Friday, November 14, 2008

The missed salon

Somehow I missed the fact that Kate Harding at blogged about my Chicago Tribune op-ed on witchcraft, also discussing Starhawk's piece in the Washington Post. Here's a link to the Salon piece.

I appreciated Kate's piece--and I enjoyed looking through the various comments to her post. Unfortunately, I'm so late to the game that no more comments are permitted. That's a shame because I'd like to clear up one bit of misinformation left by a commenter.

Very quickly, my op-ed talks about my ancestor Mary Bliss Parsons, who was accused of witchcraft, and how I view the playful Halloween decorations a little differently now, thinking of her own potential execution (she was acquitted). The commenter incorrectly stated that Mary was not immune to accusations herself, that she in fact accused her own husband of witchcraft.

There were, believe it or not, two different Mary Parsonses of Springfield, Massachusetts, both accused of witchcraft within a few years of each other. That's why I am always careful to state that my ancestor is Mary BLISS Parsons--the other is Mary Lewis Parsons.

The two Mary Parsonses knew of each other... in fact, as Mary Lewis Parsons caused the minister's children to suffer fits in church, somehow Mary Bliss Parsons also spasmed although she was an adult, and not connected to the minister. This is, in fact, one of the first things that began to cause suspicion against my ancestor.

Mary Lewis Parsons was found guilty and condemned to be hanged--but her execution was delayed due to her sickness and it's believed she died in prison. Her husband was also found guilty, but he was released after his wife's confession and acquitted in 1652.

It was a few years later, in 1656, that Mary Bliss Parsons first went to court for a slander trial against the neighbor who most stridently called her a witch. She won! (Actually, her husband won; he filed the suit on her behalf). But 18 years later, she found herself a defendant, when that strident neighbor's daughter died--supposedly as a result of her witchery. Once again, she prevailed and was acquitted.

Later, I'll post more about Mary Lewis Parsons. Her story is absolutely horrifying, for many reasons. She did accuse another woman of witchcraft, and indeed her own husband. But she is not the one I wrote about and that I am related to. This is all very confusing, and I will freely admit that when I first began learning about my ancestor, I too was momentarily misled by the two women's similar names.

. . . . .

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