SATANIC and phallic symbols have been daubed on to a church in the New Forest, close to where livestock were killed or injured in a spate of apparently occult-inspired incidents.
An inverted cross, the number 666, and other graffiti was painted on the door of the Grade II* listed St Peter’s, Bramshaw, last week. “At first, we thought it was probably kids just mucking about, but then afterwards we heard about the animals being attacked,” the Team Vicar of Bramshaw and Rural Dean of Alderbury, the Revd David Bacon, said. Two sheep were fatally slashed and painted with pentagrams at Bramshaw, and three cattle were found with stab wounds eight miles away at Linwood.
“Those attacks alarm me more than the attacks on the church,” Mr Bacon said. “It certainly scares people in this area, particularly those who are running livestock in the forest. Daubing things on church doors is something some silly people might do for fun, but taking a knife to an animal is in a different league. I would not be surprised if there were not more sinister connotations.
“I just hope and pray it becomes yesterday’s news: I don’t want to give these people the publicity. I don’t believe there is a satanic cult stalking the New Forest. There are plenty of witches around — there always have been in the New Forest — but I would imagine a lot of them would be equally appalled, because taking a knife to an animal requires a particular temperament.”
The New Forest became associated with witchcraft after the author and occultist Gerald Gardner said that a group of witches held meetings there in the 1930s.
The dead sheep were found by a Bramshaw resident, Judy Rudd, as she walked her dogs. She said: “It had purple and green aerosol symbols sprayed on it. It was a pentagram and a cross. It was intended to cause upset. It’s very bothering to have someone out there with a knife and prepared to use it.”
Sgt Andy Williams, of Hampshire Police’s Country Watch team, said: “These incidents are unusual in the New Forest. We are looking at the circumstances of each one to see if they are linked, and to see how these animals came to be injured. We would also urge anyone who uses the Forest to be vigilant.”