Maleficarum Modernus-- A Survey of Witchery in the 21st Century


We are the oldest organization in the world. When man was born, we were. We sang the first cradle song. We healed the first wound, we comforted the first terror. We were the Guardians against the Darkness, the Helpers on the Left Hand Side. Rock drawings in the Pyrenees remember us, and little clay images, made for an old purpose when the world was new. Our hand was on the old stone circles, the monolith, the dolmen, and the druid oak. We sang the first hunting songs, we made the first crops to grow; when man stood naked before the Powers that made him, we sang the first chant of terror and wonder. We wooed among the Pyramids, watched Egypt rise and fall, ruled for a space in Chaldea and Babylon, the Magian Kings. We sat among the secret assemblies of Israel, and danced the wild and stately dances in the sacred groves of Greece. 

There was a time, not so long ago, when religion was indistinguishable from witchcraft. In fact, most modern traditions can trace a crooked path back through the ages to a variety of bloody and strange Gods. Humans have been dressing up and brewing potions and muttering incantations and throwing flesh on the braziers for several thousand years now. Once heads of state began co-opting shamanic traditions to secure divine sanction for their regimes, independent practitioners (i.e. women) became a threat to hegemony. The scariest thing about witchcraft, from a political perspective, is its subversive nature. 
Performing magic outside of the state-sanctioned priesthood is an act of rebellion: those who challenge the state, especially through metaphysical means are, by default, evil-doers, malefactors, enemies of Order. 

The priest caste, with no sense of irony whatsoever, counters sorcery with incantations (prayers, mantras, etc.), potions (holy water and the like) and paraphernalia (someone explain to me how a saint’s fingerbone is any different from a witchdoctor's shrunken head)? There is no essential distinction between witchcraft and theology; save that some witches enjoy the backing of the ruling establishment, while others are stake fodder waiting to go on the burn pile. 

Moreover, witches provide a perennial outlet for the rage of a disaffected populace. Operating outside the circle of protection cast by the law, they make a legitimate target for those who are experiencing economic hardships, bad weather, swollen joints… you name it. Any problems beyond the control of the common man can be judas-goated away on the stake. 

As far back as Babylon, witches have been subject to persecution. Three hundred years after Salem and the rise of scientific empiricism, both witchcrafts and witch-hunts still happen on every continent; the pro and con stances continue to be codified into our law. That witches still exist, have always been with us, is beyond dispute. 

Let’s hop on a broom and take a tour around the world, where we will look at who practices witchcraft, and how it is punished in the modern era.


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