Johannesburg - The South African pagan community has hit back after reports earlier this week that a "witches Mecca" was operating on the Gauteng West Rand, with hundreds of school pupils involved in Satanism.
The report quoted self-professed occult expert Dr Kobus Jonker, who said there were an estimated 62,000 Satanists in South Africa, 80% of whom were under 18.
South African Pagan Federation president the Rev Norman Geldenhuys responded: "The figure of 62,000 is ludicrous.
"The Christian definition of Satanism is loaded, in that it classifies all other practising religious groups (with the possible exception of Jews and Muslims) as Satanists.
"There are about 50,000 practising pagans in South Africa, which includes the Shaman, Druid, Asatru and Wiccan beliefs."
The report quoted a local counsellor, Hennie Brits, who said that the youngest "witch" he'd met was 12 years old.
Blood sacrifices are out
Geldenhuys responded: "There is no doubt that occult practises are attractive to youngsters, but our groups do not take on members under 18.
"We do get requests from under-18s wanting to start covens, but this is largely due to the popularity of shows such as Charmed and Buffy."
Geldenhuys said he was aware of a "satanic cell" operating in the Edenvale area, but this was a closed community not open to the public, and who "definitely don't take on children".
Responding to Dr Jonker's statement that about 14 people are killed in satanic sacrifices each year, Geldenhuys said: "None of the pagan religions practise blood sacrifices.
"This may have formed the basis of many early religions, including Christianity, but neo-pagans revere life, and sacrifice would be against our ethics.
"I'm willing to accept 14 satanic deaths a year as a possible worldwide figure, but I only know of one proven satanic murder in South Africa."
"As far as reports of sex orgies are concerned," added Geldenhuys, "I've been in the game for 28 years, and I'm not averse to being a little naughty, but I haven't found one (orgy) yet."