The witches of Salem seem to have helped out Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, but at least one witch hasn't been so lucky with her own fortunes. Laurie Cabot, Salem's official witch, has closed her shop after 40 years of business in the city. She isn't abandoning her store, however--she's moving it online. Ms. Cabot sees the move as just upward and onward.
The witches were out in Salem, Massachusetts yesterday (Friday the 13th) to assist Tom Brady and the Patriots (how appropriate--and how forgiving) as they prepare to take on Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos whatever day they do that (I'm not really a football fan--it is football they play, right?) The witchly folk held a seance (a seance? isn't that a spiritualist practice?) at noon to "send out mojo" and "call angels" (what a combination) to help out the team. More here. I'm assuming the witches are asking for good karma, as it were, for the Patriots, and nothing really bad (except a spectacular loss) for the Broncos. That would be just be mean, and these people don't seem mean. Seriously, I like seeing folks supporting the local team. It's neighborly.
Interestingly, NBC Sports discusses a recent poll that seems to show that of those who are aware of Mr. Tebow's religious beliefs, a majority believe that his success is due to supernatural intervention. What will happen if the Patriots win?
This paper explores the rise of the fiscal state in the early modern period and its impact on legal capacity. To measure legal capacity, we establish that witchcraft trials were more likely to take place where the central state had weak legal institutions. Combining data on the geographic distribution of witchcraft trials with unique panel data on tax receipts across 21 French regions, we nd that the rise of the tax state can account for much of the decline in witch trials during this period. Further historical evidence supports our hypothesis that higher taxes led to better legal institutions.
Via the wonderful and wacky blog Lowering the Bar, a story that Eilish De'Avalon, a "pagan priestess" who says she isn't subject to "earthly" laws has received a two month stint in jail for dragging a Geelong, Victoria traffic cop by his arm for 200 meters along a road. He apparently ordered her to stop but--see previous sentence. As she was being led away (maybe by her arm?) to the pokey she told Judge Geoff Chettle that she "declined his offer" and he told her "I'm afraid it's not negotiable." But she's a witch! Isn't he worried? After all, when the cop tried to stop her,
[s]he behaved in a bizarre fashion, telling the officer she was from another world and did not need a licence and that she had a spiritual and universal name that was not recognised here. "Your laws and penalties don't apply to me. I'm not accepting them, I'm sorry, I must go, thank you,'' she told the officer. Judge Chettle said she then drove off with Sen-Constable Logan's arm trapped in the driver's side window and it was only when she slowed down to turn a corner that he was able to reach in and grab her keys.
Ms. De'Avalon (so that's where she's from) is a "a marriage celebrant, self-styled witch and alternative therapies practitioner." To show there are no hard feelings, or maybe to facilitate good relations among the planets, she offered the officer "spiritual healing and a massage," but he turned her down. Well, gee.
Roger Pearse discusses Roman attitudes toward magic in this post from August 8, 2009. He begins,
There were three sets of Roman legislation relating to magic. There was an edict in the Twelve Tables (ca. 451 BC); the laws of Sulla (81 BC); and the legislation of Constantine and other Christian emperors (after 312 AD).
(Apologies to Mr. Pearse for having initially misspelled his name).
The website TMZ.com notes that warlock Christian Day carried out a "magical intervention" on (for?against? at?) Charlie Sheen, because Mr. Sheen proclaimed himself a "Vatican assassin warlock" (that sounds really bad, and not at all winning) and Mr. Day took offense. According to him, "A warlock is a wise person who understands the ways of the spirit world," which, he suggests, doesn't really describe Mr. Sheen. Note that Mr. Day didn't file a defamation suit; he relied on self-help. No word yet on what the Vatican thinks about Mr. Sheen's claim, or if it even understands it. I certainly don't. (Is a "Vatican assassin warlock" a "Vatican assassin" who is a warlock? An assassin warlock who works for the Vatican? Are those two the same thing? I've spent too much time on this already). Moving on....
I'm not exactly clear as to what the "intervention" was supposed to accomplish--was it to help Mr. Sheen through his current troubles or guide him back to reality? If so, well--let's fasten our seatbelts. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. Just in from the Hollywood Reporter: Warner Brothers has fired Mr. Sheen from its top-rated sitcom "Two and a Half Men." Does that make the show "One and a Half Men"?
Chi Mgbako, Fordham University School of Law, has published Witchcraft Legal Aid in Africa as Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1763924 and in the International Legal Tribune, February 2011. Here is the abstract.
Accusations of witchcraft in Africa have gained increasing attention because of the severe impact they can have on the lives of those accused, including imprisonment, deprivation of property, banishment from villages and in some cases physical violence. The human-rights law program I direct recently partnered with an N.G.O. in Malawi to run a mobile legal-aid clinic focusing on witchcraft cases in two rural communities.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link. Also available here.
The primary aims of this Article are to deconstruct the evidence from the Salem witchcraft trials and to determine whether those prosecutions relied upon syndrome and profile evidence, and whether such, evidence played a substantial role in the convictions. The secondary aim is to determine whether modern cases employ evidentiary methods sufficiently similar to the Salem cases such that we should reconsider prosecutorial syndrome and profile evidence.
This Article concludes that prosecutorial syndrome evidence and, to a lesser degree, prosecutorial profile evidence, were relied upon in the Salem cases and were important to the convictions. Moreover, in modem cases, which rely on syndromes for purposes of conviction and profiles for purposes of reasonable suspicion and probable cause, the essential cognitive error in the Salem trials is still present in the use of syndrome and profile evidence: the belief that criminal behavior can be determined with sufficient certainty by considering constellations of behaviors in either victims or defendants. This Article argues that experience-based conclusions about the relationship between observed behaviors and crime, when not subjected to a more searching or science-based scrutiny, are both incomplete and laced with the potential for error.
As developed more fully in Part VI, infra, courts have shown a great willingness to accept prosecutorial profile and syndrome evidence, the validity of which is premised primarily on the experience of law enforcement officers and treating therapists. Courts have not been forceful in requiring proof of the underlying belief structures that animate profile and syndrome evidence, namely that crime is meaningfully related to defendant behavior and victim behavior. Part VI submits that current appreciation for scientific method, along with the Supreme Court's mandate that trial courts engage in rigorous "gatekeeping" of expert evidence" and amended Federal Rule of Evidence 702, collectively support greater proof of reliability and validity of prosecutorial syndrome and profile evidence prior to its admissibility at trial.
Although the comparison between the witchcraft trials of 1692 and modem trials may be considered inflammatory, it is important to remember that the experts relied upon in Salem were employing precepts that had been in use for approximately a century." Moreover, although witchcraft may not have been the cause, there were numerous examples of people and animals in Salem becoming sick and dying. Thus, some of the harm was very real, even if the cause misperceived. Finally, it is the respective methodology under comparison, not the actual evidence. The law does not always recognize its own errors while they are occurring, but often discovers them only in the refracted light of history.
Download the full text of the Article from SSRN at the link.
Professor Moriarty discusses seventeenth century and modern "ways of knowing" and their probative value, suggesting that while they haven't changed since 1692, the assumptions we make about what we observe certainly has. She points out that scientists sometimes term "insights" what they use to fuel hypotheses (and then test by the scientific method). I note that others term these insights something else ("visions" perhaps) and don't test them at all.
Professor Moriarty's piece links up nicely, it seems to me, with what we seem to be learning about magic and neuroscience, and how magicians (and others) deceive us so easily. As Hercule Poirot, a devotee of justice, as opposed to prosecution, and a remarkable though fictional figure-outer of puzzles, it gives one furiously to think. His creator, like other good mystery writers, knew a lot about deception herself. But that's material for another post, about mystery writers and magic.
Those Romanian witches are really, really mad at the tax collectors. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Romanian witches from the east and west will head to the southern plains and the Danube River today to threaten the government with spells and spirits because of the tax law, which went into effect Saturday. A dozen witches will hurl the poisonous mandrake plant into the Danube to put a hex on government officials "so evil will befall them," said a witch named Alisia. She identified herself with one name - customary among Romania's witches."
Fortune tellers, who are also now on the tax rolls as a result of the changes in the Romanian Labor Code, are apparently less agitated by their new classification. Maybe they knew ahead of time? The classification, by the way, applies to the self-employed, who now pay a sixteen percent tax on earnings. All righty then.
That mandrake plant, the one the witches are hurling, is apparently Mandragora officinarum, which is poisonous taken internally but which applied externally is supposed to relieve pain. It's native to the Mediterannean and the Himalayas. Mandragora is a member of the potato or nightshade family.
Go and catch a falling star
Get with child a mandrake root
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot.
---John Donne, Go and Catch a Falling Star (1633).