[W]hile witch tourism may be fun, some scholars worry that these stereotypes do more harm than good. The selling of dolls in gift shops like those in Spain “perpetuates the idea that the so-called witches … were not victims of a terrible persecution, but were fictional figures,” says Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch. “I do not think the tourists who buy these dolls realize that these were women who were charged with fictional crimes, and then horribly tortured and most often burned alive.”
Hundreds of years later, misperception around witchcraft still circulates. As a result, witch hunts are very much a 21st-century practice in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Papua New Guinea.
While authorities in most countries simply turn a blind eye, some legal systems sanction the persecution. In addition to having laws against sorcery (a crime that carries a death sentence), Saudi Arabia established an anti-witchcraft unit in 2009 within the country’s religious police department.
“Violence against women has greatly intensified in recent years,” says Federici, “for reasons, I believe, that have some relation to the violence inflicted on women through the witch hunts of the past.”
The failure to recognize the history of the witch hunts may be a factor, too. “No ‘day of memory’ has been introduced in any European calendar,” writes Federici in the introduction to her 2018 collection of essays Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women.