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SCOTLAND'S top exorcist called yesterday for a "crusade from the pulpits" against the occult.

Father Jim McManus, 62, said witchcraft and paganism were intertwined with evil.

The priest - who is the only Catholic clergyman to regularly perform the service of Deliverance - said devil worship could only lead to tragedy.

The profile of paganism will be given a boost next month when two festivals and an academic conference are held.

Next Saturday, Scotland's largest ever festival to celebrate Wicca will be held in Glasgow.

The following 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 at Dundrennan, near Kirkcudbright, which culminates with the burning of a giant wicker figure.

Yesterday, Father McManus said: "Witchcraft has as its basis an evil source - devil worship.

"It can only bring unhappiness with its emphasis on the sexual - it can't bring spiritual fulfilment.

"People are fascinated by it. It hooks them and then ruins their lives.

The Redemptorist monk, who is based in Perthshire, added: "Giving it academic status gives it credibility.

"There should be pulpit campaigns to warn people of the spreading menace of this devil worship."

The Harry Pooter books and TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been blamed for promoting the occult.

The Pagan Federation claims it has more than 2000 members in Scotland, a rise of 20 per cent in the last six months.

The Witchfest on July 5 in Glasgow's Langside Hall is expected to attract 5000 visitors.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the organisers, the Children of Artemis, said: "We are promoting paganism, not devil worship. The two things are entirely separate."

Promoters of the Wicker Man festival denied they were promoting paganism.

Organiser Alastair Black said yesterday: "It's really just a pop festival."
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Jun 29, 2003
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