A COVEN of cackling witches pump their broomsticks in the air as they dance around a flickering bonfire on a beach.
The whistling wind blows onshore as they cast a spell and pour potions onto the blaze. Flames explode and grey smoke floats up as the sky suddenly darkens.
It may sound like a spooky scene from Halloween or Eighties hit film The Witches of Eastwick — but this ritual is not out of the ordinary on Kent’s Isle of Sheppey.
“We are the Witches of EastCHURCH,” booms head witch Charlotte Clark, as she waves a vessel of burning sage in my face.
“This is cleansing all the negative energy around you.”
As the fumes creep into my lungs, I choke and gasp for air. The “wicked witch of the east” is now holding hands with the rest of the coven, who have slid into a semi-circle around the bonfire. Dog walkers stop and stare as their pets growl at the spectacle.
“Grab a broomstick and join us,” shouts Charlotte. “Being a witch has never been so popular.”
She’s not wrong. There has been a surge in people taking up magic. The hashtag #WitchesofInstagram has more than 3,280,000 posts and even celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon — or should that be broomstick.
‘MOST WANT SPELLS FOR AFFAIRS OF THE HEART’
Just yesterday we told how actress Helena Bonham Carter had “contacted” the late Princess Margaret through a medium to win permission to play her in TV’s The Crown.
And last week Amanda Holden joked she was a witch who can communicate with her Britain’s Got Talent pal Alesha Dixon’s unborn baby.
Charlotte, 55, a mother-of-five and a barmaid by day, has seen a huge rise in people joining her coven, The Lady of Light, and coming to her for spells and readings.
She now has 40 witches in her circle — 25 of whom live in Eastchurch, a village on the island.
She says: “Every week we meet up and cast spells, do readings and carry out seances. If there’s a full moon we go to the beach with our broomsticks and perform rituals.
“We also go to the pub together — after all, we like to be around spirits.
“Around 15 people a week contact me for spells and another ten for readings.
“Around 90 per cent of the people who get in touch want spells for affairs of the heart, generally to make someone fall in love with them or win someone back.
“Other people use magic to make them rich, get their dream job or home.”
She discovered she could hear spirits when she was a child and honed in on her powers by reading books such as Moon Spell Magic and A Witches Bible. These taught her rituals for romance and spells for money, love and positive energy.
Charlotte, a medium, has been practising witchcraft for more than 30 years and charges £30 for a half-hour reading and £50 for an hour. She has even worked with the late TV medium Colin Fry, of Most Haunted and 6ixth Sense fame.
She uses crystals, pendulums and tarot cards with her psychic skills for readings but also relies on her “guides” — ghosts who speak to her.
She says: “Every witch has her own Book of Shadows — all the spells they’ve learnt over the years. I am always adding to it, it’s my guide.”
But Charlotte doesn’t charge for spells as she simply tells someone how to perform the spell they need.
She says: “Recently a woman asked for a spell to make her lover leave his wife. I obliged but told her, ‘Be careful what you wish for’.
“One time, I put a spell on myself and it totally backfired.
“I wanted a man to fall totally in love with me but I ended up with a stalker!
“Love spells are the most popular but I always warn people to approach with caution.
“Another time I had two women coming to me who were unwittingly seeing the same man. I knew he was two-timing them but it wasn’t my place to say. Both wanted spells to make him fall in love with them as he had been ‘distant’.
“And a man came to me for a potion to make his penis bigger. I told him, ‘There’s only so much magic can do, you need to see a specialist for that!’
With that, Charlotte tosses her broomstick in the back seat of her Mini Cooper and gets behind the wheel, checking her witch’s hat is in place before she sets off. She is taking me to the beach, where seven of her circle are waiting to perform a ritual. As we drive, locals laugh and shout, “Oi hag” at her. With a laugh, Charlotte says: “I’m well-known in the village.”
As she whips around the winding country roads, other drivers at junctions wave her through first, even when it’s not her right of way. “They’re scared of me,” she says.
On the beach the waiting coven are preening their broomsticks and swapping spells. A passing woman shouts: “I used to be a witch too, before I started my HRT for the menopause.”
The witches, whose ages range from 17 to 74, cackle back and invite her to join them.
Among the group are stay-at-home mum Laura Wilkinson, 43, and her daughter Pagan, 17. Laura is a good witch “in general” but has dabbled in dark magic when women go after her man.
“One woman kept flirting with my hubby,” she says, stifling giggles. “So I plucked a hair from her brush and wrapped it around a homemade voodoo doll. I stuck a few pins in her legs and a few days later she tripped over, hurting her ankle. She’s in our freezer actually — the doll, not the woman.”
‘MY BOSS IS IN THE COVEN TOO’
Shivers run down my spine and I tie my hair back, careful not to leave any stray strands around.
Nearby, Joanne Leigh, a 45-year-old carer and mother of six, says: “I have been practising witchcraft for two years. My boss, who is a manager at the care home I work for, is in the coven too — that’s how I got my job. My family think I’m bonkers and that it’s all mumbo jumbo.
“I don’t cast bad spells, as it will come back to you sevenfold. But believe me I have thought about it, so never say never.
“One time I was doing a ouija board and called up a bad spirit which would not leave the board so I threw it on a BBQ. That was the wrong thing to do, as fire releases the energy.”
It meant Joanne had to perform a ritual with sage and holy water.
Retired civil servant Maggie Edser-Lands, 74, got into witchcraft through next-door neighbour Dee Barron-Griffin, 56, who owns a taxi firm. Maggie says: “My hubby used to call us a pair of witches, so it made sense to become one!”
While most of the villagers we encounter today seem amused by the coven, Charlotte explains they get a lot of abuse too.
She says: “I’ve been called a nutter, which doesn’t bother me as I’m a bit mad. But I do get upset if people accuse me of ripping people off or preying on someone’s weakness or tragedy in their lives. Some people will always have that opinion, but I know I’m a good witch.”
Charlotte suddenly goes silent, puts her hand to her head and begins to nod. “Cheers, thank you,” she says, apparently to herself.
“Who are you talking to?” I ask, a bit freaked out.
“Oh, I’m just talking to my spiritual guide,” she says. “He often comes through to me and gives me information on people.”
Turning to me, she adds: “He reckons you’ll be married soon.”
Excited, I ask for a spell to make my boyfriend propose.
“Get a red candle and a piece of paper and write his name on it,” says Charlotte. “Then write, ‘I am your forever love and you know you can’t live without me. You want me from the bottom of your heart and you want me to be your bride. Blessed it be’.
“Then roll it up and set it on fire with the candle. Make sure the paper burns to ashes then bury all the remains in the garden.”
“Great,” I say with a smile, jotting it down. “And is there a spell to make him do the washing-up?”
“Yeah, it’s called a dishwasher,” she says with a chuckle.
That night I try out the love spell. As I bury the ashes, my nosy neighbour’s curtain twitches.
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A few days later, my boyfriend and I pop into Poundland. He disappears in search of tea towels and returns beaming.
“Look, they’re selling engagement rings for £1,” he says laughing, thrusting one in my face. “Will you make an honest man out of me?”
What was it Charlotte said? Be careful what you wish for.
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