Thursday, October 25, 2007


The “Witch House” earned its name. Constructed in the mid 16th century and painted black, it’s the only structure to remain that is connected with the infamous witch trials. We toured the house in Salem, Massachusetts and the $20.00 spent on the guided tour was well worth the fee.

The house belonged to Magistrate Jonathan Corwin at the time charges of witchcraft were brought against Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba as accused tormentors of two young girls, Betty Parris, age 9, and Abigail Williams, age 11.

Through centuries, the witch trials brought about much speculation as to the original events that eventually caused the hangings and deaths in prison of 24 people.

The Peabody Essex Museum houses 552 original, preserved documents pertaining to the witchcraft trials. On display are eerie memorabilia such as “Witch Pins,” used in the examination of withes. A small bottle containing the supposed finger bone of victim George Jacobs remains at the Courthouse in Salem.

While Magistrate Jonathan Corwin never wrote anything about the witch trials, he did later offer an apology for his part in the proceedings. The imaginative minds of children and the dynamics of Puritanism obviously played a key role in the deplorable accusations.

“The Crucible,” first a play, early 1900’s, and then later revived in movies, portrays the witch trials of Salem. If you want closer-to-the-truth facts rely on historical documents because liberties were taken in the latest movie, 1996, and known facts were changed to enhance story lines.

Most historians agree that the Old Testament ninth commandment was broken during the accusations and trials: “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16). Bearing false witness means that one whispers, bears tales or slanders a person. Of course bearing false witness is as common today as it was at the villainous witch trials in Salem.

When I was a child and first read about the Salem trials, I remember the feeling of horror that young girls could wreak such havoc and cost lives. Not long after, a tale I’d started landed me in trouble, but my parents found out and nipped my insult before anyone went to the gallows.

When someone behaves badly we tend to measure their words, intents, and actions, with an ugly stick. As a listener we have choices to make with what we see and hear. We can think the worst or we can pause and wonder what might have caused their irritability. Reputations, businesses, and lives can be lost because of misconceptions or deliberate slander.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The only person who acts sensibly is my tailor. He takes my measure anew every time he sees me. Everyone else goes by their old measurements.”

A proverb says, “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (17:9). If you lived in Salem in the 16th Century, tittle-tattle could have separated the neck bone from the backbone. Gossip and slander sever. Follow the tailor’s actions and take new measurements when you meet folks.

No comments:

Post a Comment