Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Clearing Connecticut's "Witches"

When most people think of witchcraft trials in the Americas they think of the well-known trials that happened in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690's. However, similar trials happened all over New England during the seventeenth century. In Connecticut, 46 people were prosecuted and 11 were executed during a series of trials that began in 1647. For the last seven years a group of their descendants have been working to convince state officials to denounce the trials and clear the names of those accused.

"They were wrongly accused. It’s a justice issue," said Debra Lynne of New Milford, who says her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Sanford, was hanged for witchcraft in Hartford in 1662.

The first person executed in the New World for witchcraft was Alice Young of Windsor, Conn., who was hanged in Hartford in 1647, according to several books on the trials. The last executions were in 1662.

Many historians believe fear was a major driver of Connecticut’s witch trials, according to the state report. Deeply religious colonists who endured years of fighting with Native Americans, floods and sickness may have been looking for someone to blame for their hardships, the report said.

Officials in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Hampshire have already denounced the trials conducted in their states, and Salem has turned its witch trial history into a Halloween-themed tourist trap that I've described a number of times on this blog as "the clown shoes of magick." I fully expect the Connecticut defendants to eventually be cleared, and when that happens I hope the state can manage to avoid Salem's sad fate. Even if it does not, though, the families of the accused nonetheless deserve some closure. After all, they've already waited over 350 years.

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