Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Behind the Photos

The photos featured on my blog were the results of a trip we took in 2008 to the colonial town of Salem, Massachusetts. Five days in October introduced us to the world where the devil seemed to roam everywhere and everyone was pointing fingers at those around them. It is a scary time in history both here in North America and in Europe where women and men were routinely burned or hanged for suspicions of witch craft.

Salem is known around the world for the part it played in the witch hunt hysteria. Travelers from all over come to part take in the mock trials while costumed actors assume the roles of historical figures. The small town plays host to innumerable people visiting the witch museums and attending annual parties commemorating the hellish deeds once perpetrated there. It has become a carnival atmosphere in some ways, especially around Halloween, when society is more inclined to speak of witches and warlocks.

During our visit, we toured The House of Seven Gables where Nathaniel Hawthorne set his most famed literary work. We were led around the house by a theatrically trained interpreter who lent a stellar dramatic flare to the place and really gave us a feel for the home and its previous inhabitants. Hawthorne despised his heritage and familial connection to Salem's sordid past and changed the spelling of his surname to give greater distance between him and his grandfather John Hathorne, who was magistrate and interrogator during the Witch Trials.

In the heart of Salem is an colonial cemetery (pictured above), bearing the names of people from the past. I spent quite a bit of time there snapping pictures and getting a feel for the place. Nathaniel Hawthorne was known to frequent the graveyard when he wanted time to think. His love interest, and later wife, Sophia Peabody lived with her family nearby so some speculate that they enjoyed secret trysts there.

Salem and much of New England has a spectacular connection to the old world, unlike any other place in America. The connections I felt to the people who once lived there and the early buildings constructed there was amazing. I believe spirits still roam, enveloping places with their energy, good or bad, leaving it tainted forever more. Salem is one of these places, marred by the hysterical energy that was once the Salem Witch Trials.

Our modern day fascination with the witch hunts of old stem from fears within ourselves. Would we have been one of the accused, tormented for being different and targeted for our land? Or would we have been an accuser, saving ourselves from suspicion by pointing the fingers at others? There is a third option too, the ones powerless to do anything but watched as accusations flew, terrified that they would be next. I have often asked myself, what would I have done?

Thank goodness I will never know.

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