Pagan Community Notes: More support for justice and memorial for Scottish “witches,” Ghana begins to take action to stop “witch-hunts, and more!

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FIFE, Scotland – The debate over a monument to honor the victims who were persecuted and executed in Scotland under the Witchcraft Act of 1563 has the support of Claire Mitchell, Queen’s Counsel (QC).

Mitchell is behind the website, Witches of Scotland, which lists its purpose as:

A Campaign for Justice

Witches of Scotland is a campaign for justice; for a legal pardon, an apology and national monument for the thousands of people – mostly women –  that were convicted of witchcraft and executed between 1563 and 1736 in Scotland.

In an interview with The Courier, Mitchell said,

“It has been acknowledged that these people were wrongly tried, wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. I just think that Scotland needs to acknowledge that this has happened and also remember those people it’s happened to.

“It changed Scottish history. There are families that never were as a result of this.”

Mitchell also noted that the 15 women, and four men in the U.S. city of Salem, Massachusetts were formally pardoned and that there is a memorial garden dedicated to them.

On the Witches of Scotland website, it is noted that the victims of persecution were largely women, 84%. The number of people accused under the Witchcraft Act between 1563 and 1736 is estimated to be 3837, with 2558 of the accused being executed.

The site also outlines where many of the symbols still associated with Witches originated:

The signs associated with witches (broomstick, cauldrons, black cats, black pointed hats) were actually things those of “alewives” – women who brewed weak beer in medieval times, as a method of combatting the poor water quality at the time. The sign above their door was a broomstick to let people know they could buy beer, they used large cauldrons for brewing, cats were kept to keep the mice at bay and the black pointed hats were used to make themselves easily identifiable at market. Brewing was seen as “women’s work” it was not until the craft of brewing became a profitable business that women were ousted from the role. It may have been the very process of removing women from that role by making people suspicious of their “brews” that caused the link to be made with witchcraft and the brewery symbols to become those of witches.

According to The Courier article, on a walk through Edinburgh Mitchell “noticed statutes tended to depict men, while the many women executed at the former Nor Loch – now Princes Street Gardens – merely have a small plaque,” and it was this realization that inspired her to seek justice for the victims of the Witchcraft Act.

Mitchell said of the plaques, “It’s not a condemnation of it or even an apology. It’s just an explanation that here was where witches were burned.”

Since last September there have been renewed calls for some type of memorial with a focus on the coast in Fife at The Ness in Torryburn as a proposed location.

Mitchell seeks three things for those who were accused and convicted: a pardon, an apology, and a national memorial. Time will tell if she and those who support such actions are successful.

 

In other news:

  • Last week the Mattel corporation announced the release of the Barbie© Dia De Muertos 2020 doll to in recognition of the Day of the Dead holiday celebrated at the beginning of November when families gather to honor their deceased loved ones and ancestors. The doll is listed as the work of designer, Javier Meabe, and described as:  “The Barbie® Dia De Muertos series honors the traditions, symbols, and rituals often seen throughout this time. Barbie® doll is a vision with her face painted in a captivating calavera design. Her blush-colored lace dress is embellished with tiny pearlescent details and opens slightly to reveal a second layer embroidered with floral and skeleton accents. Golden highlights in her hair shimmer beneath a crown of skeleton hands holding roses and marigolds.” Last year’s release of the first Dia De Muertos Barbie© brought criticism and accusations of cultural appropriation. Meabe defended the creation of the doll, citing his own cultural background of being Mexican-American, and saying,  “I know how important this tradition is and the responsibility it implies to represent this culture, so it wasn’t taken lightly. I just hope that people know how much love we put into this doll and how much respect we have for the Day of the Dead.”
  • The mutilation and killing of approximately 30 horses across parts of France have sparked fear among horse breeders and members of the communities where the killings have happened. The first horses killed occurred in February of this year with reports increasing over the summer, with nearly one case a day being reported in the past few weeks. There has been speculation that the deaths and mutilations might be connected to some form of occult practice since ears, eyes, and genitals have been removed from the animals. However, a police spokeswoman said, “We do not understand the motivation. Is it a satanic rite, insurance fraud, some macabre trophy hunt or an internet challenge? We don’t know. It is very traumatising.”
  • Last week the famous ruins of Mycenae in Greece were threatened by wildfires, with staff and visitors had to be evacuated. Fortunately, firefighters were able to contain the blaze and there was very little damage done to the site–the blackening of the entrance to the site, the Lion Gate, and some burnt grass. Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said the impact of the fire was very limited, “The damage caused to the archaeological site was the least possible, as the fire service acted swiftly and dry vegetation from the area had been cleared away.” Fires have also broken out in the southern Andalusian region of Spain which resulted in the evacuation of more 3,100 people and have damaged close to 30,000 acres. The area has seen higher than average temperatures which are believed to be a contributing factor to the recent fires.
  • Authors Lucía Moreno-Velo and Gwyneth Box released a new, collaborative Pagan prayer book, A Wound in Time: Pagan prayers for a modern world.  The authors share that the book includes twenty-one prayers, blessings, and other devotional pieces that answer global and individual concerns of the twenty-first century, such as sickness, death, climate change, technology, community, self-worth, and mindfulness.
  • Author Erin Lale released a new book, Asatru: A Beginner’s Guide to the Heathen Path, released by Red Wheel Weiser in August 2020. She will be signing books on October 24, 2020, 5:00 pm-6:30 pm, outdoors at Fantasia Crystals, Phoenix, Arizona.

In “witch-hunt” news:

  • The Savannah Regional Coordinating Council has established an eight-person committee for the Akua Denteh Foundation. The goals of the foundation are for members of the committee to travel to communities throughout the Savannah region in order to educate them and prevent the abuse and attacks on women that villagers believe are “witches.”  The foundation was named after Akua Denteh, the 90-year-old woman who was the victim of a lynching in the community of Kafaba over an allegation of “witchcraft,” which made international news.
  • According to an interview on GhanaWeb with Robert Amoafo, Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Amoafo is calling for Ghana to set up fast track courts to give swift justice to victims abused for “witchcraft” accusations. “In cases of corruption there are fast track courts set up to deal with such arisings. Why can’t we set up the same facilities to address issues of people being abused for witchcraft accusations. People who abuse others for witchcraft must be punished immediately so it serves as a warning to future perpetrators,” Amoafo stated. He also criticized the Ministry of Gender for not taking more action to protect elderly women from violence and accusations of being “witches,” and cited that attacks have continued to take place even after the death of Akua Dentah gained international attention. “We need a strategy policy on how to work with various communities to get around their culture and tradition so attitudes can be changed,” he added.
  • In the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District of the Savannah region of Ghana, a 58-year-old woman identified only as Pogogyir was saved by the District Chief Executive after he learned the plans of a group of men and women who were intending to assault her and intervened. Members of the group believed Pogogyir was responsible for using “witchcraft” to negatively affect them and diminish their success in life.
  • Last week, Pellah Munjoma, 65, was attacked and beaten to death over accusations of “witchcraft” in Zimbabwe. Munjoma was taken from his village of Chimanimani by his relatives to Nhedziwa Maunzani Village where he was “forced-marched” through the village to the cousin’s home, where he was accused of “bewitching” them and then was beaten to death.
  • In the Dezda township of Malawi, Rodgers Julius was attacked by an angry mob and stoned to death. Julius’ attackers believed he had “bewitched” a family member who had died in South Africa. Authorities were notified of the attack but upon their arrival found Julius dead from serious head wounds and his attackers gone.

*Please note that any time TWH places the terms “witch,” “witch-hunt,” or “witchcraft” within quotation marks it denotes the victim of the violence was not known to be a Witch or a practitioner of any modern Pagan religion. 

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: New Era Elements Tarot by Eleonore F. Pieper, Ph.D., published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Major arcana, 20, Judgment

This week may involve calls for an accounting of past deeds and actions. If the actions and behaviors in question are demonstrably justifiable, no worries. Conversely, if this is not the case, reparations and a plan to make amends are in order.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.