Local pagans were pelted with salt and branded witches who “would burn in hell” during a procession organised by Youth 2000, a conservative Catholic lay group. The Magick Box, a pagan shop on the route of the march, was also singled out and attacked.
Maya Pinder, the owner of the shop, said: “We’ve had to hear comments such as ‘burn the witches’, we’ve had salt thrown in our faces and at our shop, people were openly saying they were ‘cleansing Glastonbury of paganism’.
“It was as if we had returned to the dark ages. This is hugely damaging to Glastonbury … it is hard enough to trade in Glastonbury as it is, if you were to take away the pagan element it would be a dead town.” The Somerset town is known for having a large population of resident and visiting pagans.
The archdruid of Glastonbury, Dreow Bennett, said: “To call the behaviour of some of their members medieval would be an understatement. I personally witnessed the owner of of the Magick Box being confronted by one of their associates and being referred to as a bloody bitch and being told ‘you will burn in hell’.”
Father Kevin Knox-Lecky of St Mary’s church said that after meeting representatives of the pagan community he had decided not to invite Youth 2000 to the town again.
He said: “A family appeared who we don’t know, who were very destructive not only in the town and to the pagan community, but were also swearing at our parishioners as well.”
He said the majority of Catholics taking part in the procession had been well-behaved and respectful of the pagans.
The retreat was organised last week to mark the 467th anniversary of the beheading of the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Richard Whiting, and fellow martyrs.
Youth 2000 describes itself as “an independent, international initiative that helps young adults aged 16-35 plug back into God at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church”.
It was set up 10 years ago by a disenchanted Catholic barrister who wanted a return to the traditional teachings of the church for young people.
Charlie Conner, the managing director of Youth 2000, said: “There were several incidents that happened that same weekend that were linked to people who had come to Glastonbury for the retreat. This was in direct contravention of the general spirit of Youth 2000 and its express instructions. The young man who was fined was not in fact registered on the retreat, although he did attempt to attend it.
“Youth 2000 does not condone or encourage this kind of behaviour from anyone. We fully agree that differences on matters of faith cannot and should not be resolved by any kind of harassment.”
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police confirmed a youth had been arrested at Magick Box on suspicion of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
Two women were also given cautions and warned about their future conduct.