The ancient magic of witchcraft is celebrated at Hallowe’en, reaffirming the life force and ensuring the old powers will never be lost.One dark night at Hallowe’en, a gathering of thirty witches, all members of a coven known as the Order of Artemis and led by the High Priest of Hove, prepared themselves to perform naked in special Hallowe’en rites. Artemis, for whom the coven is named, is one of the most venerated of ancient Greek Goddesses and the equivalent to the Roman Diana. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto and sister of Apollo and her special role is Goddess of the Hunt.The purpose of the ceremony held by the Order of Artemis was to communicate with the dead and to invite them to return to earth with special messages for friends and relatives.Herne, the High Priest, Explains the Power of the Coven”One might be my father or grandfather – unless they have been reincarnated, of course,” said Herne, the High Priest, who was, at that time, a fifty-three year old businessman and a father-of-two. Herne declined to reveal his real name because there is still a lot of prejudice against witches. “My neighbours don’t know I am one. We shall be raising power by means which will include dancing and sex.” Herne was anxious to convince anyone who would listen that, although the ceremony included sex, it would be “properly controlled.””It’s always used at the Great Sabbath to summon up power, but it’s a small part of the ceremony and not a wild orgy. Witches always work naked,” said Herne. However, it should be pointed out that while this may have been true for Herne’s coven, in general, adherents of the Wicca do not include nudity and sexual activity within their rites and celebrations.The Coven Members – Pillars of the CommunityThe coven consisted of policemen, housewives and civil servants, all of whom regarded the secret Hallowe’en ceremony as a reaffirmation of the life force. They had faith in spells, and sometimes they created specific spells to help others, for example, sick or unhappy people. They would find jobs for the unemployed and reconcile married couples about to get a divorce. Herne said the people they helped did not know about the spells and that no spell was ever cast to the advantage of the coven.The High Priest preferred to describe his craft not as witchcraft, but “wisecraft” or “The Wicca” and stressed it was nothing to do with black magic or Satanism. He said, “We are a nature religion and worship the old gods.” The Order of Artemis had twenty-six members including a chef, an author, lawyers and a computer scientist. That Hallowe’en night they were joined by four people from another coven, including Herne’s wife Athene, making a grand total of thirty.Farmers Seeking WitchesRites were normally held outdoors. The coven preferred traditional sacred places, stone circles, especially those at the junctions of ley lines and other places that carry mystic power. Farmers actively pursued the coven to perform on their land because it increased fertility. One farmer’s lamb yield rose from nine to sixty after the coven had performed their secret rites on his farm, while another travelled thirty-five miles to persuade the witches to use his land.Wiccan Gods and Goddesses Worshipped Since Medieval TimesToday, many Wiccans, as followers of the religion “Wicca” are called, worship both a Horned God, associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality and hunting, and a Triple Goddess who embodies maiden, mother and crone. The God is sometimes symbolised as the sun and the Goddess as the moon. The God is also sometimes depicted as The Green Man. Some covens focus only on the Goddess, whom they see as complete in herself.The Horned God and the Great Mother Goddess have been worshipped in the British Isles since early medieval times.Adapted from Paranormal Brighton & Hove, Janet Cameron, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.The Brighton and Hove Gazette, 31.10.1980.