GLOUCESTER, U.K. – Pagan shop Spellbound, in the centre of the southwestern city of Gloucester, was targeted recently by a firework attack. This took place at the weekend, on Saturday 16th March of this year, while the owner was standing outside the shop with a customer and a staff member inside, when a youth ran up and threw a banger – a type of explosive firework – into the shop. The youth ran off towards Gloucester cathedral.
Owner Toni Hunt has described the attack as “one of many”.”They pick on us because we’re a witchcraft shop and they’re really ignorant of our beliefs. We cannot function as a business with this type of persecution going on. A customer was there on Saturday and it frightened them.”
Although Hunt reported the attack to the police, the response has not been helpful. She says that staff members have left the business because of aggressive behaviour on the part of those antithetical to the shop. “We have had a history of problems because of the type of shop we are … It’s not just antisocial behaviour – it’s consistent and persistent.”
Hunt calls for more awareness of pagan beliefs to be taught in schools. “The only thing to do is educate your children to have respect for people with different beliefs.”
A commentator on the shop’s Facebook page believes that these youths, who have been caught on camera, have been causing trouble elsewhere in Gloucester recently, in nearby Westgate Street, and that the police have also been informed about this.
Spellbound was the subject of a hate campaign two years ago, when the staff have received death and arson threats. In 2017 Hunt said that “If we were members any other religion or group it would be treated as hate crime and dealt with appropriately. Persecution of witches did not end centuries ago – it is still very prominent in the 21st century and we are being subjected to it regularly.
Over the last twelve months there is one particular lady who has targeted the shop. We have her on CCTV but nothing seems to be done about it and my two staff members are fearful of her. We have been called all sorts – Black Magic Badger Killers, Spawn of Satan and in the same league as ISIS to name just a few. It’s just not acceptable. I have two lovely staff members here. They are just young girls and they are regularly being mocked and laughed at due to their beliefs and the way they dress…I believe if this was a mosque or a church being targeted far more would be done but we are just not taken seriously.”
She added that “One incident, where we arrived to find what appeared to be glue all over the outside of the shop, was caught on CCTV and has been reported to the police but still nothing has been done and we have to continually face each day wondering what we will be subjected to next. All I really want is the police to realise the gravity of the situation. This isn’t just someone saying they disagree with our beliefs, this is harassment and hate crime. We are being verbally abused, our property damaged and no one is being held to account.”
Someone has been seen outside the shop apparently conducting an ‘exorcism’. In 2017 the police stated that they were attempting to identify the suspect from CCTV and that this was being treated as a hate crime. It is not clear whether the two episodes are linked. The Police Pagan Federation have apparently become involved and it is to be hoped that this time, an arrest will be made.
Gloucestershire itself is not new to witchcraft, with evidence of cunning practice and grimoire magic taking place throughout the county over the last few hundred years – but not all the cases are old ones. Witches have continued to feature in the Gloucestershire news well into the 20th century. Evidence of witchcraft (involving a piece of grimoire work) was found at Wilton Place in the village of Dymock, dating from the 1600s. A woman named Ellen Hayward worked as a herbalist and phrenologist, treating people across Gloucestershire from the mid 19th century onwards. She was accused of witchcraft and went to trial in the 1900s, but was let off after the magistrate dismissed the charges, having received over 30 letters of support for Ellen from local people. And one of the last people in the country was brought to court under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 – in 1933.
Her name was Nesta Lane, and she claimed to be a clairvoyant, healer, and medium. She gave consultations in Worcester Street – a short walk from where Spellbound lies today. Lane was charged on two counts of “fortune telling to deceive and impose on His Majesty’s subjects” after an undercover sting by two female police officers. Holding a crucifix in the dock, the defiant Lane told the court “Christ has no money to pay his fine. You have not heard half my case. Take me down.” She was not jailed, but fined £2 8s. However, Lane did not give up her craft after this episode. In 1960, now living in Cheltenham, she once again made the papers, for cursing a couple who had allegedly stolen a garden spade from her.
In this most recent case, it is the witches who are bearing the brunt of criminal activity and it is to be hoped that justice will prevail and any persecutors of Spellbound are brought to account for their actions, under criminal law. The shop, which runs regular courses in healing, reiki and other subjects, has had a great deal of support on social media from its customers and the wider pagan community in the UK.