BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
World 
UK 
England 
Northern Ireland 
Scotland 
Wales 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Bewitching time for pagans
druids
Pagan worship grew after the act was repealed
Members of the pagan community are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the repeal of a law against practising witchcraft.

The end of the Witchcraft Act of 1736 officially allowed people to practise pagan beliefs openly.

Celebrations, which have taken place around the UK, will continue until the summer solstice on Thursday 21 June.

However there are still concerns from parts of the pagan community about public perception of the movement.

Andy Norfolk, from the Pagan Federation, organised a celebration in Cornwall but found some people did not want to take part in a public celebration.

Stonehenge
The summer solstice is on Thursday
"Some didn't want anyone to know they were pagans.

"It's good that we've reached this 50th anniversary but there are still concerns about how the public views the pagan community."

Helen Duncan, the last person to be convicted of witchcraft, was jailed for nine months in 1944.

The Old Bailey was told she claimed to have conjured up a dead sailor from a navy ship.

At the time the information that the Germans had sunk HMS Barham was still a military secret.

Pardon campaign

There is now a campaign to award Mrs Duncan, who died in 1956, a posthumous pardon.

It is estimated that between about 1450 and 1750 there were 100,000 witchcraft trials in Europe resulting in the execution of up to 50,000 people.

They tended to be people who were different in some way and who did not fit into their communities.

Descendants of five women hanged for witchcraft during the notorious Salem witch trials in the 17th century are still fighting to clear their ancestors' names.

Twenty men and women were hanged or crushed to death during the witch fever in Massachusetts, fuelled by a deep belief in the supernatural, and political feuds.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

29 May 01 | Americas
Battle to clear Salem 'witches'
04 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Buffy draws children to witchcraft
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories