Prisoners Free to Practise Witchcraft in Their Cell
Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY
PRISONERS are to be allowed to set up altars in their cells for use in witchcraft ceremonies.
They will be free to drink wine once a week under the guidance of a pagan priest.
And they can burn incense, keep a twig as a wand, Tarot cards, rune stones and wear hoodless robes and religious jewellery.
Instructions sent to prison governors puts paganism on an equal footing with Christianity and other major faiths.
Freedom for pagan worship in the 139 prisons in England and Wales follows other Government concessions to alternative religions.
Last year, a Royal Navy sailor was given the right to carry out Satanic rituals and worship the devil aboard the frigate HMS Cumberland.
Two weeks ago, the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, told warders to remove charity tiepins bearing the cross of St George as they might be considered racist.
The rules on paganism, however, state that prisoners may use 'religious symbols which resemble those used by some groups with racist tendencies'.
The racist groups, the rules say, are not connected to paganism. It is thought the swastika, revered by some pagan worshippers, may now be used in jail ceremonies.
The new status of paganism was greeted with dismay by Christian groups.
The Rev David Phillips, general secretary of the Church of England's evangelical Church Society, said: 'We do not like to see restrictions on people's freedom of religion but we have deep reservations about the spread of these practices among prisoners.
'A lot of these beliefs are harmful and can lead to greater harm.' The right to pagan worship has been established in a Prison Service instruction circulated to governors, chaplains and 'diversity officers'.
It says pagan beliefs must be accommodated in jails and establishes the ways in which pagan prisoners - there are currently 205 - may follow their rites.
The document lists pagan 'traditions' which may be followed including druidry; worship of Odin, Thor and other Norse gods; Shamanism; and Wicca, or witchcraft, which the Prison Service says ' worships the Great Goddess and the Horned God'.
The main pagan festivals listed are at the time of the full moon and seasonal celebrations such as the spring and autumn equinox, midsummer and the Celtic New Year on October 31. …