Salem and What You May Find

According to much of the rest of the world, Salem is the place to be for all things witchy. After all, they did have the famous witch trials there. Of course, most people tend to overlook the fact that the “witches” placed on trial were not actual witches at all.

At any rate, I have often wondered about Salem and what kind of energy it had and so a few years ago when I was in the Boston area I took it upon myself to visit it. This is what I discovered…

For the most part, Salem seems to have embraced its witchy past. You will find lots of gift shops focused on New Age memorabilia. Some of it is useful, some of it is not. While I am a firm believer that the use puts a lot of the importance and energy into an object, I can’t ignore the fact that the object has to have some sort of power itself. With that in mind, you really have to figure out what is “real” and what is simply manufactured tourist hocks.

I went in one shop that specialized in gemstones and crystals and asked the women working there what some of the better Salem sites were. She replied that she wasn’t a “witch” and that she merely worked in the store. I found the answer a little interesting, since I could have simply been coming at the question from an historical standpoint and not a Wiccan one, and then, of course, there was the fact that she WAS working in a gemstone magick storefront. It made me wonder if the stores really believed in what they were selling, or if they were merely trying to make a profit.

Still, I gamely took one of those hop on/hop off tours and went around town seeing some of the sites. And what did I come up with? Well, not much. As I later learned, many of the historical sites that were around during the infamous trials have since then been destroyed. In addition, many things that I thought happened in Salem actually occurred in nearby Danvers. Granted, Danvers and Salem kind of run in together so it’s difficult to tell where one stops and the other begins. Danvers appears to be a typical suburb, although there was something interesting there that I will get back to in a minute.

There were a couple of museums that I went into and one was supposed to recreate the trials. It fell short of my expectations. Another one used mannequins that weren’t very realistic looking at all and I still walked away with the sense that the “witches” were not unfairly persecuted at all.

My favorite part of the day was looking at the beautiful Northeastern architecture and scenery. Salem used to be an important maritime station and I do wish that they had focused more on that aspect of it than the “witchy” one. On the other hand, The House of the Seven Gables was amazing, and barely publicized at all! (I didn’t know there was a real house, nor was I aware that it was in Salem.)

Throughout all of the blatant tourism, I did feel a real sense of history and sadness permeating the air. We might never know if any of the people on trial were truly witches, but history points to them not being so. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t people living there who were sensitive or had beliefs that diverged from what they had been brought up to believe and I think that I got a sense of that as I walked through the streets, and especially around the harbor. They must have been confused and terrified. It’s a very sad part of American history and one that has been talked about so often that it’s almost gotten to the point in which the real meaning has become moot.

I did say that I would mention Danvers. I was aware of an old mental hospital that existed there and it intrigued me. For many, many years it was abandoned and a place where people would often sneak into in order to try to catch glimpses of spirits and to cause mischief. Recently, it has been turned into condos. (I see some humor in that, myself.) So I drove up there to check it out.

I must say, I felt more energy surrounding those buildings than in much of Salem. Like many state hospitals of the time, it fell victim to underfunding and overcrowding. There were many patients there who didn’t need to be there and a lot of the patients didn’t receive the treatments that they needed. This was the place where the lobotomy was revolutionized, after all. I felt such an overwhelming sadness there that it was almost too much to take.

If you are in the Salem area, then I urge you to check it out. It might not be what you expect, but it can definitely give you an idea of what can happen when Witchcraft becomes commercialized. Good or bad, I do believe it is there to stay.

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