First, Kill the Witches. Then, Celebrate Them. by Stacy Schiff [The New York Times]
Among the oldest settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and for years among the wealthiest cities in America, Salem had many claims to fame. It preferred not to count the witchcraft delusion among them; no one cared to record even where the town had hanged 19 innocents. It addressed the unpleasantness the New England way: silently. When George Washington passed through Salem in October 1789, he witnessed neither any trace of a witch panic nor of Halloween. Sometimes it seems as if the trauma of an event can be measured by how long it takes us to commemorate it, and by how thoroughly we mangle it in the process.
A critique of Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough by Colin Dickey. "For all its erudition and analysis, The Golden Bough has for more than a century helped cement the idea that magic is inappropriate, wrongheaded thought. Yet what separates magic from religion or science is not its methodology—Frazer himself notes that it 'is therefore a truism, almost a tautology, to say that all magic is necessarily false and barren; for were it ever to become true and fruitful, it would no longer be magic but science'—it’s that ordinary people can do it, transforming their lives with the ambitious power of everyday thought." Via Lapham's Quarterly's Magic Shows issue.
"Five women were paraded naked, beaten and forced to eat human excrement by villagers..." [more inside]
Things fall apart Stressed societies move in strange directions. In Angola, shattered by a decades-long civil war, children and even infants are accused of being witches. Burkina Faso is also having a witchcraft epidemic. Are there parallels with conditions in Salem and Early Modern Europe?
You dangle in agony. You clutch your faith. You fight for breath. You surrender your spirit. Nineteen “witches” were hanged at Gallows Hill in 1692, and one defendant, Giles Cory, was tortured to death for refusing to enter a plea at his trial. Five others, including an infant, died in prison.
The Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer), first published in 1486, is arguably one of the most infamous books ever written, due primarily to its position and regard during the Middle Ages. It served as a guidebook for Inquisitors during the Inquisition, and was designed to aid them in the identification, prosecution, and dispatching of Witches. "Therefore, let us now chiefly consider women; and first, why this kind of perfidy is found more in so fragile a sex than in men. And our inquiry will first be general, as to the general conditions of women; secondly, particular, as to which sort of women are found to be given to superstition and witchcraft; and thirdly, specifically with regard to midwives, who surpass all others in wickedness." link via the always excellent larkfarm