Church attacks pagan event

A GROUP of pagans have called for respect and tolerance after church leaders in Essex attacked their religion, claiming it can put people in great danger.

The warning from the Bishop of Chelmsford, who is leader of the Church of England in Essex, came after Colchester pagans arranged to meet to celebrate the start of spring at the Shrub End Centre in the town.

The Right Reverend John Perry claimed the Pagan practices were contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ and should be avoided by all Christian people.

In a statement, he said: People who dabble with the occult and pagan practices - from tarot readings and Ouija boards to witchcraft and magic - are exposing themselves to great danger.

Many people have been drawn into the world of the 'New Age Pagans' feeling that it is an innocent spirituality based on respect for the earth and nature, whilst being unaware of the deep psychological damage which can be caused to individuals by some of the more sinister practices of pagan and Wiccan organisations.

Vicar of the Shrub End Parish, the Revd Chris Newlands, said if the festival went ahead he would be in church praying for the community.

There is an element where they take things like Wicker and it can become dangerous and can lead people into a sort if abusive behaviour and that can cause psychological damage.

I have got nothing against people who have respect for the earth and the seasons but the problem though with paganism as a term is that it can involves a lot of other grouping including Satanism and Wicker.

He added he was mainly concerned about the use of Ouija boards and spell casting, a practice that he claimed would be taking place at the Shrub End Centre.

But yesterday, Colchester pagan Carole Morse, who is training to become a High Priestess, said people would never be forcefully converted to the religion which celebrates the earth and the seasons.

I don't believe in the Ouija boards and I am sure that if spirits are out there, they have got better things to do than play silly games on the board.

We have a saying which is 'Do what thou whilt as long as thou harm none' and look at the new Archbishop of Canterbury who is practicing the beliefs of live and let live, she said.

She added she did read Tarot cards but had never made any money from the practice, other than for charity.

Another member of the Colchester Pagans said the church's views showed a great misunderstanding of the faith.

Diane Firmin of Stanway said: It just makes me so sad, it really does make me sad, all we are asking for is for toleration. We don't want confrontation and problems, just understanding and a realisation that there is nothing evil about paganism.

I cannot understand why some people in Colchester are so intolerant - they will understand Islam, Hinduism but not this.

She said she hoped to meet with members of the church to discuss their fears about the religion.

The Pagan Leaping Hare Celebration to welcome the start of Spring is to take place this Saturday at the Shrub End Centre.