They Were Not Witches — They Are Our Martyrs

Walking through the witch-trial memorial park.

This is the memorial created in 1992 for the victims of the Salem trials in Salem, Mass. Each “bench” contains the name of an accused person: “Margaret Scott. Hanged. September 22, 1692.”

Walk there, and you know that it has become a shrine.

Then you realize that you are walking on their words, their pleas to the uncaring judges: “God knows I am innocent of such wickedness.”

Twenty-five people died (five of them in prison), all professing their innocence, and I tend to believe them. But they left us something: Witch Tees!

And Witch Pix!

And a passel of museums, “haunted houses,” ghost tours, and the like.

Crow Haven Corner.

The first witchcraft shop was Laurie Cabot’s the Witch Shoppe in 1971, which later moved and was renamed Crow Haven Corner.

It has been joined by many others. Walking along nearby Pickering Wharf feels like a trip down Diagon Alley.

Could Sarah Good, a homeless beggar (hanged) or Susannah Martin, an impoverished widow (hanged)  have imagined that their deaths would produce a Salem where being a witch is fairly normal and the police cars have flying witches on their doors? ((Meanwhile, two burly Salem cops are yelling at some kid to get off his bike, which he is riding illegally on the pedestrian mall.))

The National Park Service visitor center, devoted both to Salem’s peak years as a port in the 18th and 19th centuries and to the events of 1692, contains several shelves of books on historical witchcraft.

It’s a crooked path, all right, from hysterical teenagers accusing adults of witchcraft before judges who accepted “spectral evidence” to a wax museum, signage directing visitors to Gallows Hill, and at least two dozen witchcraft shops, but there it is.

The “witches” of 1692 gave it to us.

3 thoughts on “They Were Not Witches — They Are Our Martyrs

  1. Robert Mathiesen

    Do you happen to know when Z Budapest opened her “Feminist Wicca” witch-shop in Venice, Calif.? I had thought it was there before Laurie Cabot’s shop, but I can’t turn up the date at the moment.

  2. Cynthia Lepthien

    A crooked path indeed!
    One person in my family tree was hanged in the Salem witch trials and another was a judge (who later regretted what he had done). I have always been baffled by the idea that the victims were pagan martyrs. If anything they were victims of magical thinking. I know that there are lots of Wiccans who think that this was “us” against “them”, but of course looked at honestly the Salem witches would mostly have been “them”, i.e., Puritans. I think we should be thanking all of our gods and ancestors for the Western Enlightenment and the skinny little bulwark it provides against this kind of horror.

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