Friday, July 15, 2005


I visited Salem, Massachusetts -- site of the infamous witch trials of 1692 -- on Sunday for the first time. Walking the historic district for several hours, one thing became disturbingly clear. For all its talk about religious tolerance, seperation of church and state appears noticeably absent in the quaint coastal village. The entire town, at least its tourist area, is dedicated to promoting wicca, witchcraft, and paganism as attractive religious faiths. For example, a National Park Ranger (a federal employee; the entire district is managed by the federal park service) at the information center urged me to visit the Witch Museum if I wanted an authentic Salem experience. The museum defines withcraft as "a pantheistic religion that includes reverence for nature, belief in the rights of others and pride in one's own spirituality." It further makes the case that:

"Practitioners of witchcraft focus on the good and positive in life and in the spirit and entirely reject any connection with the devil. Their beliefs go back to ancient times, long before the advent of Christianity; therefore no ties exist between them and the Christian embodiment of evil. Witchcraft has been confused in the popular mind with pointy black hats, green faces and broomsticks. This is a misrepresentation that witches are anxious to dispel."
The museum embraces the cause through its "Witches: Evolving Perceptions" exhibit, which argues that "misperceptions" about witchcraft originated with European males of the middle ages who protected their power base by demonizing heroic Celtic midwives and mischaracterizing them as devious green women with warts on their noses and flying brooms. These images fueled the witchhunts of 17th century Salem, but now an enlightened Salem community embraces paganism and welcomes witches and warlocks to pursue harmony with nature and live as ordinary and respectable citizens. The exhibit concludes with examples of modern "witchhunts" such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, blacklisting suspected communists during McCarthyism, and blaming gays for AIDS. The not-so-subtle implication is that anyone who disagress with witchcraft as an acceptable religion is guilty of hatred and bigotry. Who's hunting whom?


At 7/15/2005 06:07:00 PM, Blogger SWK 254 Understanding Diversity said...

mayra and i visited salem and peabody, mass. some time ago. there's a christian book distributor not too far from there (cbd).

we had some of the same thoughts about salem.

did you get to visit the house of seven gables?


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