Witch Hunter’s Dilemma

Recently, the formerly-esteemed roles of Witch-Hunters throughout the known world (which extends, as it always has, all the way from one side of this village, right past the village next to it, and into that one village that you can kind-of see in the distance, the one where we go, once every few months, for Market Day; oh, we’ve heard rumour that there’s more in the world than this, but you know us. We’re very smart, and never ever fall for rumours)—

—the office of Witch-Hunters has been rocked by the newly-revealed knowledge that so many Hunters were, themselves, Witches.

And now people want to attack the Witch-Hunters, want to say they’re all Witches. As a Witch, I resent this in general; not every Witch is the kind of Wicked Witch of whom you’ve heard horrible stories (isn’t it convenient that, theoretically, the Wickedest Witch we know is unable to argue her case, by virtue of having been killed by a plummeting residential building?)

But as a former Witch-Hunter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak. It won’t make me popular; but popularity was never what I sought, and therein lies the challenge.

People have put forth the idea that the office of Witch-Hunter is the ideal place for a Witch to hide; who suspects the Hunter of being the monster?

But this is true only in one of two disturbing scenarios:

  1. Witch-Hunters are incompetent. The challenge, in said scenario, is this: if the Hunters, those who have literally trained for generations, honed their skills, written books, taught each other, created and used and promulgated technologies for catching Witches, are actually terrible at doing so…it is only reasonable to assume that the rest of us are worse at it. Sure, there are certain disciplines wherein academic knowledge fails to live up to the power of practical understanding. But Hunters hunt; they don’t just sit around writing papers on the subject. (Although, admittedly, most of the ones who write about the theory without engaging in the practice…they do deserve our skepticism.) Which leads us to the other possibility:
  2. Witch-Hunters have always been a secret plot by Witches; they have never had good intentions. But if this is the case… then why are we trusting anything they’ve told us about Witchery? If their actual goal is opposite their stated goal, then we can’t go around trusting their stated reasons, either. If we’re calling into question the integrity of Witch-Hunters, then it brings us to the uncomfortable idea that the Witches themselves might not be monstrous. Certainly, it would be a devious and terrifying plot for all those capturers-of-spellcasters to have been a diversion; but it’s a pretty stupid diversion for those who are supposedly cunning. Witch-hunters promote Witch-hunting, make their coin at the trade, lecture constantly about the need to do it. It’s far more complicated, and far less effective, than simply spending one’s time explaining that not all Witches are, in fact, intentional makers-of-pain, that, in fact, Witches are no more prone to it than anyone else.

“But,” you say, “the Mob seeks victims. The Mob wants guilt, not innocence. Perhaps they might have acted better, were they not spurred on by the Mob.”

If this is true, then we ought to ask: who, exactly, is the Rage Mob?

Why, it is no-one, of course.

Just ask.

Did an army ravage the countryside under the brutal rule of The Dictator? Why, it wasn’t any of us.

Who burned all those people who turned out to have never been any kind of Witch? Oh, not us. In fact, we always wanted to help, we were just afraid of The Mob.

Who believed the Witch-Hunters? Not us, it was all the other fools. We always knew there was something fishy, while the idiots over there only saw it after Hunters were all discredited. (And having discredited this group, we say, “The problem is solved!” Until we find someone else to blame.)

Do I hate Witch-Hunters? I do; and while I know that I was lied-to, deceived, and betrayed, it doesn’t change the things I did as a Hunter, and I need to answer for them. I hate Witch-Hunters for what they did to me, and for what I hoped they would be, and what they actually are.

But let’s not get too sanctimonious here.

The fact is, as long as any of us are willing to hide behind the anonymity of the Mob, we are all one rumour away from having the Mob turn on us.

All we need do is stop fearing the Mob, and it will lose its power over us.

…and I wish you good luck with that. Me, I’m going to build a raft and float somewhere without any humans. I’ll probably get eaten by sea-monsters, but I’m okay with that. I’d rather die for being what I am (in this case, “made out of meat”)—than be slain on the rumour that I’m something I am not.

~Jeff Mach


My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them!

My new book, “I Hate Your Time Machine”, is now available! Go pick it up!