Throughout history, using the excuse “witches made me do it” has come in and out of acceptability. It certainly isn’t the kind of excuse you would have wanted to use in 17th-century colonial Massachusetts, but times have changed – somewhat. Witchcraft remains as prevalent and popular as ever, though, and there are even signs that Wicca and other Pagan belief systems are on the rise worldwide. Is that what drove one man in Ireland to smash all of his neighbor’s windows and blame it on local witches?
Patrick O’Leary, 69, of Kenagh in County Longford, Ireland recently plead guilty to damaging four windows of a neighbor’s house on January, 16. Police found O’Leary at the scene and watched him speed off in his car – a pretty open-and-shut case. Until the courts heard O’Leary’s defense, that is. When brought before a local judge, O’Leary claimed that seven of his neighbors engage in black magick or witchcraft and are possibly even using dolls or other effigies to inflict harm on him and others. Worst of all, he claims his photograph had even been taken against his will as he stepped out of his door one day. Blasted witches!
O’Leary also claims on at least one occasion, he woke up in the middle of the night to discover unexplained injuries on his ribcage. “I went to bed and got up in the morning and was in all this pain,” O’Leary told the court. Sounds legit.
The judge in the case refused to issue a verdict, stating that the matter is much more appropriate for local probation services and told O’Leary to stay away from his neighbors. “That’s all that can be said about this weird case,” the judge added.
While this appears to be little more than a case of a disgruntled neighbor playing the centuries-old witch card, this incident shows just how firmly witches and witchcraft remain embedded into our cultural consciousness. We’ve come a long way since the Salem Witch Trials, but women are still being arrested on charges of witchcraft and much, much worse. Why does the thought of magic still frighten so many people? Are claims of witchcraft a convenient cover for the fear of women?