The Witch City

Upon departing Boston recently, I took a half-day visit to Salem, to try and spot some witches. I didn’t see any, but apparently there is a high percentage of certified witches living there today, which must be making the previous Puritan residents turn in their graves. I loved seeing the pilgrim’s hat everywhere on road signs and maps, which was equally matched by my sighting of witches on brooms, which appeared on signs and stickers all around town.

Prior to heading to Salem, my historical research consisted of watching Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder in The Crucible. It’s a great flick and surprisingly accurate, according to what I learnt at the 2 museums that I visited there. I heard about all kinds of ridiculous myths of the age, my favourite being “witch-cake” which involved baking an afflicted girl’s urine into a cake and feeding it to a dog. Naturally, the dog’s teeth would sink into the girl’s baked urine, where part of the witch’s invisible essence rested, so the bite would bring pain to the witch who had cursed the girl. This makes total sense to me.

The main museum made an effort to show the truth about how Wiccans stem from Celtic, nature-worshipping, community healers who were nice people that didn’t worship the devil. They were also keen to point out that America’s 1692 witch hunt and subsequent hanging of 20 Salemanders (that’s what they call themselves) paled in comparison to the inquisitions over Europe that killed thousands by burning alive. An interesting finale was given by one museum presenter who felt that the Salem witch hunt was simply the culmination of a great fear of the time which led to the persecution of a nearby scapegoat, just like America’s later hunts for Communists and terrorists. After all their effort to paint a more correct picture of witches and the trials, it was a shame to see that they were still selling green noses and broomsticks in the gift shop.

You know you’re in Salem when…
– Every regular shop name like bakery or cafe is preceded with the word witch.

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