The BBC has been criticised for extensive coverage of a pagan festival to mark Halloween and accused of neglecting Christianity.
The corporation’s 24-hour news channel devoted considerable time to the celebrations in a riverside meadow where witches gathered to celebrate mark Samhain, the turning of the year from light to dark.
Dressed in hooded gowns, women were seen standing in a circle around a cauldron while ritualistic acts were conducted.
Diane Narraway, the coven leader, knelt before a ram’s head to say goodbye to the goddess of light while a broom was used to sweep a sacred circle in the grass.
As well as a clip of the event, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott wrote a long posting on the website.
The festival was described on the BBC’s News website as part of the country’s ‘newest religion’ after the Charity Commission granted religious status to druids last month.
Christian leaders reacted with anger to the coverage, which was the fourth item on BBC One news at 6pm last night, and said it was yet another example of marginalising Christianity and giving undue airtime to other beliefs.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It’s not always healthy to represent such beliefs as paganism as mainstream, particularly when our national faith is so often pushed to the edges.
‘It’s vital that our national broadcaster remembers our great Christian heritage and all the precepts that come from it that are good for the nation. I would like to see this more clearly recognised.’
The decision to allow so much air-time to the minority event in Weymouth, Dorset, was questioned at a time of a 16 per cent cut in the corporation’s budget.
Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute, said: ‘I understand the BBC might choose to concentrate on something for one day, but I consider it to be symptomatic of a much bigger problem across the BBC.
‘They down-play Christianity and up-play paganism which is unreflective of British society. It does create an atmosphere where it’s OK to marginalise Christians.’
The BBC recognised paganism as a recent tradition which originated among ancient Celts for whom the natural world was a wilderness that brought them sustained life, but brought death and danger.
When asked about the extent of coverage given to the pagan rituals, a BBC spokesperson said: ‘We don’t have anything to say on this.’
The coven also meets regularly to make spells, using potions and coloured candles to achieve its aims.