Backlash

Let the Witch Hunt Begin

Editorial, Salem News, 8.23.2017 

As cities across the nation remove monuments dedicated to the Confederacy, it might be worth considering the removal of an offensive sculpture standing in the very heart of Salem: Samantha Stevens.

 

Since 2005, this whimsical sitcom witch has smiled atop a flying broomstick in Lappin Park, reminding visitors that Salem capitalizes on the myth of witchcraft despite the witch trials tragedy. While many are comfortable with this dysfunctional marriage of fact and fiction, I am not. 

No matter how fun the myth of witches may be (or how great the revenue), it should never be promoted alongside the grim reality of 1692. Imagine, for instance, if the hometown of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy (known as the "clown killer") erected a statue of Bozo the Clown and re-branded itself as "Clown City USA". Surely the victims of murder deserve an eternal rest without being woken by a laugh track.  

Bewitched may have been an amusing show, but when a statue of the main actress is placed in the context of Salem's history, it trivializes the deaths of 20 innocent people. 

It's time for Samantha to fly back to her true home of Westport, CT, where the show actually took place. Removing the sculpture from Salem would also remove any offensive connotations attached to it. There, the statue could be enjoyed simply as a public monument to a TV sitcom character: another debate altogether.  

To sign the petition, please visit www.ropesend.org

-Andrew Carr, Salem

COMMENTS

This is in response to Andrew Carr’s letter to the editor of the Salem News.  Mr. Carr compared Confederate Soldiers to the statue of Samantha Stevens, a fictional character in the television series, Bewitched.  He goes even further and compares it to having a statue of a clown and calling the city Clown City, referencing the “clown killer” John Wayne Gacy.

These statements are politically tone deaf and insanely offensive.  The Samantha Statue does not trivialize the Salem Witch Trials.  However, Mr. Carr is trivializing slavery by comparing the statue of Samantha to statues of Confederate “Heroes” which have become symbols to which racists cling onto in an effort to promote their stances, advocating for genocide and attempting to validate their beliefs of racial superiority.  He is also conflating the victims of tragedy with one of the worst serial killers in history, John Wayne Gacy.

Mr. Carr has no genuine interest in honoring the memory of the witch trial victims.  His aim has consistently been on the religious discrimination of Pagans and witches under the guise of honoring the memory of the victims of the Witch trials.  One need only to speak to the witches of Salem and the metaphysical shop owners to know that they are clear about the fact that those accused in the Salem Witch Trials were not witches, but rather the victims of the paranoid religious persecution at the hands of zealots.

So, what is the significance of witches flocking to Salem and metaphorically and literally setting up shop here? The Salem Witch Trials represent a time in US history where people have been killed under the accusation: the witch. Imagine if there was a period in US history where a religion such as Buddhism was under so much attack and vilification that people were falsely accused of Buddhism and executed for it based on their perception of what Buddhism was. A campaign would then be created to restore public relations with the Buddhist community to educate people about what Buddhism really is, while honoring the memory of those who died falsely under the accusations of Buddhism. That is precisely what has happened with Salem.

During a recent period of Satanic Panic in the United States only 40 years ago, where witches were conflated with “Satan Worshippers” who sacrificed animals and babies, we started seeing the re-emergence of the line of thinking that sparked the Salem Witch Trials.  One woman, who took up residence, saw Salem as a symbol for what was happening in the United States; a literal witch hunt based on false information and hysteria.  This woman is Laurie Cabot, a revered elder in our community, who has spent the remainder of her life working towards educating people on the real beliefs and practices of the religion of Witchcraft. In an act of reclamation and transmutation, she single-handedly turned Salem into a “Mecca” for educating the public about the truth of witchcraft and to restore public relations to ensure that no one dies under the accusation of witchcraft in the United States again.

When we see the statue of Samantha, as witches, we are not seeing a green hag in league with Satan. What we are seeing is a strong, beautiful, friendly, confident, and positive example of the archetype of the witch. The Samantha statue is a strong reclamation of the stereotypes perpetuated so strongly by those faiths in the past that vilified the image of the witch and the witch’s beliefs and history. While it may seem irreverent or superficial to make Salem into a “Witch City” on the surface to outsiders, the modern witches of Salem are not only educating the public about what witchcraft is and isn’t, but it’s also bringing awareness to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials in a manner that would be impossible by other means.

Bewitched, while fictional, represents one of the very first positive portrayals in the United States of the witch archetype. That is important. While Mr. Carr may not understand how important it is to show the world that we aren’t demonic Satan-worshipping evil-doers, it is of great importance. It is the first and primary defense to ensure that no one in the United States ever dies under an incorrect vilification of witchcraft. It is the most important act of preventing another Salem Witch Trials again. As witches, we take those dying in our name very seriously. - Mat Auryn

Well said, Mat! - Case Hardened

Is this the same Carr who has been whining and griping about 107 Federal St. all these years ? I'm just tired of listing the amazing achievments of a Civil Rights Pioneer: Actress Elizabeth Montgomery. So I won't waste my time. And I'm tired of The Salem Evening News publishing this worn rant from the same malcontent. So instead I'll just speak for hundreds of thousands of fans across this great country and the world. Something is seriously amiss in your head brother. - Case Hardened

It's a darn good thing Reverend Samuel Parris has no statue (that I know of).

He actually OWNED A SLAVE : Tituba.

If there was a statue Salem (or Danvers) would be hosting BLM and ANTIFA - and they are not pleasant guests.- - Case Hardened

If Mr. Carr were looking to make a successful comparison between witchcraft and the Confederacy, he might have suggested erecting a statue of Thomas Putnam or one of his kin, who were instrumental in conflating the witchcraft accusations and leading to the imprisonment and deaths of many people in Salem. As a distant relative of Mr. Putnam I am saddened and ashamed of what transpired 325 years ago. A statue of a famous benign TV character is not harmful or insulting. It is a light hearted way to pay homage to the legacy of Salem's history.- Janine Putnam

It is sad that a statue of a tv character sits in this prominent and historic location, re-victimizing the victims of 1692 and displacing our city's real heroes---statesmen, soldiers, abolitionists, activists, artists, inventors, inventors, philanthropists, etc....but none of these figures can rake in cash like Samantha.

-Donna Amelia Vinson Seger

You really don't know anything about Elizabeth Montgomery, do you ? -Case Hardened

The statue is of a tv character, bought and paid for by TV Land to promote their network. I doubt that Elizabeth Montgomery, as lovely as she obviously was, rode around on a cloud. -Donna Amelia Vinson Seger

You are obviously an intelligent person, that I am certain were you to take off your blinders, you would find both Elizabeth Montgomery, AND her chosen character - Samantha, as admirable and perhaps even reflective of your own views and concerns.

I have no doubt Elizabeth Montgomery the person would have spoken out against injustice in 1692, had she been here at the time. And her character, Samantha, DID just that ! 

Perhaps you have never watched "Sisters at Heart", an episode from 1970 that skewers Racism, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters_at_Heart

Or perhaps you find Elizabeth and Samantha's efforts trivial, because the issues they both fought for are now largely moot. Both Racism and Discrimination against Gays still exist, of course, but both have been marginalized. It was not so in 1970.

Both Elizabeth Montgomery and her chosen persona of Samantha the Witch, are worthy of our respect and gratitude.- Case Hardened

I really can't speak to what a tv character--or an actress--might have said in 1692. You are very sincere in your convictions, and I would never accuse you of wearing blinders as I do not know you. However, I still don't understand what Samantha or Elizabeth has to do with Salem, and I still believe that that statue dishonors the victims of 1692 by turning their tragedy into entertainment. I don't think we're going to come to a meeting of the minds on this statue. - Donna Amelia Vinson Seger

After looking into this ... I personally think the best thing for Salem is to remove Mr.Carr. - Milani Hodgson

Andrew Carr is wrong to ask for the Samantha statue to be removed. I love her and I hope she never goes away. Samantha celebrates the mythical Witch just as the Witches who live in Salem now celebrate the spiritual traditions of the Craft. Both have their place and, yes, they have them in Salem. Mr. Carr, sort of but not really famous for raising $20 on GoFundMe to stage a Witch hanging re-enactment in Salem as a way to insult what he perceives as the commercialization of the trials. Apparently, he now has a petition and crowdfunding campaign for the statue with 12 signatures at last count (excluding the two duplicates from the woman who signed thrice).

 

What Mr. Carr fails to understand is that the overculture (both Christianity and many Pagan states who came before it) created the harmful stereotypes of the Witch as evil, hateful hags bent on the destruction of all good people. This culminated in the incorrect definition of Witchcraft used by those who led the trials. It's not about whether or not the people accused were Witches. It's about the fact that they weren't accused of Witchcraft at all, but of diabolism. What better place to correct the wrongful definitions of Witch perpetrated onto society than Salem itself? Salme is more associated with Witches than any other place on earth and so it is the perfect platform to educate and, yes, for Witches to work here as well, since showing the world that we are contributing to society goes a long way towards making people realize that we aren't trying to take away from it.

 

Yes, it was a tragedy that happened in 1692—when 20 people were executed, but those deaths would not have happened without the many centuries of propaganda against us and so by Witches standing there today, we send a statement not only that these persecutions can never happen again, but that the myth of the evil Witch that they were based on was always false.

 

And while Samantha may not be that accurate a stereotype of the Witch either—and there are even Witches who don't like her, I see her as a shining example of the goodness that real Witches aspire to, and sometimes the mischief as well. I think she reminds us that not all the images of the Witch are negative and evil. And who wouldn't want to be able to twitch their nose and get the housework done? I say we keep her. :) - Christian Day

Theres no perfect place for samanthas statue then salem ...she spoke for everhone she stuck up for the underdog. the different ...- David V