Witches & Fireworks

Last year my partner and I spent July the 4th in Salem – The Witch City!

Our day began at around 6.00am as our overnight plane from Seattle arrived in Boston. We caught a shuttle to the subway, and with the help of friendly train staff, caught two trains, finally arriving in The Witchy City.

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One of the first things to catch my eye was the Superior Court. Unfortunately this stunning building made me think of the witch hunts.

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Then I saw a newspaper vending machine which put a smile on my face.

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One of the things I was really excited to see was the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens! It was unveiled in June 2005 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bewitched. I thought it was fun and suited Salem. A local resident, recognising my Australian accent, asked me what I thought of the statue. When I told her she replied “It’s ugly and I hate it!” With that stinging endorsement ringing in my ears we left Samantha and continued our exploration of The Witch City.

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Ever since I saw an episode of Bewitched that featured a spooky bedwarmer trapped in The House of the Seven Gables, I have always wanted to visit the historic house in Salem. The beautiful home was the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic novel of the same name. Coincidentally, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem on July the 4th, so we thought it was the perfect time to visit. We arrived just in time for an afternoon tour. One of the first things we saw was a bedwarmer! There was also a secret staircase which we got to climb. After the tour we spent time investigating the grounds.

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On our walk back to our hotel we stopped at the Old Burying Point Cemetery, the oldest burial site in Salem. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s notorious great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, is buried there. He was a judge during the Salem witch trials and earned the nickname the “Hanging Judge.” Next to this cemetery is the Salem Witch Trial Memorial, a sombre and thought provoking memorial which consists of granite benches anchored into a low stone wall. Each bench is inscribed with the name of an accused witch, how they were executed and the date of their execution. I wonder what the “Hanging Judge” would think of the witches memorial sharing his resting place?

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The evening was upon us so we headed down to the harbor for the July 4th fireworks. Paul and I love fireworks and Salem delivered! Burst after burst of colourful fireworks crackled across the sky as we cheered in appreciation. It was a special moment for me. I’ve always envied America their Independence Day. Australia is still part of the British Commonwealth and I have always wanted us to break free and become an independent nation. Deprived of an Australian Independence Day, I happily latched on to this one and roared with the crowd. When the fireworks ended, Paul and I linked hands as we slowly walked through the misty streets of Salem to Gulu-Gulu Cafe for last drinks before bed.

We spent the night at The Salem Inn because I loved the name. Happily it was a lovely place and I adored the antique furniture in our room. After breakfast at the inn, we hired a car for our trip to Maine.

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A few days later we returned to Salem to drop off our hire car. There was only one way we were leaving Salem – and that was in a Witch City Taxi!

You can read more about my visit to witchy Salem and other parts of America in Bites and Pieces of America. The Salem chapter includes recipes for Waffles, Crepes, Omelettes, a luxurious Death by Cocoa and my spooky witches brew – Dark Ale Spider!

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17 comments

  1. You have some beautiful photos, I love the one of Samantha and the taxi but my favorite is of the cemetery it is quite magnificent. I would love to go and see it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like a lovely way to spend the 4th! Glad to see they have a memorial for the accused. The witch trials are such a horrible scar on he back of America — yet in a way they were almost necessary because we finally got rid of Puritanism with them. (At least organized Puritanism.)

    I love that statue of Samantha! I can’t believe the Salem resident called it ugly!

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    1. Most of the Western world was in the grip of the horrific witch trials. It is so unbelievable what happened and for how long. Salem is interesting as it seems to be the one everyone remembers. I’m glad it got rid of organised Puritanism. But just like dead vampires in horror films – be careful as Puritanism may be coming back!

      I was stunned at how much that local hated Samantha’s statue. Everyone else loved it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. With the Salem trials occurring in 1692, they were actually fairly late in the game. The Age of Enlightenment had already begun, and it was very backward of the American colonies to engage in such a superstitious behavior. Maybe that is why they are so remembered, a huge embarrassment and a shameful thing. (To our credit, though, at least we stopped arresting people for witchcraft after that, as opposed to England, who kept that law until 1950!) America, however, IS STILL a very Puritanical country, despite many efforts to change!

        Glad to hear it was just that one local who didn’t love Samantha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s embarrassing to say but Australia took longer than England. My home state of Victoria was the last to repeal witchcraft laws – in 2005! The headline read “Victoria clears witches for take-off.”

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      3. In Victoria it was an offence to tell fortunes or practise witchcraft so we were technically breaking the law. However, Victoria was pretty relaxed about the laws so we practised freely, but there was always the thought we could be charged.

        My first tarot teacher (she was the woman who trained me in Wicca) lived in South Australia in the 1980’s and was arrested for reading tarot. An undercover police officer booked a reading and then arrested her when she accepted payment. She was fined but not imprisoned. She moved to Victoria after that.

        It was a great relief and a cause for much celebration when the witchcraft laws were finally repealed. Broomsticks were raised in the air and mead flowed freely 🙂

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      4. Wow, I had no idea Australia had been that strict! I have never heard of anyone getting arrested for reading Tarot. You were very brave to take up the craft! I’ll bet it was a relief to have them repealed. It just seems so backwards… I wonder why Australia was so stubborn?

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      5. I’ve always been a punk rebel so I was quite happy to take on the establishment. I simply exchanged my safety pins for pentagrams 🙂 But a few of my fellow witches were always uncomfortable when we did public ceremonies or attended Wiccan conferences.

        I think the laws weren’t changed for so long because they were rarely enforced – except for a few exceptions like my poor tarot teacher. One of the issues was witchcraft wasn’t considered a religion so witchcraft laws came under the vagrancy act. When Wicca became more of an organised religion, Pagan organisations were formed who petitioned parliament to change the laws. When it was demonstrated that people cared about it, the laws were slowly changed state by state. It’s pretty typical of the laid back way we do things in Australia.

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      6. I see! Well, that is interesting, and a little bit scary… Although under a Vagrancy act I can see how it would not be enforced. But still! It is my understanding that Wicca originated in England, and they had a hard time to recognize it as a religion. (They don’t get away with that kind of stuff in the US because we are so founded on Freedom Of Religions. Thank god/dess! And also, as I say, our shameful history of Salem.) Anyway, I am glad you changed the laws! It would be horrible to get arrested for Tarot reading.

        I am sensitive to this topic because I am always studying the Burning Times, the hanging times and all the injustices which have been done to witches!!

        Long live the punk rebels! I was one, and am still one 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I’ll always be a punk! The need to be politically active is one of the reasons I moved away from Wicca to solitary Witchcraft. Most of the Aussie Wiccans I knew came from a British/Celtic background and it certainly flavoured the way we did things. They seemed to be reconnecting with a land, Gods and a type of magic that didn’t really resonate with my Slavic or Australian roots.

        I was influenced by American Witches who seemed more politically active. They talked about feminism and the environment and were happy to use Witchcraft as a source of power to fight oppression. They also spoke a lot about the witch hunts and reminded us of the horrors that happened and the need to be vigilante so they don’t happen again. I used the work of Margot Adler, Starhawk and Zsuzsanna Budapest in my thesis which raised a lot of academic eyebrows 🙂

        And something that may really interest you – I just googled Zsuzsanna Budapest and the same thing that happened to my tarot teacher happened to her. This is from wikipedia:

        “In 1975, she was arrested for “fortune telling” at her candle and book store in Venice, California following a “sting” by an undercover police woman Rosalie Kimberlin, who received a tarot reading from her. Subsequently, Budapest was charged with violating a municipal by-law, Code 43.30, which meant fortune telling was unlawful. Budapest and her defense team described the event as “the first witch prosecuted since Salem,”[10] and the ensuing trial became a focus for media and pagan protesters. Budapest was found guilty.[10]
        Duly, Budapest and her legal counsel set out to establish Wicca, and more specifically Dianic Wicca, as a bona fide religion. The state’s Supreme Court repealed the guilty verdict as unconstitutional and in violation of the Freedom of Religion Act.[11]
        Following her conviction, she engaged in nine years of appeals on the grounds that reading the Tarot was an example of women spiritually counseling women within the context of their religion. With pro bono legal representation she was acquitted, and the laws against “fortune telling” were struck from California law.[11][12]”

        Wow!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Wow, that is interesting! I did not know that about Zsuzsanna Budapest! Seems like a really snarky undercover thing to do — I am glad she eventually won, but it sure took long enough. Now that I think about it, I have heard of fortune telling laws and some practitioners used to make sure they stated it was “entertainment only”. (Which in a way kind of defeats the purpose.)

        The Salem Witch Trails are actually quite political, when you consider they were so much about land, and the rogue governors acquiring land from the accused. (Especially with Giles Corey — you might remember he refused to plead either guilty or not guilty because both pleas meant the government could take his land. ) So maybe American witches have always been political! Your thesis sounds like an amazing paper!

        I too am a Slav — Lithuanian and Russian roots 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      9. I can’t forget Giles Corey. What a horrible way to die – pressed to death. The witch hunts were so political. Such blatant property theft – and so many other things.

        I was looking up Slavic christmas drinks and found Lithuanian Poppy Milk. I thought of you. Have you ever tried it?

        Liked by 1 person

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