This is in response to Andrew Carr’s letter to the editor of the Salem News. Mr. Carr compared Confederate Soldiers to the statue of Samantha Stevens, a fictional character in the television series, Bewitched. He goes even further and compares it to having a statue of a clown and calling the city Clown City, referencing the “clown killer” John Wayne Gacy.
These statements are politically tone deaf and insanely offensive. The Samantha Statue does not trivialize the Salem Witch Trials. However, Mr. Carr is trivializing slavery by comparing the statue of Samantha to statues of Confederate “Heroes” which have become symbols to which racists cling onto in an effort to promote their stances, advocating for genocide and attempting to validate their beliefs of racial superiority. He is also conflating the victims of tragedy with one of the worst serial killers in history, John Wayne Gacy.
Mr. Carr has no genuine interest in honoring the memory of the witch trial victims. His aim has consistently been on the religious discrimination of Pagans and witches under the guise of honoring the memory of the victims of the Witch trials. One need only to speak to the witches of Salem and the metaphysical shop owners to know that they are clear about the fact that those accused in the Salem Witch Trials were not witches, but rather the victims of the paranoid religious persecution at the hands of zealots.
So, what is the significance of witches flocking to Salem and metaphorically and literally setting up shop here? The Salem Witch Trials represent a time in US history where people have been killed under the accusation: the witch. Imagine if there was a period in US history where a religion such as Buddhism was under so much attack and vilification that people were falsely accused of Buddhism and executed for it based on their perception of what Buddhism was. A campaign would then be created to restore public relations with the Buddhist community to educate people about what Buddhism really is, while honoring the memory of those who died falsely under the accusations of Buddhism. That is precisely what has happened with Salem.
During a recent period of Satanic Panic in the United States only 40 years ago, where witches were conflated with “Satan Worshippers” who sacrificed animals and babies, we started seeing the re-emergence of the line of thinking that sparked the Salem Witch Trials. One woman, who took up residence, saw Salem as a symbol for what was happening in the United States; a literal witch hunt based on false information and hysteria. This woman is Laurie Cabot, a revered elder in our community, who has spent the remainder of her life working towards educating people on the real beliefs and practices of the religion of Witchcraft. In an act of reclamation and transmutation, she single-handedly turned Salem into a “Mecca” for educating the public about the truth of witchcraft and to restore public relations to ensure that no one dies under the accusation of witchcraft in the United States again.
When we see the statue of Samantha, as witches, we are not seeing a green hag in league with Satan. What we are seeing is a strong, beautiful, friendly, confident, and positive example of the archetype of the witch. The Samantha statue is a strong reclamation of the stereotypes perpetuated so strongly by those faiths in the past that vilified the image of the witch and the witch’s beliefs and history. While it may seem irreverent or superficial to make Salem into a “Witch City” on the surface to outsiders, the modern witches of Salem are not only educating the public about what witchcraft is and isn’t, but it’s also bringing awareness to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials in a manner that would be impossible by other means.
Bewitched, while fictional, represents one of the very first positive portrayals in the United States of the witch archetype. That is important. While Mr. Carr may not understand how important it is to show the world that we aren’t demonic Satan-worshipping evil-doers, it is of great importance. It is the first and primary defense to ensure that no one in the United States ever dies under an incorrect vilification of witchcraft. It is the most important act of preventing another Salem Witch Trials again. As witches, we take those dying in our name very seriously.