The King’s War on Witches: Revealed – Review


The King’s War on Witches: Revealed

3rd February 2013 at 8pm on Watch

The problem with history is that we humans have an unfortunate habit of not learning from it. It’s like the old quote suggests: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,â€? which must be why TV viewers continue
watching The X Factor, and why publications and TV channels keep forgetting to not employ Richard Littlejohn.

Progress, unfortunately, is not absolute, and civilisation isn’t always becoming more civilised. In an age where thousands of people swarm to the YouTube comment section to wish death on each other, it’s surely not hard to consider the possibility that sophistication is just an illusion, and that there’s only really a few good years to go before some madman reinstates witch trials.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly, but I suppose it never hurts to further understand great travesties from the past. This is where the documentary The King’s War on Witches: Revealed comes in, giving us the lowdown on why hundreds of women were tortured and executed in the 17th century as witchcraft hysteria swept Britain.

During the programme we hear from such informed voices as Bristol University’s extremely erudite Professor Ronald Hutton, who it seems not only understands history, but also wears it, often with an antique jacket and tie. Hutton and the other participants are devoted enthusiasts who simply love nothing more than having the opportunity to rhapsodise in full about all things history.

The overall effect is like being stuck inside a history department staff room, which as it happens—despite the smell—is quite a pleasant way to spend 45 minutes, with Professors regaling viewers with fascinating stories of archaic religious and spiritual beliefs.

We’re told about King James’ visit to Denmark, which is where his obsession with the study of witchcraft began. He had many enemies and feared the occult, believing that witches were servants of Satan. It was after his return to Scotland that James attended the North Berwick witch trials, where several people, most notably Agnes Sampson, were convicted of using witchcraft to send storms against James’s ship.

James took the fact that Simpson knew what he had said to his wife on his wedding night as proof that she was a witch. How was it, he pondered, that such a wench could have known that he had uttered the words: “Please. Come on. You only have to touch it for a second.â€?

Witchcraft was surely the only answer.

In 1597, James eventually compiled his findings in his book “Daemonologieâ€?— which also happens to be my favourite Prince album. It’s these strange artefacts from the past that really excite the experts, and their enthusiasm for such things translates well on camera. The King’s War on Witches is by no means a slick documentary, but the subject matter is certainly appealing, and those who have been chosen to speak about it do so with great ardency. Viewers are also treated to a fun demonstration on how to practice their own magic at home, which involves drawing the eye of somebody you dislike, and then driving a nail through the finished picture.

The only problem is that my curse doesn’t appear to be working. You see, I’ve drawn the eye, but every time I drive the nail through it, it’s my eye that starts bleeding. I suppose I should stop trying really, but as a human I’m condemned to repeat what I keep forgetting. Oh well.