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essay/rant | April 2003

Abigail, Ann, Betty, Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, Susannah, Rebeccah, and (of course) Mercy.

Their names were popular in the seventeenth century, and are still popular in New England today.  They alone channeled God's wisdom.  With a cry, they could inflict death upon any person of their choosing.  Powerless little girls in a world of icy winds and menacing woods, they seized a terrible power over their parents and peers.

The townspeople of Salem depended on them.  What would they do without the holy little girls to point out evil?  How dark would their world be if they had to live in fear of curses from monsters pretending to be goodwives? 

And surely the accused realized that a sacrifice must be made for the health of Salem.  The lamb being led to the slaughter must be chosen out of all the rest.  Chosen by a farmer with an axe, or chosen by frightened, anguished little girls; chosen by people channeling the power of God.

Who cares what the lamb thinks?

The majority is always right.  That's what the God-fearing adults of Salem knew.  That's what we relearned during the Holocaust, when the little girls masqueraded as men with guns and used yellow badges in lieu of pointing fingers.  The southern region of the United States of America remembered the power of the Salem girls and harnessed it, claiming skin pigment as a marker of divinity. 

graveyard in New Hampshire, not far from Salem, Massachussetts.  Burials here took place roughly one century after the Salem witch trials; mostly veterans of the Revolutionary War, wives who died in childbirth, and children.

Photo ©2002 Larry Holdaway

Afterwards, when they realized that a terrible error had been made, they cried and wondered how their thoughts could have been so clouded.  Did they see how disappointed the little girls were?  Did they see them sigh sadly from the loss of power and attention?

Unfortunate girls.  They're only victims.  They're always in danger of dying from a witch's curse.  If anyone's mind was clouded during the Salem witch trials, the fault lies with the devil, not the poor little girls.  Satan was manipulating them.  I think.  Or maybe the girls were high on ergot, which had been baked into their bread.  Or maybe Tituba really had enchanted the girls with her exotic voodoo.  Or maybe every single one of those people they accused was a true, evil witch, appointed by Satan to torment Salem for its piety.

But the little girls are always innocent of blame.  It's a true miracle they've survived.

They're still among us, pointing their fingers and letting us know what evil has chosen them for a target.