Festival of the Dead in Salem, Massachusetts
 

Christian decided to write a letter to the editor of the North Shore Sunday about the Bewitched statue and the paper gave him his own opinion column for that edition! The door was open should he want to do another but he's yet to take them up on it. Just doing this was so much fun!

Sitting In: The Word 'Witch' is Magically Delicious
By Christian Day
North Shore Sunday, Friday, May 6, 2005

I am writing in response to Jean Harrison's letter to the editor ("Look beyond TV Land for landmarks," Sunday, April 24), which quotes my statement that "most people who visit Salem want to see witches."

 Ms. Harrison argues that my comment is but "one take on Salem." On the contrary, it's market research. Just ask anyone anywhere what they think of when the word "Salem" is spoken. It isn't boats.

 Ms. Harrison's first edition "Michelin Green Guide to New England" may allot only "two hours" for the witches, but our hundreds of thousands of annual visitors know better. That, and the guide is now up to its 11th edition. Ms. Harrison echoes the sentiments of those in Salem who believe that the Witch City represents merely a blip in history and that Salem's real history begins and ends with maritime trade.

 Salem's quirky Witch City identity is much more than the 1692 trials. It's the whimsical antique postcard witch; it's Daniel Lowe's turn-of-the-century witch spoons; it's the opening of the Witch House in 1948; it's the filming of "Bewitched" here in 1970; it's the broom-riding witch that appears on police cars and patches, the Salem News and even our water tower; it's the arrival of modern witches in 1970; it's the opening of the Salem Witch Museum in 1971; and, it's the creation of Haunted Happenings in 1980, which kicked off more than two decades of Halloween tourism.

 The word "witch" helps us to believe in magic within an otherwise mundane world. It often frightens those who prefer to follow a more ordinary or pious path, trading their twisting willow brooms for handy Swiffers. To our many visitors, the word "witch" means all of the things that it has ever meant to anyone: spell-casters, psychics, devil worshippers, nose-twitching housewives, goddess worshippers, mythical enchantresses, tree-huggers and even green-faced hags. They come to Salem expecting to find all of those things and more.

It was the negative way in which Salem had often portrayed the word "witch" that first drew real witches to Salem. They came here to right a wrong and to say to the world that the word "witch" means more than just accusations of devil worship. We're not here because we think those accused in 1692 were witches. Those who argue that we don't belong here because there were no witches here back then are not only bigoted but they miss the point of why we're here entirely. For us, the spotlight that always shines upon Salem provides us the opportunity to say that real witches are those who live in a world of magic.

Samantha Stephens is a work of fiction, but she represents something powerful in our collective consciousness. She is our ability to dream, our desire to be magical, to explore the enchantment that draws many of us who are modern witches into our craft. Who among us that first saw "Bewitched" didn't daydream of twitching our noses to make magic happen in our lives? Are there those in Salem who no longer see that the world still has magic? Samantha embodies all that is good about the word "witch."

Those who complain that Salem's recognition of the Witch City should be restrained to mere academic scrutiny of past tragedy should look to the Puritans if they want someone to blame for everything that's happened since. The citizens of 1692 Salem Village had no idea that they were dabbling in more than just black magic when they began tossing the word "witch" around, never knowing exactly how powerful of an archetype they were unleashing onto our city, one that has lasted for centuries because it taps into a deep well of folklore and myth that extends far beyond the persecution that took place here.

So I say to Ms. Harrison and the handful of people who bemoan this statue: Learn to believe in magic again. Salem is more than just terrible trials and old booty and the Witch City is more than just 1692. It is the centuries of human imagination that has poured into this bewitchingly magical word. And it will be here in Salem long after we're all gone.

Salem resident Christian Day is a self-proclaimed witch and a Festival of the Dead organizer.

 



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