Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark

This volume bnngs the History of Witchcraft and Magic m Europe up to the present day by surveying developments during the last century of the millennium. These display again the same two features that seem to have characterised witchcraft and magic, more than most cultural phenomena, down the ages — a capacity to adapt to and reflect contemporary needs and aspirations and yet, at the same time, an identity based on what are perceived to be highly traditional forms. It is as though they have survived for so long by being simultaneously responsive to the present and tied to the past; again and again, they are re-invented to provide answers to immediate problems, yet always with the reassurance - or perhaps threat — of a supposed continuity. Of course, these things are not necessarily the same to practitioners or believers and to observers (particularly historians}. The answers may seem hollow and the continuity spurious to those who behave and believe differendy. This differential in the way witchcraft and magic are viewed has been another constant element in both the history and the historiography of our subject and it is also illustrated in this volume.

Witchcraft and magic, then, are marked both by contemporaneity and by amelessness. The prognostications and prophylactics, the recipes and remedies, that have made up much of everyday magic have existed for so long because they have continued to seem efficacious in situations of practical need, but they have owed their transmission — and something of their status — to the traditiQnaiisms of oral communication and to the recycling of texts that seem hardly to have changed. The magic of the magus has never ceased to appeal for its solutions to problems of power and knowledge and yet its literature, too, has been remarkably canonical and static. The early modern witch was the focus of fears that were largely the product of early modern conditions, while her identity - at least for intellectuals — was consciously fashioned from biblical law and history, classical poetry and legend, and medieval theology, as if there was no such thing as anachronism. Even today, the evil witch remains highly relevant to children's literature and the popular media even though she consists of archaisms.

The three studies that follow each testify to this abiding ambiguity and suggest ways to account for it, and even to resolve it. Nobody could suppose that the. phenomena they describe are anything but embedded in twentieth-century life and thought. Modern pagan witchcraft, the subject of the first essay, must be seen in relation to many of the conventional features of contemporary religion and religious ntual, of notions of die self and of human abilities, and of attitudes to the worid and its workings. Ronald Hutton explains that among its inspirations hive been some of the most powerful impulses in modern culture — 'nostalgia for the natural and rural world, feminism, sexual liberation, dissatisfaction with established religious institutions and social norms, and a desire for greater individual self-expression and self-fulfilment/ (p. 59} it flourishes, therefore, because of its obvious relevance to contemporary lives and contemporary debates. The self-styled satamst groups examined by Jean La Fontaine in the second essay have also emerged as products of late second-millennium culture, even if in violent reaction against what they see as its repressive and authoritarian morality and social codes. Nor would the modern myth of satamsm and. of the satamc abuse of children — a very different thing altogether, as she decisively shows — be possible without the emergence of twentieth-century religious fundamentalism and, more precisely, public anxieties about parenting. It is true that this sense of contemporary relevance is weakest m the witchcraft cases discussed by Willem de Blecourt, who concludes our volume and our series. He concedes that one of the features of. these episodes, confined as they largely are to remote rural areas, is their increasing marginality. The traces of the accompanying discourse, he suggests, may 'represent its last vestiges.' (p. 215) Even so, those who attacked the witch in the port of Naples m 1921, or who were consulang the- witch-doctor Waldemar Eberling in the German village of Sarzbiittel before and during the 1950s, or who reluctantly confided their fears about bewitchment to the anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada m the Socage around 1970 were all acting and speaking out of a conviction that witchcraft had a place in their lives and their social worid. It is precisely this sense of having a place 'today', argues de Blecourt, that is threatened or denied whenever twentieth-century witchcraft is described as archaic or anachronistic.

And yet it is precisely the archaic that all these manifestations of witchcraft and magic m our century seem to exhibit. They do present themselves — or at least are presented — as timeless, or at least immemorial, not time bound. The clearest case, of course, is that of paganism, with its explicit debt to the religions of ancient Greece and Rome, its celebration of pagan deities and goddesses and the values associated with them, and, above all, its commitment to the view that the witches prosecuted during the early modern centuries were surviving practitioners of an 'old' religion, of which modern Wicca too is a further benign form. Everyone interested in the history of witchcraft knows of Margaret Murray's influence in this regard, particularly since the 1940s - although few, if any, will have realised that she considered herself a witch and even practised cursing! Here described as the 'godmother of Wicca' for her approving foreword to Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today (1954), her studies did more than anything else to create the impression of an age-old witch religion, continuous from pagan tames and marked by veneration of a nature-god and by fertility rites. This was the religion whose twentieth-century discovery was announced in Gardners book.

With satamsm the situation is more complex. Unlike the modern pagans, none of the satamst groups that have actually existed in recent years has ever claimed continuity with demon-worshippers from the past. For these modern groups Satan certainly represents freedom from the constraining moralities of Christianity and the State, thus symbolizing rebelliousness, iconociasm and hedonism. In this sense, therefore, it is true that satamsm is still defined in opposition to Christianity. But, otherwise, its few devotees practice magic, not deity worship, and its only common philosophy seems to have been a form of social Darwinism. Instead, the element of timelessness here lies in the extraordinary persistence into the modern world of a mythology which attributes to twenaeth-century satanism a kind of diabolism it has never exhibited. As previous volumes m this series have shown. Western Christianity rapidly developed a demonology in which human allies of Satan were thought to threaten the faithful by their secret organisation, their ntual celebration of demonism, and their magical powers. Of most reievance to the history of medieval heresy and early modern witchcraft, this demonology has nevertheless continued, even down to our own day, to generate myths which virtually replicate those of earlier centuries. Thus it is that in the twentieth century, organised satamsm has again assumed a mythological significance - particularly, it seems, for Protestant fundamentalists and 'New Chnstians' - that bears little relation to either the actual practices, or even the very existence, of real satamsts. Not only the latter, but pagans and Wiccans, astrologers and spiritualists, some forms of rock music, and even the Duke of Edinburgh (for his presidency of the World Wild Life Fund) have been attributed with aims similar to those of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sabbat goers. Like the accusers of heretics and witches in the past, the modem mythologisers have assumed both a continuous reality in the 'crimes' of devil-worshippers and also a uniform guilt.

The consequences for attitudes and, indeed, policies towards child abuse have been particularly profound and disturbing. Under the influence of this same lingering mythology — sometimes m the guise almost of a folk belief — the abduction and sexual abuse of children, because it is among the most horrendous and inhuman of late twentieth-century cnmes, has been deemed to be earned out by ntual Satamsts. Jean La Fontaine records here the nature and number of the allegations that have resulted, mainly m the USA atid the UK. As in both the report commissioned from her by the UK Department of Health (published in 1994} and her recent monograph Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England (Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, 1998) she is able to conclude categorically that independent material evidence to corroborate the accusations has never been found' (p. 129). While child abuse is, sadly, an all too real feature of modern life, the idea that it is sometimes a part of magical or religious rites inspired by Satanism remains a myth. More striking still in the context of this series, however, is the realization that the only 'evidence' that has emerged for it has been extracted from child victims or confessing adults by means of the same mixture of suggestion, pressure and willingness to take stones at face-value that must also have led to most of the witchcraft verdicts of early modern times too. Here again we seem to be faced with powerful continuities. But far from providing ^^retrospective 'proof that real satamsm lay behind the early modern trials, our twentieth-century experience of the workings of 'satamc abuse' mythology may finally be dispelling anything that remains of that wholly mistaken idea.

In Willem de Blecourt's essay the issue of whether continuity m witchcraft is a cultural phenomenon itself or simply a perception of a cultural phenomenon is again powerfully problematised. Here, however, the perceptions in question are those of academic researchers — above ail, the folklorists, criminologists, and anthropologists who in the past have so often treated twentieth-century fears of malefiaum merely as anachronisms. Indeed, de Blecourt makes an overwhelming case - hinging on the dilemmas faced by the anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada — for the way that scholarly study is always itself conceptually entangled with what it studies. Of course, refusing to treat such fears as exotic superstitions from the past does not preclude recognition of formal continuities or the extent to which similar fears would have been broadly intelligible to even our remote European predecesors. The four types of witchcraft he identifies -bewitching, unwitchmg, witching (securing wealth by witchcraft), and scolding — may manifest themselves differendy m today's conditions but they are categories of behaviour that this senes has found throughout Europe's history. The 'lived' context makes them intelligible in, and relevant to, the modern communities that experience them, yet nothing can lessen the shock that comes from reading Favret-Saada's now classic monograph, Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage, and recognizing from earlier centuries many of the situations she describes and much of the methodological ambiguities that arise in trying to grasp them. Even so, what cannot be doubted is that much of the modem research discussed by de Blecourt has, indeed, been premised on assumptions of atavism in witchcraft behaviour and discourse. What matters to him, instead, are the local inflections and the immediate context and these have all too often been obliterated by the very methods that have been adopted for recording and analysing modern witchcraft cases, the legend collections and indexes of the folklorists being the most obvious examples.

How then do we resolve the simultaneous presence of the contemporary and the archaic m twentieth-century witchcraft and magic? It may well be that there is no real ambiguity here at all. For what the essays in this volume point towards is the extent to which perceptions of continuity and timelessness are themselves the product of modern conditions and contemporary culture. However witchcraft and magic are represented, these representations are inescapably m and of the present; to perceive continuity in their history is, thus, m large part to reflect a contemporary desire to find it. As Ronald Hutton explains, the various cultural trends that have gone into the making.of modem paganism invariably invested heavily — and retrospectively - in tradition. In his analysis, these include the development of secret societies in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain (of which Wicca has been, in a sense, the latest), the continuing popular faith placed in the operative powers of magic, the emergence of a romantic style of folklore studies and of the Folklore Society itself, and the publication of anthropological theories like those of James Fra2er and Edward Tylor. Gerald Gardner was an antiquarian and Margaret Murray both a Folklore Society member and a devoted Frazenan. Of the utmost significance, therefore, has been the way in which pagans, beginning in the 1970s and accelerating with the establishment of the Pagan Federation in 1988, have self-cntically reworked their own history, recognised the metaphorical rather than literal nature of many of the key elements of the 4old' religion, and turned the 'Murray thesis' — discredited anyway by historians — into a foundation myth. In this sense, the academic and pagan worlds have lately come together, with Hutton's own research as a powerful example. Radical histoncisaoon has thus at last removed the sense m which paganism's perception of its own past — particularly in the form established by Murray — has conflicted with îçs obvious rootedness m the present.

Those who have seen an almost medieval diabolism in twentiëth-century satanism and paganism have, likewise, been influenced by the currents m modern religion most committed to fundamentalism, which, after all, is defined by the strict maintenance of what is most ancient in a practice or belief. In La Fontaines analysis the rise of New Religious Movements since World War II has m fact been paralleled by the emergence of New Christians. Both have shared m a general religious revivalism but New Christianity has been marked by strict Biblicism, exclusivity, and the conviction of being 'engaged m a batde against all other religions which are tools of Satan' (p. 118). It is this sense of struggle, marked m some cases by millemalism, that has led to the re-invention of a mythology that attributes medieval dissent, early modern witchcraft, and twentieth-century religious experimentation (whether real or imagined) to the same transcendant and transhistoncal demonism.

If we are to suppose that it is the insights of the historian and the anthropologist that can now expose these various perceptions of sameness as contemporary mythologies bred from modern social and cultural movements, then we must not forget too that such insights are themselves historically located. The relativism that has come to inform so much academic study in the era of post-modernity enables us to see how witchcraft and magic, and the opinions they provoke, are always related contingently to time and place. We are now better able to see difference than sameness in our relationships with "other' cultures and other centuries, and to treat the desire for continuity as itself a cultural construction. For the time being, this governs the way we see the relanonship between present and past; in the future, it will no doubt be re-thought. What cannot be doubted is that the way in which how we perceive the history of witchcraft and magic through the centuries and how we react to these things when we find them in our own world are inextricably bound up with each other.

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