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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

In Salem, they burn witches don't they?

An Intenet myth revisited

"In New England… the witch persecutions appeared late and in the mildest form possible. The American settlers were too scattered and too preoccupied with the immediate necessities of life to spend much time on merry-making. The cruelties also lacked the refinements which were so highly developed on the old continent. The total number of witches executed in New England is inconsiderable and the executions lacked that pomp displayed particularly in the southern countries of Europe. The Salem witches were hanged, according to the former practice of the country, not burned as is generally believed.

Shortly after the happenings in Salem in 1692, people spoke of them as a calamity. A truly astounding and unique fact in the history of witch-trials is the recantation and public repentance made by the judge and the jury in Massachusetts. Some passages of this extraordinary document read as follows:

We confess that we ourselves were not capable to understand, nor able to withstand, the mysterious delusions of the powers of darkness.... On further consideration and better information, we justly fear we have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon ourselves and these people of the Lord, the guilt of innocent blood.... We do, therefore, hereby signify to all in general (and to the surviving sufferers in special) our deep sense of, and sorrow for, our errors ... for which we are much distressed and disquieted in our minds.... We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have unjustly offended, and do declare, according to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again, on such grounds, for the whole world; praying you to accept this, in way of satisfaction for our offence, and that you would bless the inheritance of the Lord, that may be entreated for the land.

Foreman: Thomas Fisk, Thomas Pearly, sen.
William Fisk, John Peabody
John Bachelor, Thomas Perkins
Thos. Fisk, jun., Samuel Sayer
John Dane, Andrew Eliot
Joseph Evelith, H. Herrick, sen.

We have enumerated all the undersigned, not with the intention to divulge once more the names of those responsible, but in order to honour these men. They have by their insight, honesty and modesty rendered a service to humanity. Their repentance and recantation came, as Kittredge has remarked, at a time when they proved to be singularly effective arguments in the hands of the opponents of the witch-dogma in England. And for this reason, the declaration is not only a great document of American history but a promoter of the good for all."
[Kurt Seligmann The History of Magic and the Occult New York: Grammercy Books 1997 (1948), p.191]

2:56:00 pm