Which witches?

Should witches be strangled and burned?

The question had not been raised for a while, but the issue once again rises to the surface of at least the Scottish consciousness, since a legislative campaign began to pardon various condemned witches (or, “karens,” to use the fashionable term; “buidseach” the Gaelic). As typically in Caledonia (which is like Canada in this respect), little thought has gone into the management of witchcraft since the Witchcraft Act was abrogated, by the united Parliament of England and Scotland in 1736.

This Witchcraft Act had been formally introduced by the Parliament of independent Scotland in 1563. It became illegal not only to be a witch, but to consult with witches. I try to bear this latter point in mind, in case the act or something like it is ever revived, for it was once quite common across the north of Europe. The great age of witch-hunting was the Reformation, and as a potential Catholic victim, I try to remain alert to “Protestant,” “Progressive,” and “Scientific” trends. Certainly, the handling of the Batflu epidemic by progressive western governments serves as a warning that nothing is finally off the table.

Myself, I don’t “believe” in witches, or rather, do not subscribe to conventional ideas about them. That there may be “something in it” seems possible, as there is something in many other Protestant beliefs; and it is true that I have subscribed to “the supernatural” as part of my Catholic Faith. But certain supernatural propositions (not in the Catechism) strike me as superstitious, and most pop demonology fits into this category.

Nevertheless, if the majority in any society wants to believe in witches, and to torture and murder the candidates they accuse, who am I to oppose democracy? Within a century or two they may change their minds, and now disbelief in witchcraft will be pursued with the same glibness and self-interest with which witchcraft trials proceeded before.

“Going along to get along,” in this matter and all similar, is the mark of the well-instructed citizen, who stays on top of the news.

Actually, I’m boasting emptily, and somewhat sarcastically, for my actual position is now that of a reactionary Catholic. Half my ancestors were Presbyterian, however. Many of them were lovely people, and of those who weren’t, many of them were male. Don’t ask me for my views on Scottish independence.