“She’s a witch!”

Given the amount of sanctimonious, righteous, and disingenuous blather that has been tossed around as of late — by politicians, the media, and citizens — I thought it might be a good time to stop and reflect on the behaviors the fine upstanding citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. From mental floss, a review of the “10 Ways to Identify a Witch”. Some of my favorites include:

  • Weigh them against a stack of Bibles. If the suspected witch is heavier or lighter than the stack of Bibles, then clearly she’s guilty of evil-doing. If the scales balance out, she’s in the clear. You can imagine that a perfect balance doesn’t happen often.
  • See if they can say the Lord’s Prayer. If they don’t, they’re guilty. If they do, they’re guilty too. George Burroughs, the only minister to be executed during the Trials, ran across this problem. He was standing at the gallows to be executed when he recited the Lord’s Prayer to prove his innocence – it was believed that a witch (or warlock, in this case) would be unable to utter the holy words. People were momentarily convinced that the jury had wronged him until a minister named Cotton Mather told the crowd that the Devil allowed George Burroughs to say that prayer to make it seem as if he was innocent. Ahhh, of course. With Satan himself apparently working right through him, Burroughs’ fate was sealed and he was hanged moments later.
  • Observe the number of pets she has. A woman who has pets – or says hello to the neighbor’s cat – is surely using that animal as a familiar. In fact, if a fly or a rat entered a woman’s cell while she was awaiting trial, it was assumed that the witch had used her powers to summon a familiar to do her bidding.
  • Take their sarcastic comments seriously. John Willard was the constable in Salem responsible for bring the accused to court. After bringing in so many people, including those who were known for their church-going ways and elderly woman who barely understood what they were being accused of, Willard began to doubt how real these accusations really were. In May 1692, he finally put his foot down and declared that he would no longer take part in any arrests, sarcastically saying, “Hang them all, they’re all witches.” Wouldn’t you know, Willard was immediately accused of witchcraft himself, stood trial, was found guilty, and was executed just three months after his sarcastic comment.

Read the entire list here.

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6 comments

  1. They’d have gotten me for sarcasm, too. I’m surprised the list didn’t include the traditional dunk test — if you hold a suspected witch under water and she doesn’t drown, she’s definitely a witch. If the suspect drowns, she’s innocent. Of course, by then it’s a little late for that conclusion to do much good. One of the variations was to toss someone in a pond and if the person sank, he or she was innocent. If the suspect could float, obviously a witch.

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