Wednesday, November 30, 2011


As summers’ long, lazy days come slowly to an end and autumn begins to push into its place, we find ourselves on a brand new journey of discovery. This journey will take us from witches to warlocks, from devils to demons, from elves to fairies and everything in between. So, light the candles and pull up a seat as I welcome you to the world of…

Throughout the ages, many different eras have come and gone in mankind’s history. Some are rumors, whispered in dark rooms and rarely spoken of in the daylight hours. But others twisted our history and our psyche as they left huge black marks on our past.
Witchcraft, in history, has been defined as the use of mythological, religious, supernatural or magical powers. Naturally, anyone who practices witchcraft is labeled a witch and oftentimes, with harrowing consequences.
It was often believed, in many cultures, that witches were in league with the Devil himself and only used their powers for evil or to bring harm to others. Today, there are many thoughts on witches & witchcraft, but more often than not, they are viewed simply as good or bad. It was not always this way.
In the early fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Europe, witchcraft was brought to the attention of those in positions of power within the churches and towns. So began the infamous witch-hunts, where an estimated forty to one hundred thousand men and women were accused of witchcraft and subsequently executed for their deemed roles as cohorts of Satan. They suffered horrible deaths by hanging, burning or even drowning and many were most likely, innocent of their accused crimes.
Europe was not the only place where witchcraft was condemned and, in what has become widely known throughout the world, Massachusetts would leave a dark stain on our nation’s history, forever.
In 1645 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the very first accusations of witchcraft were brought forth by a husband and wife. While each accused the other of evil dealings with the Devil, the husband was later found innocent while the wife was, at first, acquitted then subsequently convicted of murdering her child and sentenced to hang. She did not make it to the noose and died while imprisoned. What began as a domestic squabble, quickly spun out of control and within the next eighteen years, eighty people would find themselves accused of witchcraft. Thirteen women and two men met with an untimely demise during those years and each were executed for their presumed roles as witches.
In what would later become the most widely known witch-hunts in history and would be the inspiration for many books and films, the Salem Witch Trials took place from February 1692 through May of 1693. The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings held before the local magistrate in Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties in colonial Massachusetts. Over one hundred fifty people were arrested and imprisoned for witchcraft. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of witchcraft, which was considered a capitol felony, nineteen of which, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a guilty plea was crushed to death beneath giant stones in an attempt to coax a confession from him. At least five others, who were accused, but never convicted, died while imprisoned.
Though known in history as the "Salem" witch trials, the hearings took place in several towns including Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover and Salem Town, Massachusetts. The best-known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town. Twenty-six people went to trial before this court…
All were convicted.
The same town where witchcraft was once met with disdain now makes a mean business of witches and the art of witchcraft. Salem, Massachusetts’ tourism is the backbone of their economy and many visitors come to get a look at the town where witches who were once hung are now celebrated. You can visit famous places where witches were hanged, take a haunted tour at Halloween and even take home a witchy souvenir or two.

The focus on witchcraft died down after the trials, but some writers would see to it that no one ever forgot. In 1953 American playwright Arthur Miller wrote his dramatization of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible. The play was made into a movie of the same name many years later and starred Winona Ryder & Daniel Day-Lewis. It is also the basis for study throughout many of our school systems and today, considered a classic. The Witches is a children's book by Roald Dahl and it was first published in London in 1983. With beautiful illustrations and a ton of controversy to go with it, it remains one of the greatest witch books ever written and can be found in most libraries.
There would be a TV show that would emerge in the 1960’s with a fresh new take on the witch. Bewitched, starred Elizabeth Montgomery as an average wife with some above average talents and with just a wiggle of her nose, she gave America a new outlook on witches. Other TV shows would later follow in the footsteps of Bewitched by offering a more positive take on the dark subject of witches. Charmed debuted in 1998 and featured the four, fictional Halliwell sisters—Prue, Piper, Phoebe and Paige. Known as The Charmed Ones in the magical community, they were from the most powerful line of good witches in history and sent to protect innocent lives against evil beings, such as demons and warlocks. Each sister possessed her own unique magical power that she tried, often without success, to keep hidden from the world, while living a somehow normal life in San Francisco. The series was a huge hit and ran for many seasons. It is still in syndication today.
Two unknowns would ignite the world’s fascination with witches when they introduced their debut young adult novel in 2009. Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl made a huge splash in the literary world with their novel Beautiful Creatures. Billed as one of the best debuts of 2009, the book was followed up by a second book in the series, Beautiful Darkness, the following year. The next book in this franchise, Beautiful Chaos, will be released in October of this year. Not only did the books gain worldwide recognition from readers, but also grabbed Hollywood’s attention and has been optioned by Warner Brothers as a major motion picture! That is a far cry from the Salem Witch Trials.
A recent movie release that would bring a little of the darkness back to the witch is 2011’s Beastly. In it, a boy is cursed by a modern day witch, played by Mary-Kate Olsen. He is given one year to change the person he has become on the inside & find someone to love him for who he is or spend the rest of his life severely scarred and tattooed from head to toe.
Witches and witchcraft have come a very long way from the days of witch-hunts and mass executions. From Bugs Bunny’s fantastic Witch Hazel with her broom stick and flying hair pins that we loved as kids, to the unusual loveliness of Lena in Beautiful Creatures, witches have fascinated us for many years been a huge part of our history as a people.
Witches are no longer the hideous hags we believed them to be as children. There is no wart on their long, bulbous nose to give them away or a cackle in their voice that spells certain doom. Witches are all around us, but often hidden from our view. They could be your neighbor or the girl down at the super market or even the writer who weaves those wicked tales you love to read. So, whatever you do, watch what you say and how you treat those strangers you pass on the street or risk hearing the dreading words…
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble!!!

CK Webb