Prison chiefs have hired a pagan priest to give spiritual advice to three inmates serving life sentences.
The prisoners have converted to paganism and, under prison service rules, are allowed a chaplain in the same way as those with Christian or other religious faiths.
To deny them a pagan chaplain would infringe their human rights, said John Robinson, the prison governor at Kingston Prison, Portsmouth.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
Ian Edwards, a pagan priest, visits the men at a cost to the taxpayer of ?11.56 an hour plus expenses. He is able to bring with him tarot cards and a wand, but not the cauldron he uses in spell-making.
Mr Edwards, who receives the title of reverend by being a prison chaplain, visits the inmates in their cells three times a month and has helped them to celebrate Samhain, the pagan name for Hallowe’en.
He said he only conducted positive spell-making and would not help prisoners who wished harm on anyone.
“We mark out a circle. We invoke the god or goddess appropriate to whatever it is they want to do,” he said.
“It is usually something concerning their state of mind, for example to have more self-control.”
Mr Robinson said it would be unreasonable to deny the men access to a priest from a belief that was lawful in the wider community when inmates of other faiths were provided with spiritual help.
“It would be very difficult from a human rights perspective to deny somebody the right to practice a legitimate faith,” he said.
Colin Dyer, the pastor of Alverstoke Evangelical Church, in nearby Gosport, said: “I think it is dabbling with the occult and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.”
Instructions to governors on how to cater for paganism were issued to prisons last month.
Book skip-the-line tickets to the worlds major religious sites — or to any other place in the world.
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.