Monday, November 03, 2008

Pardoning witches

My editor at Random House forwarded me this CNN news item about a campaign in England to pardon its executed witches between the 16th and 18th centuries.

This is great news, and I hope Queen Elizabeth II will indeed extend the pardon.

A London costume supplier called Angels launched the campaign, which in some ways raises my eyebrows: was this a bid for publicity around Halloween by a large store that presumably does most or all of its business this time of year? Fortunately, Angels enlisted a witchcraft historian named John Callow to help them compile evidence, lending some scholarship to their cause.

The article states that 400 souls, men and women, were executed in England, while an exponentially larger 4,000 were killed in Scotland.

Angels put up a website to garner signatures for their petition—when you click through to the story, there’s a link to that site as well.

The piece mentions Salem’s witchcraft trials (all were eventually pardoned), but not the other 150-odd cases in the U.S. It’s so strange—people tend to believe that the Salem trials represent America’s only foray into witchcraft persecution.

Sadly enough, the Angels spokesman Benjamin Webb said the pardon isn’t a given:

Webb said while few people today may believe those men and women deserved execution, their stories still generate suspicion and stigma. That extends to modern-day criticism of children dressing as witches at Halloween with the idea that it's evil or connected to the devil, he said.

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