The majority of people believe that witchcraft ended because of the persecution of witches, during the Middle Ages. Although the practice decreased, a few brave spell casters continued to pass down the traditions and many modern day witches in Europe can trace their origins back several centuries. The repealing of the Witchcraft Act in England, in the 1950s, paved the way for these witches to begin their practice openly. Many people associate witchcraft with dark magic, consisting mainly of curses and hexes, but most modern spell casters evoke deities and the power of nature for peaceful rituals.
The majority of the witchcraft performed in the western world is done by Pagans or Wiccans, and is usually associated with spiritual beliefs. Ceremonies are normally held outdoors and begin with the formation of a ritual circle, which is a sacred space that symbolises equality and eternity. Most Wiccan ceremonies are done during the night, as their magick coordinates with the moon phases. The ritual circle is cleansed using a besom, a traditional broom made from a bundle of sticks tied to a stout pole. This sweeping is done by the High Priest/Priestess, of the coven, and symbolises the removal of negative energies and astral build-up.
Although freedom of religion is encouraged in western society, many Pagans still suffer from frequent discrimination. A common misconception is that witchcraft is associated with Satanic practices, such as animal sacrifices. As a Christian entity, Satan plays no role in most Pagan spell casting. Throughout most of history, rituals and spells have played a big part of many eastern cultures. In recent times, accusations of witchcraft have become more widespread, in many African nations, Indian society and other parts of the world. The accused are often tortured, or killed, and this increased fear of witches seems to be a result of current poverty and religious influence. Some of these incidents include:
Papua, New Guinea
20 year-old Kepari Leniata was accused of sorcery and burned alive by a mob, in 2013.
After a popular Nigerian Pentecostal preacher stated ‘children under 2 that scream in the night, cry or are frequently feverish are servants of Satan,’ many young children were abandoned to fend for themselves. The streets have become home to thousands of the nation’s youth, many of whom die shortly after being cast out.
The persecution of modern day witches is not limited to mobs or religious leaders. The justice system in several countries still give harsh penalties to those accused of witchcraft. Saudi Arabia formed a branch of their police known as the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in 2009. Within three years over 215 ‘conjurers’ had been arrested. In addition, a man and a woman were convicted of practising sorcery and sentenced to death by beheading, in 2011. Two housemaids were also found guilty of working spells against their employers, in 2013, and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment each.