It hasn't always been quite that rigid - in the past, as a reasonably well known pagan blogger, I've once or twice been given permission to take photos of people who were giving talks so long as I asked them first and no one else appeared in the shot. Generally, however, Witchfest is a camera-free zone under specific instructions of Children of Artemis, which organises the event.
Other pagan and witchcraft events also control photography - though not usually quite to the Witchfest extreme of banning it entirely. At the PF 40th Anniversary Conference this summer photography was allowed so long as you asked permission of anyone who was going to be in the shot.
The Charge of the Goddess Conference last year had a wonderful display of items relating to Gerald Gardner and people were allowed to photograph that as well as being allowed to take pictures of speakers who permitted it, but photography of delegates attending the event wasn't allowed.
Are witches really that camera shy?
The reason usually given for limiting or banning photography at pagan events is that some people need to keep the fact that they are witches secret for fear of persecution. In the past, certainly, people have lost their jobs simply because they were pagan. Quite understandably many witches preferred to play safe and keep their religion absolutely secret from those outside the craft. They certainly didn't want to risk their boss seeing some photo posted on the internet in which they could be recognised attending a pagan event.
But is that level of secrecy really necessary these days?
In the UK, pagan religions including druidry, Wicca and witchcraft are far more acceptable and well known than they were even four or five years ago. Although I suspect some discrimination still takes place, I haven't heard of anyone being sacked just for being a pagan for years in England. If they did, I am sure they would have a very good case to take to an employment tribunal.
It seems perfectly reasonable to have a ruling saying that you must always ask permission before photographing anyone at a pagan event. I can also understand photography being banned during rituals and ceremonies, because many witches believe that the use of electronic devices can disrupt the flow of magic. It would also seem sensible to ban flash photography during performances because it can be distracting and spoil the show.
But surely it is time to get a bit more flexible.
My feeling is that most witches these days would be quite happy for photography to be allowed at pagan events. They would like to be able to take photos of themselves and their friends enjoying a great day out. I would certainly like to be able to show you photos from events such as Witchfest on my blog.
What do you think?