Heathen Soldiers Can Wear Beards Now

This is interesting: Sikh men in the US military had gotten permission to wear beards as part of their religion. (Normally, beards are not allowed except, for instance, for special operations personnel in the Afghan back country who want to blend in, or something like that.)

Comes now a Norse Pagan soldier with the same request (I never knew they were required in Heathenry, just popular), and it looks like the Army is giving it to him.

Where Were the Witches Hanged in Salem? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

Proctor’s Ledge from the Walgreens parking lot, filtered by Dreamscope.

Once there was a dirt road, the “Boston road,” that ran beside a pond on the way out of Salem.  (Now it is called Boston Street.) Then there came a railroad, and a shoe factory, and today a Walgreens drugstore with the actual witch execution site in back, next to the drive-up prescription window.

Why did no one know that?

When the last person who remembered the executions of 1692 was gone — and with no one interested in building a memorial to a shameful episode — memory of the site was lost. People knew that they took place “over there” (gesturing to the southwest), and the most notable geographic feature over there became known as Gallows Hill. As Emerson Baker, a history professor at Salem State University puts it,

The executions on Gallows Hill were the climax of one of the most famous events in American history, but the hangings themselves are poorly documented. The precise location and events of the executions have been, until this point, generally lost to history. Tradition has simply placed it broadly on Gallows Hill, which covers many acres of land. In the 17th century Gallows Hill was common land located just outside the boundary of the city of Salem, then defined by a protective palisade (a fortified wall)

Watch this videotaped lecture delivered in October 2016 at the Salem Witch Museum by Prof. Baker and local historian Marilynn K. Roach. They point  out that Sidney Perley, a Salem lawyer and antiquarian, worked out the answer in the early 20th century — they call him their “patron saint.” Key evidence: sight lines from known 17th-century houses from which people viewed the hangings: they could see Proctor’s Ledge but not Gallows Hill from there.

For even more information, see Baker’s Gallows Hill Project website.

With the site identified, Baker said, descendants of the accused witches contacted him from all around the country, offering contributions toward a memorial. But Salem’s mayor, Kimberly Driscoll, stepped forward and said that building the memorial was the city’s responsibility. Here is the city’s news release. (They did accept donations but funded it mostly through a state Community Preservation Act grant.)

The Proctor’s Ledge rock outcropping is in the wedge-shaped parcel between Proctor, Pope, and Boston streets. There are  houses on Proctor and Pope, and much of the site is in residents’ back yards. The pink line is the crest of the ledge, roughly, and the blue dot the memorial site. North is at the top.

The memorial on Pope Street. Very simple, with kind of a “Park & Rec” low-maintenance touch. “Hey, George, do we will have some of those granite blocks left over from the XYZ project?”

As for me, I liked the view from the Walgreens better, and I left a little tribute (an antique British shilling) there under a stone.1)If archaeologists ever find it, they might attribute it to a Victorian-era visitor. The contrast between the stark rock outcropping where “witches” died and the tidy Walgreens drive-up lane is just another Salem thing. You cannot easily make them mesh, any more than you can mesh those nineteen people and today’s Pagan Witches. (Well, I can think of one way, and I will try to deal with it later.)

The name “Gallows Hill” is wrong too. For one thing, as Marilynn Roach points out, the sheriff’s and constables’ expense records and requests for reimbursement survive, in minute details. And nowhere is there something like “X shillings for dressed timber and labour for building of ye gallows.”

There are no oaks on Proctor’s Ledge today (mostly locust), but in 1692 apparently there was a big oak tree with sturdy, spreading branches. No cost, just bring a ladder. Hence the sapling oak in the memorial??

Archaeologists crawled all over Proctor’s Ledge and used ground-penetrating radar, but they found nothing: no bones, no remnants of any structure. There had been a report of bodies dumped in crevices in the rocks, but if so, their families or somebody recovered them.

Salem State University.

And now some “woo,” since you have read this far. On June 25, 1914 a fire burned through the southern part of Salem, pretty much everything south of Derby Street. Eighteen thousand people were left homeless, and more than 1,300 buildings destroyed, many of them wooden tenements housing factory workers (shoes, textiles, etc.) Photo source here.

Where did it start? At the foot of Proctor’s Ledge.

Notes   [ + ]

1. If archaeologists ever find it, they might attribute it to a Victorian-era visitor.

Where Were the Witches Hanged in Salem? (Part 1)

Gallows Hill municipal water tank, Salem, Massachusetts

No one was hanged on Gallows Hill, but it makes a good high spot for a municipal water tank. The park is called Gallows Hill Park, of course.

I left our Salem apartment last Thursday to walk to the site, but what people used to think was the site is not the site. In fact, the true location, which was of course known at the time and remembered through at least the mid-18th century, when the last persons who witnessed the executions of 1692 would have been passing away, was then forgotten.

Somehow, Gallows Hill, because of its prominence, became fixed in people’s minds and was promoted throughout the 19th century as the site. The city acquired it and some nearby land in 1936.

My walk took me past Salem High School, home of the fighting (a) Sharks, (b) Pirates, (c) Sailors, or (d) Aw, c’mon, you can figure it out.1)Get your “Fear the Witches” cap here: http://spssalemhs.learningnetworks.com/Pages/SPS_HSAthletics/index

Go Witches, take State!

I waked through typical New England streetscapes of (mostly) white-painted frame houses mixed with some commercial areas. The “No Tour Buses” sign was a clue that I was near someplace important — but was I?

Turning onto Proctor Street from Highland Avenue. One of the victims was a farmer named John Proctor, but his family kept on going and later owned land in the area. And are those artificial flowers a memorial or just someone’s decorative touch on Proctor Street?

I walked right past Gallows Hill Park (do the tour buses go there?) because it was not the place and continued on Proctor Street.

Read Part 2 Here

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. Get your “Fear the Witches” cap here: http://spssalemhs.learningnetworks.com/Pages/SPS_HSAthletics/index

The Southwest Follows Us to Salem & Salem Follows Us Home

Yet another addition to the Peabody Essex Museum is under construction.

Before M. and I left on this trip, someone mentioned a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the big Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. As it happened, the exhibit ended just before we arrived, but that’s all right — we can visit a whole museum devoted to her painting in Santa Fe whenever we are down there.

We live in southern Colorado – within the province of New Mexico, if you follow a pre-1821 map.1)Not that the Spanish ever settled this far north, although Gov. Juan Bautisa de Anza’s epic 1776 pursuit of Comanche raiders ended in a battle not far away. So we often feel that Santa Fe, more than Denver, is our cultural capital.

T. C. Cannon, self-portrait, 1975 (Wikipedia).

And what did the PEM have to replace O’Keefe: an exhibit devoted to the artist T. C. Cannon. 

Cannon (1946-1978) was an enrolled member of the Kiowa tribe, born in Oklahoma. He studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, then joined the Army, fought in Vietnam, returned to the US and painted up a storm until dying in a car crash in Santa Fe.

There’s almost another connection — a high-school friend of mine taught at IAIA, but not until a time after Cannon had finished there.

Coming soon, Kakawa in Salem! Photo made a few yards to the right of the one above.

No trip to Santa Fe is complete without a stop at Kakawa chocolate house, tucked away between some state government offices and the art galleries on Paseo de Peralta, where you can take your chocolate the way that Marie Antoinette drank hers or — my preference — the way that the emperor Moctezuma II  drank his, with chiles.

Imagine our surprise to see this storefront on Essex Street next to the museum: Kakawa is coming! Sure, I’d believe it in Aspen, Colo., or Scottsdale, Ariz., but Salem? I would love to know how they picked Salem, but I suspect that their new outlet will do well, being perfect for someone seeking a historical “elixir” after a morning of museuming. A Salem-Santa Fe axis — who knew?

Artemisia Botanicals

Further east on Essex Street sits Artemisia Botanicals, the serious herb shop in town (as opposed to the jars of herbs in some of the witch shops that have probably sat there for years and years), offering herbs, teas, oils, jewelry, and, of course, psychic readings.

We picked up a few things — for me it was a package of copal incense sticks. I have copal resin and like to use it for certain things, but there are times when sticks are just convenient. I looked at the label: They were from Fred Soll’s Incense in Tijeras, N.M., which is just east of Albuquerque. According to Mapquest, Tijeras is 358 miles (573 km) from my house, whereas Salem (had I chosen to drive), is about 2078 miles (3325 km).

But at last we are home. Then I see an unfamiliar car in the driveway.

Two nicely dressed men are at the bottom of the stairs, one middle-aged, one twenty-something. The older man holds a small, leather-bound book. When I step out onto the porch, he starts into a spiel about visiting the neighbors2)Never saw you before, buddy. and conducting a survey about how to find happiness.

¡Madre de dios! ¡Los puritanos!

I tell him that I never talk about religion before breakfast, and I am just about to sit down at the table. And that the best way out of the driveway is to pull toward the garage door, then cut your wheels hard as you back up.

Maybe they were just evangelicals, not Calvinists, but we live on an obscure road in the woods, and this was only the second missionary visit in twenty-five years.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Not that the Spanish ever settled this far north, although Gov. Juan Bautisa de Anza’s epic 1776 pursuit of Comanche raiders ended in a battle not far away.
2. Never saw you before, buddy.

The Best New Book about the Salem Witch Trials

Wouldn’t you like to live in an enchanted world, where everything in nature brought messages from gods and spirits?

The New England Puritans did so, but with a smaller cast of characters: their God and their Devil.

But there were lots of messages all the same:

If your cow died, if lightning struck your house, if your nine-year-old niece arched her back and babbled hysterically, complaining of “bites and pinches by ‘invisible agents,'” it meant something.

Either God was testing you or the Devil was trying to topple the pious colony of New England. To quote the Puritan clergyman and prolific author Cotton Mather, “I am a man greatly assaulted by Satan. Is it because I have done so much against that enemy?”

The quotes are from Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem.

I had read her biography Cleopatra: A Life earlier and was impressed. When I saw that she had tackled the Salem witch trials, I knew that I had a good read ahead of me.

Books on Salem history at the Athenaeum.

I wonder if more books have been written about the 1692 Salem witch trials than any other, starting within weeks of the final executions and continuing up until today. These are some of the Salem-history books at the Salem Athenaeum (a private library) — the top shelf is all witch-trial books, and I can think of some that are missing or were checked out.

If you are going to read just one book though, make it Stacy Schiff’s. It is grounded in research, but it reads like a novel, while performing the historian’s essential task, which is to show you that no one explanation covers what happened that year in today’s Salem, Danvers, and Andover.

Nearly as many theories have been advanced to explain the Salem witch trials as the Kennedy assassination. Our first true crime story has been attributed to generational, sexual, economic, ecclesiastical, and class tensions; regional hostilities imported from England, food poisoning, a hothouse religion in a cold climate; teenage hysteria, fraud, taxes, conspiracy, political instability, trauma induced by Indian attacks, and to witchcraft itself, among the more reasonable theories. . . . .The irresistible locked-room mystery of the matter is what keeps us coming back to it.

Unlike some accounts, Schiff’s continues past the end of the trials themselves, noting how the end of the witchcraft panic, though it diminished the social position of the Puritan church, did not change the theology about the Devil and witchcraft. The Devil was still out there. New England remained “enchanted,” at least in the sociological sense.

The year 1692 disappeared from some official chronicles as well as important individuals’ journals, which makes historians’ job harder. One thing we can say: it damaged but did not break the prestige of the Puritan clergy, who had thought of themselves, in effect, as the rulers of the people — only to see George Burroughs, a former Salem village minister, sent to the hanging tree himself.

A Small (Rotten) Orange

This blog disappeared for three days earlier this week, which seems like a long time on the Internet. The reason was a dispute with my hosting company, which was solved by ditching them and going with a new, much more helpful host. Details below.

I don’t even remember where I first parked the chasclifton.com domain, but it ended up with a small, Pagan-friendly service, Draknet, which also hosted The Wild Hunthere is TWH founder Jason Pitzl-Waters’ interview with owner Jennifer Lepp. If it was good enough for Jason, it was good enough for me, and I became a happy customer.

Jennifer seemed available for service problems at all hours of the day or night. Maybe that is why she finally sold out to Austin-based A Small Orange, which was OK too . . . until it was bought by Endurance International Group (EIG).

Some of the largest and most successful web hosting companies in the industry, including HostGator, BlueHost, HostMonster, A Small Orange and HostNine have been bought out by Endurance International Group (EIG).

Have a look at the comments on this review of A Small Orange as it is today:

When I read through the Terms of Service for all of the services offered by A Small Orange the general message becomes clear. The proprietors of the company, Garret Noling and Mohsin Kamal, designed and operate A Small Orange so that it will exploit a popular social trend, mislead and confuse the prospective customer, promote a service fee as necessary when it is not, collect as much money as possible, and perform absolutely no customer support for domain registration customers.

I could add mine too. Every stereotype of bad India-based tech support is there, starting with the robotic responses in slightly odd English that never exactly answer the question that you are asking.

Another reviewer put it this way:

Customer service does not exist. Its either bots or people just copying and pasting the exact same message over and over again. I’m not joking here, I received the exact same email each time after responding to their emails. Including one where I asked them why they keep responding with the exact same message. Not acceptable on any level.

Last year I tried to get an SSL certificate because Equinox Publishing wanted one, since they also run this blog on The Pomegranate’s website. A Small Orange took my payment but never could deliver the service, to the point where I had to cancel the credit card transaction.

When a well-known politics-and-law blogger recommended Hosting Matters last month, I started thinking about switching.

Then ASO struck again: they announced that I had exceeded my bandwidth limit for April, 50 gigabytes! Hello, does this blog generate that kind of traffic? Are thousands of people downloading movie trailers? They shut down this blog and another unrelated subdomain last weekend.

What I suspect happened was simple extortion. Back when Jennifer Lepp owned Draknet, she tried raising money at one point by selling lifetime accounts. I paid $150 for a Lifetime Junior account—plenty of service for my needs—and then paid only the domain-registration annual fee thereafter. It was a good deal.

When ASO bought her out, they honored those lifetime accounts, and EIG had honored them too, only they were bothered, I suspect, by the “lifetime” part. Solution: force users to pay for more bandwidth.  Of course, I could not get a straight answer from them about traffic logs, etc., but you have to wonder what their plan was.

So, as I rode Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited eastbound across upstate New York, I was tapping away at my keyboard, and lo! someone was replying with coherent, relevant responses. There were a couple of glitches, but by Wednesday, this blog was back online.
For a complete list of EIG’s companies, go here.

The Trip to Salem: Southern Colorado — Chicago

The eastbound Southwest Chief, which originates in Los Angeles, rolls into La Junta, Colorado, at sunset.

A near-miss in Chicago: the sleeping car attendant had lined up everyone’s bags on the platform, which is a dimly lit.

I found my carry-on bag, rolled it into Union Station, down the corridors to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge, and lifted it onto a shelf in the storeroom.

“Why does your bag have a Red Cap tag?” M. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I didn’t ask for that.”

It was not my bag.

I was just explaining the mix-up to the lounge superintendent when she spotted a man checking in at the door with . . . a silver carry-on bag.

He had kindly brought it for me from the train. He thought it was his.

All praise to Hermes for the quick save.