Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Summoning of Salem

In 2006 I fulfilled a life long dream of visiting Salem, Massachusetts. Of course, Salem is notorious for the events of 1692 where many people, mainly women, were unjustly accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 people lost their lives as they were sentenced to death.

My fascination with Salem was sparked by the episodes of Bewitched where they traveled to the Witch City so Samantha could attend a witches' convention. Those episodes have always been favorites of mine and much to my surprise and delight, in Ninth Grade I learned that the Witch Trials were an actual event in American History. In fact, my year end project for History was a presentation about the Trials complete with visuals including poster board depicting wood cuttings from that time, pictures from Bewitched and a visual aid of my sister's Malibu Barbie dressed in a shoulderless black dress which was hung by the neck from a a tree branch set in a vase with Plaster of Paris. I also did a huge report on one of the big participants in the Trial, Cotton Mather, who wrote much about witchcraft.

Since that time Salem has always held a deep fascination for me so when the opportunity arose in 2006 to visit Salem, I pounced on it. Salem was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. The town still retains much of it's pre-Colonial charm because of some of the original buildings still standing and a graveyard adorned with Tim Burtonesque headstones memorializing people from over 400 years ago! There are many places devoted to the history of the Trials but also a lot of modern practicing witches/wiccans have taken up residence there and so the streets are dotted with little witch boutiques filled with charms, incense and crystals.

But the thing that struck me the most was the atmosphere. I had heard rumor that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints didn't have missionaries in Salem because of it's affiliation with the Devil and evil spirits, however right before I left for Salem I found that wasn't true. Even knowing this, I was afraid I might feel of the evil that maybe there however it was markedly different. It was a feeling of sadness mixed with jubilance but most of all a sort of sacred feeling as you realized while visiting the homes and sites of the people involved in the Trials, that people had lost their lives due to hysteria and greed. I also felt that though Salem is only 40,000 people big, it was filled with many more souls than that. Everywhere we went, even if it was in the empty elevators at the Hawthorne Hotel, you were never alone in them.

I also didn't come home from Salem alone. The whole time I was on the plane and when I came home I felt there was someone with me. I also felt that whoever this was came with me because they didn't want me to leave. I know this sounds nuts, but the reason I know someone came home with me is that they made their presence known by making a wooden spoon fly off the counter one night when friends were over for dinner and then another time, right after the trip when showing Amanda my photos from the trip, my relatively heavy cell phone did a somersault on the glass top coffee table. Every so often something will happen that will remind me my visitor from Salem is still around and when I visited a tarot card reader a couple months ago, when I asked about any spirits that may be around me, she asked if I had noticed things that moved by themselves and told me it was a spirit that had attached itself to me, a young man who held me in high regard who in life hadn't been a "good boy" and that he moves stuff to remind me that he's there.

Before I went to Salem, I purchased a book by Marilynne K. Roach called "The Salem Witchcraft Trials", a day by day account which I read on the plane there and back. It was a totally fascinating book and it brought me closer to those victims of the Trial for which I feel much sympathy.

Recently I began re-reading that book and have had Salem a lot on my mind, more than usual. My visitor has also been more active than before as he knocked over my shelf of DVDs while I was talking on the phone one night. I've found new wood cuttings depicting the Trials lately and I keep wondering if Salem is summoning me back? I also just found a TV mini-series from the 80s titled "Three Sovereigns for Sarah", the most realistic portrayal of the Trials. It was filmed in Salem and the surrounding areas and I felt what could be termed "homesickness." I wonder that maybe I should move there? And possibly for permanent. I know I would have a hard time doing it as I would miss my family so much but it seems to me that Salem is my home. I do have ancestors that came from that area and I can't help but think that maybe there is something

However, I'm sure my recent re-kindled focus on Salem has been stirred by this past October which marked the 40th anniversary of the premiere of the Bewitched Salem episodes which I have written about.