Apr 28 2014 1:00pm

Salem: How Not to Handle History (Or Race, Gender, etc...)


Look out, American History! Stand aside, Puritans! The television network machine has turned its roving eye for historical drama in your direction. Television execs apparently saw how fans have embraced Sleepy Hollow and decided that they could cash in on the Assassin’s Creed 3 / Ichabod Crane love going on in fandom right now to bring one of the best known crises of the early colonies to life. The WGN Network has launched their horror-drama Salem, and it is exactly as problematic as you might imagine.

For anyone who didn’t learn the story in grade school, the Salem Witch trials occurred in Salem, Massachusetts between February, 1692 and May, 1693. Young girls in the town began to accuse their fellow townsfolk of afflicting them with supernatural ailments, physically harming them by supernatural means, and generally being witches. The towns elders didn’t wait too long before they brought together a court and started listening as the girls told tall tales about their neighbors besetting the children with spectral demons or making them sign pacts with the devil. Before long, folks were being convicted, tossed into prison, losing their livelihoods and even their lives. These events are considered the first major case of mass hysteria in the colonies and set off a firestorm of similar events in nearby towns and villages up the New England coast. It generally petered out after the adults of the town got tired of listening to the young girls screaming and wailing and started thinking that maybe there wasn’t much going on after all.

You’d think a story like that—full of religious upheaval, hysteria, and neighbor-against-neighbor drama—would be enough for a great television series. But no, the creators of the television Salem decided to throw a healthy dose of “real” devil-worshipping witchcraft into the narrative mix, along with all the sex, creepy supernatural imagery, and violence against women that they could manage. The television show might be set in Salem village, some of the names of characters might match historical records, but that’s where the resemblance in the pilot comes to a screeching, politically incorrect halt.

In Salem, we follow handsome upstart John Alden (Shane West) as he defies his Puritan roots by standing against all their religious punishment and tomfoolery before going off to the French and Indian War. He leaves behind his girlfriend, Mary, getting her pregnant on his way out of town. Mary is in a real bind, clearly, as the Puritans weren’t known for being okay with that kind of thing. So she turns to her slave Tituba, who it turns out can help her out with the problem. Just one trip into the forest and a handy abortion/child sacrifice to the devil later, and Mary is inducted into the power-seeking cult of devil-worshipping witches of Salem. By the time John Alden comes back seven years later, Mary and her compatriots are out to rule Salem with their demonic rites. Allied with a poor guy branded a ‘fornicator’ and the lascivious Reverend Cotton Mather (modeled after the historical witch-hunting minister who, on the show, keeps an afflicted girl on a leash), Alden must save Salem from the dangerous witches in their midst.

Now you might be thinking that this doesn’t sound too different from other historically-based dramas that have made a splash, from The Tudors and Vikings to the supernatural smash Sleepy Hollow. Yet Salem makes a few blunders that catapult it from the realm of acceptable TV flashiness into the grossly problematic. I won’t even talk about the Game of Thrones-level sex in the pilot, or how everything witchy is sexualized in the extreme. I won’t even go into the fact that the Reverend Cotton Mather literally runs around town with the aforementioned ‘afflicted’ girl in a headcage on a leash, seeking out witches. No, instead I want to focus on the handling of one of the pivotal figures of the Salem Witch Trials: Tituba.

The SUPER racist portrayal of Tituba in 19th Century art.Historically, Tituba was a slave owned by Samuel Parris of Danvers, Massachusetts, who was accused of having taught the ‘afflicted girls’ of Salem her African witchcraft. She was the first person accused of witchcraft in 1692, but amazingly managed to survive in prison throughout the trials and was eventually released safely in 1693. She’s appeared as a character in multiple novels and stories about that time period, including the opening scene of the Arthur Miller play The Crucible. Though Tituba did confess to witchcraft in the court rather than be put to death, and did name other people as witches as well, she is generally seen as a victim of the hysteria rather than any kind of menacing figure. As an outsider, a West African slave, she was an easy target, and largely powerless to defend herself against her accusers.

Unfortunately, Tituba’s historical role as an African slave who was scapegoated and victimized by the white townsfolk is blatantly disrespected in this retelling of the witchcraft hysteria. In Salem, Tituba (played by Ashley Madekwe) is reinvented as a scheming temptress witch who aborts Mary’s child and leads the good Puritan woman astray, into the arms of the devil. The ‘cinnamon woman’ (as she’s called by Giles Corey) is coded as even more dangerous when she uses her beauty and charms to seduce Mary into a clearly sexual relationship. Have we checked off all the boxes? “Exotic devil woman leads pure white woman into devil worship through sex”—I think that’s literally all of the heinous stereotypes you can possibly attach to women, same sex relationships, and people of color at one time, conveniently grouped under the “witch” label. The portrayal stinks of every racist trope that was laid at Tituba’s door way back when those kind of portrayals weren’t considered grossly inappropriate in every way—it boggles the mind to think such a portrayal wouldn’t be considered offensive now.

And speaking of inappropriate, let’s talk about what the hysteria surrounding the Salem witch trials means to modern witches. Today, witchcraft is a recognized religion practiced by people across the world, yet those who practice witchcraft are still often treated with scorn, disdain, or outright religious intolerance. The roots of that intolerance goes back the historical association of witchcraft with the devil and Satan-worship. True fact: Wicca and modern witchcraft is not about Satan in the least. But the stereotypes still persist and practicing witches are often persecuted for their beliefs based on that wrongful association—a misunderstanding that Salem is NOT helping in the least. On the show, hero John Alden starts out calling for calm as he insists there are no such things as witches, but he’s quickly proven wrong. In this fictional Salem, the witches are not only real but they ARE harming people with devil-fueled magic, writhing around in the woods in orgiastic rites and feeding familiars from hidden teats on their bodies. This handily encapsulates pretty much every stereotype of the evil witch that the modern witchcraft communities have been trying to shake off for generations, and this show has decided to exploit every single one of them for the sake of sexy horror.

Historically, men and (predominantly) women were persecuted across Europe for being witches. Between the years 1480-1750, estimates put those executed for witchcraft across Europe and North America between 40,000-60,000 people. And in other parts of the world, people have been accused, tried, and found guilty of witchcraft into the modern day. To those who practice the modern religion of Wicca, the witch trials are an incredibly haunting historical moment in the colonial period, in which the hysterics of a small town were responsible for the deaths of twenty people and the imprisonment of dozens more before the Court of Oyer and Terminer were finally finished. And this television show means not only to trivialize this instance of religious persecution, but to inject the worst kind of poorly-written supernatural fiction into it.

It seems the writers noted Sleepy Hollow’s successful strategy of incorporating demonic elements into the modern day, and decided to do something similar. Yet the modernized Sleepy Hollow casts witches like Crane’s wife Katrina as forces for good, fighting against the demonic, rather than complicit temptresses. Even the controversial portrayal of witches in American Horror Story: Coven steps far away from the historical roots of the witches on that show (who are descended supposedly from some of the historical Salem figures) and does its best to show them as flawed people, rather than crazed devil worshippers.

As it is, the inescapable religious and racial insensitivity of the whole show makes it difficult to swallow. And the sad fact is, if this show had been set in a fictional location and made a few key changes, it would actually be engaging. For the most part, the pacing is tense, the actors do a decent job with the rather hackneyed supernatural tropes, and Shane West is a fairly intense leading man. The real power behind the cast, however, is Janet Montgomery as Mary Sibly, who transforms in the pilot from an innocent girl into a terrifying and complicated witch. But even with this decent production, it’s impossible to separate the awful treatment of the issues inherent in the show’s historical content from the potential fun it might have produced, had it been handled very, very differently. The show ignores all issues of taste and common sense in aiming for the gratuitous, when the actual historical facts surely would have been intriguing enough to draw in viewers.

In short, Salem is a cringe-worthy, distasteful historical disaster area, an example of a network trying to cash in on the witches-on-television craze and inexplicably crossing over from “vaguely problematic” into more troubling “What were they thinking?!” territory.

Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and

Grace S
1. Grace S
Also problematic is John Alden going off to the French and Indian Wars a full 60 plus years before that particular conflict happened. Unless of course, they are making him psychic and extremely long lived as part of the supernatural goings on.
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
Here's an interesting article that talks about some of the intolerance concerns you raise in your post.
Mordicai Knode
3. mordicai
Welp, good to know that this mess of a premise was just as much of a show. I sure wasn't going to watch it to find out.

2. Aeryl

Slacktivist is like, my favorite. I was sad when he moved to mostly-religious-blogging instead of occasionally-religious-blogging, but he still rules.
Grace S
4. DavidGustafson
I think it's a d----d outrage that John Alden should head off to the French & Indian War sixty years early, when he had the perfectly swell King William's War going on, right at the same time as the Salem witch trials! He should be ashamed of himself!
Grace S
5. ad
Today, witchcraft is a recognized religion practiced by people across the world
Makes it rather hard to denounce people for believing in witches...

The legal definition of witchcraft was harming people or property by magical means, or worship of the devil. Calling yourself a witch and then complaining about those associations is a little bit strange.
Mouldy Squid
6. Mouldy_Squid
Your dislike of this show is evident, but it does have some very correct historical themes, particularly the witches. There is nothing here that cannot be found in the Malleus Malificarum, the primary document of the European witch craze.

The Malleus was the hand-book for witch hunters and details the rights, sorcery and actions of the witch. I am not claiming that the Malleus is in anyway true or factual, but it is a valid historical document that shows what people believed about witches in the period that the show is set in. If you have your problems with the television show and how it depicts women and witches, those are modern objections being projected on some actual real history.

Hate it all you want, but the writers have done a rather good job of visualizing actual historical beliefs that people held during the witch craze.
Grace S
7. ad
Today, witchcraft is a recognized religion practiced by people across the world
Makes it rather hard to denounce people for believing in witches...

The legal definition of witchcraft was harming people or property by magical means, or worship of the devil. Calling yourself a witch and then complaining about those associations seems a little bit strange...
Mouldy Squid
8. Mouldy_Squid
@DavidGustafson #4

Actually, the entire of series of colonial conflicts between Britain and France between 1689 and 1763 are called "The French and Indian Wars". The final conflict of 1754–1763 is often refered to in the singular as "The French and Indian War", but the show's use of the term is more or less correct. While the writer's could have used the more modern names assigned to the particular conflicts for less confusion, the naming of conflicts after the British monarch of the day is a convention in United States history, not a historical one.
Grace S
A show taking the premise that historical people's histeria was real in order to show some horror is politically incorrect? Shocked.

I get the idea that taking the more extreme writings as accurate in an era where sexism and racism run rampant will offend modern sensibilities. I still feel there is a place for it as a 'what if' fantasy based on historical theories, though not in my living room. I have a 3-year old and the little time I have to watch adult shows is reserved for Game of Thrones and some select anime.
Jeff LaSala
10. JLaSala
As a big fan of the real Salem and its history, I was rather hoping that the drama for this show—which I have not yet seen myself—would create a fictional appendix of sorts that layers behind the actual events of the witch hysteria of 1692. That is, that all things would remain as they this other stuff. Hearing that Tituba has actually been changed into an actual practicioner of devil-flavored witchcraft is rather sad.

Oh well.
Fade Manley
11. fadeaccompli
Presumably their next show will be a 1930s period drama about Jews kidnapping Christian children to use in blood sacrifices, and the first season's big bad will be the Elders of Zion. Dear god, who thought this was a good idea?
Paul Keelan
12. noblehunter
@6, applying those beliefs to actual people are pure slander though. There's precious little evidence of witches engaging in any of the rituals or practices described in Malleus Mallificarum. It'd be one thing to present them as things people believed, another entirely to depict them as actual practice.
Mouldy Squid
13. Mouldy_Squid
So, then, how are we to write a period historical show about witches when we cannot apply beliefs prevalent in the period to people who lived in the period?

If you want a sunshine-and-smiles-witchcraft tv show, you don't set it in Salem in the 1690s, you create Charmed. If you don't like witchcraft being portrayed in an accurate historical way, don't watch the show; but don't project your modern sensibilities onto it in some fit of righteous indignation.

Salem has it's flaws, certainly. I watched the first episode and it had a lot of issues, but the portrayal of witchcraft was not one of them. The author of this article clearly has an axe to grind because it offended her conception of what witchcraft is/was. Her witchcraft is an entirely modern invention, not one that dates back to the middle ages or earlier, despite what it likes to tell itself.

If anyone is interested in what people in the 17th Century actually thought witches were, Salem, despite all of the other problems it has, actually provides a more or less accurate representation. Yes, it was misogynist, corrupt, false, degrading and inherently evil, but it was what people actually thought. To argue that this show is terrible because it more or less accurately portrays what people thought is disingenuous.
Grace S
14. wizard clip
"... this televison show means not only to trivialize this instance of religious persecution...." The Salem Witch Trials were not religious persecution, any more than the the two centuries of European witch trials that preceded it were. Those accused were not practicing pre-Christian pagan religions, and they have no relation to modern practitioners of Wicca, a relatively recent phenomonon. Victims of these persecutions were, in fact, mostly Christian themselves, and were targeted for a variety of reasons, often the old reliable "times are tough and we have to scapegoat someone, so let's go after that strange old woman who lives by herself at the edge of the woods." Some Wiccans like to claim that those persecuted in the past were their pagan spiritual ancestors, but this is a claim every bit as bogus as the dreck on this tv show.
Paul Keelan
15. noblehunter
It seems to go beyond demonstrating what people thought to depicting "actual" practice. It would be far more interesting and nuanced to acknowledge the historical reality that Malleus Malificarum was pure fiction. I'm not saying that Salem should make its witches into Wiccans or anything, but why repeat the tasteless and abhorrent fantasies of early-modern Europe when you're already creating a counter-factual narrative? Especially when you're portraying those fantasies as fact. Give us three sides instead of two.

ETA: I was pleased by how authentically early modern the witches were, even if the portrayal is slanderous.
Grace S
16. lach7
"As it is, the inescapable religious . . . insensitivity of the whole show makes it difficult to swallow."

I hear ya! Those poor Puritans weren't as bad as all that! I hate to see the religious insensitivity shown to such people.
Grace S
17. wizard clip
@13: I think you're giving the creators of this show too much credit. It seems unlikely that they intend to enlighten their audience by dramatizing what the Puritans of Salem actually believed. Rather, this is obviously pure sensationalism designed to capitalize on the currently popular alternative supernatural history genre. That's okay. They're free to do this, but if along the way they slander the reputations of real persons, including those who suffered terribly and unjustly, they should expect to be called out on it.
Mouldy Squid
18. Mouldy_Squid
Yes, the show is sensational, it capitalizes on sex, horror, supernatural and if it does slander actual people, they should be called out on it. If we were honest we should probably be calling out every author who ever wrote alternative history and Shakespeare and Bede.

I, however, am calling out the author of this article for her prejudices and her disingenuous arguments. The main thrust of her criticism is that she doesn't like the way witchcraft, women and race is being portrayed, despite being historically accurate. There are several reasons this show is flawed, but that is not one of them. If she thinks the show is slandering modern witches by presenting what people thought witches were in the 17th Century, that's her problem, not the show's.
Christopher Bennett
19. ChristopherLBennett
@13: "If you don't like witchcraft being portrayed in an accurate historical way, don't watch the show; but don't project your modern sensibilities onto it in some fit of righteous indignation."

What you're not understanding is that the show's portrayal is not historically accurate, because it's portraying the persecutors' lies about Wiccan practices as factual. Witches were not and are not Satanists; the Christian establishment just assumed they were because, in their bigotry, they denounced anything non-Christian as the work of Satan.

I mean, you do understand that this is a supernatural fantasy show, right? A show where magic and demonic forces are portrayed as real? So claiming that the show is historically accurate is quite bizarre.
Paul Keelan
20. noblehunter
Christopher, Wiccans are a modern group with little continuity to the witches persecuted during the witch craze. Referring to them as Wiccans is incorrect. Though the show is still uncritically accepting of one point of view regarding witchcraft.

I don't think there's any evidence of worship associated with early-modern witchcraft, whether devil or pagan. The witchcraze was almost certainly not an effort to stamp out non-Christian cult practices, but rather to deal with the upheavals and dislocations of the early-modern period.
Grace S
21. RobertX
They show never claimed historical accuracy. It is a supernatural fantasy show about magic and demonic forces. Let's stop getting our panties in a was over it. Watch it or don't.
22. winterking
Nice to see someone else bothered by the article's misguided conflation of early modern 'witchcraft' and the modern creation* that is Wicca. If the author is going to complain about historical inaccuracies and misrepresentations, then perhaps some better research into the witchcraft/witch trial craze would have been in order?

*which should not be taken as dismissing the authenticity of Wicca; people find spiritual meaning and value in its practices, as others do in other faiths. It's just important to acknowledge that Wicca is a 20th century creation, drawing on tropes/ideas from an assortment of mythical, pseudo-historical, and historical sources, rather than a direct descendant of pre-Christian religious practice.
Gerd K
23. Kah-thurak
There were no historical witches. There was a belief in the existence of witches, but they did not exist. The viticms of witch hunts were no members of some sort of cult or something like that, they were just unfortunates who could be blamed for something bad that happened and/or people someone wanted to get rid off. There was even a case in germany where some boys claimed that they could conjure mice while playing outside of their hometown and subsequently got tried and executed for witchcraft. Pure madness.
Joseph Blaidd
24. SteelBlaidd
I remember when we did the Crucible in HS one of the things we watched was a more documentary stile treatment that brought out that there was a distinct economic motive in who was accused by whom. This portrayal showed an evolution from young girls engageing in teenage rebelion, and making wild acusations to get out from under the consiquences, being coopted as part of a land grab.
Grace S
25. paivi
Re: Malleus Maleficarum. Because of the eucharist, Romans believed that Christians perform human sacrifices and literally devoured flesh and blood. A supposedly historical show about the early church and its wild cannibalistic blood orgies would raise some eyebrows, I imagine.
Grace S
26. DougL
Heh, ya, let's make a show about women who tried to skip out of the mainstream misogyny of the time and get burned as witches, oh, but that's boring and horrible, like slavery, so, let's make them actual witches instead. Whatever, it's more hollywood idiocy here.

If you ever wonder why we aren't having this discussion whilst lounging on our home on, well, let's be reasonable and say Mars, it's because we've systematically stepped on half of our intellectual capital for nearly our entire existence. Yes, I am for equality, but not for the the regular reasons.
Grace S
27. wizard clip
@24: There's continuing research on the variety of possible factors that contributed to the hysteria in Salem. Aside from the economic motive of the accusers, there's the fact that the Puritans were beginning to lose their grip on absolute control of this part of New England to more secular forces. Also, some of the young women who made the first accusations were refugees from settlements that had experienced attacks by local native tribes.
Grace S
28. Gerry__Quinn
What is the basis of your argument that Tituba was an African slave? History records that she was a Native American. I'd guess that she was probably sold into slavery by other Native Americans.
Grace S
29. Tehanu
To argue that this show is terrible because it more or less accurately portrays what people thought is disingenuous.
Your argument is what's disingenuous here. The article points out that in reality, there were no witches with supernatural powers; in the show, the people accused of being witches actually are witches and are using their supernatural powers for evil. The accurate portrayal of superstitious beliefs unfounded in truth would be one thing, but this is something different.
Grace S
30. Johnny Lightning
Initially, I had a problem with the show's premise that there was actual witchcraft in Salem. Our modern understanding is that witchhunts were fueled, in part, by misogyny, and I felt the suggestion that there were actual witches would make light of the actual suffering caused by this misogyny. After thinking about it, though, I realized that the show is still suggesting that the witch trials are a sham motivated by greed, politics, and sexism. For that reason, the twist that there are actual witches doesn't bother me.
Grace S
31. Farah311
Several people here ask, "how else could they show belief?" I recommend Three Soveriegns for Sarah, or the book I've just finished re-reading, James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder.
Grace S
32. Tim W
As others have said on here, there is no link between the religion of Wicca and the victims of the Witch-trials beyond the name. Now I might understand if some Wiccans were concerned that this show might cause some problems there direction but ranting at the show for using the scary legends about fictional witches as a villain for a new horror series in and of itself seems a bit over the top.
Besides modern day Wiccans aren't the only ones who could possibly take offense. Yet again we have a show where the local religious population is backward and superstitious beyond what would have really been the case (partly the reason why the real Salem was such an isolated event) and being led by a blatantly hypocritical clergy and we have to be saved by the smart and level-headed agnostic/athiest who has words and phrases come out of his mouth that sound remarkably 21st century.
Yet what needs to be remembered here is that this show isn't trying to portray anything close to real history. It's a horror fantasy in what passes for period costume to most audiences. Also this was only the first episode. Now if the show actually goes on to try to make some kind of link between what they portray and any actual group today, I'll be right there with everyone decrying this show as a travesty. Till then though the villagers need to put away the torches and pitchforks.
Grace S
33. Atlas
So you're saying this show is the Weird Menace-ed version of the Salem witch trials? I am so going to watch this.
Grace S
34. wizard clip
@31: Or Hawtorne's "Young Goodman Brown."
Sky Thibedeau
35. SkylarkThibedeau
They should have just reimagined the Old Hammer Vincent Price 'classic' 'Witchfinder General".
Mouldy Squid
36. Mouldy_Squid
You are aware that while there may not have been real people with supernatural powers the populace of the time really, truly, actually believed that there were. The were so convinced of it that they would go to extreme lengths to protect themselves. Multiple Popes issued bulls authorizing the hunting and killing of witches. Kings and Queens employed witchfinders to uncover demonic influences in their kingdoms.

This issue isn't wether or not witches were real. The issue is that people during the witch craze (ca.1500 to 1800) were utterly convinced that they not only existed, but that they were in their midst.

This article has two major flaws:
1) equating European witchcraft to modern Wicca. There is no factual evidence to connect the two. Wicca (or modern witchcraft) is an entirely invented, 20th Century religion having only older roots because it's founders plagerized from turn of the century occult secret societies. The author's conflation of the modern faith of Wicca with European witchcraft is both erroneous and frequently made by people who have not studied the history of religion of Wicca.

2) The author's contention that the show is offensive because it accurately portrays some of the social realities of the period, including the mysoginy, racism and beliefs about witchraft, which she finds personally distasteful. Yes, these things are offensive, but they were common place beyond notice in both the colonies and the Old World. Concerning the portrayal of witchcraft in particular, as I have already mentioned, it's straight out of the Malleus Maleficarum the 16th Century manual on witch hunting.

A alternate history, supernatural horror, period piece set in Salem would necessarily have to include the most outrageous and sordid beliefs of the actual people of the actual time. That the author of this article takes offense at it for the reasons she does only shows how ignorant she is of not only the history of the time, but the history of witchcraft and Wicca.
Paul Keelan
37. noblehunter
@36, the problem is that this show condones the Malleus Maleficarum by treating it as gospel fact. It justifies the exigencies of the witchcraze by portraying witches as actual devil worshippers.

A good historical drama should portray the beliefs and pre-conception of the period, but it should avoid appearing to condone them.
Jonas Schmiddunser
38. Jineapple
I just needed to hear the premise of the show to know it's bogus. Salem is all about how public hysteria won't stop short of the murder of innocent people when it get's bad enough. Making those innocents actually innocent turns everything upon it's head.
Grace S
39. Anony-mouse
I'm sorry to say it, but I hope this show fails miserably. I'm a stickler for historical accuracy, and I enjoyed "The Crucible" a lot more than this crud. Maybe some points of Arthur Miller's play weren't true to history (most notably the affair between John Proctor and Abigail Williams), but at least Miller TRIED to make his characters like their historical counterparts (with varying degrees of success). This new show isn't even trying. It's just a fictional, sex-filled gorefest. It's "Salem" in name only, and the characters barely resemble the historical figures, if they resemble them at all. This show will give people a terribly skewed picture of a real event, and stain the reputations of all involved. What I'm trying to say is: the real people of the Salem Witch Trials were flawed, to say the least. They were paranoid and used some pretty loopy logic in their witch-hunting endeavours, and it's easy to view them as a bunch of nutjobs. However, they were nothing like the characters in this spectacle. This show gives no regard to being accurate. They're just going for the shock value. If you want a shocking fictional show, fine, but don't attempt to connect it with real history.
40. rogerothornhill
Actually, premarital sex (as opposed to extramarital sex) was far more accepted by 17th century Puritans than it currently is by 21st century puritans. Conception was seen as a sign that the marriage would be "fruitful" and some local communities tacitly accepted couples considering marriage crossing beyond "bundling" and similar activities, no matter what the colony-wide presumptions might have been. The only thing that mattered was that the parents were married before the child was born. There are even several cases in which offspring were considered "legitimate" even though the presumed father had died before he could marry the mother.

And while one's definition of what constitutes/constituted "witchcraft" may vary, by virtually every definition there was far more of it practiced in 17th century Europe than in 17th century Massachusetts Bay.
Grace S
41. decendant of John Alden
Sorry to inform the misinformed but reading thru the comments here you would think that it is believed that thru-out the history of mankind there was no such thing as actual "witchcraft". Sorry to break the news but the Puritans were not responsible for writing ancient grimores full of magical spells to employ the assitance of daemonic spiritual entities.

History is often manipulated, none of us lived in Salem in the 1600s but there is indeed evidence that there were "some" people there practicing magick. Sure some innocent people Im sure were killed and falsly accused but the show has also represented this as well.

It has also painted a very evil picture of the puritans and imao its hard to tell who was more evil... the puritans or the satan worshippers or whatever they are.

The same can be attributed to modern day religion. While I dont think the show is a historical documentry , its not trying to be either. I find it very thought provoking and entertianing... I love it! Great stuff
Grace S
42. normandy then and now
Very interesting artice, thank you! and some great comments. We recently discovered a miserable tale of witchcraft and trials in Normandy... Back in 17th century France a lot of idle gossip had some dire consequences that said more about the casual evil of good village folk than any witchery! Or was it covering up something darker? The full, true, tale here:
Grace S
43. Ruth Salles
This show just may be the single most ridiculous POS I have ever seen. Bad acting, bad story line, bad everything. Surely people know at this point that the Salem witch trials were a farce.
Grace S
44. Tyler Bower
Watching this show right now. It's not great but its not bad at all. Guess I'm just wondering why you sit around all day complaining about the historical validity of an obvious work of fiction, created by people who are portraying it as a work of fiction with no backing in the real world except the time and place. Its not the the beginning of every episode says "based on a true story." I guess in your world its not ok to write a piece of fiction?
Grace S
45. shaleea
I've read a few comments, I've read the article, and I'm On the new 7th episode of the show. Also I'm a wiccan. My opinions are as follows.
1. The show never claimed to be historically accurate. Even though there are names and characters based on real people I never went into this thinking it to be historically accurate.
2. The way witchcraft is portrayed is the way that the Christians believed it to be. This being said I'm not okay with them using actual pagan symbols and pagan rituals that do exist that were NOT in the Christians idea of Witchcraft. The "Grand rite" or as we call it "tthe great rite" is indeed and has been a pagan ritual dating back to the druids. And it was never a blood sacrifice nor do any innocence have to Die. So it upsets me that this is part of it. Also if they are going to use a pentacle as the main symbol it should be facing upside down to show the difference between peaceful and non peaceful. You wouldn't show an inverted cross as a normal Christian whorship tool would you?
3. To say that absolutely no pagans were burned or hanged during the burning times is utterly ridiculous! Plenty of pagans who did not want to convert were punished! Come on. just because wicca is a newer religion does not mean paganism hasn't been practices for thousands of years. Most wiccan's consider themselves pagans before witches. A lot in fact don't use the word witch because of the horrible connotation associated with it! We don't know who specification suffered during the burning times but we do know many human beings did. modern witches today only try and think of that time as a time of sadness and a time when needless death came to many no matter their religions. It's a time for us to remember that history could repeat itself at any moment.
4. To summarize the show however inaccurate it is we have to remember it's fictional. And we don't need to ever be offended by fictional things! It's only for enjoyment and not to be taken seriously.

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