Thursday, March 15, 2012

wicked witch of the...wow

I am no historian.  There, I said it.  Good to get that off my chest.  However, points in history have always kinda hung out in my mind as interesting.  That's about the extent of it.  Some points in history just hang out in my mind, doing nothing except making me think every once in a while.  So, when I actually had the initiative to google the Salem Witch Trials (one of those interesting points) I was kinda blown away with what I have read.  I can't help but wonder...why did these crazy events need to take place?  What was it like to be an accused?  For that matter, what was it like being an accuser and knowing that so many innocent lives were lost because of your claims?  WOW.  So, here is my very own general synopsis of what took place in the late 1600's leading up to and including the Salem Witch Trials. 

one popular image of the Salem Witch Trials
What I didn't know about the trials and what I find to be so interesting is that there was a group of girls, from 9 to 12 years old who, more or less, started the whole thing.  Not to be misleading, the thought of witchcraft, accusations and trials had been around for a while.  The famous Salem Witch Trials, however, were fueled by these young girls.  Wow, people have power, no matter their age.  This group of girls accused people of all ages (62 total) - from 71 year old Rebecca Nurse (didn't even know people could live that long back then) to 4 year old Dorcas Good.  There is also evidence that adults may have influenced the girls to identify some of the so called "witches".  In other words, the girls were the puppets and the adults were the puppet masters.  While they may have stood out from the mainstream population, the accused were generally good people with no evidence aside from the story of these girls.  One of them even claimed to see the image of one of the accused witches to be sitting in the rafters of a barn holding an egg.  AN IMAGE (not to mention, even if she was sitting the rafters holding an egg - so what?  to each their own!). . . the insanity of it all.

The next crazy thing that I can't quite get over is the allowance of spectral evidence.  What is spectral evidence you ask?  It is evidence in the form of visions and dreams.  Not witnessing the physical act of doing something, but visions and dreams.  Holy cow, I think of some of the dreams I have had and I could accuse some people (especially myself) of doing some pretty random things.  So to put this in context, let's say a person has a dream of their neighbor sacrificing a chicken.  They could press charges and claim that their neighbor sacrificed this chicken, in a dream, and did so as a part of their practice of witch craft.  That is how easy it was to ruin someones life.  In fact, when poor 71 year old  model citizen, Rebecca Nurse was arrested, it was due solely to spectral evidence.  She was tried and found innocent.  Due to the outcry from the families of the accusers, the judge asked the jury to reconsider the verdict.  They came back with guilty and Rebecca Nurse was hung (or is it hanged?).   Either way, so obviously unfair.



There are so many people involved, from the accused witches, the accusers, the judge and jury to the towns people. I don't have the time or the expertise to get into all of them but two stood out to me.  One was an accused witch and the first person executed during the Salem Witch Trials.  Her name is Bridgett Bishop.  She has pretty detailed biographies all over the web (click on her name to read more).  I am interested in a few aspects of her life, like the fact that she liked to wear color instead of the traditional black and white, the fact that she did not submit to her husband and how she opened a tavern in her house to entertain travelers and sailors.  Now, she sounds like the kind of girl I would like to hang with.  Just (kinda) kidding.  But, she was herself and quite a colorful character for her time.  Although her behavior landed her in trouble (and ended her life), I can't help but admire her for being her, despite the conservative environment in which she resided.

Bridgett Bishop
The other person I found particularly interesting is Ann Putman, one of the accusers.  She is the only one who came forward to publicly apologize for her actions.  She did blame the devil and it seems to me like there wasn't a whole lot of personal accountability, but at least she had the courage to come forward.  What is most interesting to me is the way her life turned out.  She was only twelve at the time of the witch trials.  There is speculation that her parents manipulated her actions.  Her parents died some years later and she was left to raise her nine brothers and sisters.  She also died young at age 37, never having married.  Hmmmmmm...maybe a bit of Karma coming into play?!
So, maybe you are wondering why I am choosing to write about the Salem Witch trials in this blog.  My book is growing every single day and the story unfolds during this time period.  While I have no intentions of using real biographies or even attempting to provide a historical account of what happened, it is a significant period for the story I have to tell.  I think that the moral dilemmas and lessons learned during this time will assist me in setting up a story of the evolution of the human spirit.

so . . . my Caroline was born.

Caroline’s eyes welled up with tears.  To her it was simple.  A woman needed help and the Gooding family had the means to take care of her.  It didn’t feel right to leave this woman in danger.
“Caroline, I need you to trust me.  Helping that woman would put her in more danger.  We would also put our own family at risk.  We are poor.  There are no means to protect ourselves.  We must stay out of her business.  Do you understand?”
There was something so frightening in her mother’s voice, Caroline could only reply with a nod.  Although it broke her heart to do nothing, she knew that her mother was truly afraid.  Fear won this battle on this day, but Caroline vowed to never leave another person behind again.

disclaimer:  this snippet will certainly undergo no fewer than 400 revisions before the story is done...in other words, some things might change
have a day of gratitude...we live in a time where the only thing hurt when calling someone a witch is feelings,
td

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