Lancaster Witches

August 21st, 2012

Four hundred years ago yesterday, 20th August 1612, ten women and men were executed in Lancaster, England for being witches.

They were executed because they were accused of believing in and using evil spirits to place spells on members of the community within the Pendle district and working with the devil.

To mark the anniversary of those deaths, a conference was held at Lancaster University over last weekend, entitled ‘Capturing Witches’.

Experts in their own right from all over the globe gathered to present papers covering wide subjects. Contributors such as Robert Poole (University of Cumbria): The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster;

Felix Riedel (University of Siegen) The Sanctuaries and Ghettoes for Witch-hunt victims in Northern Ghana.

Most impressively, Gary Foxcroft from ‘Stepping stones Nigeria’, ‘Fighting Witchcraft Accusations Against Children in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

I had the honour of giving a presentation entitled ‘Juju, Witchcraft and Organised Crime.’

Although the conference was respecting the famous witch trials that occurred in England four hundred years ago; for so many today it is hard to believe that witchcraft still exists and used today.

A number of victims who are trafficked from Edo State, Nigeria to Europe for the purposes of sexual exploitation would have been subjected to a juju ceremony. It is the belief in the spirit world and the threat of use of the spirits plus the belief in witchcraft that the crime gangs are able to control their victims.

People are afraid of witchcraft and the unseen. They even choose to ignore the fact that witchcraft exists in our modern day. I remember very well the day when I was briefing police officers regarding my investigation into Anthony Harrison and how he and his criminal network were using Juju. One person on hearing how the victims was refusing to speak for fear of death, asked me, ‘ Andy what year are we in?’

A question implying that I was still living in 1612 and that the use of witchcraft and traditional spiritual belief just did not exist in our time.  They were an invention of the victims in order to get around immigration status issues and were just making it up!

It is this very ignorance of the religious beliefs and understanding of other cultures from around the world that the slave traders are using to their advantage. It is very difficult for a young African female to speak out against the JuJu spirits who she has been made to swear an oath of obedience to. It is just as difficult for her to make the authorities of the country she has gone to for help and sanctuary from her slave masters, to understand her plight.

If four hundred years ago the very fear of the spirit world led educated members of the Lancaster Community to the torture and killing of ten people. Why cannot a young fourteen year old Nigerian female brought up in a small village with very little education and exposure to the western modern world having been raised to believe in her traditional ancestral religion, also believe that she will die from those same spirits today?

It is the aim of ATC to bring awareness of how modern day slave traders are exploiting these cultural beliefs today in order to control their victims.

You will find the full story of the Pendle Witches here







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