Modern Witch-Hunts 101 Part 1: A Dialogue on the Nature of Today's Witch Persecutions – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast presents Modern Witch Hunts 101 Part 1: A Dialogue on the Nature of Today’s Witch Persecutions. Podcast Cohosts, Josh Hutchinson and Sarah Jack reflect on how researching the modern witch attack crisis has revealed the connectedness of witch hunts across time and the globe. Learn how big the problem is and the circumstances under which pervasive witchcraft fear translates into widespread violence. How do we know what we know? We connect past witch trials to today’s witchcraft fear and witch hunts with a discussion answering our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?
[00:00:00] [00:00:21] Josh Hutchinson: We begin this episode with a special announcement from Mary Louise Bingham, host of Minute with Mary and co-founder of the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project. [00:00:36] [00:00:43] Mary Bingham: Statement of Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, May 26th, 2023. [00:00:52] A year ago today on May 26th, 2022, the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project was born out of frustration and sorrow that the stories of unjust witch trials in Connecticut resulting from fear, panic, and misogyny were not acknowledged. A year later, on the eve of the 376th anniversary of the first witch hanging in New England, that of Alice Young of Windsor, the Connecticut State Senate almost unanimously voted to adopt our resolution. This followed a bipartisan vote for the resolution in the Connecticut State House on May 10th. [00:01:35] Our group is ecstatic, pleased, and appreciative for the 34 indicted witch trial victims, 11 of whom were hanged, their descendants, and many others who care about justice. The special timing is incredible and helps us to honor the victims today. We would like to thank Representative Jane Garibay, who helped us since July of 2022, and Senator Saud Anwar, who joined with our efforts in January of 2023. We are grateful to descendants, advocates, historians, legislators of both parties, and many others who made this official resolution possible. In addition, we hope that attention to this resolution, which acknowledges the wrongs of witch trials in the past, will bring awareness regarding deadly witch hunts still happening in many parts of the world due to fear, misogyny, and superstition. Even though the resolution has passed, our exoneration project will continue to advocate for historical education and memorialization of the witch trial victims. [00:02:48] While others have passed legislation to clear the names of people who suffered from witch trials, House Joint Resolution 34 is unique in many ways. The resolution acknowledges the innocence and suffering of the victims, and includes a formal expression of empathy, in addition to officially correcting the historical record and naming all who suffered, including all indicted victims, and those convicted to death by hanging. [00:03:17] [00:03:24] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Mary. [00:03:26] And now here's Sarah with a special edition of End Witch Hunts News. [00:03:31] [00:03:48] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts News [00:03:50] On May 25th, 2023, the Connecticut General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 34, Resolution Concerning Certain Witchcraft Convictions in Colonial Connecticut. This happened because the majority of the house, 80%, voted yes on May 10th to pass it to the Senate. The Senate voted almost unanimously yes, only one senator voted no, completing the passage of HJ 34. The Governor does not need to sign it. It is complete. [00:04:18] This resolution was successful due to years of attempts and efforts from many local politicians and residents, witch trial descendants, organizations, and small and large collaborations. It took every layer of the efforts to get this done. Many individuals started it, many carried it, and many finished it. If you were that person that made a move of advocacy for the Connecticut Witch Trial Resolution, HJ 34, we acknowledge your volunteerism and work. Thank you. [00:04:44] 34 indicted individuals, of which 11 were hanged, have been officially acknowledged as innocent. It's done. To read the official statement from project co-founders, as you heard read a moment ago by Mary Bingham, please find the link in the show notes. [00:04:58] But there's more. We still need your additional efforts at the local level. Next month, the town council of Stratford, Connecticut will be voting on a resolution acknowledging the innocence of their local historic accused witches, Goody Bassett and Hugh Crosia. Will you take time today to write a Stratford Connecticut town politician asking them to follow suit with the state acknowledgement of resolution HJ 34? [00:05:21] Two other communities who have previously voted on such resolutions are Windsor for Alice Young and Lydia Gilbert and Bridgeport for Goody Knapp. Goody Knapp has an official community memorial plaque. You may write and show support whether you are a Connecticut resident or anywhere else in the world. You can do this as any political party member, this is a bipartisan effort. Please see the show notes for links to contacting Stratford Town Leadership. [00:05:46] The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project's work for an official state acknowledgement of the innocency of the 17th century accused and hanged witches of the Connecticut Colony resounds globally today. It is that important. Please learn more about the ongoing mob witch hunts that are killing and violently abusing extensive numbers of women, men, and children in dozens of countries now. Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast supports the efforts to end modern witch hunts. You can learn more by visiting our websites and the websites listed in our show notes for more information about country specific advocacy groups. [00:06:20] Get involved. Visit endwitchhunts.org. To support us, purchase books from our bookshop, merch from our Zazzle shop, or make a financial contribution to our organization. Our links are in the show description. [00:06:32] [00:06:50] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah, for that important news update. And welcome everyone to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. [00:07:02] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. [00:07:04] Josh Hutchinson: In this episode, we look at the disturbing phenomenon of the modern day witch-hunt. [00:07:09] Sarah Jack: We'll examine how and why these atrocities are happening. [00:07:14] Josh Hutchinson: Sarah, you've been talking about modern witch-hunts since the first episode of this podcast. How has your understanding changed over time? [00:07:23] Sarah Jack: When I first mentioned the modern witch hunts, I was aware of Dr. Leo Igwe and the Advocacy, but I did not have a concept of the extent of what was happening or the destruction to all the lives and the families and the communities. [00:07:39] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I agree. When we first started this podcast and decided to include a weekly news segment, I knew that modern witch-hunting existed, but the scope and scale of the problem and the extent of the atrocities eluded me, but since then, we've done a lot of reading, we've talked to a lot of individuals who are involved in the struggle to eliminate witch-hunting, and we've seen some very sobering statistics and case reports. [00:08:30] Sarah Jack: I've learned so much from Dr. Leo Igwe and Damon Leff about advocacy and about what has happened and what is happening, and I greatly appreciate that they've continued the conversation, patiently informing and educating and advocating for their communities. [00:08:56] Josh Hutchinson: The discussions that we had with Damon and Leo on this podcast were profoundly life changing for both of us, I know, and changed the course of our effort. And we started this out as an outreach program of the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, and now it's become this organization End Witch Hunts, with this goal of eliminating harmful witchcraft accusations and the violence, ostracization, banishment, and other consequences of labeling people as witches and targeting them. [00:09:58] And then when we spoke to Dr. Boris Gershman, that added a whole new layer to things and really showed me how pervasive witchcraft belief is in the world, but also opened my eyes to both good and bad ways of approaching the problem. He really made it clear that writing another law isn't gonna solve the problem, that you have to change things on a very deep level. There's a lot of nuance involved in how you approach it. But you need to not just target the people who are causing the injustice, but prevent them from doing that in the first place. And you prevent them from doing that by taking away the need to blame your misfortune on someone else. You give them alternate explanations, you give them recourse when misfortune arises with social safety nets, you put in the state infrastructure, the healthcare system, the police system, other elements to give people alternatives, so they don't seek out, who caused this misfortune? Who do I blame for this? But find other explanations and other ways to deal with their problems. [00:11:43] Sarah Jack: When you become more informed about the modern witch-hunt issues and layers, you then actually understand what happened here in our history in the United States and across Europe much more. You see the parallels and the effects of the fear playing out the same way. And the consequences playing out the same way. [00:12:10] Josh Hutchinson: We recently had the great privilege of spending a week with Dr. Igwe, as he did a speaking tour in Connecticut and Massachusetts. And every speech he did, I gathered more. They all built on each other for me. And I was photographing the events for our project, but I kept getting sucked into what he was saying, because what he's saying is so moving, powerful, effective, and the stories that he told us about the victims and what he told us about the connections between early modern witch hunts in the west and modern witch hunts throughout the world. Those parallels are so striking to me. [00:13:16] We were talking, Sarah and I were talking, about the youngest victim of the Salem Witch trials earlier, Dorothy Good, a four year old girl who was imprisoned and shackled for nine months and was never able to live a normal life after that, because of the psychological trauma. And reading the United Nations report recently on witchcraft accusations, they have a statement in there that hundreds of thousands of children every year are victims like little Dorothy, that they're abused and mistreated, ostracized, rejected, treated so awfully in so many ways every year. Hundreds of thousands of little Dorothys out there, small children, adolescents, juveniles, teens, what have you, all these minors being abused by adults, because the adults believe that the children were born with these occult powers and are using them for sinister purposes. It's mind-blowing how much of this is happening right around us. [00:14:46] Sarah's a descendant of Rebecca Nurse, one of the most well known victims of the Salem Witch Trials, and Sarah likes to share a quote from Rebecca. Can you remind me how that goes? [00:15:04] Sarah Jack: She said that the world would know of her innocence, that she was so innocent that she was not a witch, and the world would know, and that is a very motivating. We have those words from a record. She said them. She was recorded as believing that, and that greatly impacts me as her ninth great granddaughter, as an advocate for stopping witch-hunt behavior, because through the work of the international advocates, the world is hearing that innocence needs to be recognized when it comes to witchcraft accusations. [00:15:52] Josh Hutchinson: And Sarah and I and Mary Bingham, we're all three of us descendants of Mary Esty, who was Rebecca Nurse's sister, who also was executed during the Salem Witch-hunt, and she said that witch-hunting needed to stop. Sarah knows this quote better than I do. Can you remind me how that goes? [00:16:21] Sarah Jack: Yes. In the petition that she wrote the court, she says that she knows that she will die, but she beckoned that no more innocent die. She said, "end witch hunts." Again, that deeply motivates me as a descendant of Mary and their voices. Speak from the grave from these records. That we have, and that part of her petition is extremely relevant. Someone today still needs to say that no more innocent may die. We're saying it. [00:17:03] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. Words from 1692 that still have such meaning today in 2023. Words that are still as important today as they were when she wrote those words and the words of both of your ancestors, they mean so much. They impact what we do. They drive and guide us to do this work. And hopefully we can make some impact on this. [00:17:42] Hopefully, we can share the words and work of others who are doing this on a daily basis in these nations most affected by this problem. [00:17:57] Sarah Jack: And if you would like to see the words of Mary Esty, they're actually part of the memorial monument in Danvers. [00:18:08] Josh Hutchinson: Which we were fortunate to recently visit with Dr. Leo Igwe. And we all were moved by the memorials that we visited in Salem and Danvers and deeply touched, and those words at the Danvers Witch Memorial and the Salem Witchcraft Victims Memorial. Both have quotes from victims. And Dr. Igwe spoke to how those quotes are the very same words that he's hearing from victims today. "I am innocent." "God knows I'm innocent." "The world will know my innocency." " I can say before my God that I am free and clear of this." Those are the words of people begging for their lives today. [00:19:12] As we've mentioned, we did some travel recently. [00:19:16] Sarah Jack: That's right. Josh and I joined Dr. Leo Igwe, director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches, for a portion of his US tour. [00:19:24] Josh Hutchinson: Dr. Igwe spoke in a variety of New England locations. [00:19:30] Sarah Jack: He discussed the topics of today's show, modern witch hunts. [00:19:34] Josh Hutchinson: At the beginning of the week of May 15th, Dr. Igwe spoke at the Salem Witch Museum and at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. Later in the week, he spoke at various locations in Connecticut, including at the state capitol, to legislators, about the urgency of the problem and how what we do in the West, especially in the US, being a global trendsetter, how what our nation does and the state of Connecticut, what they've done by passing the resolution to exonerate those accused of witchcraft. By passing that resolution, they've sent a message to the world that the US stands against witch hunting. [00:20:32] Sarah Jack: We heard him day after day address an audience with a passionate plea to recognize the mistakes of the past, in order to be a guide for today. [00:20:44] Josh Hutchinson: We hope to add to his work in this series of episodes on modern witch hunts. [00:20:50] Sarah Jack: We aren't talking about the type of "witch-hunt" every politician complains about when they're investigated for real crimes and ethics violations. [00:20:59] Josh Hutchinson: We're talking about the type of witch-hunt that punishes innocent people for the imagined crime of sorcery. [00:21:09] Sarah Jack: The kind of witch-hunt that results in injury or death. [00:21:12] Josh Hutchinson: All around the world, witch hunts have plagued society since time immemorial. [00:21:18] We reached out to Damon for a comment for this week's episode, and here's what he had to say. [00:21:27] Sarah Jack: "The, quote, 'witchcraft,' most often referred to through accusation, allegation, and harmful superstition exists only in the minds of those who believe that witchcraft is the embodiment of evil and that witches are responsible for misfortune, disease, accident, natural disaster, and death. But belief is not evidence, and accusation is not proof. Victims of witchcraft accusation have a right to be presumed innocent. Those who speak in their defense must be heard." [00:22:00] One of the things that this brings to mind was one of the apparent fears that some of the Connecticut politicians may have been holding. When Damon said, victims of witchcraft accusation have a right to be presumed innocent, they weren't being presumed innocent by modern legislators. We had to explain to them this definition that Damon has shared with us right now. Their perception of witchcraft was in their minds that it is the embodiment of evil and that perhaps, how do we know, we weren't there, that this was happening? And that is also what propels the mob witch hunting that's happening in these other countries. [00:22:53] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Damon, for your special message. It is very important to get that message across. [00:23:04] Sarah Jack: I suggest if you're listening, you go back and listen to that one more time before you move forward. [00:23:11] in this series, we will discuss both the problems and the solutions. [00:23:17] Josh Hutchinson: We will discuss what witchcraft is in this context. [00:23:22] Sarah Jack: There will be a review of the latest statistics on witch hunts. The stat is too many. [00:23:30] Josh Hutchinson: We'll cover all aspects of modern witchcraft accusation related violence. [00:23:35] Sarah Jack: We'll answer. Who is involved? [00:23:39] Josh Hutchinson: What does a modern witch attack look like? [00:23:42] Sarah Jack: When do witch hunts happen? [00:23:43] Josh Hutchinson: Where do witch hunts happen [00:23:45] Sarah Jack: Why do witch hunts continue today? [00:23:48] Josh Hutchinson: And how do we end witch hunts? [00:23:50] Sarah Jack: There are many definitions of witchcraft. For our purpose, we will limit ourselves to the two broadest definitions possible. [00:23:59] Josh Hutchinson: One is a religious or spiritual belief in the ability to tap into natural, though occult, forces. [00:24:06] Sarah Jack: This form is increasingly seen as normal, positive, and peaceful. [00:24:11] Josh Hutchinson: Practitioners can be independent or part of communities. [00:24:15] Sarah Jack: Many traditions exist throughout the world. [00:24:18] Josh Hutchinson: The other way witchcraft is defined is as a negative and harmful practice of hurting others through manipulation of supernatural forces and spirits. [00:24:31] Sarah Jack: In the eyes of witch hunters, witchcraft is the ability to intentionally cause harm via supernatural means. [00:24:39] Josh Hutchinson: This harm can be to animals, crops, property, life and limb, mental health, or anything else meaningful to the victim. [00:24:48] Sarah Jack: in this series, we'll primarily focus on this definition of witchcraft as a sinister practice. [00:24:56] Josh Hutchinson: However, we will also touch on the issue of discrimination against those who self-identify as witches or practitioners of magic. [00:25:05] Sarah Jack: Modern witch hunts have much in common with witch hunts of the past. [00:25:09] Josh Hutchinson: But also pose new challenges. [00:25:11] Sarah Jack: We will discuss the similarities and differences. [00:25:15] Josh Hutchinson: First, we need to discuss witchcraft beliefs. [00:25:19] Sarah Jack: Belief in magic is native to people in all parts of the world, and dates back to the era of cave paintings, if not further. [00:25:27] Josh Hutchinson: Since the dawn of humanity, people have made one attempt after another to explain the forces of the universe. [00:25:34] Sarah Jack: People around the world developed magical systems early on. [00:25:38] Josh Hutchinson: As magic has served similar purposes among all peoples, these magical systems developed along similar lines. [00:25:46] Sarah Jack: In the book Witches and Witch Hunts by Wolfgang Behringer, he writes, quote, "witches and witch hunts are close to being recognized as relevant for all mankind. They are, like magic and religion, a universal phenomenon." [00:26:01] Josh Hutchinson: Behringer points to similarities in belief across Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. [00:26:12] Sarah Jack: Belief in evil forces exists across all cultures. [00:26:16] Josh Hutchinson: It is also commonly believed that people can interact with these forces in order to cause injury, illness, death, and destruction. [00:26:25] Sarah Jack: Witches abduct babies to eat or use body parts. [00:26:28] Josh Hutchinson: Witches fly. [00:26:31] Sarah Jack: Witches shift shapes. [00:26:33] Josh Hutchinson: Witches transform into animals. [00:26:35] Sarah Jack: Of course, witch beliefs vary widely from place to place. [00:26:39] Josh Hutchinson: But many common beliefs are incorporated into the various magical traditions. [00:26:45] Sarah Jack: Regardless of the exact beliefs of an individual person, fearing witchcraft often has deadly consequences. [00:26:52] Josh Hutchinson: Globally, 40% of people believe in the ability to cast the evil eye or harm someone with a spell or curse. [00:27:00] Sarah Jack: In many nations, a majority of people hold these beliefs, in some cases up to 90%. [00:27:07] Josh Hutchinson: For more on witchcraft belief, listen to episode 22, featuring economist Boris Gershman. [00:27:13] Sarah Jack: This widespread belief in evil witchcraft translates into widespread fear. This very real and intense fright, fuels witchcraft accusations, and violence towards people suspected of witchcraft. [00:27:26] Josh Hutchinson: Accusations result in ostracization, banishment, torture, beating, maiming, burning, burying alive, sexual assault, mutilation, and murder. [00:27:39] Sarah Jack: That is a horrible list of results, but it's a very accurate and real result, and I'm just saying that because I can't get out of my recollection when Dr. Leo said to me, "it's much worse than I can even express. It's much worse than I'm sharing. What's happening is worse than what's reasonable to show in the presentations." [00:28:07] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, the real-life atrocities happening across the world are so brutal, so violent, so grizzly, we can't fully describe them on air. Dr. Igwe cannot show all the pictures and the videos that he has had to watch and look at and cannot describe everything he's seen, what has happened to their bodies, the damage that has been done in these assaults. [00:28:44] Sarah Jack: Survivors have to flee their homes and are often forced to wander from place to place, eternally seeking refuge. [00:28:55] Josh Hutchinson: Others are imprisoned or sent to so-called "witch camps" for their own safety while their abusers roam free. [00:29:03] Sarah Jack: And I think it's important to note that we learned from Dr. Leo Igwe this month that calling them witch camps is a Western title. [00:29:14] Josh Hutchinson: They're refuge centers where these people have to go, and they're squalid. They live in appalling conditions. [00:29:26] Sarah Jack: They're not saying, "oh, I'm an accused witch. I'm gonna go to a witch camp." That's not what's happening. [00:29:33] Josh Hutchinson: I mentioned that, while the victims are imprisoned, oftentimes those who victimize them go free. However, even when the abusers face the consequences, it's too late for the victims. So we have to intervene before the assaults happen, and that's something that Boris Gershman stressed. [00:30:02] Sarah Jack: That parallels back to little Dorothy Good. The intervention needed to happen before she was chained. Before she was interrogated. Just, you know what Josh just said, what Dr. Boris has pointed out, and what we see didn't happen for Dorothy Good is also what is not happening for these children today, these hundreds of thousands of children. [00:30:31] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. So in addition to punishing perpetrators of violence, we need to, as I mentioned before, take away their reasons for blaming their misfortunes on witchcraft. We need to help people out when they need help. We need to give them alternate explanations for what's happening with them. [00:31:05] Sarah Jack: According to a recent United Nations Human Rights Council report, at least 20,000 victims were reported between 2009 and 2019, and the report makes it clear that this figure is understated as data is scarce. The data is scarce and the results. It is not scarce to find a victim. It's not hard to find this happening in the communities. It's rampant, but the data on it is scarce. [00:31:40] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. As Dr. Igwe recently told us, many of the attacks are occurring in very isolated villages, and word is not getting back to authorities. There is not effective policing in all of these communities. There's not anyone to report these attacks to, and the people who would report them are afraid to intervene. [00:32:14] Because one thing that we learned from Dr. Igwe and from the United Nations report is that people who intervene, people who try to defend human rights, are themselves at risk for retaliation by these angry mobs and by these angry individuals. People who speak up against witch hunting are thought of as defending witches, of defending the practice of witchcraft, and the United Nations report states that the attacks occurred in more than 60 nations. [00:33:06] Sarah Jack: This UN report states, quote, "estimates suggest that each year in Africa, hundreds of thousands of children are victims of accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks." [00:33:19] Josh Hutchinson: Hundreds of thousands. [00:33:22] Sarah Jack: This is a huge problem. [00:33:24] Josh Hutchinson: Much work needs to be done to end this ongoing crisis. [00:33:28] Sarah Jack: We will cover potential solutions later in the modern Witch-hunt series. [00:33:33] Josh Hutchinson: I was talking to Sarah earlier about the statistics, and one thing that we've heard again and again, is that incidents are underreported dramatically. So if the UN report is saying that at least 20,000 victims were reported in the period between 2009 and 2019, we know for every one of those cases there are other cases that went unreported. So the real number is somewhere in the tens of thousands at a minimum. So give a little perspective, the age of which hunting in Europe, a total of approximately 90,000 individuals were prosecuted as witches, of which roughly 45,000 were executed. These are the most up to date statistics we have on that period, and that's hundreds of years. We're talking about 90,000 people getting accused. Here we're talking about 20,000 people at a bare minimum in a decade, plus hundreds of thousands of children every, single year. So we know that the problem now is on such a larger scale than it ever has been in the past, due to the ever-growing population of the world, the rapid growth in many of the nations where witch hunting is most prevalent. The numbers we're seeing and hearing are mind-boggling, staggering. [00:35:33] It's terrifying. It's like this secret war is going on that people don't know about, just looking at the numbers of the victims and the gross atrocities that are committed against them, and it's absolutely horrifying to think that so many people are suffering in the world, and so few people, at least here stateside, so few people know about this. And everyone that we've encountered, that we've told about this, has reacted with astonishment. [00:36:15] There's reports in the US, the UK, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific. There are reported cases of this near to you, wherever you live on the earth, this is happening. Reported or unreported, this is happening everywhere. [00:36:46] Sarah Jack: And if this sounds like an alarm, if it sounds alarming, you should be alarmed. [00:36:51] Josh Hutchinson: You should be. [00:36:53] Sarah Jack: It's the truth. [00:36:56] Josh Hutchinson: I remember reading a case several months ago that happened in the US where a man shot a woman and burned her trailer because he believed that she had bewitched him. And there are cases very similar to that every year in the US. [00:37:16] Dr. Igwe also stressed to us the connections, the global connectedness. You can have someone in the US accuse a relative in their country of origin of bewitching them across the sea, and you could have cases where people in the US are funding churches and institutions in their home countries that are leading witch hunts. [00:37:53] Sarah Jack: And let me explain. We know the type of frustrations and misfortunes that can happen that we experience. One example is families wanting to have more children or have a child. They cannot sustain a pregnancy. They go for fertility treatments. But what if you believe that you're not carrying a child because your grandmother has put a spell on you? That sounds like a nightmare fairytale, but that is an example of the type of misfortune that is getting explained away by witchcraft fear. [00:38:33] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, any lack of success in your personal life can be attributed to witchcraft. It is a great explainer of contingency and any kind of misfortune. Dr. Behringer wrote that it's a greater, or has a greater potential to explain misfortune than even religion, political ideology, other beliefs, because any event can be explained as being the result of witchcraft, of the improper use of magic, and human emotions, jealousy, envy, fear, et cetera, can be blamed as being the triggers for witchcraft, as in the witch is jealous of you, and so they target you with some kind of spell to bring you down or to bring themselves up at your expense. And witchcraft is just such a great explainer of those kinds of things. It's an easy answer, an easy solution to reach for when you don't have another explanation in mind. And that's part of why we need to offer alternative narratives and explanations for why bad things happen. [00:40:21] Sarah Jack: When we pass legislation like Connecticut did, then we're messaging witchcraft accusations are wrong. [00:40:29] Josh Hutchinson: We need to send a message that witch-hunting is not the solution to your problems. We need to provide other solutions. We need to offer other ideas. And by taking a stand like Connecticut did, we're sending that message. [00:40:51] Sarah Jack: Martin Luther King Jr. said, "there comes a time when silence is a betrayal." So if we are not speaking against the witchcraft fear, we're betraying all these children and other vulnerable people, and we're betraying the dignity of humanity, and the offenders, we're robbing them of the opportunity to have better choices before them as far as blaming or coping with loss or misfortune or disappointment, we need to offer them better options. [00:41:34] Josh Hutchinson: It's not witchcraft belief that we're hoping to change. We're hoping to remove the fear of witchcraft and the fear of your neighbor or relative attacking you through occult forces. We're saying that's not the cause of your misfortune. It's not gonna be your neighbor or your friend cursing you. It's nature. It's whatever the misfortune is. There's so many explanations. It's circumstances, it's contingencies, it's part of everybody's life, has to deal with adversity. [00:42:23] We do not want anybody to suffer from witchcraft accusations. So Thou Shalt Not Suffer is saying that nobody in the world should be suffering on this account. [00:42:37] It indicates the objective of our organization. [00:42:45] When we started this podcast, we didn't have End Witch Hunts in mind yet. We had no concept that we were going that way. We just knew we wanted to educate people about witch trials so that they don't happen again and things, other injustices like them, don't happen where groups are targeted as scapegoats. Today, I was reading in Behringer's introduction, he said something, witchcraft belief, there's a lot of similarity across cultures, but it's also comes from different religious backgrounds and not all of it is associated with the devil. And the devil is a Christian concept, and so non-Christian witchcraft believers don't have the devil as part of it. They might have demons or evil spirits or something else that's vaguely similar in the Western mind. But in their own mind, it's a totally different conception of how witchcraft works. [00:44:04] And for the most part, witchcraft is just blamed on the human that's responsible for it. Even when we look at early modern Europe and the American colonies, there was like a hierarchy of beliefs, where the educated elite and the, especially the ministers, believed in this vast diabolical conspiracy, but the common person was more concerned with the day-to-day and with the actual practical effects of witchcraft. So they were like, "oh, my neighbor hurt my goat," or "my neighbor made my child sick," or "the neighbor killed my husband." Those kinds of things were their concerns, but there's not just one concept of witchcraft, there's not one master definition that's going to fully define everybody's view of witchcraft, what we're calling witchcraft, using an English word to apply to this universal phenomenon that Behringer described. We're inherently overlaying our concept on these other cultures and religious traditions, and we can't do that. We need to include everyone and every definition of witchcraft. The thing that is in common here is that witchcraft is often a synonym for evil. It's a wicked, sinister, bad practice. Whatever culture is viewing it, at least the witchcraft that we're talking about, the anthropological and historical definition of witchcraft, is just that it's a bad manipulation of occult forces to, through magic, negatively impact somebody else. [00:46:32] Witchcraft fear has been a part of American society for hundreds of years. Americans still retain that fear. One in six Americans believes in the ability to cast a spell or put a curse on someone to do them. All the cultures that are America have witchcraft belief in them. You can't isolate any culture and say, "oh, they have more witchcraft fear than the other ones." [00:47:07] And that it's not any particular part of the world that we're saying is bringing the fear to here. It's already everywhere in the world, it's already here in this country, it's everywhere. [00:47:24] And you look at the statistics Boris Gershman gave us, and one of the things he says in the episode, he makes clear, is that even within Europe you have a dramatic range. You have some countries where the belief is about one in 10 people to other countries where it's an overwhelming majority of people have this fear of witchcraft or this belief in sinister witchcraft that can lead to fear, and incidents of attacks on alleged witches occur in Western Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, everywhere in the world. [00:48:16] Sarah Jack: Since there are ties to the other nations in this world, from within America, our perspective on accusing witches matters, we can influence our neighbors in a positive way against witch attacks, and then that will impact the other parts of the world. [00:48:37] Josh Hutchinson: And I was listening to Dr. Igwe on colonization, and he and Wolfgang Behringer both point out that witchcraft belief existed on every continent before colonization. Part of what Leo said was that the contact with Christian and Islamic culture and other cultures and religions coming in just reiterated the witchcraft belief that was native to traditional beliefs. You're practicing the religion of your ancestors and believing in witchcraft, and then these other religions come in with their missionaries and try to teach you about their faith, and they're saying, "oh yes, there are witches." So it reinforces your own belief. And so there were witch hunts well before contact, this was already going on in ,but Africa, the Americas, Australia, Asia, the Pacific, everywhere had witchcraft belief, but when colonizing powers came in with their religion saying that witchcraft is this evil thing from the devil or wherever they're attributing it to, it's just reinforcing. So as cultures move around, people move around and cultures get shared, everybody's just reinforcing everybody else's witchcraft belief. [00:50:32] Sarah Jack: Each has a lens of witchcraft that they're looking at each other through. [00:50:38] Josh Hutchinson: And I'm really struck just by the similarities in witchcraft belief across cultures independent of each other, pre-contact. As you look at some of the indigenous people in South America when they're first contacted there's already witch hunts happening in their villages. Or there's witchcraft belief already being expressed. And when colonists first went to Africa, some of the first things that they recorded were witchcraft beliefs that the Africans already had and witch hunts that were already going on. [00:51:24] Sarah Jack: The European mindset included the devil, so then they imposed the devil into it. [00:51:30] Josh Hutchinson: They imposed the devil, they put the devil there. Yeah, because these other concepts of witchcraft were either just an abuse of power, a belief that certain people were born with occult powers. Sometimes they use them for good, but sometimes they use them for bad. And the bad is the witchcraft. And witchcraft also became this stand-in for corruption, for the opposite of decency. Stand in for antisocial behavior and non-conformity. Inverting social norms, flipping them on their head like we've talked about in New England, people were supposed to behave a certain way. Witches were believed to behave basically the opposite of what a good person was supposed to do. They didn't want children to be born into the world. They didn't want children thriving. They didn't want the next generation, which was the driving reason for being, for the good people. Their whole reason was to be fruitful and multiply and spread God's word throughout the earth, and things like that. [00:52:58] The witch totally flips that around. That's how you get all this belief in witches being cannibals, witches eating babies, witches killing babies. We talked to Ann Little about the fertility connection in witchcraft, and that's common across cultures. The unique things are things like the devil in Christian views of witchcraft, and there are other local additions and different local theories on where witches get their power from. But they do the same things. They fly at night, they have orgies in the forest, they do all this very, not just naughty, but wicked and evil stuff that you're not supposed to do. [00:53:56] Sarah Jack: I was listening to our episode today with Katherine Harrison, how she was a known liar and she had strife with her neighbors, and she didn't remarry. [00:54:07] Josh Hutchinson: All the accusations that pile up. [00:54:10] Sarah Jack: They embodied those factors. And then that pure evil embodiment makes alleging someone to be one you immediately, the alleger is off the hook, as far as they're like, "if they're a witch, then they are completely bad. So they deserve this vengeance. They deserve this attack." [00:54:34] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, and witchcraft, because it's the embodiment of evil, it's considered an extraordinary crime, and extraordinary crimes justify extraordinary prosecution and extraordinary means of interrogation, torture, punishment. It all can be extraordinary because, like you said, you're off the hook because this is this really bad evil. They're barely even a person anymore because [00:55:11] Sarah Jack: Exactly. [00:55:12] Josh Hutchinson: They're society flipped on its head, and they have to be plucked out [00:55:19] Sarah Jack: Yeah. [00:55:20] Josh Hutchinson: at any cost. [00:55:21] Sarah Jack: And that's what Mather did to Reverend Burroughs. [00:55:24] Josh Hutchinson: That's what Cotton Mather did to Burroughs. And it's the opposite of what Increase Mather said in Cases of Conscience when he said, "better 10 witches go free than one innocent person die." In the eyes of the witch hunter, it's better that 10 innocent people suffer than one witch go free. That's goes back to that presumption of guilt instead of a presumption of innocence. [00:55:56] Sarah Jack: And Mary Esty said, "stop that." [00:55:58] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. Mary Esty said, "stop that." Rebecca nurse said, "stop that." And people today are saying, "stop that. Stop that. Stop that. Let me live". And we don't want those messages to go unheeded. We want people to listen to those messages, that there needs to be a presumption of innocence. The nature of a crime does not mean that human rights are surrendered. [00:56:36] Sarah Jack: And that is a parallel across all vulnerable. [00:56:40] Josh Hutchinson: We, as the good people, don't wanna lose our sense of ourselves as being moral and just, just because somebody else may have done something immoral and unjust. We don't know that they did that until it's proven that they did that. And you can't prove witchcraft in a court of law. You can't prove supernatural agency. There's no legal evidence for that. [00:57:15] Sarah Jack: Yet modern humans are still asking for that evidence. [00:57:21] Josh Hutchinson: They are. Modern elected officials in the United States of America and elsewhere are asking for that. There was that gentleman in Northern Ireland who was against the memorial being placed there, because he didn't know that those people were innocent. "How do we know they weren't witches?" he said. [00:57:50] Sarah Jack: And that fear influenced the amendments that happened to resolution HJ 34. [00:57:59] Josh Hutchinson: We're gonna stop talking here. Now you talk about this, and then we'll come back in a month or two and have some more details on what a modern witch-hunt looks like. [00:58:11]