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review 2018-09-18 20:53
The Hysteria of Salem
The Witchcraft of Salem Village - Shirley Jackson

I took my time with this one since I found the whole thing so fascinating and also Jackson did a great job of including new information that I have not heard about before. She ends the book with a theory about the girls who started it all being afflicted by a fungus on a bread, but she doesn't seem to put much weight behind it and neither do I.


I think most Americans are familiar with the Puritans and also the witchcraft hysteria that gripped Salem Village in 1692. Jackson begins at the beginning with how the Puritans were fleeing religious persecution in England, but really were about conformity and insisting that there fellow brethren were not as religious as they were. She also touches upon the poverty in the village and how there was very few things for young girls and boys to do besides attend church meetings. Any schooling they received was only about religious texts. So Jackson sets a very nice stage for what happens next. 

A group of young girls starts accusing the women around them of witchcraft after one of them starts to have fits. Is it irony that the one girl and cousin who started accusing women were the daughter and niece of the local reverend? 


Betty Parris was 9, and her cousin Abigail Williams was 11. Betty's father Reverend Samuel Parris was all too ready to believe that his flock contained witches. Jackson goes on a bit that he was a fan of Cotton Mather. To me that's like being a fan of Stephen Miller. 


Eventually these girls were joined by Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard. The girls went around falling into fits when examined, saying that they were being pinched and or burned and would howl when coming across people. The scenes that Jackson describes boggle the mind. I would have been calling bullshit left and right. Then again, I would have totally been burned at the stake. 


Eventually the girls accused Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba (Reverend Parris's housekeeper). Jackson touches upon how the first three women accused were seen as outsiders by the villagers. Jackson is slightly damning of Tituba who confessed and went on to accuse other women.  Eventually other women were named such as Martha Corey and Sarah Good's young daughter (she was 5) Dorcas Good, and Rebecca Nurse.  


"Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard stood up in their places. One of them swore solemnly that Goodwife Nurse had come to her at night and sat upon her chest to suffocate her. The other pointed out that a black man stood, even now, whispering in Goodwife Nurse’s ear and that yellow birds were flying about her head."


I think what got me as a reader is that the girls accusations become more and more unbelievable and no one except a few people tried to push back on it. Some people flat out fled to other colonies than deal with the cries of witchcraft that went on. 


It is interesting to note that the afflicted girls in Salem Village cried out upon Robert Calef shortly after Mather’s visit. Calef’s answer, which reached them with all possible speed, was an announcement of a slander suit for a thousand pounds. The accusation against Calef was immediately withdrawn, and his name was not mentioned again in Salem Village.


There is some new information here about how the accusations spread to Andover and how the girls even eventually were brought there to identify witches. They ended up finding mostly everyone there to be witches. You think that would have caused everyone to go these girls are full of it.


In the end, things do not start to wind down until after the execution of 19 people on Gallows Hill and one person being pressed to death. Giles Corey's pressing seemed to be finally the end of the witchcraft accusations. His death shamed the community as a whole and they all finally woke up to the fact that they got played by young girls and some women who were out to cast aspersions onto their more well to do neighbors. The hysteria spread from Salem to Andover and they had jails full of people accused of witchcraft. I think Jackson mentions 150 people were jailed. 


Jackson cannot find out that much about what happened to some of the accused. We find out that Parris died in poverty (good riddance) after being chased out of the village. Many blamed him and his relatives for what happened. Jackson mentions that his house no longer stands and it's barren ground now. What started cause ripples through the whole community with Salem sliding more into poverty since many people gave up farming or seeing to their homes due to watching the newest accusation or trial. Many who were accused came out of prison and found their homes and belongings lost to them forever. 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts did not formally clear everyone accused of witchcraft until 1957. 


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text 2018-09-17 20:32
Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
The Witchcraft of Salem Village - Shirley Jackson

Ehh I am in a mood today. Let's read about how women and men were accused of being witches and too many people were happy to tear them apart.


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review 2018-08-24 18:45
THE BELL WITCH by John F.D. Taff, narrated by Matt Godfrey
The Bell Witch - Matt Godfrey,John F.D. Taff,John F.D. Taff

THE BELL WITCH was an entertaining historical fiction novel about America's most well known witch.


The tale itself was interesting enough, (I was familiar with the basics going in), but here the author fleshed everything out quite a bit more, and the moral angle played a bigger part. All of which worked perfectly.


What didn't work for me were the characters, (other than Betsy). I just didn't connect with them. Because of that I found my mind wandering a lot and at about 60% through, I was ready to abandon my listen. However, at that point a thing occurred that kept me listening on to the finish.


As mentioned above, I listened to this book on audio, narrated by the excellent Matt Godfrey and if I could rate his performance separately, I would give him 5 out of 5 stars.


The issues I had with this book are my own, and it seems that I'm the only one that had them, so as this review is a reflection of my opinion and mine only, I refer you to Mark's review here: Mark's review  or to Kimberly's review here: Kimberly's review.


They obviously read this book right!


Overall, THE BELL WITCH is a good story, it's just that I could not connect with the characters. YOU probably, can!


*I received the audio of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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text 2018-07-31 13:19
July Wrap-up
Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army - Edoardo Albert
Kitchen Witchcraft - Rachel Patterson
Haunted Castles of England - J.G. Montgomery
Ghost Boy - Stafford Betty
Llewellyn's Little Book of Life Between Lives - The Newton Institute
Woven in Wire - Sarah Thompson
Unnatural Creatures - Maria Dahvana Headley,Neil Gaiman
Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volume 2 - Jill Stansbury
Knitting Ganseys, Revised and Updated: Techniques and Patterns for Traditional Sweaters - Beth Brown-Reinsel

9 books this month, which is good for me. 6 of them were non-fiction which don't take as long (usually) and 8 of the 9 were from Netgalley.


I do have another 7 partial reads on the go which I hope to at least mostly finish by end of August and one more book from Netgalley that definitely won't fit into Halloween Bingo, so I'll start it next.


I have 5 books from Netgalley that I haven't started yet that just might fit a Halloween Bingo category, so I'll wait to see what they are before I start any of those! Unless I actually finish all of my current reads, in which case there is one less likely than the others.


I'm still working my way through the massive pile of samples. Hopefully choosing books for Bingo will lead to eliminating a few of those! There are a couple in my Horror folder that I hope to include in Bingo, not least of all the third book of the Jason Crane series. It's becoming a tradition to read one of these each year! Though I think this is the last of the series.


Of this month's books, the stand out was Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army, which I reviewed on my last post before this one. It earned a rare 5 star rating from me.


Two of the non-fiction books I read will remain among my reference books; Haunted Castles in England and Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals. The Jewellery and knitting books will also get some future mileage and hopefully I'll find time to try a few projects.


So not a bad month, but I definitely need some more good fiction reads in the upcoming months.

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review 2018-07-27 14:43
Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells and Charms
Kitchen Witchcraft - Rachel Patterson

by Rachel Patterson


It's refreshing to see a book of this nature start with warnings about allergies and toxicity when working with herbs or essential oils. This is so often missed out! It's the first book of a series that looks very interesting for beginners.


The tone is like one of those teenage witchcraft books, but there is some good information and from more modern paths included that you don't often see in Wicca/Witchcraft books, like a very basic explanation of sigil magic.


There were a few things I would disagree with, like being very specific when doing a spell to get a job. If you target just one application, you don't leave room for other opportunities to pop up out of nowhere! And some of the correspondences didn't sit quite right, though these will always bring disagreement. The lists looked more like examples and weren't extensive.


Overall I found it light on instruction. Someone wanting to construct a formal spell will have to look elsewhere for details, but there are a lot of books on the market for that. The one worrying thing is that although how to banish something from your life was mentioned, there was nothing about banishing residual energies after doing a spell.


What it was strong on was folk magic spells. There were a lot of examples for how to apply these to various purposes and a lot of definitions for forms of magic, if only partial information on how to do them. There was also a lot of "use your intuition" and plugs for the author's other books, as well as a story told about a candle flame gone wrong that could have been avoided by using a proper candle holder. This surprised me after the good advice at the beginning about toxicity safety.


Overall I think it would make a good first book for someone who wants to dip their toe into magic and see how it sits without getting into too much trouble. I'd still like to have seen more detailed information about how to clear unwanted energies, just in case.

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