Tuesday 6 April 2010

In the news: Malcolm Gaskill on witch-hunts

In yesterday's Guardian Malcolm Gaskill, author of Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction and Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-century English Tragedywrote a feature called Witch-Hunts Then - And Now. In it, he draws a parallel between the European witch-hunts of the 15th to 18th centuries, in which about 50,000 people were killed as witches, and the persecution of people accused of witchcraft in modern-day sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Malcolm Gaskill says that the similarities are not only due to the kinds of accusations made against often innocent people, but also the social conditions such as economic depression, poverty, political and legal disruption in places where witch-hunts are rife. He said: "A sense of anxiety and suspicion, and a willingness to resist evil with violence, were pervasive."

Witch-hunts in Europe are luckily a thing of the past, but they are still a massive problem worldwide. Malcolm Gaskill said:

"In September 2009 the UN identified witch-hunting as 'a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe'. In July this year the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, an organisation established last year, will hold its first conference devoted to alleviating the crisis in developing countries."
You can read The Guardian feature at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/05/witch-hunt-witchcraft-accused-killed

I recently reviewed Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction on my blog at: http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2010/03/review-witchcraft-very-short.html

I'm currently reading another book by Malcolm Gaskill - Hellish Nell: Last of Britain's Witches- and I will be writing about it on A Bad Witch's Blog when I've finished it.

1 comment:

Badwitch said...

Andrew - Thanks very much for your insight into the problems witches face in South Africa. Fascinating.