You didn’t think we’d get through the month without a major witch war in Salem, Massachusetts, did you?
Ah, Salem. Charming seaside town, with a storied history of being a major commercial port. It went through some hard time in the 1970s (economic downturn and changes in shipping industry) and the town fathers (and maybe the mothers) decided that making it into a tourist destination would be a good idea. But what to focus on?
OH YES, the witch trials. They actually took place in Danvers (formerly known as Salem Village) but the “Salem” name is what resonates, so the town dubbed itself “The Witch City,” made little witch-on-a-broomstick logos de rigeur (the police, local newspaper and many other businesses sport them) and encouraged witchy commerce and one local witch and shopkeeper (Laurie Cabot) asked then-Governor Dukakis to write a decree naming her the “Official Witch of Salem” and then a few years ago the city instituted “Haunted Happenings” for the entire month of October. It’s like a month long Fellini film in real life: street vendors, tours, museums, events, and lots and LOTS of tourists. The shift in the town’s persona is explored by local resident and documentary filmmaker Joe Cultera in his film WITCH CITY.
Being such a witchy destination, some actual witches saw the place as a kind of Mecca, a necessary stop on the spiritual trail, and many moved there to set up shop, so to speak. Some did well, some not so well. The competition to be not only the most well-known but also the most commercially successful Witch in Town has been an ongoing popcorn muncher for years, and once the pagan community found itself online, and later enmeshed in the whacky world of social media, well, then things got interesting.
Normally I don’t think of this blog as a place to mention this kind of thing. But when this little local news story makes it to The Guardian (granted, it’s the week of Hallowe’en, what else you gonna do?), I gather it’s a media event of some sort. Of course, the headline using the term “self-proclaimed witch” (to refer to Lori Bruno) is something we thought major news outlets were done with; really, folks? You still don’t get that someone who calls themselves a witch is referring to their spiritual path and that Wicca is a legitimate and legally-recognized religion? Can we get some more up-to-date editorial standards happening with this?
Harassment is serious business. Crank phone calling in the middle of the night is probably a frightening thing for an elderly woman to endure. And I have myself seen how vicious Mr. Day’s use of social media can be towards former friends and colleagues (Lori Bruno used to co-host his radio show “Hex Education” with him; another former co-host was the subject of some insulting comments targeting her weight and looks on his Facebook page for months). I myself was a target of his wrath for quite a while, simply for calling him out on his social media behavior (and we used to be friends). Day’s yearning for media attention is well-known; yet his antisocial (and apparently now illegal) behavior continues. As one friend of mine has been saying for months, it’s Tower Time.