GALLERY: Witch coven comes out of the woodwork

THE Wedderburn New Age Festival has given a coven of white witches the strength to come forward and stand up for their beliefs. 

More than 200 people attended the inaugural festival on Saturday, where a group of local witches revealed their wiccan beliefs for the first time. 

Dressed in purple and black, the women said it was liberating to finally be themselves in the small community. 

"It's the first time I've really come out of the woodwork and told others about my beliefs; it was scary but this festival helped me do it," white witch Barbara Collie said. 

"I didn't realise how many others in the community were into alternative things too - it's been amazing really."

It hasn't been an easy road for organisers Gaye Washington and Jacquie Stallinga, who were accused of "brainwashing the community with devil beliefs" by the Christian sector. 

But, despite being "attacked and accosted" in their home town, they say it was well worth it. 

"When you get a negative response like we had, you can understand why people don't stand up loud and proud for their beliefs," Ms Stallinga said. 

"But we believe we've opened the community's mind to alternative things."

The festival featured tarot card and palm readings, massage, reiki, spirituality workshops, music and art, and a display from the Wedderburn church sector.

Gold Seeker Christian Church Pastor Maxine Tonkin, who initially said she had concerns about the festival, attended the event with fellow church members. 

She wore a vest with several Christian slogans printed on it. 

"There has been lots of interest and we are here to represent the Christian community influence," she said. "I think that's really important."

People from Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and central Victoria attended the festival. 

Many attendees said they made the trek to Wedderburn to support the white witches and stand up for free speech. 

"Of course we think that the negative comments were totally unfounded," attendee Linda Marold said. 

"Australia is founded on free speech - it's the basis of our secular society and it really is none of the church sector's business what other people do or believe in.

"And they said the devil was in Wedderburn, but seriously the devil would die of boredom in 30 minutes at Wedderburn - it would much prefer to be in Bendigo."

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