Saturday, April 29, 2006


Witch Trials

My second spread in the book focuses on witch trials. I didn't focus on a specific era of the witchcraze, instead creating a general spread which would allow one of my fellow artists to build upon what I'd done by creating their own spreads (if they wished) before or after mine. For the background of the page on the left I used a facsimile of a petition written by women (and 3 or 4 men) who were being held pending trial for witchcraft in the Massachusetts Colony. They outlined the conditions in the jail and requested that, after being held for months without trial, they be granted bail so that they would not die from exposure during the cold winter. Superimposed over the petition is a woodblock carving from the same era showing the hanging of condemned witches. In the upper left corner of the spread is a copy of an engraving by Albrecht Dürer of a witch riding backward on a goat.

On the right side of the spread is an1800s illustration of a witch on a broomstick which is really what we think of in the modern era when someone uses the word "witch." The spread didn't photograph very well as the pages were coated with gloss medium after I finished the collage and it reflected quite a bit more than I would have liked.

I was trying, in the spread, to contrast the reality of the witchcraze, the imprisonment and harsh conditions of the trials, with the ridiculous beliefs about witches of the era and the long-reaching stereotypes that have persisted into the modern era, when most people claim not to believe in witches.

The witchcraze seemed like an important thing to include in a book about women because the majority of those accused of witchcraft were women. In most cases, they were older women of moderate means with no living husband/protector. Their property was taken to pay for the trial and the costs of imprisoning them. In many cases, the neighbor who accused them benefited by acquiring their land.

Even today, more than 300 years since the end of the Witchcraze in the United States, the word "witch" is an insult hurled at women.

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