Many things have changed since I wrote the original manuscript of The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft. Absinthe is no longer illegal. Death midwifery has been revived. Films long lost have since been found. Thanks to the success of the Marvel movie franchise, comic books and their characters are no longer obscure; in fact, quite the opposite. Hoodoo and the Fairy Faith have experienced a renaissance.
Unfortunately, some things have not changed. In 2004, I wrote: Although the Witchcraze eventually burned itself out in Europe, today’s newspapers periodically, with some frequency, report the brutal murders of people identified as witches in India and throughout Africa. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is still not safe, depending where you’re located, to be branded a witch.
Ten years later, this statement remains true, the only difference being that the frequency has increased and the territory has expanded. According to Amnesty International, in 2009 approximately one-thousand accused witches in Gambia were locked in detention centers. Throughout Africa, thousands of children have been abandoned on suspicion of being witches. Also in 2009, a special anti-witchcraft task force was created by the government of Saudi Arabia, leading to numerous arrests and executions. This unit provides complete confidentiality to informants, just as the Inquisition once did in Europe. In December 2013, The Times of India reported that, despite laws introduced to combat the phenomenon, witch hunts continue unabated, especially in rural areas. Their study indicates that many of these cases are rooted in property disputes, just as so many witch hunts were centuries ago during Europe’s Burning Times.
Dear readers, I am honored and delighted to be able to share my love of witchcraft and all things witchy with you: the spells, the spirits, the revelry, knowledge, and power. I fervently hope that, in years to come, witch hunting will only be remembered as a shameful and archaic thing of the past and that witches or those suspected or accused of being witches are safe, protected, and appreciated.
Judika Illes, Beltane 2014