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Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Tonks Brown says Paganism is a big part of her life

Tonks Brown lives on her own in a remote croft in the Scottish Highlands and says she is proud to be a real-life witch.

For her, Halloween is not about costumes, pumpkins and trick or treating.

"I think society has a pop culture idea of witches," says 36-year-old Tonks.

"It is about so much more, it's a big part of my life, it's my religion and faith," she says.

The 31 October is New Year for Pagans and Tonks says it is all about starting afresh and not taking baggage into the harsh winter months.

She turned to Paganism when she was 12 and living on the Isle of Mull.

"I was bullied at high school for being different," she says.

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Tonks has a witch's broom and a black cat called Cairn

"I had the Wee Free Church thrust down my throat at school, having services in a church and praying all the time," she says.

"I can remember being told off for colouring-in when I should have been praying."

Tonks says it was in the outdoors that she got the sense she was not on her own and "that animals were enlightened beings".

"I would save a snail from a path so it wouldn't be trodden on," she says.

"It was this that made me realise nature was my church rather than a big, cold, old building."

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, A big part of spells is burning herbs

Tonks says she found that Paganism "just felt right and made sense to me".

"Everything in nature has an essence, everything has its own purpose and it's nice to be more aware of that and to fit in with that."

She also began reading about the witch trials of the past.

"Unfortunately, lots of witches tend to be women, women who had knowledge, midwives and herbalists," she says.

"So they they thought in the past we must kill her because we can't have a woman with knowledge."

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Tinctures and jars of herbs cover many shelves in Tonks' house

Tonks, who works for the emergency services, drives 10 minutes each day to a remote outpost to work in an office.

She says she has learned not to preach about Paganism but will stand up for witches in her day-to-day life.

"If I hear someone making a joke about a witch I will chip in and say I'm a witch," she says.

"I will challenge any form of prejudice but it's never confrontational."

Tonks, who previously worked as a tour guide in Edinburgh, says she has worked in councils, the police and the ambulance service but her Paganism is not usually an issue.

"I did have a colleague who was terrified of a prop I had taken to work that looked like a wand because I was going to a rehearsal straight after work," she says.

"She wouldn't touch it due to the stigma surrounding witches. I tend to just find it amusing rather than being hurt by it."

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Tonks only casts good positive spells

Tonks says Halloween, for her, is about practising her Pagan spells and witchcraft.

She has been growing herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme all year in preparation for the festival which is known as Samhain in Gaelic – marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or "darker-half" of the year.

Tonks has been drying the herbs on her fire so they burn better when she is using them in her spells.

She will burn the sage to "smudge" – cleanse – herself and her house with the smoke and has salt and iron for protection from ghosts, fairies and other supernatural entities.

She has also been anointing candles with different oils and herbs as well as carving symbols into them to use in spells on the big day.

Spells in a teacup

For the more obscure herbs she has to make a trip to the herbalist.

"Eye of newt or toe of frog are medicinal names for plants but often people think witches are using these body parts, which is not the case, it's just plants," she says.

She makes the spells in a teacup before pouring them into a charcoal pot, which she will light when she is performing her spells on Halloween.

She will perform them at an altar in her bedroom with plants representing earth, incense for air and candles for fire and water.

White witches, like Tonks, who do not cast spells with malicious intent, use two ritual knives.

They use a Boline, which is a white-handled knife for collecting herbs and carving candles and an Athene knife, which is used to make a shape or cut a cord in a spell.

Tonks says she is always on her own when she does her spells.

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Witches like to spell Magick with a "k" to differentiate it from stage magic

"I know lots of other witches, we are everywhere, in the police, in local shops, but it is too personal for me to practise magic with them, you have to have a huge amount of trust," she says.

White witches refer to a witches' journal called the Book of Shadows for spell recipes.

She says: "I adapt spells from the book as is the hedge witch style."

Tonks says she will be wearing robes or no clothes at all when she carries out her spells on Halloween.

And she will have a carved turnip "with a scary face" at the door of her bothy to ward off ghosts "so they won't bother" her home.

She says: "I'm out of the broom closet these days and tell people I'm a practising witch and 99% of them react the same as if I had said I was Christian or Muslim.

"I'm proud to be a real-life witch and Halloween is the best holiday."

Image source, Tonks BrownImage caption, Pumpkins and turnips are used by witches to ward off ghosts