Autumn,  Halloween,  Holidays

Season of the witch

“Witches are outsiders, and those among us who have been bullied and ostracized can relate to their plight. Part of our fascination with witches is that they are the only female mythic figures with power. These are women who don’t need to be rescued by a prince or a king, but, instead, can save themselves.” ~Alice Hoffman, from the 25th anniversary edition of Practical Magic

Halloween season is here. Several of the homes around my neighborhood are decorated with life-sized witch figures, some flying on their brooms in the trees or circling plastic cauldrons on front lawns.

My fascination with the history of “witches” began early. My parents, both of whom were New England history buffs, took me on vacation to historic Massachusetts sites when I was a preteen. My favorite spots — you guessed it — were the house made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (I read the paperback in the car during the trip) and other buildings tied to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Yes, I was a weird kid.

We all know now that those who suffered Salem’s witchcraft hysteria were victims of puritanical ignorance, fear, and control. They were not devil worshippers. But nearly 200 were accused, some of whom were merely eccentrics, herbalists, or midwives. Others refused to conform to church politics, and some owned land that was coveted by those in power. All said and done, nineteen innocent villagers were hanged by Puritans on Gallows Hill; five others died in custody. One of the victims, a man, was pressed beneath heavy stones until he died.

Today, most of the doctors I see — including my general practitioner, dermatologist, and gynecologist — are women. Had they tried to practice any of the healing arts in colonial America, it’s likely that they would have been accused of witchcraft. Maybe I would have been too — given that I’m opinionated, bookish, and more than a little eccentric. Oh, and did I mention my herb garden in the back yard? ~CL

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Throughout my career, I've worked as a book production editor, travel magazine editor, features writer, and weekly newspaper columnist. My award-winning lifestyles features and essays have appeared in many national magazines and anthologies, including Newsweek, Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest, Victoria, Better Homes & Gardens, Bella Grace, and more. My weekly Sunday "Life Lines" column ran for 14 years in The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) and won a First Place (Local Columns) award from the Michigan Press Association. My essay collection, Writing Home, includes 93 previously published columns and essays focusing on parenthood and family life.

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