DRUIDS and witches in Dorset are to hold a large pagan gathering near Weymouth to celebrate the festival of Beltane.

The three-day gathering for several hundred people, at a location near Portesham, will take place from May 2 to May 4 - and the highlight will be a fire ritual, including the burning of a wicker man.

Unlike the sacrificial pyre in the cult film The Wicker Man, Dorset's version will contain wishes and spells which visitors to the gathering will be able to attach before the ritual.

The event is being organised by the Weymouth-based Dolmen Grove and will include music, maypole dancing, outdoor activities, meditation and mystic sessions, the famous Pickled Witch market, circus skills, archery, re-enactments and a bardic competition.

Weymouth's pagan folk/rock band the Dolmen will be performing on the Saturday night before the fire ritual.

Early music specialists Rigantona will be organising workshops and demonstrating traditional instruments as well as performing.

Folk duo Heelstone are also among acts lined up for the event.

Chris Walsh, arch-druid Melkin of the Dolmen Grove, said: "Beltane is the traditional spring festival of rebirth which is something most people can relate to.

"Anyone who is interested or sympathetic to pagan beliefs will be very welcome. We are hoping that at least 300 people will attend."

There will be camping on the site with facilities, plus food venders. Mead and cider will also be on sale.

Security will be provided by members of the Dagda, a pagan group with considerable experience at festivals and other events. The event has previously been held at a site near Corfe Castle.

Mr Walsh said: "We decided to bring the gathering closer to home for many of our members - the precise location will be announced closer to the event."

Tickets for the Beltane weekend cost £30 for adults with reductions for children. For more details visit the Dolmen Grove website here or telephone 07918 143682.