I feel terrible. I feel as if I have instigated a great wrong. When I wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti and Who Among Us… I portrayed witches and Satanists as violent criminals, hell bent on selfish pursuits and ‘removing’ anyone who got in their way. But the thing is, they’re not really like that.
My excuse is that there are bad apples in every religious barrel, and there’s no reason why witches and Satanists are any different and can’t be portrayed in literature as criminals and wrongdoers.
It all started about two years ago. During a walk along the shady lanes around Pendle I thought about the 17th century witch trials and the old historic presentation of cackling witches zipping around on broomsticks, casting spells and dusting off their pointy hats ready for the next sabbat.
I was fueled by images of ancient woodcuts, engravings of the hexenhaus in Bamberg and films like The Witches and, to a lesser extent, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters. I wanted to write something about ‘old school’ witchcraft, the kind that frightened children.
But researching the subject confirmed what I already knew: witchcraft, Wicca, and all the associated pagan beliefs were not, and never had been evil. Black magic was an aberration, exploited by anti-pagan forces to stigmatise and criminalise a valid religion that predated all the Abrahamic faiths.
What was I to do? I felt as if I was reawakening an old prejudice, opening old sores and slandering a large group of people. My one consolation was the certainty that my books were never going to sell in such large numbers that they would have any adverse impact on the beliefs, practices and image of witchcraft. (Would have been nice to be in that risky position through uncountable book sales though!)
Thus, to all you practicing witches, Wiccans, pagans, soothsayers, sorcerers and shamens, I apologise for suggesting some of you are corrupt murderers and that there’s a conspiracy at the heart of Europe organised by a network of powerful covens.
When I came to writing Who Among Us… I thought I might be on safer ground portraying a group of Satanists as vicious and cunning assassins. But no. Again after researching the issue, true Satanists are environmentally compassionate, respecters of human rights and worship an entity that, like the gods of Wicca, predates Abrahamic beliefs.
I have to admit I was a bit nonplussed and started to feel that there were no groups left I could safely portray as corrupt and prone to organised crime. Nazis, yes, but that strays into political fiction; my stories were meant to be predominanty paranormal. Bankers, yes, but then I’d get carried away and fall into writing polemical diatribes. Nazis and bankers. Maybe I’ll consider that for another day.
Which means I have to apologise to all those true practicing Satanists. Again, my only excuse is that there must be some of you ready to do a bit of devil worshipping followed by an intricate assassination that leaves the police baffled as to howtheydunnit.
For my next novel the villains will be charity workers pitched against a group of corrupt people known for helping old ladies across the road. I think I’ll be okay rubbishing those groups. You’ll never look at a raffle ticket or a rattled tin in the same way ever again.