There is something weighing on me. It comes every autumn whispering. It is how we speak of Salem and Witches. People flock to Salem to walk where terrible things happened. Legends have grown around curses levied and ghostly apparitions, and fear of and I quote “Seeing the ghost of Giles Corey means you die within in a week.” There are others- things the ‘witches” said in extremis, under torture. There is little recorded of the threats made against them or the inhumane treatment, even of little children at the hands of religious and political zealots.
I take exception to all of that. Perhaps, once more, this comes from lessons I learned as a small child. I sat at the feet of my father, a Pastor in nearby Essex, Mass, while he wrote and talked. I have the very desk here with me now that I played beneath. I heard other views, debates, even scholarly arguments about these things and I learned.
The accused, the condemned, were not practitioners of any craft, they were Christians like their neighbors. Perhaps they did not have the financial resources to support the church as the Puritans demanded. Perhaps they found the falsehoods and meetinghouse-only-good-people too hypocritical to bear. Whatever the reason, the murdered people called no curses down, prayed the same prayers even in their extremity and should be remembered and mourned as innocent victims of greed and jealousy not named what they were not. If they had claimed that name I would cheer beside them- but not one, not one did.
I grew up knowing that “witches” were, in general, what men called ‘ uppity” women. Midwives became vilified when ‘doctors’ wanted that share of the income, however small. Goodwives became a threat- they could read, what manner of magic was in these kettles? (The MAGICK of soup?) If a man or woman owned a property that was coveted , they were often the target of an outcry.
Anyway- there are scholarly arguments you can read. I just want to suggest that we think twice before deciding to make witches- who actually do have a kind and generous belief system based in nature- are a reason to run and hide- or that apparitions- should you see one- are out to cause harm.
I have another way of ‘seeing’ I guess. Partly because some people locally have made my personal belief a way to vilify me- for no reason other than ignorance, The “witches” of Salem were neighbors- they never would have cursed even those who did them so terribly wrong. Try to have fun and please remember that Hallowe’en season does mean more to many many people than costumes and candy.
The leaves turn, the mind sees shadows in the newly naked corners. of yards or cemeteries
Old barns falling from disuse suddenly house restless spirits.
You walk shivering in the autumn chill and there she is
or you think she is in her long-torn dress, pale and looking at you
You run or scream, or you call out fearfully but why?
Stand still breath in and speak softly-
“I see you, are you lost?
Are you lonely? Shall we sit awhile?
I will stay with you here while the moon rises
For your shadow has found my substance
And I see the bit of you who is searching.”
So put aside the lies, the terrible lies that
Caused the murder of these sisters. These brothers.
Put aside all you have been told to do-
And instead of fleeing
Recognize them with a welcome.
And if it is just a shadow that passed over the moon
And not a restless or aching heart
You have done no harm
And just maybe you have soothed some particle of
The universe that needed a little kindness.