Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salem Witch Trials

For some of us, the closest we get to the Salem Witch Trials is an episode of Bewitched where Samantha gets spirited back in time by some jealous witch (male or female). Others may have learned about the trials through Arthur Miller's The Crucible or the more recent movie of the same name. The truth is much more sinister than any Bewitched episode could convey; but the jealous portrayed may not be far off the mark. There is also the small matter of usurping land thrown into the mix.
Called the Salem Witch trials probably because the most famous happened in Salem Village, there were actually trials in four towns in the province. Salem Village had the distinction of being a town in turmoil. Only recently allowed to have their own church, there seemed to be some struggle for leadership.

So, take a town in the middle of a province with changing leadership, hostilities with the natives and a growing shortage of land with a growing population and mix in some religious fervor and a mysterious affliction and you get the Salem Witch Trials. Frenzy usually feeds on the baser of human emotions like greed and jealousy. It just may be that land, deeds and inheritance motivated the witch hunting more than a desire to expel the devil.

At the center of the drama is the Parris family. Reverend Samuel Parris is the newly elected minister of the new Salem Village. He wasn't the unanimous choice and there were those who were not pleased that he was given the deed of the parsonage as part of his compensation. Just a few years later, his daughter and niece were the first to be afflicted with some sort of bewitching.Given the laws and a propensity to general anxiety in the province it is not difficult to understand how the most vulnerable became the first accused. The majority of "witches" were unmarried or recently widowed land-owning women. If a land owner died, his/her land passed back to the previous owner. If that owner could not be determined, it passed to the church.

The first three women accused were women with few defenders: Sarah Good, a poor woman known to beg for food; Sarah Osbourne, a woman marked for having sex with her indentured servant and for not attending church service; and Tituba, a slave of undetermined ancestry. Sarah Good's daughter is also one of the accused. Her testimony is used to convict her mother even though Dorothy Good was only four years old. Someone had to be blamed for the affliction of the minister's family.

After the frenzy started, it didn't take long for the land-owning citizens (male and female) to become targets. Of course, there were those that were just named due to the hysteria. Anyone who didn't quite fit in would be a perfect target. Being a witch could explain any oddity or non-conformity with the rest of society. Either people believed these men and women were really witches or they participated in the naming in order to not be named. It was a good way to rid yourself of an annoying neighbor as entire families were named as witches.

In a relatively short period of time, from March 1692 through July 1692, over 70 people were arrested or warrants for their arrests were issued. The accusations and trials lasted through May 1693 with the last cases resulting mostly in acquittals. All in all over 150 people were accused, twenty nine were convicted and nineteen of those were hung. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death. At least five more died while in custody.

As for the four mentioned above: Dorothy Good, the four year old, was released on bond; her mother, Sarah Good, was found guilty and executed on July 19, 1692; Sarah Osbourne died in custody; and, Tituba was never indicted.
O Christian Martyr Who for Truth could die
When all about thee Owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstition's sway,

Is breathing freer for thy sake today.
Words written by John Greenleaf Whittier and inscribed on a monument marking the grave of Rebecca Nurse, one of the condemned "witches" of Salem.

Wikipedia's Salem Witchcraft Trials Page
University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law Professor Douglas Linder's site: Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692
Salem Witch Museum

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tunnels under San Francisco's Chinatown???

I'm spending the summer touring for my new series, starting with the release of Secondhand Spirits on July 7.

But I'm also writing the fourth in the Art Lover's Mystery Series, Arsenic and Old Paint (due out in 2010 from Perseverance Press -- I think I'll even be doing the cover art for it myself!!!)

In Arsenic and Old Paint, Annie happens upon some tunnels that happen to be connected to an exclusive men-only club atop Nob Hill...were they once hooked up to Chinatown, and could they be hiding a terrible secret?

Most people say any tunnels under Chinatown in San Francisco are a product of overactive imaginations, though there are known tunnels in other cities like Portland, Oregon and Red Bluff, California.

But recently, I came across this fascinating clip concerning supposed tunnels under San Francisco's Chinatown. I was also treated to a tour of the Donaldina Cameron house, where there is an entrance to one of the tunnels used to hide girls and young women rescued from brothels and slavery.

Check it out!

Guesting, guesting, guesting...

When did "guesting" become a verb? As in "to guest"? My guess is around the same time as "to blog" became part of everyday parlance...

Anyway...I'm guesting on two different blogs this weekend! (Which explains, in part, why I haven't written a new post for my own Witchcraft blog!)

Please stop by Poe'sDeadlyDaughters to read a bit about haunted houses and world-building in Urban Fantasy....and drop on by MakeMineMystery to read about hopping vampires!

And on Wednesday, as always, I'll be blogging on PensFatales.
This week's topic is Summertime, and I'll be writing about a cabin in the woods, where I'm not, but I'd like to be....

Friday, June 26, 2009

more fun

My good friend, Pamela, is guest blogging at Pens Fatales, please check her out! We're still talking about characters and gearing up for next week's topic.

Um... still need to get my blog posts for this blog out of the drafts pile.

But, in other news, in lieu of a release party for Secondhand Spirits, I will be signing books on the release date (July 7, 2009) -- get your advance copy today! The signing will include Rhys Bowen and Ann Parker at M is for Mystery in San Mateo (California). Rhys and Ann are also releasing books this summer.

Details will be up at the Facebook fan page by Monday. Hope to see some of you there!

Did I mention that there is another review of Secondhand Spirits out there? Take a look.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Planning ... Isn't Doing

The promised blog posts are still drafts waiting to be finished and published... however, I have been blogging over at pensfatales and I was featured here.

Maybe three blogs, two facebook fan pages, guest blogging and two manuscripts due at the end of the summer is catching up with me.

The book tour is shaping up: SF Bay Area, Arizona, Southern California so far. You can find all the info here or over at the FB fan page.

More SOON!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oscar the Familiar

I believe I’ve mentioned, once or twice, that my neighbors’ black cat, Oscar, started hanging around me just as I started writing my Witchcraft mystery series. There are some who would claim that Oscar’s timing had more to do with the fact that my beloved mutt Sam died a few weeks before, rather than anything witch-related.
Still, I had never before known feline love. Oscar doesn’t take to just anyone, and though some of his love and devotion may have been rooted in the little bits of smoked ham I started feeding him, I choose to believe that he came into my life for a reason.
Interestingly, in the book Secondhand Spirits I had already named my character’s familiar Oscar. Now does that seem like a coincidence as well?
One major difference, though: Lily’s familiar in Secondhand Spirits is a goblin/gnome-like critter who transforms himself into a miniature pot-bellied pig.
Who ever heard of a piggy familiar?
Three witches riding a pig (The Witches of Northamptonshire 1612)

Pigs have been identified as powerful witches’ familiars throughout much of the world. Pigs are smart, live close to homes in traditional villages, and “go wild” easily even if raised in captivity.

Also, pigs “root” in the earth, turning over dirt, rocks and sod to find their treasures. According to Judika IllesElement Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, root-working is an ancient form of magic associated with great botanical knowledge:
The term “root-worker”…implies power and knowledge and a special relationship with Earth and her protective spirits…once upon a time, it was not considered safe to disturb the Earth, unless one knew proper rituals and had received permission to dig.
In Greek mythology, Circe lived on the island of Aeaea and was known for her knowledge of botanical potions. She was fond of transforming her enemies, or those who had offended her, into animals. Notably, she turned Odysseus’ men into swine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Part 2: Witches’ Familiars, Naguals, and Tonallis (Oh my!)

According to Dr. Jorge Klor de Alva, the Nagual is like an alter ego, some other entity that represents one’s being. This is usually but not always an animal of some sort. The Tonalli, on the other hand, refers to the animal associated with the day one is born, rather analogous to one’s astrological sign. This animal may or may not be associated with your Nagual. This spiritual link between human and animal is common to many cultures, and is often referred to as a totem.

The Nagual, then, can be an animal familiar that lives a parallel life to your own. In Rodolfo Anaya’s beautiful novel Bless Me, Ultima, the elderly curandera character named Ultima has an owl as her “guardian spirit” that was born at the same time, and who will die when she herself passes over.

Interestingly, the nagual is often a creature of the night: the owl, the toad, the coyote. Some believe that when one dreams, it means one’s nagual is traipsing about on adventures.

Things can take a sinister turn, however: some communities believe that powerful (and maleficent) practitioners of witchcraft can transform themselves at will into familiar animals or spirits and adopt forms such as donkey, turkey, or dogs.

Nahualism is linked with ancient pre-Columbian shamanistic practices through depictions of humans with animal features, found in the surviving art and books of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec peoples.
Emergencia del Nagual (the nahual coming out). Códice Nutall

In some parts of modern rural Mexico the position of the Nagual is an integrated part of society, as the local “witch doctor” or curandera. The community tolerates or fears and respects them, sometimes hiring their services in healing, spellcasting, or to remove curses from other naguals.

In other communities the accusation of nagualism may result in violent repercussions-- a modern example of the religious bigotry and hysteria that begat the witch-hunts of renaissance Europe. The 'nagual' is often considered synonymous with 'witch' or 'brujo', because they are thought capable of shapeshifting into animals at night. They are sometimes accused of sucking blood from innocent victims and livestock (see also Chupacabras), stealing and causing disease and disharmony.

[Dr. Jorge Klor de Alva is my ex-husband as I mentioned in yesterday's post!]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guest blogging on Killer Hobbies

Hi! I'm guest blogging today on Killer Hobbies (www.killerhobbies.blogspot.com) about what it takes for someone like me to develop a hobby!

Check it out, and while you're at it scroll through posts about all kinds of hobbies... from knitting to miniatures to murder.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Guest blogging on Killer Hobbies

I know I barely have enough time to post on THIS blog, but now I'm spreading myself around a little thinner...please check out my guest blog on www.killerhobbies.blogspot.com tomorrow, June 9. While you're there, scroll through the collection of posts by some clever handicrafters, who write about everything from knitting to miniature-making to murder and mayhem!

Witches’ Familiars, Naguals, and Tonallis (Oh my!)

A witch’s familiar is a companion animal thought to enhance and support a witch’s magical powers. Because animals are closer to other spiritual realms, they also assist witches to communicate with spirits on other planes. Or so it is said.

A black cat is the typical image that pops into one’s mind when discussing witches’ familiars. Oscar, my neighbor’s cat, came into my life around the same time as I started writing the Witchcraft series. Coincidence?

It has been pointed out that old women—those most likely to be accused of witchcraft—tend to be fond of cats and often live on their own with only feline companionship.

But cats aren’t the only candidates for witches’ familiars. Some of the common familiars are pigs, toads, owls, dogs, and even mythical creatures. Below: two witches and a familiar.

The concept of companion animals assisting their magical masters is not unique to Europe. In what is now Mexico and Central America, the concept of the Nagual or Nahual (both pronounced [na'wal]) remains powerful, as does the idea of an animal associated with one’s birthdate, called the Tonalli.

When in need of arcane information about Mesoamerican beliefs, I did what I always do: I dialed my ex-husband.

Find out what he said tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Burning Witches

1533 account of the execution of a witch charged with burning the town of Schiltach in 1531.

Burning witches ... or putting them on trial is not just a thing of the past.
This week, I am going to take a look at the historic witch trials in Salem, but let's take a look at what's going on right now. Here are some news items from last month.

From the Bay Area News Group on May 15, 2009. Two women were arrested for ritual sacrifice of chickens. Here is what one professor at Berkeley had to say about it:
"Rory Little, a San Rafael resident and law professor at the University of California, Hastings, said religious belief is usually not a defense for a "generally applicable crime," but that the issue gets more complicated based on the specifics of the case.

'It's a controversial area,' he said. 'It is not a simple question.'

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that animal sacrifice is a constitutionally protected religious freedom in a Florida case involving practitioners of Santeria, a blend of Catholicism and African and Caribbean faiths."
Read the whole article here.

From ABC News and Nightline on May 22, 2009. They visited the Congo where poor children are suspected of using witchcraft. Pastors are exploiting the villagers by taking money for exorcising the children. Unfortunately, the government is doing nothing to protect these children. See the video here.

When I went to search for that video, I found that it wasn't the first time in the past year that ABC News had covered the issue. For more witch burning, see this video about a young man who tried to burn his teacher who he accused of being a "witch" in Detroit last year.

Also, last March, in this video a woman was attacked in India after being accused of using witchcraft.

These are just a few modern day examples of witchcraft on trial. Tomorrow, we return to Salem for the infamous witch trials.