World Day Against Witch Hunts

Yesterday, 10th August was International World Day Against Witch Hunts.

Hammer of Witches, published in 1486 by the German Dominican, theologian and inquisitor Heinrich Kramer (1), states:

“…in various ways midwife sorceresses kill the fetuses in the womb and cause miscarriages, and when they do not do this, they offer the new-borns to demons” (page 211)


“‘No one harms the Catholic faith more than do midwives.’ In instances where they do not kill children, they take the baby out of the room as if to do something, and raising them up in the air they offer them to the demons.” (page 212)

And here we are nearly 600 years later still fighting the accusations of witchcraft and using religion as justification to prevent women accessing abortion.

Judge Alito in the US Supreme Court cited (2) Sir Matthew Hale (3), the English 17th Century Witch Trial judge who sentenced numerous ‘witches’ to death and who is responsible for the school of thought that women cannot be raped by their husbands (an idea not completely overthrown in the US legal system until 1981) in support of his legal justification for overturning Roe vs Wade. Hale was also anti-abortion in all circumstances, because of course he was and Alito cited the misogynistic Hale on these grounds, describing Hale as ‘great’ and ’eminent’. High praise for a man who clearly hated women and who presided over the witch trial which later inspired the more famous Salem Witch trials.

The inference is crystal clear – if you seek or carry out an abortion, you are a witch and must die.

In a like minded manner, it’s often thought that the Catholic church is the only church to perform exorcisms. Not so. The Church of England had 44 exorcists on staff in 2011. In their current ‘safeguarding’ document (4) they state that their ‘Deliverance Ministry’ (exorcists) gives parents the the right to consent to their children undergoing the ‘formal rites for deliverance’ which includes touch and the laying on of hands. As Alejandro Sanchez writes in his piece for NSS (5):

“Traumatising a child by telling them they are possessed with a demon, and that a priest needs to touch them to cast the demon out, is surely inherently abusive.”

A reminder that this comes against a backdrop of serious abuse allegations perpetrated by Church Of England clergy and covered up by other clergy (6, 7) and the fact that the CofE quite incredibly sacked an independent safeguarding committee (8), who’s remit included overseeing the process of abuse allegations, after two thirds of the committee said the Church had been obstructive at every turn, refusing to share data with them and denying them their own computers (9).

And earlier this year, in Belfast, a newly registered christian charity ‘Mountain Of Fire And Miracles Ministries Belfast’ shared an online sermon in which “five kinds of witches” were described to the congregation. The pastor claimed that even simply sharing food with a witch meant you were one too.

In 2019, there were an estimated 2,000 cases of child abuse linked to belief in witches (10). Attempts to ‘exorcise’ include neglect or physical abuse using ritualistic beating, burning, cutting or restraint.

Claiming women are witches in league with the Devil and using these beliefs to outlaw medical practices that are the decision of the woman concerned and her alone, or legitimising abuse through the labeling of children as possessed or controlled by witchcraft must stop.

No more Witch Hunts.

(1) Cambridge Press
(2) Politico
(3) Wikipedia
(4) CofE
(5) Secularism
(6) Daily Telegraph
(7) BBC
(8) BBC
(9) Daily Telegraph
(10) The Independant

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