The Witch Trial Monument, A Truth Told

Witch Trial Memorial

I remember finding the Witch Trial Memorial moving the first time I saw it  years ago, but I didn’t expect my reaction seeing it yesterday.

Jon took me to Salem MA for my birthday this weekend.

I wanted to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum.  But we also wanted to see the town and some of the history related to the Witch Trials.

We stood at the entrance to the memorial and even before looking down to the see the words of the accused proclaiming their innocence etched in stone,  I started to cry.

A rush of emotion filled my chest and the tears spilled from inside of me, then I felt it in my whole body.

Intellectually, the witch trials are so far in the past and to me they have become more of a metaphor than a reality.  I didn’t even have a chance to think of the symbolism of the twenty stones,  each  jutting out of the wall like a tombstone,  with the person’s name who was hanged or crushed and the date it happened.

The emotion came from the collective energy of the place.

Perhaps from the feeling that went into creating it and from the power of the monument itself. Or from the people who visit and leave their offerings. Or from all who have felt a victim of injustice.  Maybe it’s from the victims of the trial itself. I hope not, I hope their spirits are long gone.

I walked slowly around the memorial, reading each name, date and the way the person was  executed, wishing I had brought an offering, a flower or rock to leave behind.

Afterwards I wondered why I was so moved, why I felt it so strongly.  I wasn’t sure but when I thought about it, the  word “injustice” kept coming to mind.

The monument is a wrong acknowledged.  A great lie proved wrong.  A truth told.  It speaks to the power of lies believed and truth ignored. Of a voiceless voice.

This is what I felt on the threshold of the monument.

And somehow, the monument itself, every individual stone, made each of those people real to me.  Not just names on a list, or in a book or play.  I felt their presence as real people.  As neighbors and friends.

5 thoughts on “The Witch Trial Monument, A Truth Told

  1. What a striking memorial. I had never heard of this; glad something like this exists. And yes, justice and its lack thereof is the thought I would have also.

    Happy belated birthday (and I love your new glasses)!

  2. Happy Birthday to you, such a solemn place to see, and injustice is a great way to describe such a horrible time in our countries history.

  3. What a sad chapter in our history and glad to know this monument exists.

    This is from Wikipedia: Medical theories about the reported afflictions

    The cause of the symptoms of those who claimed affliction continues to be a subject of interest. Various medical and psychological explanations for the observed symptoms have been explored by researchers, including psychological hysteria in response to Indian attacks, convulsive ergotism caused by eating rye bread made from grain infected by the fungus Claviceps purpurea (a natural substance from which LSD is derived), an epidemic of bird-borne encephalitis lethargica, and sleep paralysis to explain the nocturnal attacks alleged by some of the accusers. Some modern historians are less inclined to focus on biological explanations, preferring instead to explore motivations such as jealousy, spite, and a need for attention to explain the behavior.

    1. I would imagine many of these things can play into what happened Sharon. I never hard about the rye bread, it’s interesting. It was such a different time and reality than what we now experience. But it is that thing about humanity that we can still relate to it in our time and see it as symbolic or metaphor to learn from.

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