Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

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Witch Hunting in the 21st Century

 

A little while back I wrote an article about The Broom Closet in the 21st Century. Recently the New York Times had an opinion article about the persecution of Witches in various parts of the world. In that article the opinion writer argued that the age of the internet has increased the witch hunting that occurs. One of the problems is that many of the people accused of witchcraft may not even be witches. They are accused for reasons that may have nothing to do witchcraft, but nonetheless it is used because it's convenient. In such places, the brutality that occurs involves burning people alive, or beheading or stoning them. The majority of such atrocities occur to women and the the people doing the assault are men doing it for prestige or as a way to enforce dominant social values. I mention all of this make a point: That such atrocities, far from being history, are still happening. In some cases, they are even happening in the U.S. And even here in the U.S. we also see the proliferation of ignorant perspectives about magic, because of how the mainstream religion fears the spread of any spiritual beliefs that run counter to that religion. Now whether every single one of those victims did or didn't identify as a Pagan or a Witch doesn't really matter, because those people were still labeled as such and punished for beliefs they may or may not have held.

In the majority of cases discussed in the article, it's a women's right situation, with women being accused of witchcraft and/or attacked whether they do or don't practice magic. But it also highlights how ignorance about the practice of magic is used as a way to demonize magic. This a problem that goes beyond the Pagan community, but nonetheless its a problem that the Pagan community should speak to. We should speak to it, not because we are Pagans and Witches, but because this kind of action isn't something that should happen to anyone. We speak up about it because we know that if such violence is condoned in any place because of what a person believes, all it does is continue the discrimination that justifies one person saying my religion is better than yours and you better change what you believe or die. One of the reasons I think we should speak to it, is to counter the ignorance that says its OK to persecute anyone who believes something that isn't in line with the majority social values or majority religious values that a community holds.

The story I shared in my previous article pales in comparison to the death some people have experienced or the pain they have gone through because they've been accused of being witches. And as Pagans we may wonder what we can really do. Sure we can write articles decrying these kinds of actions, this kind of discrimination, but what else can we do? There's no easy answer. Sure there are charities that can be contributed to, but those charities need to be checked out carefully, to make sure the money is actually going out to the people, and that those charities aren't advocating religious agendas in the process. We can also seek to educate, but we tread a tricky line between education and prostelyzation or at least the perception of it.

There are no easy answers to this kind of issue, but it's an issue that can't and shouldn't be ignored. We need to educate ourselves about this issue, as it shows up in the world around us. Then we need to do our part in whatever way we can to stand against the witch hunts, because what those witch hunts represent is purely and plainly evil, and shouldn't be excused as anything other than what it is.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

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