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 … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

Our Salem Film Festival

Prompted by J. W. Ocker’s A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, M. and I held a little Salem film festival. (We skipped The Lords of Salem.) In order of creation, we watched … Continue reading

Witches, Sea Captains, and Art — We Go Back to Salem

Last November, during the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Boston, I made a quick trip to Salem, Mass., with some fellow Pagan studies scholars. It was only one afternoon—long enough to visit some of the witchy shops, a … Continue reading

Hanging the Salem Witches was a Good Idea, said the Zuñis.

From Philip Jenkins’ Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality, which I am reading as part of some research on changing attitudes towards shamanism: In 1882 when a group of Zuñi emissaries visited Salem [Mass.] . . . they … Continue reading

Martha Coakley Sounds like a Salem Witch-Hunter

During the 1980s, real people went to real prisons on the strength of children’s fantasies. Many of these were people who operated preschools and had devoted their lives to child care. The 1987-90 McMartin Preschool trial, described as the most … Continue reading

Sacrificing sheep in Jerusalem

Cambridge University classics professor Mary Beard recently suggested that today’s Hellenic Pagans were inauthentic because they did not sacrifice animals. Set aside the Pagans for a moment. What about Jews? A small but controversial movement in Israel wants to revive … Continue reading

Aye, My Hearties, the Six of Coins!

The history of Salem, Mass., is more about the sea than the witches — at least through the 18th and early 19th centuries, the peak of the Age of Sail. In the beginning, all the coastal communities were fishing ports, … Continue reading

Witchy Cultural Tourists Do Exist

In J. W. Ocker’s book A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, Jay Finney, chief marketing officer of the big Peabody Essex Museum, tells Ocker that “cultural tourists” who visit the museum are … Continue reading