WootBot


quality posts: 15 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

The poet John Keats called autumn a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Let’s leave the “mellow fruitfulness” for November - October is all about the season of mists. We’ve asked Jeopardy! smart-aleck Ken Jennings to fact-check the spookiest Halloween lore he could dig up and fill us in on all these monstrous misconceptions.

Spooky Myth #2: Witches Were Burned at the Stake at Salem.

Before I get into this one, let me stipulate right up front that every Women’s Studies paper on the Salem witch trials was exactly right. The trials were a fascinating and tragic confluence of screwed-up religious, political, and sexual dynamics, and twenty people were executed for the stupidest of reasons.

But, despite what you think you remember from history class, none of the “witches” were burned at the stake. Burning witches was a common pastime in Europe beginning in the 15th century, claiming thousands of victims over the next three hundred years. But colonial America never burned its witches; hanging was in style by then. All of the executed Salem defendants were hanged, except for Giles Corey, an eighty-year-old man “pressed to death” under boulders, defiantly refusing to answer the bogus charges against him. Another five alleged witches died in prison.

The words “Salem” and “witch” are both misleading ways to refer to the hysteria, by the way. Though the most famous proceedings—the ones immortalized in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible—took place in Salem Town, three other surrounding villages held their own hearings as well. And not all the executed Satan-socializers were female witches. Giles Corey was one of six men executed, and even two dogs were marched to the scaffold as accomplices. I guess once you’ve started terrorizing women and old people, it’s just a short jump to puppies.

Quick Quiz: What politician released the famous “I am not a witch” video to her YouTube channel in 2010?

Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr member kellinahandbasket. Used under a Creative Commons License.

loatu


quality posts: 1 Private Messages loatu

That would be Christine O'Donnell

Mancho


quality posts: 4 Private Messages Mancho

Hard to believe this debunking when you say all were hanged except for Giles Corey, but then others died in jail. Also, you say Giles Corey was not hanged, then later state he was.

Jason Toon


quality posts: 19 Private Messages Jason Toon
Mancho wrote:Hard to believe this debunking when you say all were hanged except for Giles Corey, but then others died in jail. Also, you say Giles Corey was not hanged, then later state he was.



Good points, thanks - I clarified the language in the post.

ronzo66


quality posts: 0 Private Messages ronzo66

"And not all the executed Satan-socializers were female witches."

Actually, NONE of them were!

thepekarnas


quality posts: 0 Private Messages thepekarnas
Mancho wrote:Hard to believe this debunking when you say all were hanged except for Giles Corey, but then others died in jail. Also, you say Giles Corey was not hanged, then later state he was.



All of the executed Salem defendants were hanged, except for Giles Corey, an eighty-year-old man “pressed to death” under boulders, defiantly refusing to answer the bogus charges against him. Another five alleged witches died in prison.

If you're going to correct someone, make sure you have read thoroughly the information first.

He later stated that Giles Corey was executed, not hanged. Executed by being pressed to death.

scapsinger


quality posts: 22 Private Messages scapsinger
thepekarnas wrote:All of the executed Salem defendants were hanged, except for Giles Corey, an eighty-year-old man “pressed to death” under boulders, defiantly refusing to answer the bogus charges against him. Another five alleged witches died in prison.

If you're going to correct someone, make sure you have read thoroughly the information first.

He later stated that Giles Corey was executed, not hanged. Executed by being pressed to death.



Jason Toon already fixed the language in the post by the time you read it.

Apparently SOMEBODY woke up on the wrong side of the bed today....

wnysteel


quality posts: 1 Private Messages wnysteel

Shame on you. Witches are not "satan socializers". Wicca (what witches practice, many flavors of it, but generally revolving around earth and nature-based spirits) is completely different than satanism (the practice of worshipping satan). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.

Jason Toon


quality posts: 19 Private Messages Jason Toon
wnysteel wrote:Shame on you. Witches are not "satan socializers". Wicca (what witches practice, many flavors of it, but generally revolving around earth and nature-based spirits) is completely different than satanism (the practice of worshipping satan). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.



The women executed at Salem were allegedly consorting with Satan, according to their accusers. I think it's safe to say that Ken Jennings doesn't share that opinion.

llandar


quality posts: 32 Private Messages llandar
wnysteel wrote:Shame on you. Witches are not "satan socializers". Wicca (what witches practice, many flavors of it, but generally revolving around earth and nature-based spirits) is completely different than satanism (the practice of worshipping satan). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.



We thought it was a well-known fact that the deal-a-day community has long conspired to besmirch the image of Wiccans.

hookajoe


quality posts: 11 Private Messages hookajoe

And to think the whole mess could have been avoided if they had just thought to put the accused on a scale opposite a duck.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag
wnysteel wrote:Shame on you. Witches are not "satan socializers". Wicca (what witches practice, many flavors of it, but generally revolving around earth and nature-based spirits) is completely different than satanism (the practice of worshipping satan). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.



I can't help but suspect that a large fraction of accused witches might take serious offense at being characterized as nature-worshippers, given that they, by and large, went to various Christian churches.

While it may be true that Wiccans refer to themselves as witches, that's not what the rest of the world has ever meant by the term.

(And during the Inquisition, at least, worshipping anything but what or how the Pope said to worship would've been pretty much classified as Satanist, anyway.)

Shinespark


quality posts: 33 Private Messages Shinespark
wnysteel wrote:Shame on you. Witches are not "satan socializers". Wicca (what witches practice, many flavors of it, but generally revolving around earth and nature-based spirits) is completely different than satanism (the practice of worshipping satan). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.


Oh for god's sake, Wicca isn't even a century old. The definition of "witch" in said trials is using the Malleus Malefecarium as a guide.

Oh, and by the way, the most widespread flavors of Satanism do not "worship" or believe in the Christian "Satan" at all (or any god). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.

wnysteel


quality posts: 1 Private Messages wnysteel
Shinespark wrote:Oh for god's sake, Wicca isn't even a century old. The definition of "witch" in said trials is using the Malleus Malefecarium as a guide.

Oh, and by the way, the most widespread flavors of Satanism do not "worship" or believe in the Christian "Satan" at all (or any god). Thanks again for helping spread mis-information. Inexcusable.



my point is that Wicca and Satanism are two different religions. And that Wiccans do not worship Satan.