Eron the Wizard given magical send-off in spectacular pagan ceremony

With his shaggy beard, long flowing cloak and even the obligatory staff, Eron the Wizard certainly looked the part.

But the man dressed like the mystical Merlin of Arthurian legend was in fact a former builder called Ian Wilson, who died of cancer aged 63.

On Thursday scores of witches, fairies, goths and druids turned out to pay tribute to the high priest who became one of Britain's foremost pagans.

In a spectacular ceremony, believed to be the first full-scale pagan funeral of its kind to take place in Britain for centuries, he was given a magical send-off.

Eron the Wizard, from Tintagel, Cornwall, had been convinced he had magical powers and dedicated his life to spreading his form of wizardry.

His dying wish was for a celebration of his life in the way of Wicca, the modern pagan, witchcraft religion.

So in his honour, a convoy of Subaru Imprezas, including his own yellow Impreza estate, followed the hearse carrying his black wicker coffin as it arrived at Penmount Crematorium in Truro, Cornwall.

It was decorated with sticks and rose stems, some arranged into the symbol of the pagan star, and a ceremonial dagger was on top the coffin.

The mourners greeted the hearse with many wearing extravagant pagan costumes of red, green and purple velvet gowns.

Some wore hats decorated with pagan symbols and feathers and many of the men carried staffs, some with skulls and horns on the top.

A high priestess had travelled from Austria to lead the service, which began with the entrance of four torch-bearers standing at each quarter, representing the elements.

The group then cast a circle and blessed it with the elements before calling the watchtowers.

Julia Stoiber, a 37-year-old third degree Alexandrian High Priestess from Austria, read passages from the Wicca religion's Book of Shadows.

During the ceremony she summoned the Pagan Gods and Godesses from the North, East, West and South - representing Earth, Wind, Fire and Water respectively.

She did so by waving a ceremonial knife she called Nathane and reading a short passage to each God before kissing the blade and turning 45 degrees to address the next one.

She told the congregation: "Ian was a pagan, and we believe that life goes in circles, we see this every year.

"We believe when you die you are also reborn.

"We believe he is still here in spirit, death is not the end for us."

Towards the end of the 40-minute ceremony Ian's daughter, Rebecca Spencer, 27, dressed all in black, paid her respects.

She said: "My father was my best friend. He was the best dad I could possibly imagine.

"He didn't always live this way, he was once a builder in Gloucester with short hair.

"But he always wanted to do this, and live in Cornwall, which eventually he did.

"I don't really know what to say at this time, other than I love my dad very much and I'm going to miss him."

A selection of music played - including Eron's favourite Beatles' song Baby You Can Drive My Car - and Kate Bush's This Woman's Work.

The congregation did not sing, but joined in a pagan prayer which began: That which once came earth will return again to earth/That which once belonged to the spirit will return again to the ancient ones.

After the service the coffin was returned to the hearse and driven away and Eron will be buried on Friday in a cemetery in his native Dursley, Gloucestershire.

Several of the mourners paid tribute to Ian, who lived in mystical Tintagel, Cornwall.

Tim Whitham, 52, a fellow Cornish pagan, said: "We were kindred spirits.

"Ian would have loved the ceremony, it summed up his beliefs well.

"He believed everyone should love each other and live in Harmony, not just with people, but with the land as well."

Terry English, a pagan and prop maker for films, said: "The service was beautiful, magical.

"It was very befitting of Ian, a truly lovely man and dear friend."

Rebecca said: "I thought it was really good, a very nice service. Dad would have been proud, especially of the Subarus.

"It hasn't quite hit me yet, that I have lost my Dad, but it will when this is all over.

"I love my dad and miss him dearly."

She added: "To me, he was just my dad but he was different to others. He was a practising wizard who looked like Merlin and even carried a staff.

"He travelled all over the UK telling people to believe in magic.

"Being pagan meant a lot to him and, with this Wiccan funeral, I'm giving dad everything that he wanted.

"He believed he had magical powers, he thought if you believed in magic it was true.

"He believed he had feeling powers, and could feel energy from people. He believed he could help people."