Witches, druids and bards on their way to Stroud for pagan gathering
WITCHES, druids and bards are descending on Stroud for their annual conference.
Pick up tips on spell-making, or get a new fairy house at the event on Saturday, when the Wessex branch of the Pagan Federation meets at Lansdown Hall.
Witch Jan Hardy, who lives on a canal boat at Frampton- on-Severn, is the conference organiser and manager of the Wessex pagans.
Jan, a retired advertising executive, felt it was time to bring the gathering, which has previously been held at Glastonbury, to a new venue in Stroud.
Around 150 pagans from across Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset and beyond are expected for the one-day conference.
Speakers include Stroud storyteller and bard Kevan Manwaring and witch Anna Franklin, who will be speaking about herbs and magic and their use in spells.
"Pagans believe in a god and goddess – or a male and female concept – and also the life force of nature and its cycles," explained Jan, who has been a Pagan for more than 30 years.
"Pagans come from all walks of life."
They celebrate the eight festivals of the year, including the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes
According to the latest UK census, Paganism is the seventh largest religion in England and Wales with around 80,000 followers.
Its roots in the UK stretch back thousands of years.
"It is the only religion that hasn't been imported," said Jan.
As a witch, Jan is a member of a coven following a branch of Paganism known as wicca.
Other types of Pagans include druids who meet in groves and and are inspired by trees.
"Don't be scared of me. Our rule is 'harm none'," she said.
All are welcome at the conference and tickets are available on the door.
"This is really exciting for Gloucestershire," said Jan.
Stalls will be set up in the Lansdown Hall gallery, including Boscastle's Museum of Witchcraft and Borrage the Elf's fairy houses. The gallery and stalls will be open to all visitors free of charge from 9.45am to 5.15pm.