Exorcist calls for crusade against occult

The Scotsman (Scotland), June 30, 2003

An exorcist yesterday called for a ‘crusade from the pulpits’ against the growing power of the occult.

Father Jim McManus said paganism and witchcraft were intertwined with evil and needed to be stamped out.

The 62-year-old priest – the only Catholic clergyman to perform the service of “deliverance” regularly – said devil worship could only lead to tragedy.

The profile of paganism will get a boost next month with two festivals and an academic conference on the subject are held north of the Border.

On Saturday, Scotland’s largest ever festival to celebrate followers of Wicca will be held in Glasgow, and next week Glasgow University is hosting a two-day conference to discuss the significance of the film The Wicker Man and the rise of the occult.

It coincides with the Wicker Man Festival in Galloway, which will culminate with the burning of a giant pagan wicker man, as in the film.

The Pagan Federation alone claims over 2,000 devotees in Scotland – rising by 20 per cent in the past six months.

Fr McManus said: “Witchcraft has as its basis an evil source – devil worship. In the end it only cons its devotees, it does them no good at all.

“People just stumble into this by accident. They are fascinated by it, it hooks them and then ruins their lives.”

Fr McManus, who is a monk in the monastery of St Mary’s in Perthshire, added: “If people are looking for a sense of purpose and fulfilment in life, they are not going to find it at the end of that road.”

In the west of Scotland alone, membership of the Pagan Federation has boomed by a fifth to around 500 this year. About half its members are witches.

The 1973 film The Wicker Man – starring Edward Woodward as a god-fearing police sergeant who is burned to death by pagans, shot in Galloway – has built up a cult following.

Now Glasgow University has launched the first academic conference, under the title Rituals, Readings and Reactions.

Dr Benjamin Franks, a philosophy lecturer who is organising the conference, said: “The organisers are not promoting one theological view over another. We are no more encouraging paganism than a conference on Steven Spielberg’s Amistad would be promoting slavery.”

Promoters of the Wicker Man Festival, at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright, last night denied they were promoting paganism. This year it expects to sell 8,000 tickets over three days. It promises an alternative festival with attractions including extra-terrestrial artwork and a standing stone pyramid.

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