Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Those Who were Condemned in the Burning Times

With a grim fascination, we modern day witches and pagans look back into the tortured history of the past and The Burning Times. I was fortunate to have a mother who not only was a witch, but studied in depth the history of Witchcraft and the times when no one was safe from accusations which could lead to torture or death. In grade school and beyond I always felt a lack of strong knowledge from my teachers when they talked about the Salem Witch Trials. We learned about the  young girls who were "inflicted" by witchcraft,  Tituba, the slave who was the first to "confess" of practicing witchcraft,  and a few more "educational" bits that were scattered to us like seed for the birds. I'm not blaming the teachers at all. Teachers are told they have to talk about "x" subject with "y" factors and if they resist the system, then they are often fired. My brother is an English high-school teacher and I have gained great respect for the art of teaching.

But, back to the Burning Times, this year I decided I wanted to learn more about the background and history that lay hidden waiting to be discovered. Here are a just a few "facts" (I say this with a grain of salt) that I have found interesting or meaningful.

  • A conflict between the people who lived in the West (farmers) part of Salem versus the people from the East (businessmen and store owners) part of Salem was so strong that the accusations of witchcraft became a weapon of choice. Historians believe that this was one of the flames that lit the match leading to the witch-hysteria.

  •  In Colonial America, people were hanged for being a witch, not burned at the stake as many people still erroneously believe. However, in Europe, those who were proven guilty of being a witch were killed by burning.

    • Giles Corey, a prosperous farmer and honorable church-member was accused of being a wizard and refused to confess to any guilt. In order to force a confession out of him, Corey was placed between stone weights over the course of two days. "After two days, Giles was asked three times to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft.  Each time he replied, "More weight." More and more rocks were piled on him. Three mouthfuls of bread and water were fed to the old man during his many hours of pain. Finally, Giles Corey cried out "More weight!" and died." (Giles Corey. (2010) from
    • Tituba was an Indian woman, not (as commonly believed) an African slave. She was originally from an Arawak village in South America, where she was captured as a child, taken to Barbados as a captive, and sold into slavery. It was in Barbados that her life first became entangled with that of Reverend Samuel Parris. She was likely between the age of 12 and 17 when she came into the Parris household. She was most likely purchased by Parris from one of his business associates, or given to settle a debt. Parris, at the time, was an unmarried merchant, leading to speculation that Tituba may have served as his concubine. (Doug Linder. (2010) THE SALEM WITCHCRAFT TRIALS: A biographical sketch of Tituba from
    Graphic from:
     There is so much history to still learn and recover from the times that we'll never completely know the truth about the "why's" and "wherefore's." I don't think though, that these historical facts are as important as remembering and honoring all of those who were condemned because of fear and envy. If you build a Samhain altar, now is a good time to place a token or a symbol to represent those who came before and ask for their blessings as the veil thins and the doors of communication now open.

    Also be sure to check out this excellent post from eWitch's Mother Moon to learn more about the whole Witch Trials, I love it!

    Below is a half-hour documentary which I feel is really well made about The Burning Times. Blessings to you all.


Mother's Moon's Message said...

I remember learning (selective info) about the Witch trials when I was in school. I always had a sadness for those accuesed and condemmed.

Also when I wrote my post a time back in regards to the witch trials I expounded my studies a bit more to research the European aspect of it and was amazed at how far back it reached.
I am not sure if we will ever get away from the actions of the ignorant. We can but hope that as time continues that there will be more who will at least look at differences with an open mind and an open heart.

JJ Beazley said...

I'm sure there are many reasons for this kind of atrocity, but I think one is the decision of the early Christian fathers to retain the Old Testament. When gentle Jesus doesn't fit the bill, you can always turn to the jealous, vengeful, partisan God of the Old Testament. 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' Utterly sick, and we're still seeing the same thing happening in parts of the Muslim world for the same hideous reason.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Very, very interesting! Thanks for this post!

Sparkling Mimi said...

I learned a little bit about the trials when I was in school. But after visiting Salem several times, taking the tours in the museums as well as speaking with the locals I realized how little school taught me. My husband and I go to Salem every year in the spring or summer to enjoy the city and each time we go we learn a little more about it's history.

Thanks for this post,

Wendy said...

Mother Moon, your post was excellent and thank you for reminding me of it so I can have our readers learn more about that horrible time!

Jeff!!! It's so good to see you my friend. There's the saying that "unless we don't remember our past, we're condemned to repeat it in the future" but it seems like that in certain parts of the world, the horrible karmic cycle keeps playing over and over. And I was never too fond of Yaweh myself, and you're absolutely right about the "book of truth" which should really be the "book of lies" when it's used in the wrong context.

Debra, glad you liked it!

Mimi, I'd be interested to hear more about your personal experiences in Salem and did you feel energy that's still resonating or has it all been covered up in a neat tied bow? I'd love to go there and just say a blessing for all of those who were condemned. Thanks for commenting.

Sparkling Mimi said...

Wendy, Salem is a great place to visit. Even with the cheesy tourist stuff there is a tremendous amount of respect for those who died during the Witch Hysteria. I admit many locals are out to make a buck but the museums (many run by local Witches)take great care in telling the truth, not only about the history of the Witch trials, but also about the practice of their religion. I hope you get the opportunity to go. In the meantime, I'd be happy to share my experiences in Salem with you and I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have.



Related Posts with Thumbnails