Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Salem Effect

PhotobucketYesterday in my American Lit. class we covered Mather's account of the Salem Witch Trials. My professor has a way of getting off topic, so instead of discussing the piece as a form of literature, we actually ended up just discussing the event itself: the horrors the accused were subjected to, and what could possibly have caused our ancestors to slaughter so many people.

The theory of a hallucinogenic substence in the colonist's food as well, as the common assumption that it was simply the result of mass hysteria, was produced, discussed, and dismissed.

Eventually the conversation turned to a debate of whether witchcraft actually exists. It was a commonly accepted "no" for the most part, though we agreed that it wouldn't have been strange for the colonists to have belived in its existence since magic is referenced to in the Bible as an evil. At that point, our professor proceeded to tell us some of the strange stories he's heard about voodoo and hexes, and though most of us wrote them off as nonsense or lucky coincidences, one jumpy, nervous girl in the back suddenly burst out in a squeaky confession that she's pagan.

She proceeded to talk about the existence of witches and ceremonies that she's taken part in. The room went dead silent. Jaws dropped. Hardly anyone spoke for the rest of class. Our professor looked completely befuddled. As soon as we were dismissed everyone bolted for the door, skirting around her as if she had the plague.

On the way to my next class, I couldn't help but feel astounded. Had we not all been professing our ardent belief that witchcraft was nothing more than fiction? Even I had said that, yet here I was, half afraid of something for no better reason than that it isn't "normal."

In that moment the reason for the events of Salem, MA, became unquestionable. In the space of an hour we'd created our own little mini witch-trial, found her guilty, and sentenced her to estrangement. Why? Fear of what we do not understand. It's not something to be proud of, but it is an experience to learn from.

Before I hadn't thought myself capable of such a hasty and unfair reaction. Now that is obviously not true, but knowing it is a possibility allows me to gaurd myself against it happening again.

51 comments:

  1. It sucks how most people can't be themselves without facing some kind of discrimination. But that's just human nature, and I don't think that will ever change. It can be helped, but there will always be someone with a closed mind.

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  2. Great post! Just goes to show how easily we judge before we know! Going through an experience like this (I have myself) reminds us not to judge in the future!

    I applaud you for realizing your hasty reaction was unfair...many people would be satisfied with being naive.

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  3. Interesting thoughts. Personally I think it very brave of the girl to be open about something like that, but of course it can make her a bit of an outcast; it's not really the kind of thing you expect to hear in class.

    Thanks for sharing! You got me thinking. :)

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  4. There are alot of things even in the bible that people now days say "no such thing". Ghosts, Spirits, Demons, etc. Anything that is out of our comfort zone is considered "not real". As far as witch craft... well I don't know... I would be interested in what the girl has to say. I have know wiccans in my adult life who explained their specific belief's and realise it isn't all bad. Some are but some aren't.

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  5. How wonderful that you sought the "gift" in this moment of truth. You chose to learn something about yourself and to be changed by this experience. Bravo Carrie!! You have accumulated another nugget of wisdom (and we both know you have accumulated quite a few already).

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  6. While I don't doubt that the room was thick with tension, I am totally the kind of person who would HAVE to go talk to this girl because my ardent curiosity would have lead to my insanity otherwise.

    Great post! I love reading your blog!

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  7. I think lots of us are quick to pre-judge... but it's the rare person who recognises when she/he has done so and then tries to correct it!

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  8. I'm really glad the girl spoke out. I am pagan myself, and there is nothing wrong with it. Magick itself isn't bad, it's how people choose to use it. I'm really disappointed that your whole class reacted in such manner. I would have expected at least a couple of people to know what Wicca is about.

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  9. Hm... Well, you're are right, that everyone fears what they don't understand. It's sort of okay they you had that initial reaction, but I think the girl felt like she had to defend herself. I'm glad though you realized that your reaction wasn't that appropriate. Not many people can do that. But maybe that girl needs someone to talk to now, cause going through total mass rejection/isolation/whatever, is kind of scaring. You may not want to be the person to talk to her. That's okay, but just because you realized something, that makes a difference.

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  10. My daughter is pagan and I really don't understand others fears of Wicca. Wiccans call them spells I call them prayers. Its really the samething. Your trying to put out good energy into the universe whether you call it a prayer or a spell. I personally beleive in God but not church. Many Wiccans try to treat there bodies and the earth as temples. I am proud of my daughter. We live in a small town(90 people) so my daughter felt she had to be careful who she shared that info with. Maybe you could learn about Wicca from her whether its ever something you would want to follow. You would learn and thats always good for us uman beings. The Wiccan religion is now accepted by the US military as a form of religion. Thanks and great blog!!!

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  11. Great post! This reminds me that I really need to go and visit Salem. Now that i live relatively close to it, I need to take advantage and learn about this neat piece of history!

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  12. Thank you so much for this post. I am a Wiccan myself, and with especially living in the Bible Belt of America, I know what it is like to be descriminated against. No one should be ashamed of what they believe in, and everyone has the right to think differently.

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  13. Surprisingly enough, I have been exposed to several people in this area who practice witchcraft. I found it scary at first, but it actually made me want to learn more about it. It actually is much different than I thought. I even became good friends with a few of these people and they are wonderful. I don't question their beliefs and they don't question mine. I think you learned a very important lesson here about judging people out of fear. My suggestion to you is to do some research on the Wiccan religion. It has been my experience that the more knowledge that you have of something, the less reason you have to fear it.

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  14. So now that you are aware of what you've done in response to her admission, will you be making an attempt to get to know the girl and overcome this initial judgement?

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  15. Great post! (Can I also just say that I'm loving that you reply to specific blog comments. Go girl!)

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  16. I'm impressed with the girl who confessed that she's a pagan. She bravely shouted it out loud to the class and it's something that you hardly do. It was a good thing that she didn't hide her true self. So, she's nothing to be afraid of. It's just that she has her own beliefs. Discriminating her would be really bad or even worst, she will try some of her voodoo and abracadabra tricks to avenge herself. Haha. Be careful.

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  17. For someone like me, who feels that there is no God or afterlife, the whole conversation of witchcraft is like discussing if Peter cottontail really exists. hehe!

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  18. Sunshine: I completely agree with you. I can't tell you how disappointed in myself I was, but to this very moment I'm still rather freaked out. I don't really understand my fear. It's illogical. I'm not even one to fear "magic." I've spent most of my life wishing it were real. I'd have given my left arm to be whisked off to Hogwarts.

    Karilynnlove: Thank you! I'm so glad that most people understood that I'm not at all pleased with the reaction. :)

    Iida: In retrospect, so do I. It was a bold move indeed.

    Lyn: Aw, thank you. =]

    Paulina: First off, I really hope I didn't offend you. :/ Actually, if you'd like to email me and tell me a bit about Wiccan beliefs, I'd appreciate that. :) I'd really like to try and figure out exactly what it's about.

    AdmiralSol: Actually, there was one other girl that approached her after class to talk about paganism. I think she was too...but wasn't quite as brave about it.

    Deb: It's wonderful that you support your daughter! I am originally from a tiny town myself, and it's hard to imagine many parents supporting their children in such a unique faith. Kudos to you!

    tanzaniancane: I know! I'd love to visit Salem! It's always been one of my favorite places to study historically. (Again, hence the surprise at my own reaction.)

    tbslvr09: :D I'm glad you liked it, and I'm glad you didn't take it offensively. That wasn't how it was meant at all. I wish you all the best.

    Lydia: Honestly? No. But to clarify, it ISN'T because of her faith. It has more to do with her personality in class. We aren't interested in the same sorts of things. Just from small talk I know that we don't like the same music styles and don't like the same genres of literature. I don't intend to shun her, and I won't be afraid to sit next to her in class or to talk to her, but I don't see us baking cookies together any time soon.

    rae: Thank you!

    Crissa: I agree, it was very bold and admirable. :) I applaud her for that, and even more for not trying to pass it off as a joke or misunderstanding after she saw everyone's reactions.

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  19. That was a great post! Most people shy away from that level of introspection/reflection.

    As an aside, one of my best friends is a practicing Wiccan, and has been for as long as I can remember. In my eyes, her rituals are little different from those of other faiths - they just take on a different form or go by a different name.

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  20. Carrie: No, you did not offend me at all. I guess I just expected more knowledge, as I feel more and more people are gaining interest in Wicca and Paganism. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, or I can do so as well.

    Deb: I am so glad you support your daughter! I wish I had my parent's support, and if you read my blog I am frustrated with parents over all, so it's a nice change to see someone who actually cares about their children.

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  22. Hmm, I just realized why I might have overreacted in the first comment. I just remembered that last year we talked about the witch trials, and it really upset me, how everyone would make fun of the whole situation. I guess I'm mad at myself for not speaking out while I could, and I'm just really glad she did. So, in the end, thanks for posting this story.

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  23. It's a good post, but too late to undo the damage done -- your pagan classmate would be wise to keep her distance from here on out. Y'all did a great job of telling her everything about y'all's quality of character.

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  24. Whether it does or does not exist...I think people just fear the unknown.

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  25. I always wish that things like witchcraft in books were true. But then again, if there's someone using it for good, there's someone using it for evil. Balance of life.

    writeaboutwhat.blogspot.com

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  26. C: Thank you! And from all the comments I've recieved, it seems as though many Wiccans have that mindset.

    Paulina: I'm glad. :) And don't be disappointed in yourself! Just now, you've shared the information with over 400 of my readers. That's a big step as well. And you know, it's never too late to let people know who you really are. ...just be careful how you phrase it. I think if the girl in my class had been a bit more tactful, it wouldn't have been quite as intimidating to the rest of us. She just kind of screamed it. lol.

    Crazy Shenanigans: I agree completely.

    Imogene: Yes, that is true.

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  27. Hi Carrie, I read a really interesting book about Wicca, where it is explained in a very mundane way, I wouldn't be scared about it at all. It's Laurie Cabot's Power of the Witch.

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  28. Just found your blog - it's wonderful! Very inspiring to meet you, Carrie :)

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  29. Carrie,

    Just started reading your blog and it's very intriguing to me already! Good job!
    I'm a psychiatrist, and it's interesting to me how old beliefs and superstitions and fears just get passed along and incorporated into our enlightened "modern" world. I deal with people every day who are mentally ill and misunderstood and feared. There is still a tremendous amount of stigma out there. You are absolutely right: whether one is eighteen or eighty, there is always the potential for quick judgments and stereotyping based on preconceived beliefs and "comfort zones". We need to be aware of that potential in ourselves and guard against it, else we keep ourselves from meeting, befriending and learning about many interesting people. Keep up the good work on your blog, and I will be back to read more!

    Greg

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  30. hey I liked this post. But you know she admitted to it where the Salem ladies had denied it, right? (My memory fails me alot so correct me if I am wrong)
    And Agree that she probably knew it was going to set her apart from the rest of the class when she told it. It took Courage to do so.
    Human nature is a puzzle isnt it?

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  31. Salem witch trials where dark, I did some Crucible anaylsis a couple of weeks ago. People are so stupid.

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  32. great post! i really unjoyed reading it.

    its so brave of the pagan girl to have spoken up...

    i'm a latter day saint (mormon)...and i don't even come out and say it in fear of being scrutinized. so good for her.

    i like your blog...i'll be coming back for more! keep blogging!

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  33. Great post!Just shows how easily the most of us judge before we know!
    I loved if you followed my blog. I'm looking forward to hear form you.xxx
    :)

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  34. this was a fantastic post. wicca religion has always fasinated me , and I have researched it extensively, its sad that so many people view pagan and wicca religions as evil when really they are mostly nature based, and therefore practised in the proper way, very good. kinda like glenda the goodwitch.

    very good post .

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  35. I completely agree. At my school, when I went, we werent allowed to speak of that stuff. I mean, we reviewed the story and the movie about it, but we werent allowed to "discuss" it. I guess it was to avoid that type of thing, Im not sure, but I would have totally loved to meet someone who believes in that sort of thing, because you could ask them a lot of questions and really learn something. On Halloween I am actually going to a Pagen wedding. I cant wait. Itll be so different!

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  36. Poor little witch. I wonder what kinda rituals she's done. I did a huge project on religions for english and chose wiccan as one of them - too bad I never presented because of my terrible presentation skills.

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  37. Excellent blog, I stumbled across it and am very impressed. I'll be following you from now on. Keep up the good work, and congratulations in your engagement.

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  38. wow you might just be a youngun, but you got sme good insight there

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  39. And you should travel a lot! It's one of the best things you can and should do with your time! That and help others! Ever came to Portugal? Kisses from this part of the world! : *

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  41. Too add a totally flippant comment, I love the colors of your blog.

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  42. LOVE your header shot and you have such a beautiful blog. I hope this comment reaches you - I just had to say hello ! Best wishes & thank you for sharing...

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  43. I was an English major and I find that many times, it's easy to get into a conversation in class where everyone agrees and you feel really good about yourself and your ideas. Then, when one person has a different opinion (especially if they state it clearly and respectfully), there is a shift and you don't get to feel as right as you did a moment ago. I know it's happened to me before and it really is human nature to feel off about it. I'd suggest talking to the girl when you have some privacy and commend her for being brave and talking about it.

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  44. What a great class! That girl is quite brave... I usually keep my spiritual views to myself in class unless someone decides to pry. I had a Christian group wanting to know what was the one thing I've always wanted to know from Christians. My answer: Do you practice what you preach? They all looked at each other and said that was a really good question... never really got an answer though.

    And yes, spells are prayers. I'm not Wiccan and I know that. People just need to love... love love love:)

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  45. A really interesting post, Carrie, as always. Keep up the good work :) You might be interested to read Katherine Howe's "The Lost Book of Salem".

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  46. Funny, I'm looking for some non-Pagan blogs, and I still manage to stumble across Paganism.

    Yes, I am Pagan. The girl in your class was probably terrified to speak (judging by the fact that her voice was squeaky) but probably wanted to make the point that "Hey, us witches are still around!"

    I just discovered your blog, by the way, and I like it. :)

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  47. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  48. wow great post... and still today,,,people run scared from the unknown because they believe so strongly in something that was more preached to them in church then what is the real truth. Pagan is older then Christianity and well with out starting anymore of a debate...Christianity is based on pagan beliefs then twisted for the benefit of the church.. research and studying that will lead to more answers on the truths... I commend her for being so brave but am sad that the Ways of the Witch Trials still exist in a different form yet today... much light, L

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  49. While I do not practice Pagan rituals, I call myself agnostic for lack of a better term. I'd be really interested in learning more about Pagan and Wiccan beliefs. I empathize more with the girl in the back than I do with the rest of you truthfully. My history class had an assignment where we were supposed to relate the rituals of ancient Hinduism with the rituals of our own religion and it took me a few hesitating moments before I finally asked what to do if you did not have a religion. I ended up being excused from that question but I had at least 5 people come up to me and ask what I believed if I didn't have a religion. It was somewhat of an eye opener for some of my more fundamentalist classmates. Also, if any of y'all would like to educate me about the Pagan rituals/beliefs, please do because, like I said, I am very curious about that topic since I have not learned much about it other than through my Christian teachers. You can contact me at amethysteyes0.webs.com/youtalktome

    Also, I have just found this blog and am loving it so far. :)

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  50. Great introspective post!
    I am wiccan myself and just want to clarify that spell work is not the only part of being a true wiccan. Yes it exists but does not sum the religion up as a whole. Also spell work is NOT like in the movies lol it is manifestation and meditation and yes just like prayer in the sense that it is not hocus pocus but silent use of will power and projecting energy.
    Love your blog.
    Azzrian

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