Pardon for witches

A Lothians-based paranormal group, Full Moon Investigations, has asked the Scottish parliament to issue a posthumous pardon to all the people persecuted under charges of witchcraft throughout Scottish history; not the finest part of our long history and not a part the tourist industry likes to talk about too much, preferring either (often wrong) ancient history or extolling the Enlightenment (except, of course, if you are promoting a ghost walk tour!).

I know, I know, some people sigh cynically, what is the point of this nonsense? Every month there seems to be someone demanding a government issue a retroactive apology for something which happened long before most folks in the country were even born and aren’t we all fed up with it, isn’t it just trying to apply political correct modern sensibilities backwards onto long-past events to make us feel better? Well to be honest it is easy to think that way, but then consider that when we ignore past injustices we tend to allow those patterns to repeat.

What were some of the principal elements of witchcraft allegations in previous centuries? Picking on someone who was a bit different (old woman living on her own with cats), groups who may not have been popular with the majority (ultra Calvinists suspicious of Catholics), people in positions of power encouraging utterly irrational hatred, suspicion and fear of those who are different for their own ends and using them to consolidate their own grip over the populace, justify draconian changes in law and to prosecute actions which would normally be seen as uncivilised… Gee, sound even remotely like certain events in modern society? And if you are still thinking nah, it is just PC nonsense, just remember how the phrase ‘witch hunt’ has become a phrase we use regularly when talking about the persecution of any individual or small group. Then think again.