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Biggest gathering of witches set to take place in Exeter

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 12, 2014

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Hundreds of witches are being invited to take part in a record attempt for the biggest number ever gathered in one place.

The current world record stands at 765 but Jackie Juno, the Grand Bard of Exeter, Devon is planning to break it with an event commemorating all witches put to death.

No proof of witchcraft is required and black cats are an optional extra.

However, to qualify as a witch for the world record, you must wear a black pointy witch's hat, a black cloak and carry a broom.

Jackie, whose role is to uphold and maintain the ancient tradition of the Bardic Chair, said: "There will be a short wreath-laying ceremony to remember the last three women killed for witchcraft in Exeter.

"They were held in terrible conditions before being hanged. We will also remember all those before them who were killed accused of witchcraft.

"We will then attempt to break the world record for the amount of witches gathered in one place - this currently stands at 765."

Men witches are also welcome to the attempt which is planned for August 31 in Rougemont Gardens.

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10 comments

  • Frothgar2  |  August 30 2014, 2:43PM

    I am closely linked to the organisers of this event and I feel the need to make a few points myself, as I have read some of these past comments and can see that there are some very negative and misguided attitudes out there. There are, of course, some people who have got the spirit of the event and, I am sure, they will really enjoy the day. I did hear [though I cannot find the comment now] that someone felt offended that he had not been given a special personal invitation to the event. Well, why? There is an open invitation to anyone to come along – no matter how big your brain is. You only have to bring a pointed hat, broom and cloak if you wish to be included in the count for the world record. Some other comments made me realize that you cannot please some people any of the time – they will always want to cast a negative shadow over others who are having a good time. One comment was about 'more respect' and what would this event achieve. Exactly that. People who are proud to call themselves witches today, and who enjoy no fear of persecution or prosecution [excepting some 3rd world countries] are gathering to show respect to the women (not just the last few) who were executed using very outrageous laws of convenience as an excuse to put to death innocent people who did not conform to what society expected of them (or, in some cases, because they upset the wrong people). One commenter seemed to have a problem with The Western Morning News clarifying that men are welcome to this event and state that the word 'witch' does not have a gender. Well, forgive them: they were only coming from a more learned viewpoint than your own. The word 'witch' comes from the Anglo-Saxon [Old English] word 'wicca' meaning a male witch. Female witches were called wicce and the genitive case was wiccian. As is typical in Old English, the double 'c' is pronounced as the modern 'ch' and so, sounded like witcher. As for your comments on the witch stereotype – how can you liken this to your own racist images of black women and Mexicans? Being a witch has nothing to do with race: it is professional or philosophical perhaps, certainly spiritual, but not racial. Finally, I would bet my runic staff that, at the events you mentioned (Witchfest etc.,), you will find many people dressed in pointy hats and carrying brooms... oh, and Stonehenge? Really? You might be mixing druids up with witches there. Another comment was made about the 'ludicrous stereotype' ...by someone who has a black top-hat and white-tipped wand as his profile image! The modern witch [including the stereotype] is nothing like the people who practiced the art in the past, no more than the neo-pagans of today are like the original pagans (the word actually meant 'non-Christian'). I was going to go on and on about hypocrisy etc., but... isn't this all a bit tiresome and pedantic? Suffice it to say; the serious aspect of the event is to commemorate and honour those women who were persecuted by an ignorant populace [instigated by the Christian church] throughout the ages - honoured particularly by people who would've been hanged if they had lived in the past – if you feel that was wrong: come along. The other aspect of the event is to make a statement about a strongly held belief-system and way of life by (hopefully) breaking some kind of world record. If the record-breaking committee stipulates pointy hats brooms and cloaks, so what! We have stereotypes in our culture. If you really are offended by stereotypes then be consistent – boycott Shakespeare, Walt Disney and the rest of society too. Or, get used to it, loosen up and listen to the words of Sir Laurence Olivier in 'The Theme from Time'. Ec Erilaz.

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  • Angel362  |  August 27 2014, 9:24PM

    While I do not actively practice witchcraft, I do believe in the old ways and will actually be in Exeter that day. Unfortunately I will not be wearing a black hat or carrying a broom. Why? Well because I will be meeting up with some friends to go around town in what we call cosplay (fancy dress to those less geeky inclined). I will be dressed as Elsa from Frozen so a witch of sorts. I am a little offended that not only do they stipulate you have to wear a black hat or carry a broom but also it would seem that this is a chuckle to the writers of this article. One of my biggest gripes about the world is that we are still so prejudiced about anything different. I was raised a Christian and I have a lot of respect for the faith. However, many historical leaders of the faith were barbaric creatures and most of the witch trails were political in nature. Not only that but it was a pope who created the word witch! They used this word to demonise the priestesses and healers of the world back then. I feel that Christianity is a very sexist faith created for the so called stronger sex. However most of the old ways cherished the fact that one could not live without the other. Women were not the dirtier sex because they had the children and had their menstrual cycles, they were the creators. Men played an equal part in being the hunters and protectors. It is 2014 and I was given to understand that we were not required up with any discrimination any more! I hope they make their attempt but I also hope that no one causes them any trouble as that would be wrong and unfortunately we would be the ones blamed as has been the case throughout history. Here endeth the rant. :) (Also it doesn't say what time they should be there!)

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  • Lightworker77  |  August 25 2014, 4:08PM

    Quote from a local Pastor: 'Don't allow it to succeed, Exeter prayer warriors! We have dominion.' Where are they at - this isn't a Holy War! I can't believe they are so unenlightened :o(

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  • Lightworker77  |  August 25 2014, 3:36PM

    I'm concerned as this has come to the attention of certain Christians who are now praying that this gathering doesn't happen! What a shame they are still polarised. Jesus loves everyone, doesn't he??

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  • pandora86  |  August 20 2014, 12:36PM

    From what I have read and looked into, it only states that if you want to be part of the world record attempt you have to wear the costume as that is what is stated in the Guinness world records as the terms to break said record. And to the general public who have no idea about witchcraft, they stereostype witches as women and so by mentioning men is just to make sure everyone knows this is not a female only event. I am taking my son and look forward to this event which would be nice if it became a yearly event. I am not a practicing wicca but am very interested in the morals and values and think some people havent got a nice thing to say, dont say anything at all. Its not a money making event and whatever is donated from the day is going to charity from what I have read. You don't see people slating the Whitby Gothic Weekend that takes place in North Yorkshire which has been going on for many years now.

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  • karennews  |  August 13 2014, 5:22PM

    I'd rather come with a bunch of herbs and a pentacle. I've never worn a black hat except at Halloween. I think this needs more clarity as to whether it is a commemoration, inviting anyone sympathetic, or a gathering or witches, in which case it needs more input from the local wicca community. I see there is a place where this invites people to acknowledge the latent witch in themselves, which is cool. The horrendous torturing of witches, however, is a sombre subject and I feel requires it to be left to the individual how to dress to attend a commemoration. Jackie Juno is also a fantastic stand up comic, though this approach may not hit the spot for others practicing wicca, I appreciate the initiative to arrange a large commemoration. It would be great to have a large gathering of practicing and non practicing people to commemorate those who lost their lives, as this will have an effect on the scars it leaves in modern day psyche around the areas of witchcraft, psychic ability and power. I hope it is conducted and attended with a spirit of sincerity, community and with a place for heart felt humour as is often appreciated on sombre occasions.

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  • red_lesbian  |  August 13 2014, 12:47PM

    As a Witch I actually have mixed feelings about this. I appreciate the sentiment behind commemorating the people who lost their lives for being a Witch. After all I do it myself. What I find insulting is the requirement of a costume and the need to say that men are welcome to join in. The word Witch doesn't have gender and is the term for a male or female, so there should be no need to mention men separately. Hoe insulting is this woman feeling the need to mention men separately? I have never felt the need to mention that men are welcome. It's just a given that a gathering of Witches is open to any gender. To suggest that men have to be given a special mention is pretty insulting. I don't even know where to start commenting on the costume requirements. What would any other community feel like of they were told they could only validate who they are by dressing in a stereotyped way? Do we find it acceptable to tell black women that they're only going to be considered black of they wear an apron and head rag, and carry a feather duster? Or how about telling a Mexican that they're only going to pass as a Mexican of they wear a sombrero, stick on moustache and carry a taco in one hand? I'm sorry, but I am a Witch and is in my heart and soul. It's my religion, my daily practice and is as important as the air that sustains my life. I find this gathering and article a joke and insult. I agree with the sentiment behind it but the rest of it is laughable. If you want to see the largest gathering of Witches take place, go to pagan pride in Nottingham, stone henge at a solstice, the Mercian gathering, Witchfest, Beltane at Thornborough, and any other similar national event. There you will find actual Witches. Not a random person in a pointy hat. A pointy hat and cloak does not make anyone a witch. It's in the heart, not the clothing

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  • KKempers  |  August 13 2014, 10:27AM

    One wonders if Ms Juno will be advocating a world record attempt of striped pyjama wearers on Holocaust Memorial Day as her next effort. This is crass and insensitive at best and plain offensive at worst. Remembering those who were (almost overwhelmingly incorrectly) accused and killed for witchcraft by laying a wreath is fine; connecting it with this ludicrous stereotype 'fun' event shows a staggering lack of common decency.

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  • Millietree  |  August 13 2014, 10:23AM

    You're not the only one Hellyn. One has to wonder who dreamed this up and what it will actually achieve? Not impressed and would ask the organisers to think again, call for the local witch community to organise something more in keeping with the respect which this is supposed to elicit.

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  • Hellyn  |  August 12 2014, 9:51PM

    I find this insulting to the witch community....black pointy hats? out of touch and out of time and perpetuates the wrong image...this isn't disney.

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