A national witch monument in the Netherlands

The face of witchcraft has greatly changed throughout the centuries. The last few decennia, it has grown fast as a (for some religious) way of life, as a form of Art. Some people however see witchcraft merely as superstition and then there are some who still see witchcraft as of the devil. Worldwide, people still get prosecuted for witchcraft. It is not a thing of the past, as I’ve written before.

In the last years, monuments remembering the witch hunts have sprung up in different countries. Now, a foundation has been established in the Netherlands to also raise a monument. The foundation is led by, among others, Susan Smit, a well known Dutch author and also one of the Netherlands’ most prominent witches. The project is simply named Nationaal Heksenmonument, National Witches’ Monument.

I’ve already seen some discussion spring up in online pagan groups about whether such a monument is warranted. This has mostly to do with the language the foundations used and the groups backing the foundation. Some of those groups consist of pagans, wiccans and feminists. These groups have not always been known to be very accurate when it comes to historical facts about the (European) witch hunts. Think “9 million victims” (the number is probably closer to 50.000, still large enough) or “witchcraft is really an ancient religion gone underground” (there is no evidence for this). There is also criticism towards the project’s emphasis on female witches and feminism.

These questions seem to have been taken into account, looking at the website of the Heksenmonument. There is no doubt that this project has a feminist, activist undertone, but that does not mean that a monument is not fitting. Firstly, the website addresses the questions and concerns. It aknowledges that modern witchcraft is something else efrom what was historically understood to be witchcraft. It also aknowledhes that there were men who were procecuted and even killed during the witch craze. The foundation works together with researchers, which gives me faith that they will indeed ‘get things right’.

Secondly, and to put this in a larger picture, lately there have been many discussions about public monuments and statues in the western world. When it comes to the Netherlands, the tradition of public statues is roughly a couple of century old and until fairly recently pre-occupied itself mostly with ‘heroes of the Dutch Golden Age’. These statues were mostly erected to glorify the Dutch nation. However, they show a rather onesided picture of Dutch history. Monuments such as the Heksenmonument aim to change this picture and tell a broader historical tale.

In short, I’m following this project with great interest. They have lots of plans, such as publishing a pamphlet, laying flowers at spots where accused people have died and of course, in the end, the monument itself. To be continued, surely.

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