Witches Today

Of course, Salem has become known as The Witch City! The Salem Witch Museum , the Witch Dungeon Museum and The Witch History Museum take you back in history to 1692, yet, present-day popularization of the witchcraft hysteria doesn't reveal anything about the large number of modern Witches living in Salem today.

The Salem Witch Village, where people can learn the facts about Witchcraft, is highly recommended by many members of the Salem Craft Community. The goal is to promote religious tolerance and participation in a positive society that encourages growth and acceptance of all its people.

Several Salem groups have been active, in recent years, in educating people about Witchcraft:

  • W.E.B., the Witches Education Bureau's current director is Ms. Teri Kalgren of Salem. W.E.B also has a branch in the NJ/Philadelphia area. If you are writing about school or academic projects, we're happy to provide information if you enclose a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope. For information, write to W.E.B., P.O. Box 872, Salem, MA 01970, phone 978-745-0065, or contact Teri@ArtemisiaBotanicals.com.
  • P.R.A.N.C.E., The Pagan Resource and Network Council of Educators, headed by Salem Witches, Tony and Marie Guerriero, founders of P.R.A.N.C.E., ordained in September 1997. For more information, write to P.R.A.N.C.E., Tony and Marie Guerriero, 25 Cross Street, Salem, MA 01970 or e-mail at prancesalem@aol.com.

P.R.A.N.C.E. was instrumental in the reconstruction of the Salem Witch Village and W.E.B. has been publicly proactive (along with members of P.R.A.N.C.E.) by hosting the "Witches' Hospitality Tent" every year on Salem Common during Salem's Haunted Happenings, giving Pagan/Wiccan tourists information on Salem and a warm welcome to the city.

P.R.A.N.C.E. is active in the community by hosting circles for Sabbats at the Salem Witch Village and continuing to work for local charities. Donations of food and money collected at their special events are donated to local charities such as H.A.W.C. (Home for Abused Women and Children), the Salem Mission, the Northeast Animal Shelter, My Brother's Table and The Pantry at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

The Witches' League for Public Awareness invites you to visit their web site to learn about this group founded in 1986 by Laurie Cabot (who was given the complimentary title of "The Official Witch of Salem, Mass." by former Gov. Michael Dukakis) as a "non-profit educational network dedicated to correcting misinformation about Witches" **. More information about the League's newsletter and activities can be obtained by sending e-mail to the Witches' League for Public Awareness, or writing to PO Box 8736, Salem, MA 01971-8736.

The Witches' Voice is an extensive and informative web site is devoted to correcting the misinformation about witches and witchcraft. It describes The Basics of Witchcraft and the Holidays of Witchcraft.

**Pamphlet, The Witches' League for Public Awarenes

Words About The Word "Witch"

From Salem Witch Museum Miscellany available at the Salem Witch Museum

There are several definitions or connotations of the word "witch", and it is important to understand the differences in usage when one visits Salem and becomes acquainted with the Salem witch trials. The following is a very brief explanatory note outlining the three most common uses of the word.

First, to understand the Salem witch trials, it is necessary to know the 17th-century definition of witchcraft. In England and New England at that time, it was believed that a malefic witch had made a pact with the devil, the Christian embodiment of evil. The pact would involve an exchange of a soul for special evil powers with which other mortals could be tormented. Victims of witchcraft would claim to see horrible visions, experience physical pain and exhibit bizarre and troubling behavior. The supposed perpetrator, labeled a witch, would be subject to arrest, trial, conviction and sentence. In 17th-century New England, under the English legal system, a person convicted of witchcraft was hanged. The Court of Oyer and Terminer convicted persons accused of witchcraft under the precedent of previous executions in England and New England.

The word witch has another important definition. Practitioners of the religion of Witchcraft or Wicca trace their beliefs to pre-Christian times. Theirs is a nature-based religion which pays homage to a Father God and Mother Goddess. They recognize no personification of evil and disassociate themselves entirely from the 17th-century definition of witchcraft.

Finally, the word witch conjures up another image - the stereotypical crone with pointed black hat, wart on her nose, flying with her black cat or familiar on a broom. This cartoon interpretation of the word reaches far back into Western civilization and is reinforced by movies such as "The Wizard of Oz". Scary/comic witch and cat symbols are used throughout our culture, and the interpretation is particulary prevalent at Halloween.

Clearly, it is important to understand that the word "witch" is complex and powerful. Used as an accusation of Satanic pact in the 17th century, it could result in death. Used as a religious title, it indicates a follower of an ancient pagan belief system, and lastly, used in the popular interpretation of the word, it conveys a range of images from the humorous Broomhilda in the comics to the dangerous and frightening "wicked Witch of the West" in the movies. Each meaning of the word is distinct from the others and needs to be used in its proper context.

From Salem Witch Museum Miscellany ©, available at the Salem Witch Museum