Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will Britain's Witches be Posthumously Pardoned?

You may have missed this Nobel-worthy effort, what with the U.S. election and all. A British group collected signatures, petitioning for a pardon for people executed as witches centuries ago. In October, The Telegraph reported on the story:

Their bid to obtain justice for the victims follows an official pardon granted earlier this year by the Swiss Government to Anna Goeldi, beheaded in 1782 and regarded as the last person executed as a witch in Europe.

The family behind Angels, the Hallowe'en costume supplier, came up with the idea for the petition and turned to historian Dr John Callow to collect some of the victims' stories.
Now that may sound like a P.R. stunt for the costume supplier, but no doubt their motives are pure. Even if it was just days from Halloween. And one simply can't be outdone by a Swiss witch, can one?
Emma Angel, head of Angels Fancy Dress, said: "We decided to launch this initiative because we feel that it is time that sinister associations held by a minority of people about witches and Hallowe'en were tackled head-on.

"We were gobsmacked to discover that though the law was changed hundreds of years ago and society had moved on, the victims were never officially pardoned.
Well, Emma, we're gobsmacked, too! How on earth could society just move on? But Jason Beattie of the Mirror reports that the matter is now in capable hands:
A Halloween day petition handed to Justice Secretary Jack Straw said 400 people in England and 2,000 in Scotland were killed for alleged witchcraft during the Middle Ages. It described them as being victims of a grave "miscarriages of justice" and called on Mr Straw to follow the example of the Swiss government.
Melanie Wallwork of the Lancashire Evening Post reports that the campaigners are expecting a result on their pardon bid in the coming weeks. Let's hope that Jack Straw, even with his notorious sense of humor, will manage to keep a straight face at this great moment in British history. We'll keep you posted.

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