Witchcraft, argues Malcolm Gaskill, PhD, a researcher in early modern history at the University of East Anglia (UEA), leading expert and author in witchcraft, is not a thing of the past or something that only exists in developing nations.

Gaskill in his new book Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction published on March 25, explains, "we remain vulnerable to fears that secret forces may be working against us, an 'axis of evil' conspiring to destroy Western civilization."

He continues, "we are all a little bit superstitious and people who feel under pressure or that they are being threatened tend towards persecution."

Witch-hunting, 'witchfinders' and witchcraft can be seen as a tool all over the world where low levels of education and social, political strife merge.

"Witchcraft is culturally durable, relevant, and potent - hard-wired into us all, even those who have consigned it to history's dustbin with other relics of primitivism," said Gaskill.

Within the book, he discusses the varying different beliefs and meaning of things between various aged individuals and groups - illustrating the connection between "fantasy and reality, faith and proof."

To Gaskill, it is imperative that witchcraft is understood, essentially why myths exist and matter, to lead to a greater comprehension of the inner-workings of belief and persecution.

Recent witch news around the world
In 2009 UN officials held a seminar to discuss witchcraft where Ulrich Garms from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said "there were no reliable statistics on how many women and child 'witches' were killed annually around the globe." Others claimed "deaths ran into at least tens of thousands, and beatings, deprivation of property and banishment and isolation from community life meant victims of ‘witch frenzy' ran into millions."

Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea
People have traded albino body parts for use in 'muti' magic.

Witchfinders refer to Robert Mugabe's ZANU soldiers.

According to a 2008 health ministry report, the government is trying to prevent 10,000 witches from practicing magic including love spells and revenge.

United Kingdom
West African churches were performing routine exorcisms on 'kendoki', child witches.

United States
Political campaigns after September 11, 2001 led to an international ‘evildoers' hunt.

"Whether or not one believes in the existence of spirits and the effectiveness of magic, it's a fact that witchcraft exists. For millions of people this is an unpleasant reality. Vulnerable people are duped and thousands of people die each year," said Gaskill

However "witches still feature so heavily in our cultures and consciousness. From Halloween to superstitions, and literary references such as Faust and Harry Potter they still appear to have a role in our society."

Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction, priced £7.99 (€8.90) : www.oup.co.uk/general/vsi/