Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My friend posted on my social media a photo of the Salem Massachusetts witch museum dedicated to the witch trials. I’ve been to Salem but haven’t been to the museum. I’ll be honest with you, even without the museum it was an amazing experience. They’ve built a roundabout around where the burnings occurred, and it’s just full of occult shops and psychic service businesses. The town has come to celebrate its history and is dedicated to ensuring that people are educated about the events, so it never happens again.
One of her friends commented on the post that her family has roots that actually trace back to one of the witches that was burned. I replied to her comment thanking her. I hope she understands that these witch trials, as horrific as they truly were (honestly, few people know of the true brutality that occurred), were important lessons for our young society, lessons that we might still need to remember.
I should mention, since yesterday’s post could be interpreted as anti-religion (it was not meant to be as such), this is not anti-church either. Yes, it was the Holy Mother Church that sanctioned and financed these witch hunts, but to say it was entirely their fault glosses over the role common people had in it. Common people like you and me.
There were additional factors. A sociologist did some studies and came to realize that the number of witch trials and burnings were highest in the most wet years. As it turns out, there is a reason weather was related to the panic and fear that gave rise to the tragedy. Even then, the least expensive grain was rye, and the rye grain can have a mold grow on it that, if you’re not looking carefully, can be missed. It looks remarkably like a rye seed and grows with them, but, unfortunately, also has certain hallucinogenic effects. The hypothesis is that when people ate the rye, they started having low level hallucinations leading to the panic.
In addition, there was a mushroom that is now extinct that was taken in a manner that will sound very familiar. As it turns out, the mushroom was spread on a piece of wood, and the wood is then rubbed where the skin is thin. Rubbed on wood much like a broom handle, and thin skin like behind the knees, yielding the hallucination of being able to fly.
Experts believe that Japan, as involuntarily as the Salem witches, saved the world from a nuclear exchange. The Cuban Missile Crisis came much closer to full nuclear exchange than most people realize, but both Kennedy and Khrushchev were old enough to remember the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. These cities were so horrific that many believe it led to the restraint of these two leaders.
The Salem Witch Trial, I believe, served the same purpose for panic rationalization, fear-based action, and snap judgment. Yesterday, I gave five pounds of ground buffalo meat to the neighbors across the street, asking only how much hamburger they typically would use in one meal (five pounds, because it’s a large family). We both have good reason to distrust each other based on stereotypes. They have children and a single old man moved into the house next door. They are native American and face prejudice based on race. So, I gave them ground buffalo which they have never tried and never asked for. Whether or not they like it, this act of kindness will be a part of our relationship in the future.
Unfortunately, too many people in the past several years seem to have forgotten the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials. We’ve seen bias and actions surge against Palestinians and Mexicans. This is fear based, hearkening back to a terrorist act from (then) fifteen years earlier. Fifteen years. Immigrants from South America were treated as criminals for trying to get to safety from their own countries and the wars and terrorism therein, finding themselves arrested and separated from their children, hundreds of which are still lost from their parents. This is no more acceptable than the burning of witches and will be viewed by future students of political history as one of the most shameful times of our time.
We must remember the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials. Religion was not the problem, but the Church having too much political power and using the panic of witchcraft to remain in power was critical. Today we have Americans turning on Americans as people are questioning the Democratic process, the value of votes, all based on fear mongering from the previous president and his hateful anti-constitutional rhetoric. Will we learn from Salem, or repeat it?