Thursday, January 3, 2013

Not What You Think It Means

According to Welsh Reverend Felix Aubel, witchcraft and satanism are "thriving" in Wales. His choice of words is particularly amusing, because apparently by "thriving" he really means "practically nonexistent."

A church minister claims witchcraft is thriving across his rural parishes. Rev Felix Aubel says he has come across the use of effigies and the “evil eye” during his career in the countryside. He has spoken out after figures in the 2011 census revealed 83 witches and 93 satanists are living in Wales.

Rev Aubel, minister of five Congregational chapels in Carmarthenshire, said there was an “unusual connection” between Christianity and witchcraft in some circles. And he revealed he once had to call out an exorcist when a witch placed a curse on one of his parishioners after making an evil effigy of them.

He said: “This is not a joke and I would warn people not to get involved in the occult. I have been told that a coven of witches still meet locally. There is also a witch living in a nearby village who advertises her services in the local paper.”

Wales has a population of over three million people. So a witch/satanist population of 176 is a drop in the bucket - 0.005%. For reference, the quantum diode telekinesis results from the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research project showed an increase of 0.2% above chance, and skeptics keep trying to wave away those figures as random statistical noise. So by that standard this "thriving population" in effect does not exist.

Aubel says that he knows of a coven of witches in his area - I suppose that would be as many as 13 out of the 83. The witch who advertises in the paper might be 14, except that given the sparse overall numbers I'm guessing she's probably also a member of the local working group. He talks about a few instances of dealing with charms and curses, which you're going to run into from time to time in an area with magical practitioners. But treating those few incidents as some sort of an epidemic is simply bizarre.

Could Aubel be the Welsh version of the American Poor Oppressed Christian? That is, a Christian for whom the mere existence of anything non-Christian constitutes a dire existential threat, no matter how tiny their numbers may actually be? Describing a group of non-Christians with less than twenty members as "thriving" certainly suggests as much. After all, how dare this handful of heathens try share the same country with him? Incontheivable!

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Imago said...

(reposted from Google+)

Clearly the Poor Oppressed Christian is trying to drum up some sympathy for non-existent prejudice. Maybe the witches there should actually send him some sympathy cards or something? It would be good press for them...

V.V.F. said...

So you're not dismissing his claims of maleficia, but you feel that he shouldn't be alarmed by it? Assuming that what he says is true, I don't think hospitalizing a new mother and her infant child is really a matter of religious freedom.

Scott Stenwick said...

@VVF: I don't have enough direct evidence to say one way or the other whether his various claims about dealing with curses are true. There are a lot of reasons a mother and child might wind up hospitalized, and also a lot of reasons somebody with a bone to pick about occultism might blame witches for it who in fact had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, I also know it's possible to cast a curse that makes people ill.

My general point is that in the overall scheme of things it's pretty silly to make a statement in the media to the effect that witchcraft has reached epidemic proportions when all you have is some evidence that a few witches exist. To my way of thinking, that alone calls into question the veracity of his entire account.