On the eve of March 1, 2016 I noticed a number of online memes posted in social media regarding the Salem witch craft trials, and remembering the victims. This of itself is not bothersome. However, what I find disturbing is that in context of the memes, they are typically portrayed as if they are witches, died for the plight of defending witchcraft, or sayings about them being in some kind of witchcraft type of afterlife like “summerland”. Equally disturbing is the amount of people who tout and parade them around, lack even basic education or research about these victims, the events or the actual trials. Many even think they were burnt at the stake! Come on people, if you sincerely care about these victims, want to honor their memory beyond using them and their memory to buttress a persecution claim, don’t you think even a little bit of research about them, and what happened is in order? Seriously, you really don’t have to do a lot of leg work just to find out exactly who they were, what they were, why this happened, and how they all died. If you do your homework and give an honest assessment it is easy to see why they are not your poster children. But I shall help you out here…
No one in Salem was burnt at the stake!
For those of you who think they were, or share any photos depicting them being burnt at the sake, you can stop right there! NO one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE was burnt at any stakes in Salem for witchcraft. England declared such a method of execution to be illegal in the colonies, and the colonists were under English rule. 19 people were hanged at proctor’s ledge (Not gallows hill like typically believed and espoused), and one man, Giles Corey was slowly crushed to death by stones for refusing to enter a plea at his arraignment. Four others died in prison.
There were no witches (confessed or otherwise) executed!
If you do any kind of research on these people and the issues that happened, it becomes increasingly obvious and apparent that if you confessed to witchcraft, your life was spared, you did prison time. Those going through this knew this, that’s why one of the victims first confessed, but then made the fatal mistake of recanting knowing that taking back his confession was a death sentence. Many others confessed and in doing so successfully saved their lives from dying by the noose, including the very first accused, Tituba. Thus, logic and common sense should dictate to the researcher that if any of the executed were actually witches, they would have simply said they were as it would be deadlier for them to deny it. Yet, these victims were actually so Christian and so faithful and true to the Christian God that they would rather pay with their lives remaining true and strong for him, than to ever claim anything they see as against him. In doing so, they believed that they’d have their rewards in “Heaven”. As Professor Emerson Baker who is a scholar and historian involved put it…
“The ultimate sadness of the story is that they executed the most Christian of them all. Nobody who confessed to being a witch was executed. Only those so devoted that they wouldn’t lie to save their lives paid with their lives.” (1)
So as to any claims that they died defending, or for the cause of witches and pagans, it’s an emphatic NO! They actually and obviously died in defense of THEIR own Christian religion and God and would be absolutely horrified in how they are paraded around any differently than this.
Why this happened
The simple answer starts out with several spoiled little brats, (From the Goodwin, Parris and Putnam family) who really deserved such a spanking they would need a cushion to sit down for a week, started behaving in bizarre ways claiming that witches caused it. After this, the villagers saw this as a good opportunity to vet out the undesirables which included the out spoken/unpleasant, those who speak out against it, those thought of as nuisances to their neighbors, or those who may have jealous neighbors or people wanting their land.
A very sad thing too is often the poor that suffered unfortunate experiences were very vulnerable to such an accusation. For instance, Margaret Scott, due to the loss of her husband, not only endured the heart ache a widow deals with, but also was left in poverty as a result of losing her husband. As a result this forced this poor unfortunate lady to go begging for food and money for help from neighbors. It hurts me personally to think of how here she is in a situation not of her control, already kicked down in life, getting further kicked down by the village that should have been kind and compassionate enough to protect and help her. How cruel were these people? Apparently, pretty cruel and calculated indeed. Never the less she was among the few who were accused because their poverty level and begging caused a cruel society to see them more as nuisances and social outcasts to dispose of, rather than humans in need of help. (2)
Then you have Samuel Wardwell, who was a victim of jealousy and perhaps, being in a wrong Christian religion. He was a devoted Quaker and the Puritans frowned upon Quakers. Moreover, he was a rags to riches story, marrying into a family that many felt was out of his league. This angered his jealous neighbors and it wasn’t long before he was accused. One thing that may seem to go against him is that he did fortune telling for sport. Even though it was actually a common practice for people of these times to do things like fortune telling or other wives tales tricks, a bit of other vague types of folk magic, unless you were being accused of being a witch, it was perfectly socially acceptable to do these things. (The requirement back then for being a witch was doing magic AND in pact with the devil, or by authority of the devil.) However, since he was accused, they would use this against him. He initially wrote up this elaborate confession about his use of witchcraft, pact with the devil, etc. realizing that this is how to save his own life. But soon after, his conscious got the better of him, and being a devote Quaker, he recanted his confession even when he knew what would ultimately happen if he did. Of course he was taken to trial, convicted and hanged. Now some may say “aha” he was an executed witch because he dabbled in fortune telling for sport and may have had an interest in the occult. Nope, sorry but he wasn’t. There are tons of non witches the world over that do fortune telling, may be interested in reading about the occult, etc. who are not witches today. (3)
And then there is John Proctor who is a great example of one that was too out spoken against the witchcraft trials to go unnoticed. (4)
Now this might come as a shock to some, but a Reverend was also charged, refused to confess and ultimately executed, apparently due to some prior issues he had with the Putnam family. His name is Rev. George Burroughs (5)
These are just some of many examples that clearly show things that answer the question of “why”. If you are someone that actually cares to read and learn about who all the vicims were, I recommend this following site…http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people?group.num=&mbio.num=mb1
Now that you understand who they were, why they died, what issues made them targets, why not honor them in a way that is pleasing to them?
Most pagans and witches I know have a great appreciation for ancestors and respect for the deceased and sincerely wish to honor in a respectful manner. These people were so dead set against being called witches and wanted so badly to be known as the pious Christians that they were, that they paid dearly with their lives. Knowing that, don’t you think that continuing to parade them around as if to imply they were witches, or for the cause of witches and pagans might be quite disrespectful to their memory? That’s like continuing to do to them, what their accusers did to them long ago, minus the execution or prison factor, it’s still the same claims about them that they desperately did not want and died as a stand against it. Consider this, lets say you are an initiated devoted Wiccan, everyone is aware of this fact, but when you pass, people constantly show up with Baptist Pastors at your grave, placing crosses and Christian statues all over it, while reading from the Bible over your remains or memorial site. How is this an honor and respect to you? Maybe you are the type that might claim not to mind this, it’s the thought that count, but you are not the spokes person for everyone. There are plenty of people out there who would feel bothered, dishonored and disrespected by such an opposition of their personal beliefs that were dear and true to them being peddled at their site. Among the salem victim population, and because they were hurt so badly over the utterance of “witches” and “witchcraft” I can imagine just how many of them are rolling in their graves or in absolute horror at the sight of Pagans or Witches who refuse to recognize them for who they were, and speak at their memorial as if they are in league with them, and leave artifacts behind that a witch or pagan might appreciate more. Maybe leaving them a cross, reading from the Bible for them, talking about them being in heaven might be a better way of honoring strong Christians who died for their faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, the whole purpose of honor and respecting some one is not for yourself but for them, so there is no reason why if a Pagan or Witch wants to honor them in a way that pleases them, they can’t do so in context of their Christian religion, anything otherwise is a self centered, selfish purpose. Another way to honor them is stand up for them when you see someone touting them as a witch or to further buttress a Pagan Witch agenda. Speak up for them and out for them. Educate the ignorant that peddles them as if they are poster children.
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