A PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE STORY OF WITCH HUNT HISTORY
September 22, 2019
by Angela Blissbridge
Salem’s Witch Trial story calls to be retold again in this time of deep world unrest. Salem is a name that derives from the Hebrew word for peace, Shalom. But this ideal can only be understood in the shadow of its opposition: deep struggle seeded in the cracks of misaligned foundations. In 1692 Massachusetts, Salem’s peace was fractured as colonial settlers sought to self-govern with Puritan ideals that would feed lethal xenophobia rooted in greed and exploitation. Collectively, we have rinsed and repeated this spin-cycle for many centuries, missing the steps to properly clean the dark-stains of this pattern of Salem’s and similar stories; the echoes span the ages throughout the world, our communities, families and our personal experiences. My own rinse-repeat pattern came into sharper focus two years ago, as Salem’s story dug its hooks into my Virgo efforts to address the dysfunctions around me (clean, containing dysfunction and detail-oriented are part of that Virgo package); it precipitated extensive research of historical events and astrological patterns of the Salem Witch Trials of February to September 1692. This dive into history, offered a peace for my own patterns of suffering that echoed back to past life memory of flames and ropes that presented in modern versions of silencing my creations from self-judgement or blocks by authority figures. Today, September 22, 2019, on the 327th anniversary of the final hangings in Salem, I am ready to tell my own tale of this adventure, through the lens of my recent visit to the Salem, Massachusetts area.
The dive into Salem led me beyond witch hunts and xenophobic surges; the investigation expanded upon discovering a parallel historical and astrological pattern of revolutions, Renaissance breakthroughs and emancipation movements. By the 2018 autumnal equinox, an urgent flood of efforts to get my findings published and heard followed (see Witch Hunts Then & Now on my blog. Self-sabotaging patterns and other rinse-repeat cycles interfered yielding few, but important successes, including being named one of OPA’s 2018 Most Promising Astrologers for my competition presentation on the Salem patterns; the award offered me a speaking slot for the NCGR in Baltimore Fall 2019 (an international astrology organization) conference just days before my 55th birthday on the east coast. As a gift to myself for these achievements, I booked an extension of my trip with a long train ride through Boston to Salem. I had felt an uncanny connection to the 1692 Salem stories and a powerful astrological link between my birth chart and those collected for Salem. The perceived past life familiarity with Salem led me to foolishly fail overlook planning details of the 2019 visitation of these roots (my chart was lit up for ancestral digging and healing with the magic, but idealism, of Neptune’s transit through Pisces). I had not expected how things would unfold in Salem or how it would help me to reframe my personal and collective rinse-repeat cycle (thanks to my Virgo Uranus Pluto Sun conjunction opposed my Chiron under the intense Neptune in Pisces transit).
In Baltimore, I felt recognized and heard – empowered in my element (thanks to Pluto and Saturn in Capricorn transits done right trine my Sun Pluto in Virgo). My presentation featured Salem’s astrological and historical links to key events in US history as a way of understanding the 2015-2022 resurgence of xenophobia-emancipation . The material was well received with soul-satisfying feedback. I felt a turning point of the rinse-repeat cycle – a weight lifted –warmed by the palpable supportive history of the Baltimore harbor location (Saturn in Capricorn opposing my rising sign and widely opposing my Mars in Cancer); I felt safe and anchored there (my moon strong chart with Capricorn transits), bidding me to fearlessly tread in ancient deep waters of Salem several days later (transiting Neptune sextile transiting Saturn-Pluto opposing my own Pluto Virgo). As the train pulled into Salem, I naively accepted directions that would double my drag of heavy luggage over cobblestones and root-infested uneven brick sidewalks (Neptune in Pisces over that Virgo Sun and widely over my retrograde Virgo Mercury) through the commercialized heart of the city. The weight of my physical and emotional luggage became apparent, impeding my passage, erasing any joy of reconnecting to a place I had been so keen to ‘return’ to. Only upon departing Salem, did I understand just how heavy the emotional-psychological dark-water was that I had waded into and successfully navigated during this epic self-guided adventure called Salem and life.
It would take me over 13-miles of trudging the streets and byways of Salem and Danvers Massachusetts in 3-days, rivaling any epic wilderness adventure I had undertaken. My research had prepared me to understand the 1692 events occurred in two main areas (the town and outlying villages), but the physical immersion underscored the distances and distinctions between them and how those disparities added to the greed, exploitation, corruptions and community disputes. The hysteria would grow and spread through the ‘wilds’ of the outer villages (now Danvers) and the legal proceedings and deaths would be undertaken in the port town (now Salem MA). Boston was a day-ride by horse (25-miles) and the outer villages were a long morning ride or long walk (3-10 miles away). The port-town was a key colonial hub of immigration and governance (over Boston at the time) filled with wealthy merchants and individuals granted legal and judicial capacities by the English Crown; the town was experiencing overpopulation and shortages of land. The villages were mainly farmers, craftspeople or others finding new wealth their trades and lands produced (inciting jealousies amongst the crowded town’s folk). In modern times, the urbanization in both regions and expanse of these 1692 sites made self-guided walking (with an Uber or train between the communities) the only option to truly gain perspectives unavailable in written accounts.
A veil of sloughing effort set in before I opened the door at the slummy B&B on Boardman Street. Utter exhaustion and budget restraints fed into the disempowering choice to endure its issues (transiting Pluto Saturn done less than right trine my own Pluto Sun in Virgo). The place wreaked of animal urine, had odd absences of overhead lightbulbs (the owner refusing to light the place adequately) and was less than ideal on common-area security. I could lock the door to the bedroom to bar outside intruders but inside I was trapped in my own psychological weirdness (transiting Scorpio Moon). I wound up spending too many hours there piecing together self-guided routes for my remaining time. The exploitation and greed of modern Salem (ok, not just Salem but the world!) had all but erased obvious traces of the ancient story; tucked into ‘bad-dark-witch’ themed shops and other offerings, you could find a fragment marked with a plaque between buildings or through private-non-public whispers of tour-guides or the few decent local-offerings like the Witches Dungeon Museum. Shock of the inauthentic stylized witch personas used to capitalize on the real Salem story added to my malaise (transiting Jupiter Sagittarius seeking authentic stories squaring my Pluto Uranus in Virgo). Little honored the truth of the 27 victims of 1692 that were ordinary fellow citizens of these communities; very few of the 200 or accused had evidence of practicing the magic or divination arts (one of those was a Barbados slave, Tituba, who turned accuser to avoid death); those executed were mostly women (some were self-sufficient and property owners), trades people, folk-healers, a few beggars and most were considerably older than those accusing them (see Salem blog).
Day by day, I picked up more fragments of the story. My research was confirmed by what I found and enhanced of new threads to stories that had seemed at first extraneous. In total, the wading into the deep-dark waters of this history was worth it. Will I physically return to the Salem area? NO. Was I glad the potential company of my friend or my daughter for this trip fell through? Absolutely! This was a journey that needed time to stew and percolate and even experience the gnarly ugly underside to reach the peace of having laid this episode of the story (and my unhealthy attachments to it) to rest. Day by day, you can find a bit more on my experience below including some recommendations and avoidances at the end. It was an Epic adventure!
Day 1’s (September 3, 2019) walk into Salem and finding of my boarding conditions made me wish I skipped Salem, I was overwhelmed with a desire to just hole-up for the duration. Hunger called forcing a release from my self-imposed prison at the B&B. I would gather intel and attempt to ‘grocery-shop’ at a Walgreens (futile) opting to splurge at a Mexican restaurant. On this round of adventure, weaving my way through the cramped neighborhoods of clapboard houses dated back to 1600-1700s, I received a “bone reading” that confirmed my need to free myself from ancestral attachments blocking my access of full potential (i.e., a need to break the cycle of rinse-repeat above). But my own, and the area’s figurative stench, of this clinging pattern presented as the Totem of Skunk: a close encounter with two skunks at garbage cans near the door to the B&B. The message they conveyed confirmed a need to break the polarity of duality-thinking (the pair of critters) and open toward fresh perspectives. Ok… I would lighten up my own toxic weight and double my efforts to illuminate where to find nourishment (as the skunks must have been doing) amongst the refuse – I would look between the obvious commercial junk for the things I had sought. Which is what transpired!
Day 2’s adventures came after another super-slow slough-start of the morning. Rallying to heed the skunk and bone medicine messages from the night before, I serendipitously found the right places to feed desires to marry the physical locations with the stories I had read. I tracked to the Witches Dungeon Museum, the Witch House (a misnomer – see below), the REAL location of the gallows at Proctor’s Memorial, double-visited the Old Burying Grounds and adjacent modern Witch Trials Memorial and took a night talking tour. The House of Seven Gables had not been on my agenda; however, Nathanial Hawthorne’s story and the experience of those houses, added unexpected twists to my perspectives of the Salem experience. Many of us know Hawthorne’s fictionalized tale based on the Salem Witch Trials of a persecuted woman in the community: “The Scarlet Letter”; what is not clear unless you are a Hawthorne fan or have visited this location, is that he suffered depression and hated the greed and corruption of the Salem area (go figure – I felt his torments too on this 2019 trip). His ancestor was the 1692 Salem “Hanging Judge” John Hathorne who refused to apologize as others did post 1692. The memorial next to the Old Burying Grounds is within a stone’s throw of Hathorne’s grave. I spent time with offers of tobacco and prayers at each the memorials. By evening, I had walked 5.6 miles (now just over 8 miles on this journey, 2.5 miles the day before). The growing physical and persistent psychological fatigue drug on me in the evening at the B&B as I compiled the new fragments of intel for my next day’s adventure. While on the night walking tour with Hocus-Pocus Tour, I was blessed with private whispers from the tour-guides with clues to my quest (they were privy to my intent). I located the addresses of key individuals’ residences in the in 1692 Danvers to create at map for the following day’s history walk. I would need to find a small backpack to make that day’s trek easier as I had lugged my computer bag sans computer during bulk of the Salem Town wanderings.
Day 3 began slow, slightly off-track and temporarily lost in my quest to find a suitable mini backpack (adding more unnecessary miles to my quest). Optimism crept in as the Moon had entered Sagittarius for a big adventure into more ‘open’ territory of the villages of Salem (aka Danvers) walking 4.5 more miles (now approaching 13 miles). But those hopes were soon diminished, as my idealistic vision of ‘open’ countryside of 1692 turned to today’s urban sprawl; thankfully many of the colonial homes remained standing but what must have been meadows and farmlands were filled with houses and cut by winding and busy roads (go figure it is a Boston ‘suburb’). Serendipity blessed again me as my Uber driver (sharing the same name as my brother) mistakenly dropped me on the backside of the acreage of Rebecca Nurse’s 1600s farm-estate (around 49 Collins Street, Danvers, instead of 149 Pine – see map).
This drop-off saved me at least two miles of walking and a more direct circuit; besides, my lack of planning prevented me from enjoying the Nurse estate given it was open as of September 1stonly on weekends – it was a Thursday and I flew out of Boston on Saturday. No, Rebecca Nurse was not a nurse, nor midwife, nor healer – she and her husband leased to own 300-acres as craftspeople; she was one of the oldest hung known for her piety. I passed several homes labeled with names I recognized from my research before finally discovering, between private houses what I truly was seeking (it felt like I was trespassing despite site markers offering an excuse to venture in) – a place to offer a ceremonial blessing to release this ancient past rinse-repeat cycle. Here at 61 Centre Street were the remains of the house Samuel Parris was given by the church (despite conflicts within the community about doing so) while he undertook his punitive and, ultimately, lethal responsibilities as local Puritan minister and prosecutor for the trials. In the small footprint of the stone foundations that remain, ground-zero of the terrorizing hysteria began when Parris’ daughter Betty and niece Abigail began to experience some of the first “afflictions of witchcraft.” These three would play key roles in the accusing, testifying against and prosecuting the victims of the trials. On my trek back toward the front side of the Nurse estate, I passed the site where the church-meeting house (likely where the village rumors of witch craft spread) had stood occupied today by a powerful memorial (with iron shackles) next to an elementary school of curious little ones asking their parents about the etchings on the sites stone’s that told the story of 1692. Soaking in the calmer feeling of Danvers (away from the modern commercialized tourist industry – there is little to nothing capitalizing on the 1692 events in Danvers), I felt lighter and freer but still pulled by the heaviness of the entire area and its history. I planned to spend time digging through the archives at Peabody Institute Library housed in the basement of a fabulous 1700s 3-story Georgian-style mansion; I was nearly spent from the entire trip and could only muster a brief exploration of a book on 1690s land deed transfers; its offerings further underscored the land-ownership privilege given the gentlemen class making it difficult for other settlers to receive gifts of land from natives (the grants had to go through the Colonial government’s approval).
Day 4 and 5 – train back to Boston and a hotel near the airport (blowing my budget and canceling my final night in Salem) to recuperate before a 5:50am flight on the tips of Hurricane Dorian. Ironically, the gates for my American Airlines flights were B4 (time-traveling) out of Boston and K2 (mountain climbing) in Chicago. I had considered spending the afternoon exploring historical sites in Boston on Friday (Day 4) but the toll of the trip and the Dorian wet weather shut me down to more adventures. The closest I got was the subway under State Street as I navigated with my heavy luggage, lighter from the psychological-emotional bits jettisoned in the Salem area.
Recommendations & Avoids:
12 Boardman Street B&B -Avoid! The scathing review I left him is absent (I surmise he deleted it – is that possible?). Beware!
Black Cauldron and Bone Reading by Michael Venus – Cool. They didn’t have any old- Salem intel and were part of the ‘witchy’ commercialization. But it was a great shop if you’re into taboo-oriented things.
Hocus Pocus Walking Tour with Susan and Richard - They went well above the norm. Not only was Susan's storytelling engaging but the focus and detail of what we covered was excellent. Further, they provided me, on the side, with additional tidbits of where things were located to give dimension to the historical research I'd conducted for my writing and speaking engagements.
Witch Dungeon Museum - while it’s commercialized in some respects, it is a re-creation of the physical feel and look of the subterranean jails (‘dungeons’) of 1692 Salem and is located within blocks of the actual site that bears only a plaque on the side of an apartment building. They perform a short play recreating a trial; there are great tidbits of the history on ‘plaques’ on the wall of the theater. Highly recommend if you want to truly understand the history of the trials.
Witch House - a misnomer given that this house was owned by Judge Jonathan Corwin whose wealth and magistrate status afforded him one of the key roles in the Salem story; he did many of the examinations that condemned those who died as witches. It was a fascinating 1600s house filled with artefacts that helped illustrate the physical (and wealth-disparity) side of the story I had research. There were actual or copies of transcripts of the ‘witch’ examinations to be read. Corwin and Hathorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestor) relied on the spectral evidence and examinations and affidavits signed and recorded by Samuel Parris and others.
The Old Burying Grounds and Salem Witch Trials Memorial– A Must see and Experience. Walk the 1600s cemetery during the day (it is locked closed at night) to read the ancient head stones and burial plots of the Puritans who condemned or turned their back in silence on those who were accused or perished. They now lie next to a memorial dedicated at the 300thanniversary of the trials (1692). The memorial’s 4 distinct walls (two solid, one partial and open and one turned upside-down-buried) we put up within our community but need to tear down and open up; the open but gated side divides on portion of the Puritan cemetery from this memorial. Take the Hocus Pocus Tour with Susan and Richard to learn more about the Memorial (and many other interesting history of Salem)
The REAL gallows location, Proctor’s Ledge. Recommended. It is actually just a memorial just around the corner on Pope Street off of the Proctor Street Walgreens of this article. Be mindful of private property and bring offerings to leave behind. The names of each of individuals hung or pressed to death are given a place of honor to assuage the mass-grave of their unjust burials.
The House of Seven Gables Museum. If you’re into old house, antiques and other colonial historical stuff, you must visit here. If you’re main goal is the Salem Witch Trials, it is also a nice dovetail in given the ancestral links above. The tour and the house is incredibly cool if you’re into old architecture. By the way, WHY would anyone buy a 2-foot square flag (or scarf?) of the Scarlet Letter? The gift shop sold those; it was actually a lovely gift shop.
Danvers, MA – the site of the Salem villages and ground zero of the hysteria (see Day 3). There seems to be a absence of tourism here that is at once refreshing but makes it challenging to tour the sites. Surely there must have been a tour guide to hire for this; maybe out of Rebecca Nurse’s estate– they have select hours of operation so plan accordingly (unlike I did). See the map photo for sites.
I’m available for private session guide your healing of your own sovereign role in this dynamic.
Angela Blissbridge is an Evolutionary Astrologer, artist and healing facilitator. See more about her at www.thriveastrology.com
Book a reading today to find out how the transits affect you personally in a consultation session with Angela Blissbridge. START YOUR JOURNEY TODAY to Connect the Dots to a Thriving You!
 NCGR Baltimore 2019 speech August 31, 2019 by Angela Blissbridge: “Witch Hunts Then & Now- Xenophobia or Emancipation”. Digital audio (and slide show-PDF’s can be requested from NCGR or from me). I will be offering local and online versions of this. Check www.thriveastrology.comfor more information.