PAGANS have dismissed ‘ridiculous’ claims they plan to kidnap a member of the public as part of festivities in Epping Forest next week.
An anonymous leaflet stuffed through letterboxes on Epping High Street on Monday (July 23) warns of a Pagan ‘plan to abduct a male member of the public for use as part of their rituals’.
Pagans traditionally celebrate Lammas Day, the wheat harvest festival, from July 31 to August 1 – the mid-point between summer solstice and autumn equinox.
Mani Navasothy is a Wiccan High Priest and representative of the Pagan Federation, which works with the Government to create guidelines on recognising Paganism.
The 42-year-old has led several Pagan camps at Debden campsite and staged his wedding on the edge of the forest.
He said: “That’s just ridiculous. Nobody is going to catch a man and abduct him. I have got a degree in physics, so I’m not an idiot. Practising Pagans just don’t do that sort of thing.
“I myself have led rituals in forests and I used to tell the police and council – we always do it very carefully and formerly. If anything we just go for walks in the wood.”
Contrary to the leaflet’s claim that next week’s celebrations will involve ‘public nudity, unauthorized fires, sacrifices and heightened risk of kidnapping’, Mr Navasothy said they were likely to entail a ‘drama’-like ritual, with worshippers in masks and costumes acting out the cutting of the first wheat.
“We don’t do animal sacrifices and definitely not people. That would be criminal.”
Simon Webb, the Loughton-based author of Unearthing London: The Ancient World Beneath the Metropolis , said Epping Forest had been used by worshippers of Pagan gods since the Neolithic period.
“The main road from the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk to London passed straight through Epping Forest and straight through Waltham Abbey," said Mr Webb, 58.
"Travellers worshipped half-human, half-horned goats and took symbols of their religion with them.
“There are old roads leading through the forest made by Celts. They’re called ‘green lanes’, and they were used as old trackways.”
Mr Webb confirmed Epping Forest was still a draw for practising Pagans: “Not far from the Wake Arms roundabout, there’s a clearing with lots of symbols carved into the trees. You’ll also find traces of fires that have been burning there.
“I don’t doubt for a moment that on Lammas Day there will be people lighting fires and dancing round naked in Epping Forest,” he added.
For more information about the Pagan Federation, visit www.paganfed.org .