November 20, 2015
When preteens attack!
Sometimes I forget how I heard about certain books and why they made it onto my TRL (To Read List) but a lot of the time I just see a blurb about a book somewhere and it peaks my interest. That's what happened with The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. As the title suggests, it's about the witch trials that occurred in Salem during the year of 1692. I've actually visited Salem and read up a bit on the subject but Schiff covered the start of the accusations through to the far-reaching consequences of the trials into present day. She touched on the justice system, political climate of the Americas (Massachusetts specifically), and the cultural/religious climate of the area. The belief in witches was nothing new or novel to the people of Salem. At this point, there had been other cases of witchcraft that resulted in trials, convictions, and deaths in others parts of the world. However, the volume of accused which ballooned in the year 1692 and the paranoia that gripped the people of Salem was so extreme that we're still talking about it today. What I found most intriguing about the book was the aspect of gender roles and how that most likely played a leading role in the affair. Preteen girls and women were the primary accusers (and women the accused). This group had no voice in society and yet they were able to completely blind the rest of the community into believing that they saw visions, wrestled with specters, and signed pacts with the devil. They pointed fingers at innocent people and everyone stopped and listened to them. Why was this? Why did their opinions suddenly matter? Why were much of the women accused on the fringes of society? There are a lot of questions which we may never have the answer to because documentation is sparse (much was lost or intentionally altered). We can only theorize and rationalize to the best of our ability. The occult and the manifestation of it on people is so fascinating to me. I really enjoyed this book (the bibliography is AWESOME). If you're as curious about this topic as I am and you want to look at it from a variety of angles then I recommend you give The Witches: Salem, 1692 a shot.