This page contains information about witchcraft laws since 1542 and includes a list of countries and their witchcraft laws.
Ever since King Henry VIII’s Act of 1542, witchcraft laws have been enacted, enforced and expanded in dozens of countries around the world. Many of these laws expanded to umbrella a large number of offenses. All deemed felonious, this list would include: working, practicing or even conspiring to commit any acts of binding, conjuring, charming, enchantment, sorcery, spell-work, and communing with spirits.
Witches Burned in Harz 1555
Between February 1692 And May 1693, court trials held against people accused of witchcraft took place in Salem, Massachusetts.
1876 engraving portraying the witchcraft trial of Mary Walcott at Salem Village.
In the 21st century, courtrooms and lawmakers are still active with pending cases concerning charges of witchcraft. This is because there are many nefarious individuals a) claiming to possess supernatural powers and charging fees for fraudulent services and b) individuals accused of causing harm by means of witchcraft and/or sorcery. In the latter, this represents the modern version of Inquisition style witch hunting whereupon the legal system weighs the serious consequences of practicing witchery against the damages claimed. Unfortunately, this also reflects previous archaic centuries and, in some cases, still ends in death to the accused. The former scenario is much more rational and is the result of decades of the watering down of much earlier, much stricter witchcraft laws.
Many countries’ witchcraft laws have been amended over the last 100 years. These amendments allowed lawmakers to fairly prosecute fraudulent occult activity that fell under witchcraft laws. So, that was a good thing to help prevent the public from getting duped by shady criminals but it also meant that some honest folks could still get convicted for doing things that a neopagan might take for granted today. This could include common pagan activities like reading tarot cards, drawing a ritual circle or lighting candles and incense to commune with higher power.
With the coming of groups like the UK’s Pagan Federation and PF International, neopaganism has found political strength in organized numbers as well as social acceptance amongst rational thinking people which, in turn, has led to positive amendments and even the suspension of many witchcraft laws.
Maypole dancing at Beltaine Festival Cape Town.
the practice of magic, especially black magic; the use of spells and the invocation of spirits.synonyms:sorcery, black magic, white magic, magic, witching, witchery, wizardry
witchcraft definition: Although the definition of witchcraft varies from country to country, the most age-old common denominator is defined as someone who uses “supernatural power”. That could also mean someone who employs “supernatural energy”. As the ‘powers that be’ in most societies frown at anyone even attempting to access forms of energy/power besides what is offered to them through mainstream channels(think Galileo Galilei, Tesla, free-energy, etc.) it is no wonder that so many laws were enacted to discourage people from looking outside of the box.
In the case of “black magic” and/or deceptive practices by pathological persons—of which there were, are, and always will be, some witchcraft laws sought, at least on paper, to protect the innocent. However, history clearly shows massive abuse by superstitious courts, clergy and an ignorant public which resulted in thousands of false charges filed upon the innocent. It begs the question: Who ultimately created all those cases of witchcraft hysteria? The people or the Press?
In an era where “national security” and “terrorism” are used as frequently as the words “witch” and “witchcraft” were way back when, it seems equally important today for people to recognize and to be aware of the striking similarities and control based motives within tyrannical governments, organizations and fanatical ideologists to that of the terrifying Salem Witch Trials which led to the persecution and torture of innocent citizens.
Most likely, the bigger battle will continue for some time between those who seek to look outside of the box and for those who seek to keep us all in their box.
Witchcraft Laws List by Country
Australia: (including: Australian Capitol Territory, New South Wales, The Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia)
Repealing Britain’s Witchcraft Act of 1735, Australia has, since 2013, deemed defunct the old legislation that included the use of tarot cards, among other things, as illegal activity. Currently, there are no standing Witchcraft laws in Australia now. However, New South Wales knife laws make it unlawful, excepting under certain conditions, to hold and carry a knife. One condition that is exempt from holding and carrying a knife is for religious purposes. As in the case of a neopagan using an Athame for ritual religious practice, the law would then look the other way unless it saw an abuse of the blade or reasonable doubt for its whereabouts or questionable activity.
Canadian Criminal Code: Section 365. -full text.
False Pretenses – section 365
Pretending to practice witchcraft, etc.365. Every one who fraudulently:
- (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
- (b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
- (c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found,
is guilty of an offense punishable on summary conviction.
- R.S., c. C-34, s. 323.
England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales:
After many amendments over the centuries, these four countries have all finally recognized the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951, which was written to protect those accused of witchcraft from the gallows and to prosecute those accused of swindling the innocent with shady séances and the like.
Although threats of prosecution continued into 1950, the last person to actually be arrested under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was the professional medium Jane Rebecca Yorke, who at the tender age of 72 was leniently fined £5 and sentenced to 3 years of good behavior probation for 7 counts against the old law. Undercover police attended one of her east London séances in 1944 and arrested her for exploiting wartime fears and providing detailed descriptions of non-existent people from her alleged spirit guide.
South Africa’s Parliment enacted the The Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957. It was based on the earlier Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1895. This, in turn, was based on the UK’s 1735 Witchcraft Act.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma admits to practice witchcraft. South African culture has long experienced the religious and occult belief systems of Voodooism. Current plans to introduce new legislation aimed at protecting people, mostly women, from religious persecution while also enforcing protection for consumers against religion associated fraud are reflected in this statement by the South African Law Reform Commission.
One of the SALRC’s other new projects, the review of witchcraft legislation, will support the constitutional guarantee to freedom of religion, but will also serve to protect vulnerable groups. It is mostly women advanced in age that are persecuted as witches by communities holding traditional beliefs. These innocent victims are vulnerable to a double degree: as women and as older persons.
—South African Law Reform Commission Thirty Eighth Annual Report 2010/2011