There are many misconceptions of so-called 'witchcraft', which is in fact an ancient, harmless worship of nature – but pick up any book previous to the 1990s and such a word will nearly always be connected to bloody tales of black witchery, grim sorcery and diabolical summoning. The press have long misunderstood white and black magic, choosing to mingle instead of separate the two, so such confusion remains today.
Many 'satanic panics' have spread like wildfire in innocent communities, but so much of this has been nothing more than urban legend and local hysteria. Imagine the fuss caused by the sinister effigy discovered in the Albert Dock Basin of London's East End in the April of 1976... A group of children were fishing the murky waters in the Manor Way vicinity when they stumbled upon a peculiar black box, which at first they thought might be explosive. Acting wisely, the children fled the area and told numerous adults, who informed the police. The police in turn contacted bomb disposal experts who swarmed the area and blew up the box under controlled circumstances.
Imagine their surprise when they analysed the remains and found a still-warm carcass of a dove laying on a satin interior. Its feet were tied and tail feathers clipped and joss-sticks were positioned either side of the bird. It also appeared as if human hair had been enclosed in the package, along with a jar of vehicle oil. The plywood box, which measured twelve by eight inches, was extremely well-made, covered with a black material and tied with white handkerchiefs. However the perpetrator had forgotten to remove two Woolworth's tags, showing a price of twenty-nine pence for the hankies!
A chief inspector who investigated the find said that it was no doubt a black magic effigy similar to a voodoo doll, which he believed had been made by someone in order to curse another person. The dove would have symbolised the victim and when it died the victim would also die, but only if they believed in the curse. According to author Eric Maple at the time, the handkerchiefs represented symbols of mourning, the joss-sticks the incense of the dead and the hair would no doubt have come from the person soon to perish. The oil was used to symbolise the victim dying in a car accident.
Whether someone actually died because of the death of the dove we will never know, especially as such obscure cases are never heard of again. However, what we do know is that the particular black box of the Albert Dock Basin caused quite a stir amongst authorities. Proof that a clandestine sect of black magicians were in operation locally, or merely signs that the local police hadn't a clue what they were investigating?
Photo by theogeo on flickr