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Accepted Paper:

The role of law in shaping modern witchcraft history: celebrating the 50th anniversary of the repeal of UK witchcraft legislation  
Helen Cornish (Goldsmiths)

Paper short abstract:

In 2001 magical-religious witches in the United Kingdom celebrated the 50th anniversary of the repeal of archaic witchcraft legislation as an enabling moment for modern witchcraft. This ethnographic paper examines how legal acts can be shaped retrospectively to generate world-making.

Paper long abstract:

It is a matter of the historical record that the last vestiges of punitive legislation against witchcraft in the United Kingdom was removed from the statute books on June 22 1951. Remaining anxieties about the need to protect the population from dishonest fortune-tellers were allayed by a brand new law, the Fraudulent Mediums Act. In the summer of 2001 practitioners of modern magical-religious witchcraft traditions celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this event. Many saw it as an enabling moment that had allowed witchcraft to emerge from the shadows, although it is arguable that its significance is retrospectively shaped. In this ethnographic paper I show how the creation of a key event for modern witches in 2001 provides an illustration of the role of law in world making. It is a marker for an event that created the conditions for the birth of a modern movement; it provides a pivotal moment between an unsubstantiated deep history and a richly recorded recent one; and provides the framework for witchcraft as a modern new religious movement framed through legal-rights discourses.

Panel P120a
Legal Worlds; Worlding Law
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -