Saturday, December 17, 2011

Witchery Today and Yesterday

In The News December 2011
Unbelievable news that Saudi Arabia has executed a woman for “witchcraft and sorcery” by beheading.

  I am related to a Salem Witch. John Proctor(executed on August 19,1692) the husband of my eighth great aunt Elizabeth Bassett (jailed,found guilty.but released) 
 ( Ok,I am reaching a bit, but it is my blog) 
Several of Proctor's children, Elizabeth's  sister and sister in law were also accused. One might wonder why the Bassetts were targeted so during the trials and this little ditty could shed some light on that 
William Bassett(1624-1703), Elizabeth's father, was part of a group of 12 men who "...petitioned against their neighbor John Hawthorne for serving too much strong drink despite the 'advice of his friends to the contrary'..."[10,11] John Hawthorne ( or a relative with the same name) was one of the Salem Hysteria judges.

I have found that even before the Trials there had been other accusation of witchery in the family
Ann Holland Burt Bassett (about 1600-1670) Elizabeth's grandmother, was accused of witchery in 1669, this bit from her trial shows just  how outrageous these charge could be.

"but Goodwife Burt said she could not cure her own husband because he would not believe in her God, but her maid did and was cured."
&  "he 'was goinge to fetch some things for his wife and he saw old goody burt coming out of the swamp and shee was in her smo(c)k sleeves   and a blake hancacher and black cap on her head and hee looked upp and suddenly shee was gone out of sight"

   That was it, truly, a comment about her God and some guy blinked and she was out of sight.
   Part of my interest in Elizabeth Bassett Proctor is that the play and movie  THE CRUCIBLE are VERY loosely based on this couple, but even more than that bit of Hollywood,  is that much of our basic rights in court, ownership of property when accused, treatment of prisoners can be traced back to this couple and the other "Witches". In many law making sessions after this horrible  time the treatment of these people  were held up as examples of what needed to be fixed in the legislation to prevent these  atrocities from recurring.

     My husband is also related to a Salem Witch, in fact the oldest woman killed during the madness of the trials. Her name was Rebecca Townsend Nourse (Nurse) (b 1621 d.19 Jul 1692) I have read that she was a kind hearted woman respected by most people of the area.  There had been some snide remarks made about her taking in an orphan Quaker boy that may have led to the accusations against her.

 Excerpt of the Death warrant of Rebecca Nurse
" Command you that upon Tuesday next being the 19th day for [torn] Instant July between the houres of Eight & [torn] in [torn]  forenoon the same day you Safely conduct the s'd Sarah Good Rebecka Nurse Susann Martin Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wild From thier  Maj'ties goal in Salem afores'd to the place of Execution & there Cause them & Every of them to be hanged by the Neck untill they be dead and of the doings herein make return to the Clerke of the said Court & this precept and hereof  you are not to fail at your perill..."  

   There is a concise timeline of the events to be found at   University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School

    the link to Salem Trials is at
(TL NOTE They have many other trials to explore also, spend some time)

  There have been many scholarly attempts to find a single reason for these wild accusations leading to executions of nineteen people in 1692 everything from moldy food to power hungry ministers.  I think it was people allowing themselves to be sheep.  ( read Orwell's ANIMAL FARM for more information)

Saint Augustine of Hippo, an influential theologian in the early Christian Church, argued in the early 400s that God alone could suspend the normal laws of the universe.  In his view, neither Satan nor witches had supernatural powers or were capable of effectively invoking magic of any sort.

Too bad we don't read the classics anymore.

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