Modern-day witch reveals her secrets

Samantha Lycett is a modern-day witch living in Lancashire.

Samantha is a solitary Celtic witch, practising alone from her home in Clayton Brook, but she is part of a wider Pagan community firmly established across the UK.

Keeping her company is a friendly black and white cat.

Samantha explains: "Cats are what is known as a familiar – they act as a warning, signal if there is any negative energies around, and can help you go on journeys spiritually and through meditation.

"As witches we are very close to the animal kingdom. It is a big part of us and there are witches who will campaign for animal rights because it is important. They are living creatures with thoughts and feelings."

But there is more to being a witch than cats and candles.

Samantha explains that paganism is a religion which focuses on the feminine side of life, although there are also male witches.

In the 2001 census, some 30,000 people declared themselves as pagan with a further 10,000 specifying a route (Wicca, druid, witch etc.), ranking paganism as the seventh largest faith in the UK today.

But anecdotal evidence from Pebble, the public bodies liaison committee for British Pagans, suggests that a mere one in five Pagans expressed their beliefs in the census.

Samantha says: "As a rule, as witches and Pagans we are not hiding anything. Being Pagan is so deep in your heart it is a very personal individual religion – it runs through your blood – it is extremely strong.

"Your thoughts of the Goddess can come in many times a day. In the morning as I light my candles and at night when I go to bed I thank the Goddess and ask for help and support.

"As you do these things as a pagan you do them with the breath that you breathe. I step outside and notice the light shining amongst the trees and I see that as my lady shining me some light.

"You don't always have to be in ritual or in a circle to be in connection with her."

Paganism is based upon three principles – to be connected with the earth and nature, to a God and to a Goddess.

The Gods and Goddesses can be taken from any tradition such as Celtic, Norse of Native-American.

Samantha says: "For me I am half Scottish and have an affinity to Ireland so I am a Celtic witch. Others see signs as though their Goddess is appearing to them in various forms, sending them signals.

"There are some groups of pagans who connect solely to the Goddess but for many they are connected to both – it is about polarity."

Samantha says she casts spells "when she needs to" but always looks for an answer within herself. She says people often come to her and ask her to cast a spell for happiness or inner confidence and she finds it rewarding to help other people, but she also says it is strictly against the rules to cast a spell for personal gain.

She adds: "I would never cast a spell behind anybody's back, even if I thought it might help them, because free will is very important to us."

Samantha has two sons, James, 10, and Benjamin, eight, whom she raises in the pagan tradition.

She says: "We take our parenting very seriously – as pagans we celebrate three phases of woman – maid, mother and wise woman.

"Although I am raising my boys in this way it is not dogmatic and they are free to make their own choices. They take part in RE and learn about other faiths – it is important for them to learn tolerance and understanding of other people's beliefs."

However, she says misunderstanding about her religion can be a little tiring and her sons have recently encountered prejudice for the first time. She says: "People think paganism is all about satanism and magic, but actually Satan is a Christian concept – we don't even believe in Satan – we have never had anything to do with that and never would."