Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch?Posted: July 30, 2012
Remember that line from the Wizard of Oz?
A few weeks ago I visited the Salem Witch Museum with my daughters and some of their friends as part of a school project. Yes, we went in July even though school is out. My youngest daughter takes advanced placement classes and the requirements for summer work are outrageous!
The museum hosts a reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in which twenty people lost their lives. Most of those found guilty of witchcraft were imprisoned, but Giles Corey was brutally crushed to death for refusing to enter a plea.
Sitting and watching the reenactment I was struck by how much our society has changed. In 1692 punishments were brutal and in Mr. Corey’s case unjust. Try to imagine how desperate Mr. Corey must have felt, knowing he was innocent while they piled heavier and heavier stones on him until he was crushed to death.
The proof against Mr. Corey and the others was the testimony of three girls who later admitted they made the whole thing up because they were bored. I like to think that we have come a long way in our criminal justice system, but I wonder what would happen if three different girls from a small town accused someone of crime. I have an inkling that we have a protective instinct toward young girls and that their accusations would be given serious weight even in this age of forensics.
When the reenactment was over we moved to the second half of the museum where the staff discussed the reality of witches. I had to laugh at myself when they played that clip from the Wizard of Oz. We see witches in the media dressed in black and flying on brooms. Even Harry Potter, the most modern wizard that comes to mind, flies on his own fancy, brand name broom.
The final thing that struck me during the tour was the word “pagan” and the meaning that has been assigned to it through the ages. Visit this page at Merriam Webster and look at the comments. There is a debate raging about MW’s definition of the word as an “irreligious or hedonistic person.”
I’m not going to suggest you convert to paganism, but the museum staff gave an interesting talk about how the church and the media have colored our view of witches. Institutions like The Salem Witch Museum help us understand the mistakes of the past and how our culture has influenced our understanding of history.
What I am wondering today is… now that we have taken the power of information out of the hands of the few and spread it around to all of us, what mistakes will we make with this new power? And how will our ability to communicate over social media and blogs give rise to the Salem Witch Trials of 2012?
What things will our descendants look upon and remember how naive we were way back in 2012?