Thursday, October 14, 2010

Those Were the Days...

  Tired of the madness of current politics?  Looking for  retreat to a simpler time whose story is at least finished, with a known ending?  Then you might enjoy Marilynne K. Roache's The Salem Witch Trials, a day by day account of a simpler time when neighbors settled their grievances with neighbors by taking them out and hanging them.  It's pure chronicle, no massaging, which may sound amateurish, but here it works.  There's really nothing like watching thee waves of madness as they advance and crest and finally recede again--the end almost as incomprehensible as the beginning.

I made a special point to check out the notes on Mary Ayer Parker who, if my rudimentary attempts at genealogy research are to be credited is (a) a direct ancestor of the Bushes, father and son; and (b) a collateral ancestor of my own.   Sure enough, here she is, under the entry for Saturday, September 17, 1692:
The Massachusetts Court of Oyer and Terminer finished the week's trials. The only surviving testimony against widow Mary Parker  of Andover was from the afflicted and the confessors. ... Nothing other  than spectral evidence from the usual Salem Village girls and testimony of other confessors remains within the surviving records--the word of afflicted people who, even if they changed their minds about the situation, would now find it dangerous to say so.
 p. 294.  And on Thursday September 22, Mary and seven others were taken out to be hanged:
As the crowd crossed the causeway over  North River and turned up the steep path, the ox cart stuck.  While men labored dto move the wheels, the afflicted saw the Devil holding back the cart.  But eventually the oxen heaved it forward and up to the ledge. ... After all eight had the breath permanently choked out of them, and their bodies hung lifeless, Rev. Nicholas Noyes remarked, "What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of Hell hanging there."
 p. 300.  Meanwhile in my Evernote file, I have what purports to be an undergraduate paper by one Jacqueline Kelly, arguing tht it may have been flat-out mistaken identity: they didn't get the right Mary Parker.  Can't seem to find a live link on the web just now, though.   Here's a link.

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