Witches and pardon – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

On 31 October 2004, resorting to a feudal law that was abolished the following month, the town of Prestonpans in Scotland granted official pardon to 81 persons – and their cats – executed for practicing witchery in the 16th and 17th centuries.

According to the official spokesman for the Barons of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun, “most of them had been condemned without any concrete proof – based only on the witnesses of the accusation, who declared that they felt the presence of evil spirits.”

There is no point in recalling once more all the excess of the Inquisition, with its torture chambers and bonfires of hate and vengeance. But there is one thing that is very intriguing to me in this news item.

The town and the 14th Baron of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun are “granting pardon” to the people who were brutally executed. Here we are in the heart of the 21st century and the descendants of the real criminals, those who put innocent people to death, still have the right to “grant pardon”.

In the meantime, a new witch hunt is beginning to gain ground. This time the arm is no longer red-hot iron, but rather irony or repression. All those who, in developing a gift (generally discovered by chance), dare to speak of their capacity, are mostly either looked on with suspicion or else prohibited by their parents, husbands and wives to say anything about it. Having interested myself from an early age in what they call the “occult sciences”, I came into contact with many such people.

I believed in charlatans, of course. I dedicated time and enthusiasm to “masters” that later on dropped their masks, revealing the total void in which they found themselves. Irresponsibly, I took part in certain sects and practiced rituals for which I had to pay a high price. All this in on behalf of a quest that is absolutely natural to man: the answer to the mystery of life.

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