ONWARD INTO SALEM

Interestingly, downtown Salem is not particularly easy to find. We drove around for a couple of hours before figuring it out (the route to downtown, that is.) In an effort to save others the same frustration we experienced while searching, here is the exit that works best to follow:

Best exit (off hwy 128)  into Salem onto hwy 1A South into downtown Salem
Best exit (off hwy 128) into Salem onto hwy 1A South into downtown Salem
Best exit (off hwy 128) into Salem onto hwy 1A South into downtown Salem Turn right at bottom of exit and go south on 1A into downtown Salem
Commercialization of Salem
Commercialization of Salem
The 1692 Tragic Travesty of Justice is Exploited in Salem
The 1692 Tragic Travesty of Justice is Exploited in Salem

A “Witch” and I in Salem

Several women dressed up as witches walk the street in Salem. It’s not an unpleasant situation, but seems sadly disrespectful of the victims of the executions.
FaKe Guillotines
Fake Guillotines

Salem Witch Museum
Salem Witch Museum

A few of the sensationalized shops
A few of the sensationalized shops

WHAT IS IT THAT ATTRACTS PEOPLE TO THIS COMMERCIALIZED CITY?

Over three hundred years later, the fascination continues. In addition to the tourists who flock to Salem, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists continue to search for answers. So do the religious – both Christians and Witches alike. In addition to several local Christian churches, Salem sports a rather large population of Witches, including the Temple of Nine Wells church, and of course, the governor-appointed “Official Witch of Salem,” Laurie Cabot.

What attracts modern Witches to the “scene of the crime?” Is it the local mystique (showing people what witches are really like)? The commercialization (where else can you buy key-chains, coffee mugs, and bath towels emblazoned with an icon of the Crone, year ‘round)? Or is there some romantic fantasy that those who were accused of witchcraft during the trials were actually practicing magic?

We know that there was indeed a dominant pattern of characteristics of the accused. The majority were women over 40 years of age, who were widowed or had no male heirs, and stood to inherit land. Some had been involved in disputes with neighbors, or had been long-time targets of suspicion or gossip. The simple act of showing discontent, anger, or pride, particularly for a woman, could be interpreted as ‘an offense to God.’ But as for being magical practitioners, they were no more so than any woman at the time who pondered who she might marry, gave birth, healed and cared for her family, and imbued her work with her own “God-given” power and essence.

There were no witches in 17th century Salem. There were only women and men who had been targeted as “dangerous” because in some small way or another, they threatened the very tight fabric of the community. There were no devils in Salem, either. Only the inner demons of fear, intolerance, self-righteousness, and greed. As we look back on the events of Salem from our 21st century perspective, it is clear that what lie behind the hysteria was simply the ugly side of human nature, coming out to play in full force.

With this lesson from Salem, we can look around us and see that religious intolerance, fear of those who are different, and justification of cruelty still exist in our communities today. Perhaps as a society, we are always fighting these and other “inner demons.” Perhaps it is up to each of us individually to examine our own.

As pagans and witches, how best can we respond, not only to the tragedy of Salem, but to religious intolerance wherever we find it? Author and priestess Dorothy Morrison holds that tolerance must begin in the heart: “The only way to heal the age-old rift between Christians and Pagans is to stop looking at our differences and learn to focus, instead, on that which brings us together as people. Simple things, really, like love and compassion. A genuine concern for each other, and a sincere wish to right the wrongs of human injustice. It’s all a matter of human decency. And it must start with us. Today. Right in our own back yards.”

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