Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reformation and witchcraft

When Princess Anne (of Denmark) was popping over to Scotland to meet her husband to be, James VI of Scotland, she was forced by bad weather to stop off in Norway. The cause of the storm? Well, witchcraft obviously - which is why James VI personally presided over a witchcraft trial in 1590.

This is the dark side of the 'elimination of magic' which Max Weber rightly identified as a defining feature of protestantism; in the early modern period of European history, the elimination of magic was accompanied by the physical obliteration of those who were believed to practice magic. It won't surprise many people to learn that the Edinburgh University survey estimates that about 84% of these 'witches' were women.

It is for this reason, amongst others, that those who call for a Reformation in Islam should be careful what they wish for. They've had a Reformation and while it is a controversial point, I'd argue that this is part of the problem.

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