Occult dabbling at ancient Gloucestershire well
Wannabe teenage witches are being blamed for sinister signs and symbols springing up around the ancient sacred site at St Anthony’s Well.The spring, which is supposed to have miraculous healing powers and was once used for public baptisms, is becoming a magnet for young people interested in witchcraft.
But those who have seen the signs and symbols in the secluded woodlands fear the teenagers are too young to be “dabbling”.
Some symbols appear to be harmless “well dressings” associated with Pagan-style rituals to welcome the spring equinox.
But placing pentagrams and other witchcraft emblems so close to a Christian site could be more sinister.
And some visitors walking near the well in the secluded Flaxley valley between Mitcheldean and Littledean have been “spooked” by the latest developments.
High priest Tim Oakes says members of the Forest of Dean coven and other white witches are planning a clean up operation at the well which is named after a Christian saint canonised after a series of miracles associated with water.
Mr Oakes says it is also among the top 20 pagan water sites in the country and added: “St Anthony’s Well has become a target for what I can only describe as amateur pagans. It is a beautiful sacred place and we deplore any attempts to redecorate it. Our view is that these things should not be there, you should not have these symbols in the middle of a glade.
“There are a series of books aimed at encouraging teen witches but no reputable coven will accept anybody under 18 so they have nowhere to go.
“They read these books and go down there armed with a little bit of knowledge to try to get involved.”
Over the years neighbours have become accustomed to the sight of semi clad or naked people bathing in the square stone basin which is said to cure skin complaints.
Neighbours say police are often called out to noisy teenage camping parties at the beauty spot in the summer.
Now the number of pagan symbols appearing in the undergrowth appears to be growing. This week they included flowers at the entrance to the spring and a five sided pentagon of leaves within a circle of pine cones in the middle of the main path.
Cleared ground was covered in undecipherable writing and what appears to be several mini altars created from natural materials.
One churchman, who did not want to be named, said the symbols, whether innocent or a direct challenge to Christianity, should not be there.
“The intricacy suggests a degree of deliberation,” he said. “What is forbidden is quite alluring to the teenage mind but we have to ask ourselves what is happening when young people are turning to this kind of behaviour?”
“I think it is tuning into the sense of hopelessness and abandonment many young people feel today. The danger is, they do not understand what they could be unleashing.”
As a border county the Dean has become a magnet for witchcraft and iron age artefacts suggest the well has been a ritual site from ancient times.
Cistercian monks from the nearby abbey swore by the powers of the water, said to work best if you visit the well nine times at sunrise during May .
Mr Oakes is expecting a lively discussion when the earth mysteries group discuss ancient wells at their meeting on Thursday, April 1 at the Anchor Inn, Lydbrook at 7.30pm.