By David Barrett
Oct. 31, 2010

Police officers will be in a strong position to handle witchcraft-related incidents after receiving official advice on dealing with pagans and witches as part of a 300-page diversity handbook.

It is Hallowe'en and the witching hour is drawing nearer, but don't be alarmed – police officers are on the case, having been issued with official guidance on how to deal with witches.

The advice is contained in a 300-page "diversity handbook" which gives officers a range of "dos and don'ts" when approaching followers of a range of religions and other beliefs, from atheism to Zoroastrianism.

Instructions include avoid touching a witch's "Book of Shadows", which contains their spells, or handling their ceremonial dagger.

The online handbook also advises officers not to jump to conclusions if they encounter a situation where a blindfolded, naked person is tied by their hands – they could merely have stumbled upon a pagan ritual, where such activities are normal practice.

"Witches have a Book of Shadows, which contains a handwritten record or diary of their personal progress as a witch," says the guide.

"Often the books have ornate covers, some have the title Book of Shadows on the cover, some don't.

"Any book can be used, but this book is regarded as private and special and should not be touched by anyone but the author. If it is possible to avoid touching this book then it is best to do so."

The guide, drawn up by the Metropolitan Police, Britain's largest police force, warns against interrupting a pagan ceremony.

It adds: "Some ceremonies include a blindfolded, naked participant, whose hands may be bound. This is in accordance with ritual and has the full consent of the participant."

Officers are also given advice on the ceremonial dagger, known as an athame, carried by witches and some other categories of pagan.

"When entering a witch's home do not touch an athame without the owner's permission," it says.

"During the Beltane Bash that celebrates the festival of Beltane (around the end of April), it has become a custom for some to wear athames in various sizes, sometimes sword size, on a belt, as a visible symbol of their pagan faith and to wear them in the streets.

"These are not intended to be used as an offensive weapon but might be misinterpreted as such."

Also provided is a glossary of pagan terms including the traditional greeting of "Merry Meet" and an explanation of a "wickening", or child naming ceremony.

It explains the dates and significance of pagan festivals such as Imbolc, Lughnasadh and Samhain – also known as Halloween.

The handbook also states: "Pagans have no religious dietary laws. However, many, though not all, witches are vegetarians."

In nine pages relating to atheists, the handbook gives advice on places of worship, Holy texts and prayer, stating: "There are no designated places of worship.

"There are no prescribed texts. Atheists have no prayers."

It adds: "Atheists have no dietary requirements other than those of the individual."

It also gives officers a handy guide to key atheist philosophers, and famous agnostic thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll and Thomas Henry Huxley.

It warns: "Be aware that Atheists might feel offended by an assumption of faith," it warns.

As well as religions and beliefs, the book gives officers advice on dealing with teenagers, including a guide on "teen speak", to allow officers to communicate with younger members of the population.

The guide explains that "Talk to the hand 'cos the face is in Spain" means "I am not listening", while "Da bomb" means "great" or "excellent".

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