Witchcraft in Hopwas woods near Tamworth, Staffordshire
To most of us, dancing naked round a woodland fire is odd, to say
the least. Some treat it as a joke and dismiss the participants as
'cranks' or 'loonies'; others find it sinister and frightening.
But whatever you may think of Mr Lees and his colleagues, there is no
doubt at all that they are sincere in their beliefs.
articulate (at least, the ones interviewed by our reporter) they
appear genuinely to strive towards the truth as they see it.
One thing is certain: Now that their activities have been exposed (and
how!), Hopwas Woods may see the like again...
Opinion, Tamworth Herald Friday 29th June 1984
Back in 1984 strange goings on were reported at Hopwas Woods. A
local newspaper the Tamworth Herald, carried stories of nude
witchcraft rituals and the like. An 'International' occult group, The
Order of the Silver Star, conducted magical rituals in the
woods. After reading comments made by various members of the order
during the course of interviews with Herald reporters, the
group doesn't come across as having been sinister or even
remotely evil. It's a pity that groups like this aren't left
alone, they harm no-one, in fact their motives and aims seem quite laudable!
Below are some photographs I took of Hopwas Woods on 24th August
2008. The woods do have a slightly sinister atmosphere, but to be
honest I was more worried about getting inadvertently shot at
by the Army, there is an Army firing range at Hopwas woods.
Tamworth Herald, Friday 22nd June 1984; Strange midnight ritual round a fire
Police swoop on naked 'witches' in the woods
EXCLUSIVE REPORT BY JOHN BENNETT
NAKED "witches" had to end their secret midnight ritual when police
moved into an isolated clearing in Hopwas Woods near Tamworth.
The 16 startled witches - six of them women - were dancing and
chanting around a fire. They spent the rest of the night in the cells
at Tamworth police station, because officers suspected they were in
possession of drugs.
It is understood that the witches claimed they were part of the
international Silver Star organisation and were celebrating the
weekend's summer solstice - the longest day.
Police were called to the woods in the early hours of Saturday after a
car was heard making its way along a narrow track.
In a clearing on, Army owned land at the heart of the firing range
danger area police found the naked dancers with a supply of food and
drink, and equipment thought to have included a chalice and a sword.
Police reinforcements were sent to the scene and some officers stayed
to guard the site throughout the night.
The witches, aged from the early 20's to nearly 50, are thought to be
mainly from the Tamworth area. But it is believed some had travelled from
as far as the West Country for the ritual gathering.
Superintendent Don Robinson, Tamworth's police chief, said: "All 16
people agreed to come to the police stations voluntarily so that we
could check out their identities and the account they had given of
"We then suspected they were in possession of drugs and they were
detained so that we could inquire into that aspect."
"We are now considering the question of proceedings under the Drugs
"As far as we can make out, no offences were committed other than the
possible drug offences."
When they were discovered, the witches are understood to have told
police that their presence had desecrated the coven's "sacred ground".
But Superintendent Robinson said they had co-operated with the police
in the investigation.
Yesterday a Tamworth clergyman who is an expert on the Occult said he
had heard for a long time about a coven of witches meeting in Hopwas
The Rev David Shearer, Minister of Coton Green Evangelical Church,
said: "I would have no doubt that the people involved in the incident at the
weekend are witches."
"Witches - white or black - are all worshippers of Satan, and part of
the Occult. There is no such thing as witches working for good."
He added: "I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is more than one
witche's coven meeting in the Tamworth area."
Tamworth Herald, Friday 29th June 1984; Occultists talk of ritual
Nude dancers hit out at 'witches' tag
by Sue Robinson
FOUR Tamworth occultists who were involved with others in a naked
ritual at Hopwas Woods, spoke out this week and said: "We are insulted
to be labelled witches and black magicians."
Their activities were discovered during a midnight police swoop when
officers saw 16 "specially selected" nude men and women dancing in a
They were taken to Tamworth Police Station for questioning, but later
released. Police said 'certain substances' had been sent to the
Mr Jame Lees, self-confessed leader of the ritual, talked from his
cottage in Albert Road, Tamworth, this week, with three other members
of the group.
They were a former Queen Elizabeth Grammar School pupil and Tamworth
businessman Stefan Dajnowicz, a young woman called Carol Smith, and a
third member who did not want to be named.
The rituals, they said, had been going on in the woods for 12
years. But there would be no more now. The woods had been known as a
source of energy.
The men and women are part of the Order of the Silver Star,
international occultists and astrologers who, they say, have their own
philosophy on the meaning of life.
"We strive towards the truth. We work with computers and take all
systems of religion, thought and philosophies and try to put them into
one system." said Mr Lees.
"We use very advanced math and modern physics Calculations", he said,
"are based on the discovery in 1976 of numerical key to the English
"Astrology is only a tool for us. It makes up only 20 per cent of out
He said occultists began holding rituals in Hopwas Woods 12 years ago
when the code to a certain English text was discovered.
Carol Smith explained: "The ritual last week was part of a series of
rites that have taken place there to avert a major disaster, caused by
the influence of Pluto, in October or November."
"The 16 people involved had been specially selected. We cannot say
what the disaster is;" she added.
During last week's ceremony, also held in other parts of Britain and
throughout the world, group members representing different influences
formed themselves in a Pentagram.
They wore robes and had a sword, wand, pentacle and cup.
"But what we would like to convey is that we are not a witchy group,"
"We are serious occultists within the worldwide but closed group of
"We don't make spells or follow Satan. We are an order that has a
philosophy and a way of life, and a set of attitudes, that has been
Mr Lees said: "In the middle ages occultists and astrologers were not
burnt or persecute by the establishment, because they worked for the
"Even today's Royal Family take a lot of notice of astrologers."
"Loyalty to the Crown is still our essence, and because of this we
obey the police."
Mr Lees said they never tried to put their views over to other people
but perhaps could help them at times without them knowing.
"People who want to join us or meet us, just meet [up] you would term
it an accident."
"We can predict the future and there is telepathy. We believe
everything is predestined."
"We believe that to be a human being is more important than to have a
'Loyalty and love.
"Individuals who join us must have integrity, honesty and a capacity
for loyalty and love of one's fellow man within our continuum."
"People who join are usually dissatisfied with Christian teaching or
any other teaching. They see Christians saying one thing and doing
Mr Lees said the rituals held were connect with the stars and planets.
"The removal of our robes as symbols of power lessens the power from
the planets we represent."
"The nakedness itself is irrelevant. We are not naturists. We don't
walk around with no clothes on, but we don't consider nudity or
otherwise relevant, except for the disrobing ceremonies in rituals."
"We will move"
In America, he said, the Order of the Silver Star was better known and
- "people even walk about in AA T-shirts." The letters stand for
Argenteum Astrum, Silver Star in Latin.
The discovery of the occultists in Tamworth would not drive them out,
said Mr Lees.
"But we will move out when we are ready. Our time here is spent. We
will not be leaving in a hurry."
Children of the members were not indoctrinated, said Mr Lees.
"We don't involve them in our discussions here or in our
rituals. No-one involved is under 21."
'Thrust upon us'
Carol Smith said: "We find it difficult to explain about ourselves. We
have never had to work on a media package before."
Mr Dajnowicz added: "It's not that we particularly wish to summarise
or explain. The interest has all been thrust upon us."
They said people in the group were usually very bright, intellectual,
creative people. It did include artists, dental technicians and
Mr Dajnowicz said they found the 'labels' naked witches or satanists
"It is not fair to say occultists are only for bad purposes. In my
case, after 16 years of work, it is insulting to be told we are