Tag Archives | witch trials

Two Of The Last Victims Of The Satanic Abuse Panic Freed From Prison

pentagramThink that witch hunts ended several centuries ago? Slate on the “Satanic Panic” that engulfed parts of the United States in the 1980s and 90s:

Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center: drowning and dismembering babies in front of the children; transporting the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by the Mexican army; putting the children into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; exhuming bodies at a cemetery, forcing children to carry the bones.

It was frankly unbelievable—except a Texas jury did believe the Kellers had committed at least some of these acts. In 1992, the Kellers were each sentenced to 48 years in prison.

After multiple appeal efforts and 21 years in prison, the Kellers are finally free. Their release may also finally mark the end to one of the strangest, widest-reaching, and most damaging moral panics in America’s history: the satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s and 1990s.

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Saudi Arabia’s Brutal ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’

saudiThe Atlantic on the Saudi government squad which arrests hundreds of people (many of them low-paid foreign workers) on charges of witchcraft, punishable by long prison sentences or even death:

The campaign of persecution has shown no signs of fizzling. In May, two Asian maids were sentenced to 1,000 lashings and 10 years in prison after their bosses claimed that they had suffered from their magic. Just a few weeks ago, Saudi newspapers began running the image of an Indonesian maid being pursued on accusations that she produced a spell that made her male boss’s family subject to fainting and epileptic fits.

The Saudi government’s obsession with the criminalization of the dark arts reached a new level in 2009, when it created and formalized a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” to educate the public about the evils of sorcery, investigate alleged witches, neutralize their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm their spells. Saudi citizens are also urged to use a hotline on the CPVPV website to report any magical misdeeds to local officials.

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Witches And The Creation Of Western Capitalism

witchesVia The End of Capitalism, Alex Knight offers a fascinating take on the powerful meaning of witches in European history:

For Silvia Federici, it’s no accident that “the witch-hunt occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of the populations of the New World, the English enclosures, [or] the beginning of the slave trade”. She instructs that all of these seemingly unrelated tragedies were initiated by the same European ruling elite at the very moment that capitalism was in formation.”

During the late 15th through 17th centuries the fear of witches was ever-present in Europe and Colonial America. The author recounts, “for more than two centuries, in several European countries, hundreds of thousands of women were tried, tortured, burned alive or hanged, accused of having [given themselves] to the devil and, by magical means, murdered scores of children, made potions with their flesh, caused the death of their neighbors, and performed many other abominations.”

So where did this tidal wave of hysteria come from that took the lives so many poor women?

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Toil and Trouble: Help Posthumously Pardon the Hanged Witches of Bideford

via Dana Matthews  Who Forted bideford witches1

A new campaign to make right the past wrongs of British witch hunts is gaining support from government officials, and you can help too.

British MP, Ben Bradshaw, has shown his support to posthumously pardon the last three women to be hanged for witchcraft in England, an act he says is “a stain” on British history.

The Witches of Bideford, otherwise known as Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles, were hanged to death on August 25th 1682 after having been accused of performing acts of witchcraft against members of the town.

Temperance Lloyd was arrested in July 1682, after Thomas Eastchurch, the Bideford shoekeeper, accused Lloyd of being a witch. She was taken and held at the “chapel at the end of the bridge” until she was brought before the justices to defend herself against the charges.

Her charges were described as,

“…suspicion of having used some magical art, sorcery or witchcraft upon the body of Grace Thomas and to have had discourse or familiarity with the devil in the likeness or shape of a black man.”

Like most cases of witchcraft during that time period, the testimony was paranoid, suspicious, and mostly ridiculous.

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Descendants Want Connecticut To Clear Names Of Women Executed For Witchcraft

More than three centuries later, Connecticut is the last state refusing to issue apology or posthumous pardons for those put to death during the time when laws based on the Bible held sway in America, Religion News Service writes:

At age 82, Bernice Mable Graham Telian doubts she’ll live long enough to see the name of her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother and 10 others hanged in colonial Connecticut for witchcraft cleared.

Telian was researching her family tree when she discovered that her seventh grandmother, Mary Barnes of Farmington, Conn., was sent to the gallows at the site of the old State House in Hartford in 1663. “You won’t find Mary’s grave. She and all these people who were hanged were dumped in a hole. They wanted them to be forgotten,” said Telian, a retired university administrator.

Connecticut was executing suspected witches some 40 years before the infamous (and better known) trials in Salem, Mass.

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