They were once ducked in water, burnt at the stake and hanged – but modern-day witches say that even in 2020 they are still facing persecution. Abuse, intimidation, property damage and threats of murder are all common, a new investigation has found.
“We have had somebody come into the shop and threaten to burn it down with the people in it,” said Toni Hunter, who runs a witching store in Gloucester. “We have had very intimidating people stand outside and prevent customers coming in and accost the customers outside with their Christian leaflets. We have had eggs pelted at the windows, I’ve had my car keyed. It’s endless.”
The issue is raised in a BBC investigation due to be aired on its Inside Out West programme on Monday. “Witchcraft isn’t worshipping the devil, it’s not cursing people, it’s not black magic,” Ms Hunter said. ”It’s a belief in the planet, it’s a respect for everything, it’s positive thinking, cosmic ordering.” She added: “Lots of people don’t know they are witches – they’ll be into holistic therapies, they’ll be into crystals for remedial stuff.
“They’ll see spirits or they may have a high intuition that means that they can think of a person and they turn up or they know who’s on the end of the phone, so they have all these different abilities but they have never been able to speak about because it would have been still so controversial. “People like me would probably have been sectioned years ago because if I admitted that I was psychic they wouldn’t have seen it as psychic, they’d have seen it as mad.”
Witchcraft has its origins in pre-Christian Europe. Followers worship the planet, use herbal remedies for healing and believe in the power of positive energy to cast spells. An estimated 200,000 women accused of practising witchcraft were tortured and killed across western Europe from 1484 to the 1750s after Pope Innocent VIII denounced it as heresy. It became a capital offence in England in 1563.