The thousands of women who were once convicted and murdered as witches in Scotland must still be pardoned. Scottish MP Natalie Don (of the Scottish National Party) recently introduced a private member’s bill to arrange such an official posthumous witch’s pardon. If this law is passed, it will be according to the BBC Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon intends to issue a pardon and apologize for the witch hunt in Scotland on International Women’s Day on 8 March this year. Witchcraft, black magic and consulting witches were punishable by death, as in the rest of Europe. In Europe, it is estimated that between 30,000 and 60,000 people were killed during the witch hunts. About 250 cases of witch burnings are known in the Netherlands.
Fanatic witch hunters
The Scots were avid witch hunters. This was partly due to King James VI (1567-1625) of Scotland. Who thought that witches with dark magic called storms to sink his ships, because they would be against him wanting to marry a Danish woman. Under the Witchcraft Act, in effect from 1563 to 1736, some four thousand Scots were persecuted. 85 percent of those were women. About 2,500 of them were found guilty, strangled and burned.
“Those women have been successfully erased from history,” through miscarriage of justice and mistreatment. “I want them to be remembered and justice done,” says lawyer Claire Mitchell of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital – a city full of statues of mostly men, according to Euronews.
Mitchell started the website with Zoe Venditozzi Witches of Scotland (Witches of Scotland). Partly inspired by the Black Lives Mattters movement, she launched a campaign to right the wrongs done to Scottish women: she wants a pardon for those convicted as witches, an apology for the wrongly persecuted, and she demands a national memorial monument. That move led to Natalie Don’s bill.
Women are still designated as witches and persecuted.
Women are still designated as witches and persecuted. Mitchell wants her action to send a signal that can also benefit others, she told the BBC: “We think it is important for Scotland to speak up and say ‘we understand that what happened was wrong’ .”
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe agrees. “What happened hundreds of years ago in Scotland is now happening in parts of Africa,” he said. In the modern version of the witch hunt, especially vulnerable members of a family, usually women, children or people with disabilities, are accused of causing adversity with magical powers. This leads to lynchings and beheadings. A statement condemning witchcraft could influence politicians who tolerate this modern witch-hunt, Igwe hopes.
It is not yet clear whether the Scottish Parliament will pass the witch pardon law. But there is a legal precedent. In the village of Salem in the then British colony of America, from 1692 about 200 people were accused of witchcraft by strict Puritan believers; that turned into mass hysteria. There were deaths in the prison, and in 1693 fourteen women and five men were eventually hanged. As a witch. In 2001, the state of Massachusetts passed a law that the people killed in the now infamous Salem witch trials were innocent.