want to switch your faith back on?” Organised with the co-operation of the Catholic Parish Church and Shrine of Our Lady St Mary in Glastonbury, it was intended to be the Hallowe’en of choice “for those who have grown tired of tatty fancy dress and the Blair Witch Project”.

But police were called after militants told locals that they wanted to cleanse the town of paganism, cast salt around to exorcise “evil” spirits and called one woman a “whore witch”. Yemaya Pinder, a witch and a member of the Pagan Federation who owns The Magick Box store, said that she believed the Christians should be prosecuted for a religious hate crime. Mrs Pinder, a mother of two and grandmother of four, and whose sister is an Anglican vicar in Basildon, described how a group of Catholics had entered her shop and abused her. She said: “It was as if we had returned to the dark ages. They told me they wanted to cleanse Glastonbury of paganism. They said they had lighters and were going to come back and burn us down. When the police asked them to apologise, they refused.”

She said there were no plans to put a curse on the Christians. “But we are doing protection for ourselves and the shop and the town. We are working magic for the healing and the damage they very nearly did between us and the local Roman Catholic church.” She said that the town’s witches had begun to work their magic, starting the protective circle on Samhein, the Celtic new year, last Tuesday, and planning to finish it using the “high energy” of tonight’s full moon.

Dreow Bennett, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and leader of the pagan movement, said: “To call the behaviour of some of their members medieval would be an understatement. I witnessed a pagan being called a ‘bloody witch’ and being told, ‘You will burn in hell’. “Apparently this man was not a diligent follower of the teachings of Christ. It was my understanding that Christ taught compassion and tolerance rather than
hatred and ignorance.”

Father Kevin Knox-Lecky, the Catholic parish priest at Glastonbury, said: “I was utterly appalled by the disgraceful behaviour, language and threats that were apparently made to members of the local pagan community by a small fringe group that attached itself to the Youth 2000 retreat last weekend in Glastonbury.” He said the militants were “unChristian and unrepresentative” of the majority of the 350 young people at the festival. He had since met Mrs Pinder and Mr Bennett. The conversation ended in “mutual embrace”. He said: “We have agreed to keep in touch with each other and to support each other in the event of negative attention from any extremists from whichever faith. I have frequently found evidence of rites performed on my church steps.”

Youth 2000 is a registered charity which aims to forge links
between young Catholics through retreats and events. Charlie Connor, the managing director of Youth 2000, said that aiming “blessed salt” at pagans was in direct contravention of the spirit of Youth 2000. “For the avoidance of doubt, Youth 2000 does not condone or encourage this kind of behaviour from anyone. We fully agree that differences on matters of faith cannot and should not be resolved by any kind of harassment.” But he added: “Youth 2000 would also like to place on the record that many young people at the retreat were harassed, sworn at and even cursed by people. One incident included the taking of photographs of young people, including children, and numbers plates by people present in the town. They were forced to move on. Regrettably, Youth 2000 will not be running a festival in Glastonbury next year.”

Avon and Somerset police said: “The neighbourhood beat manager was on patrol on Saturday and was alerted that there was an incident at the Magick Box shop. The officer arrested a man for a public order offence. He was later released after being issued with a fixed penalty notice. Two women were also given cautions and words of advice about their future behaviour.”

The article has a picture (sadly not online) of a Blessed Sacrament procession through the hallowed streets of Glastonbury, led by ex-gangster John Pridmore ringing a bell and several members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It's unfortunate that tempers were raised and that Catholics behaved so badly. However, I wouldn't dismiss as 'medieval' the attempt to put Christ back into Glastonbury by holding a Youth 2000 festival. After all, Glastonbury has so many associations with the saints - including SS Joseph of Arimathea, Patrick, Columba, David and Blessed Richard Whiting - and yet the town has been 'overtaken' by practitioners of a very alternative belief system. Surely Catholicism has an honoured place in modern Glastonbury?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having known many neo-pagans over the years, I have to ask how much exaggeration was involved in their accounts?

3:43 pm  
Blogger SGlynn said...

Speaking as a pagan myself, I do not condone the actions of some of the various people mentioned. They are many of us putting in the time and effort to convince the goverment we are a legitimae religion and there behaviour does not do us any favours.

I would like to point out that not all pagans do not practice magic. Stritly paganism is about acknowledgement of nature and seeing the truth in all religions. I myself belieave in Jesus as the pentagrammatron and know God as'the ultimate divine mind' The pagans that do practice magic do not curse as it is a violation of the 'harm none' rule, those that do are not pagans and mere pretenders, that is also true of those that reject other religions.

One of the problems for paganism today lies increasingly with teenage girls who have seen too much T.V. It is my experience that says these are the most likely to engage in negative soul damaging behaviour being fueled by corporations trying to 'cash in' on the still relatively recent pagan and new age movement.

In closing I would like to say there are many decent pagan people whow would definately not approve of the actions some of the indviduals mentioned no matter what side of the coin they are on. There is a potential for a good flow of religious debate and philosophy as well as recognition of common grounds if only people would be prepared to forgo selfish ego and embrace others as what they are, Humans beings created by God (whatever name you call him) with the same beliefs, just in a different way. It sad to see this is not yet the case but there is always a hope and a prayer.

7:50 pm  
Blogger Matt Doyle said...

I would just like to add that Youth 2000 will not be invited back to Glastonbury, and take the matter seriously - they have posted a formal response to the incident on their website at

9:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been at the y2k procession in Glastonbury, I would like to congratulate jeffrey smith for his not allowing the wool to be pulled over his eyes. YES! The neo-pagans not only exagerated; they in some cases lied. The Times grossly exagerated and sensationalised what happened, and though it seemed almost impossible to surpass the Time's exagerations, the Guardian succeeded in doing so.
The truth be told: The person who was arrested was NOT involved in the y2k festival. He was a traveler who, after severe provocation as can be witnessed on CCTV, responded in words less than charitable. Indeed, blessed salt was gently sprinkled along the way of the procession. It was not thrown aggresively as alleged. In fact, it was not cast more than 50 cm from the man casting it. Not to mention that their was a police officer standing with the pagans at the time of the alleged a-salt! If things happened as alleged, surely their would have been grounds for arrest.
The good news is that despite their substandard journalism, the Times, Guardian and Sun all succeeded in highlighting one true and all-important fact: JESUS CHRIST was proclaimed in Glastonbury.
Now the bad news: Christian England is dead. So much so that a peaceful, prayerful walk with the Most Blessed Sacrament through her streets is now considered an act of aggression. Fortunately, we Catholics and Christians still believe in the Resurrection.

Jesus convert England!

-- FSM

4:40 pm  
Anonymous Morgana said...

Hello there, I live in Glastonbury and ploughed my way through the mire of the spiritual mud that was left behind after this incident. I have only just come across this entry in this particular blog (when I was searching for something entirely different!) which I think is probably perfect timing to give an update.
The ongoing situation is that Christians Together, wish to deepen their understanding of other spiritual paths in Glastonbury. Over the the next few months they are several meetings with speakers for the established churchs and speakers from the several pagan paths in the area.
How wonderful if differences can be honoured - by all faiths, including those of Druidism, the Craft and Goddess worship. Its a beautiful step forward and so, despite the bad behaviour ON BOTH SIDES, may the future grow brighter in the Light of Understanding

Bright Blessings

PS, I write as one of those of the pagan beliefs.

4:09 pm  

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