A petition calling for a posthumous pardon for women and men who were executed as British witches will be presented to the government Friday.
Campaigners hope evidence of eight grave “miscarriages of justice” will persuade Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to take action. A copy will also be sent to Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, as a large majority of hangings took place north of the border.
More than 400 people were executed in England for alleged witchcraft, and more than 2,000 executed in Scotland, before the 1735 Witchcraft Act put an end to the trials, they said.
The petitioners' bid to get 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 the costume firm, Angels, came up with the idea and asked historian Dr. John Callow to collect some of the victims’ stories. Callow, editor of Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe, said it was time to recognize the witch trials as “most dangerous and tragic” fabrications.
“Today we are well aware that these individuals were neither capable of harmful magic nor in league with the devil,” he said.
The campaign aims to make people realize that witches never really existed, and the fears of the past — such as criticism of Halloween as a sinister celebration of the occult — deserve no place in the present. The petition can be seen at www.pardonthewitches.com/content/witches.