Recent occurrences of animals being stabbed and then painted with apparently satanic symbols has raised concerns among a community in Hampshire, England, that the incidents might be connected, according to The Independent.
In fact, the combination of the peculiar animal violence with the area's alleged history of occult activity has some suspecting darker causes than simple crimes.
"People are concerned. I've been here 15 years and seen a lot of stuff, but nothing like this," said the Rev. David Bacon, the vicar at St. Peter's Church. "It could just be kids, but I don't think it is, given the context. There's been witchcraft round here for hundreds of years – the New Forest is well known for witchcraft and black magic happening, and this has obviously gone up a level."
A sheep was stabbed and killed recently, and then painted with pentagrams in the village of Bramshaw. Several cows were also found nearby with stab wounds, and police are investigating another report of a stabbed and painted sheep. Other satanic symbols, such as an inverted cross and the number "666" were painted onto the St. Peter's Church doors.
The late author and occultist Gerald Gardner claimed that a coven of witches used to meet in the New Forest at the start of the 20th century.
Locally-owned livestock are allowed to freely roam in the 220-square-mile community of the New Forest. The New Forest depends on these grazing animals to maintain the way of life.
"Any harm to New Forest livestock hurts everyone," said Tony Hockley, a resident and the chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association. "We all depend upon the vocational commitment of 700 local people to turn livestock out to graze the landscape. Most have just a few animals, and there are only 200 sheep in the whole of the New Forest.
"It is devastating to lose one in this way, and it is the sort of thing that will make commoners give up. If the grazing goes then the accessibility, culture and biodiversity go too. We'd implore anyone with any information on these terrible incidents to help the police."