Witches In New Hampshire Through History And Today

Oct 28, 2019

You've heard of the Salem Witches, but New Hampshire has its own history of witch trials, and NHPR's Second Greatest Show On Earth looks at these witch trials, as well as the portrayal of witches throughout history and what a modern witch looks like today, as part of their 3-part series with New Hampshire Humanities. We talk about the witches of New Hampshire, past and present. 

Listen to part 1 of Second Greatest Show's series, "The Real Witches of New Hampshire." Part 2 airs on Wednesday, October 30th. Find a reading list for the series here

Original air date: Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

GUESTS:

  • Justine Paradis - Producer and reporter for NHPR's Second Greatest Show On Earth, which produced "The Real Witches of New Hampshire" in partnership with NH Humanities.
  • Tricia Peone - Public Programs Manager at New Hampshire Humanities. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire in early American history with a specialization in the history of science. Her scholarship examines the ways that people interpreted their experiences with unexplained or unusual phenomena in the early modern period. Dr. Peone is an expert in early modern witchcraft cases and the history of magic and the occult from the renaissance to today. She develops and coordinates statewide public humanities programming including Humanities to Go, Ideas on Tap, and the Past Lives podcast
  • Knate Higgins - Program manager of 3S Artspace in Portsmouth and this year’s Grand Marshall of the Portsmouth Halloween Parade, which is in its 25th year. He is a drag queen and performs as Bunny Wonderland. He is also a modern occultist and chaos magician.

Transcript

This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors. 

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio. I'm Peter Biello in for Laura Knoy. And this is The Exchange.

Visiting the site of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts may seem like a rite of passage if you grew up in New Hampshire, but the Granite State has its own history with witch trials and a robust community of modern witches today. This is what NHPR's Second Greatest Show on Earth explored in a partnership with New Hampshire Humanities. How did we get from the historical definition of a witch to modern practicing witches? And what did they have in common? What does it mean to identify as a witch? Now listeners, do you identify as a witch? How do you explain this to other people? And what do you wish people understood about you? What are some common misconceptions? .

Peter Biello:
And joining us today to talk about this, Justine Paradis, producer and reporter for NHPR's Second Greatest Show on Earth, which produced "The Real Witches of New Hampshire" in partnership with New Hampshire Humanities. And Dr. Tricia Peone, public programs manager at New Hampshire Humanities and historian of American history with a focus on the history of science. And she is an expert in early modern witchcraft cases and the history of magic in the occult. And she co-reported "The Real Witches of New Hampshire". Thank you, both of you, for joining us today. So, Justine. We'll start with you. Your series, Real Witches of New Hampshire, started with A single question, who are "The Real Witches of New Hampshire"? How did you end up deciding to answer that question?

Justine Paradis:
Sure. Well actually Tricia had come to us sort of pitching this idea that we should we should do a series on witchcraft.

And we had thought a little bit about, you know, we knew that there were people practicing magic and there were modern witches in New Hampshire, as there are across the nation. And we also knew that there are witch trials outside of Salem, essentially, and that what would it be like if we were to both try to understand a little bit more about why the witch trials happened, why it got so bad in Salem, and what witchcraft really meant? Sorry what witch trials really meantwhat they were about? By looking at witch trials outside of Salem. So we looked at a couple cases in the case of Eunice Cole and the case of Jane Walford, both in the sixteen hundreds, they were actually both on trial in 1656 in the same year on the south coast of New Hampshire. And we started off that way.

Peter Biello:
So the historical witch, which we hear about in the sixteen hundreds, the one that was prosecuted, those two that you just mentioned, we read about them in stories like The Crucible, Tricia, who is the sort of archetype, the model of the witch in the sixteen hundreds that was a target of these original witch hunts.

Tricia Peone:
Statistically it's usually a woman. So about 80 to 90 percent of the time, it's a woman who's accused of witchcraft in the sixteen hundreds. There's kind of a lot of diversity, though, in the witches that were accused both in New Hampshire and in the rest of New England in the 17th century. But most of them were older women. A few men were accused. Actually, if you were accused in New Hampshire, even three men who are accused of being which is in Portsmouth in the mid-60s, hundreds. But typically it's someone who's kind of a marginal or a liminal figure or someone who's a little bit on the outside of society for some reason or another. Often a woman who is considered to be disagreeable, she's likely to be accused of witchcraft and people who maybe were quarrelsome or got into fights with their neighbors. They were also likely to be accused of witchcraft.

Peter Biello:
So. And were the men accused of the exact same kind of behavior is that will get them in trouble?

Tricia Peone:
There's a couple of historians who've studied this gender relationship. And what they would say is that when men are accused of witchcraft, it's most likely because they're related to a woman who's been accused of witchcraft. So when a man's accused usually has a familial relationship to a woman accused of witchcraft.

Peter Biello:
So what was going on at the time that fueled this fear of witchcraft? Was it just flat out sexism? Or was it something else, Tricia?

Tricia Peone:
It's pretty complicated. There's a lot going on. Usually there's usually a lot more going on than meets the eye. And when you read through these records, records of witch trials, you often see that there has been decades of sentiment kind of brewing against someone. So these are often arguments that go back for years over cattle, maybe over a land dispute. So you've got a lot of relationships about power. There's often religious disagreements. So it's a pretty complicated issue to understand. Complicated.

Peter Biello:
Justine?

Justine Paradis:
Sure, Well, we also spoke to the historian Emerson Baker, who wrote a book called The Devil of Great Island about witchcraft on the Seacoast. And one thing, when we asked him this question, what our witch trials about, he said, you know, you like Tricia said, there's any number of conditions. But really, witchcraft and witch trials and witch accusations in the sixteen hundreds are a symptom of cultural change. It's a symptom of stress.

Justine Paradis:
And so someone might - You might know that someone's a witch in your community for many, many years. But in a moment of let's say that the French Indian wars of so many ice ages, they a period of poor weather and poor crops as they had around 1692 in Salem. All of these things might come together to produce a kind of anxiety that might lead to somebody actually being accused in standing trial.

Peter Biello:
So a variety of things having nothing to do with witches in themselves. Added stress to the the community, to the society at that time. And this was an outlet in a way for that kind of stress. Tricia?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. Exactly. That's right. So is Justine says people might think someone's a witch in their community for many years without taking action. But you need a specific kind of formula of a crisis in a community. Some tension, some warfare, some additional stressors on people that are going to make them want to bring that person to trial and then potentially execute them.

Peter Biello:
And it seems like the criteria for deciding who is a witch is extremely broad. Right. That they could basically pull on anything to say, oh, you did X so you're witch.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. And there's there's guidebooks people would follow manuals, legal handbooks to try to understand the signs of witches. And so these were these were publications that the justices of the peace would have that ministers would have to help them identify the signs of of a witch. And it's almost a scientific kind of methodology for trying to eliminate other causes before they settle on, OK. This person is definitely a witch because she exhibits these signs or symptoms.

Peter Biello:
Justine?

Justine Paradis:
Right and some of them, as Tricia was, was sharing some of them with me. They really just sound like signs of aging, like, for instance, the Mark of the Witch, which you might be exhibited after you make this pact with the devil, because the definition of a historical witches is a pact with the devil. It's sort of a Christian definition. And so it might be a mole. It might be what you now know is a skin tag or just kind of an unusual mark on the body. But I would say that you probably could find an unusual mark on almost anyone's body. So if you were, if you wanted to find out that someone was a witch, you probably could.

Peter Biello:
And also, you mentioned in the podcast Cats.

Justine Paradis:
Yes.

Peter Biello:
Which is not necessarily a sign of aging.

Tricia Peone:
Suspicious cats.

Justine Paradis:
No, not necessarily.

Peter Biello:
You could have a cat at any age, but the cats have been heavily associated with witchcraft back then. I mean, even now like that continues today in Halloween decorations.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. That's right. That's one of the really interesting things is some of the ideas we have or the pop culture which that we see today. Right. Are associated with cats. But if you look in the historical records, cats are often associated with witches is going back for centuries.

Justine Paradis:
The reason for that, though, too, is that the devil, once you make your pact with the devil, he gives you an animal familiar, which is sort of a demon in animal form. And most often, as Tricia told me, it was cats.

Peter Biello:
Most often cats, but not always cats.

Justine Paradis:
Not always no.

Peter Biello:
We should not slander cats here.

Tricia Peone:
We shouldn't, they're great.

Peter Biello:
Listeners. We're speaking today about witchcraft, what it is, who practices it. And, of course, the history of actual literal witch hunts, which has been drawn on by popular culture. Right now, we're talking about the witch trials of the 17th century and what has happened in New Hampshire. What do you want to know about the witch trials? And I hesitate to say Salem witch trials because they were happening all over New England in New Hampshire as well.I want to play a little bit from the program where Eunice Cole's sort of, I guess, rap sheet, was described in detail. The things that she allegedly did that made people feel like something wasn't right with Eunice Cole.

Sound:
She got into arguments with her neighbors quite often about property, boundary lines and roaming livestock. Eunice is charged with slander in 16 45. And then she and her husband are charged with stealing pigs two years later, commonly in these arguments. She would curse them. You know, she bit a constable in the pig dispute. And so people started to look at her saying, OK, you know, what's going on with this person? So, you know, school is in and out of court. But in the 1650s, something changed.

Sound:
The people started throwing more accusations towards her.

Peter Biello:
More and more accusations. Biting a constable, not a good look. No, no matter who you are. Tell us more about Eunice Cole, Justine.

Justine Paradis:
Sure. Well, she and her husband came over from England, I think it was in the 16 30s, and they actually were in debt from their passage when they arrived. So already they're kind of starting off with with some liability. And they end up, they pass through Exeter, and they end up in Hampton. And it is kind of her husband is a lot quite a bit older. So Eunice is sort of having to manage the affairs of of her property.

Justine Paradis:
And I am under the impression that her property was sort of a desirable one. So this is also something that. Historians have noticed that there's a pattern of accusations against women who were might have some property by people who might have the ability to either buy or sort of take the property from them. So there's there's this element to which accusations as well. But essentially, she seems like she was just a very disagreeable person and would often, if there was any kind of like livestock or property dispute, she was the one managing that. And that sounds like a woman with with a mouth. You know, not not a good look in the sixteen hundreds either.

Peter Biello:
So. And Tricia, I mean, I can't imagine that that, you know, these were the only people who are disagreeable in some way were the ones who were accused of witchcraft. Because I'm sure there were a lot more people who were disagreeable, but not accused. So what was it about someone other than being disagreeable that would make them be accused? Like, is there something? Another factor? Is it the debt, for example, that that just you mentioned the women who who are in debt?

Tricia Peone:
Well, the disagreements take on kind of a new dimension, which is that people noticed that after a disagreement with her, something bad happens to them. So, for example, one of her neighbors is letting his cattle like graze in her yard. And she says, if you let your cattle grazing my yard, your cattle are going to choke to death on the grass and they'll die. And then his cattle become sick. Right. So they start to notice these kinds of things, illnesses. She was blamed for some local deaths. So it's partly that the fact that she's disagreeable, but then it kind of goes to another level when there's a sickness, an unexpected illness, cattle or livestock become sick. She's also accused of enchanting someone's oven so that they couldn't bake bread. Right. So these kinds of misfortunes start to add up just to.

Justine Paradis:
Oh, just I wanted to add this. This also just speaks back to, you know, when there's tension or stress in the community, if there were children dying, then they might know about Eunice Coal for a while, for instance. But but it's when more misfortunes begin to happen, there's more stress that she actually gets accused.

Tricia Peone:
Exactly.

Peter Biello:
And there was another woman that you described in the podcast. Her name is Jane Walford. She was accused of witchcraft. What happened there, Justine?

Justine Paradis:
Sure. Well, actually, Tricia might be able to speak on this a little bit.

Peter Biello:
Let's let's hear from you on Jane Wolfert.

Tricia Peone:
So Jane Walford is a pretty interesting case and she's really a unique New Hampshire, which, well, not literally a witch, but accused of being a witch. So Jane Wolfert is accused by her neighbors of witchcraft and she's countersues. So her neighbors are calling her, which they're gossiping about her and she takes them to court.

Peter Biello:
Was she's the only one who ever did that, countersuit? To your knowledge?

Tricia Peone:
She's not the only person who ever does it. Exactly. Because usually it's someone's like usually your husband would do it on your behalf. So there's other cases in New England. There's a case of a man accused of witchcraft who sues for slander and wins. And there's other cases where women are accused and their husband sues on their behalf. But Jane, who was on her own, and she does it twice. So that is pretty significant. That's that's quite unique.

Peter Biello:
How did she manage to do that when other women cannot or did not?

Tricia Peone:
She had a little bit more standing in the community. Her initial cases against another woman and she wins for slander. But her second case and this is the one I really want to dig into further. I think there's a lot more that we could potentially discover about this case. The second case, she sues. She's been widowed by this point. So her husband's no longer alive. And a physician, a doctor from Boston accuses her of witchcraft and she sues him. So this is a, you know, a woman suing not only a man, but a doctor, someone a professional. And from Boston, which is certainly a little bit more exciting than Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at that time. And she wins against him, too, and she wins monetary damages.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. So it seems like there is an economic element here where that if you are well-off, you have a better chance of surviving an accusation of witchcraft.

Tricia Peone:
For the most part. Yeah, that's true.

Peter Biello:
Wow. And so she was she made out OK. But overall, how many people were executed as a result of the witch trials?

Tricia Peone:
No one was executed for witchcraft in New Hampshire,.

Peter Biello:
In New Hampshire. But overall, there were there were some people in Massachusetts who were executed?

Tricia Peone:
In Massachusetts and Connecticut. There were executions. Yeah.

Justine Paradis:
But over the long history in Europe.

Justine Paradis:
You know, thousands of thousands. Well, what would you say?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, thousands in Europe.

Peter Biello:
That is not an element we hear a lot about, in Europe, So was that going on along the same time period or?

Tricia Peone:
Well, when the Salem witch trials happened at the end of the 17th century, that's kind of the end of the period of witch hunting in Europe. So the witch trials in Europe start at the end of the fourteen hundreds and they're kind of over by the time Salem happens for the most part. But yet throughout Western Europe, there were trials for witchcraft in which tens of thousands of people were were executed for that crime.

Peter Biello:
We're getting comments from our listeners and it's great to get these comments. Susan wrote into with with the caution. She says, Please be careful of language. Using the term accused witches indicates that the person who. Was accused, was actually a witch. It is more accurate and respectful to the memories of those who were unjustly executed to use the term people who were accused of being witches. So we yeah, we definitely want to be careful about not labeling someone as a witch in any possible way if they, you know, were accused and they denied it right there. These people, for the most part, denied that they were witches. Yes. Yeah. And also, Michael wrote in to say, rather, to ask maybe you know the answer. Was Eunice involved in her church unit call? Do you know Tricia?

Tricia Peone:
I think .... That she didn't attend regularly. Right. Was that right?

Justine Paradis:
They were. They were pretty pious. That's why they came over. Right? That was one of the reasons they were following. What would you say, Tricia?

Tricia Peone:
Religion could have been a motivator for them in coming to the new world. But it may not have been. It could have just been for economic reasons that they that they arrived in New England. But they did initially settle in Exeter, which indicates that they may have been followers of John Wheelwright, who kind of branched off as he was kind of a dissenter from the Puritans in Boston.

Peter Biello:
I see. But regular church going. That would have been a point in the defense. I'm not a witch. I go to church all the time.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. But if you look at the Salem records, most of those most the people actually who were executed during the Salem witch trials were regular churchgoers. And unfortunately, at that time, it didn't help.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. And I imagine. Would it have been rare in those days for someone to not be a member of their church?

Tricia Peone:
Well, they had different levels of church membership in the 17th century, but it was it actually would have been illegal for you to not go to church in Puritan Massachusetts. Not in New Hampshire, but in Massachusetts.

Peter Biello:
Ok. So we describe the period of these intense witch trials as a symptom of, you know, cultural stress, a variety of other things. Nothing not having to do with witches. Wind did it. And when did this period end? And is there a reason why it ended?

Justine Paradis:
Well, this - One thing that we discovered during our reporting was that out of Hampton, in addition to Eunice Cole, there were two other women who were accused and brought to trial. Isabel Towel and Rebecca, I'm trying to remember that her other name... Rebecca Fuller, and they were they were actually brought all the way to the Dover court in the Dover court essentially said this is ridiculous, this kind of evidence that you're bringing forth. And the church is the most or the excuse me, the court is the most flammable for this. So they were essentially saying, don't waste our time. This is before Salem. And so one of the things that was allowed in Salem was spectral evidence. So essentially testimony from the idea that which could send her spirit or her familiar.. forth outside of her body, which means that. The you of the holds are off. You know, you could have someone visit you in a dream and that could be brought against you. So would you say that these are sort of the last cases, Tricia?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. Yeah. The sixteen eighties, certainly. And in New Hampshire are the last trials. And after Salem after 1693, when they finally kind of everyone's been released from jail because so many people have been executed, they executed 19 people for witchcraft in Salem. That really kind of pauses, puts a big pause on this idea of bringing people to trial for witchcraft. And so things kind of die down. There's actually there is another witch hunt that happens in Connecticut after Salem. But for the most part, that's kind of the end of this period of bringing people to trial and executing them for witchcraft in New England.

Justine Paradis:
Yeah. And one of the things that we we spoke to we spoke to Rachel Christ, who's the director of education at the Salem Witch Museum. And she pointed to, you know, you can't really draw a direct line at let's not cause and effect necessarily. But she looks you look at the Bill of Rights and at our Constitution and the legal system that we set up, the fact you have the right to not have cruel and use an unusual punishment.

Justine Paradis:
For instance, a lot of the legal problems or the legal structures that happened in the witch trials. Our Constitution then addresses at least.

Peter Biello:
Meaning that the the writers of the Constitution look back on the witch trials and said, well, maybe we shouldn't be crushing people to death. Like that's the kind of thing that they were thinking of.

Tricia Peone:
Well, it's just more of an example of an episode where the legal system fails people essentially. Right. You didn't have you were not innocent until proven guilty. You didn't have the right to confront your accusers. You couldn't plead the Fifth. You couldn't you know, you didn't have the right not to incriminate yourself. You wouldn't have had a defense attorney. So there's a law in the 17th century that changes by the 18th century and is now enshrined in our Bill of Rights that could protect you potentially from the kind of miscarriage of justice that you saw in Salem listeners.

Peter Biello:
We're talking today about witches and witchcraft. We're gonna take a short break. But when we come back, a discussion of witches in popular culture. We're gonna go beyond the Wicked Witch of the West and Sabrina, the teenage witch and uncover what we talk about when we talk about witches. The number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Peter Biello:
This is The Exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello, in for Laura Knoy. And today on the show, we're looking at the history of witches in New Hampshire and the modern witch. How did we get from witch trials and execution to now where people are openly practicing ritualistic magic? This is one of the questions our guests are exploring for NHPR's second greatest show on Earth in a three part series about the witches of New Hampshire in partnership with New Hampshire Humanities and Humanities. Joining me in the studio today are two people working on this project, Justine Paradis., producer and reporter for second greatest a show on Earth, which is producing real witches of New Hampshire.

And Dr. Tricia Peone, historian with New Hampshire Humanities, focusing on magic, witchcraft and Preternatural, who also co-reported "The Real Witches of New Hampshire". One of the questions we are tackling on the show today is what is a witch? Local historian Melissa Nierman describes how it's very easy to call up the pop culture image of witches.

Sound:
But when people really start to think about like what is a witch, it's not as clear cut as they think. People assume initially, you know, because you have people like myself calling themselves witches. You have people that have been called witches throughout history that would never call themselves witches. And then you have this like pop culture version of a witch that you see in like hocus pocus and be witch and like everywhere, basically with a pointy hat and basically the witch archetype, you know, and which one is it?

Peter Biello:
Which one is it? We could spend easily two hours discussing that subject. We'll try and cram it all into the next 40 minutes or so. So before we get any further on the discussion of witches in witchcraft, I'd like to do just a quick terminology. Check, Tricia. Under what circumstances is it appropriate to refer to someone as a witch? Because it's often used as a pejorative, the word witch.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, absolutely. And historically, that was a legal charge that could get you executed. Right. But there's an important shift that happens in the 20th century where people start to embrace that term of which into self-identify as witches. And that mostly comes out of well, for one thing, the fact that laws change. So in England, you have the popularization of of Wicca, which comes in the early 1950s. And that happens it corresponds with the last kind of laws against witchcraft in England being repealed. So in 1951, the UK repeals a law that made it a crime to claim to have magical powers. And so when that happens a few years later, you get the publication of a book by Gerald Gardner about Wicca. And so once it's legal to claim you, her witch or to talk about having magical powers, you see kind of the floodgates open. So after the 1950s, more and more people are interested in in learning about witchcraft as kind of a historical practice.

Tricia Peone:
And by the 1960s, you have women and in particular feminists claiming the label, which. So kind of reclaiming that identity.

Peter Biello:
Yeah. And I definitely want to get into the connection between feminism and the word witch later in the program. I did want to ask more about this term witches. Is that a gender term or can men be witches too?

Tricia Peone:
Men can absolutely be witches, too.

Peter Biello:
And what are we talking about when we use the word occult?

Tricia Peone:
So the occult is really it's just Latin for hidden. Right. So it just means kind of secret or hidden things. And so when we talk about a cultism, it's any kind of knowledge. It could be hidden knowledge. It could refer to almost what we would think of as like the new age kind of metaphysical hidden secrets, higher planes of existence, other realms of consciousness. Any of that stuff can fall under the occult. But there are also a couple orders or secret groups who practice ritualized kinds of magic.

Peter Biello:
And is secrecy required of witchcraft or I mean, you just mentioned that it's becoming a little more out in the open. So is is occult becoming in some ways less necessary as which has become sort of open members of society?

Tricia Peone:
I would say that witches in general have been more open about it, but there are still secret groups that would consider themselves to still be, you know, a cult in the literal meaning of the term is hidden.

Peter Biello:
And Justine, you're nodding, this is something you may have encountered in your reporting.

Justine Paradis:
Sure. I mean, as my my biggest interest was to speak with people who were practicing. And when you ask under what circumstances is it appropriate to refer to someone as a witch? I would say if they call themselves one. And I also want to point out that Wicca is one form. It does. Just because you're a witch doesn't mean that your Wiccan. But certainly I think that everyone we've spoke to sort of had part of the magic that they practiced. I would say has some-

Justine Paradis:
This is not to speak for everybody, but their secrecy and and and sort of mystery is is a little bit part of of being a witch for a lot of people. I think they don't necessarily share everything that they're doing. And that's that's that's part of it. They keep it private. It's a that's an important part of that. I mean, spirituality can be public or private. Right. And no matter what the spiritual. Yeah. Exactly. If and then that can be you can have both in you as as a practitioner. So I think that there are public elements to a practice and their private elements.

Peter Biello:
So Tricia, where does New Age, quote unquote new age fall into all of this is I mean things like reincarnation, for example, or is that is that a very vague term or is it specific set of of of beliefs that that fit somewhere into the picture of witchcraft?

Tricia Peone:
That's such a good question, Peter. But honestly, I think it's so hard to unpack it. These are all kind of messy concepts. You know, New Age might refer to crystals, but witches might practice with crystals. So there's often blending between these terminologies and people who identify, but then some people who might identify with some kinds of New Age philosophies might not consider themselves to have anything to do with witchcraft at all.

Peter Biello:
Justine?

Justine Paradis:
I also want to say that these these blurred lines and the sort of messiness of the concepts can lead to to some real messiness which the witches and New-Age, the New Age community is starting to record with, for instance, sort of picking and choosing from different spiritualities like shamanism. For instance, in Peru on voodoo, that might lead to a conversation around cultural appropriation, like just picking a choosing for many spirituality. You want to speak kind of really reductive way, can can lead to can lead to some problems.

Justine Paradis:
For instance, burning of white sage called smudging, which emits a really beautiful smell and a beautiful sort of curling smoke. But that's part of spiritualities in different Native American cultures that that now people are having a conversation around white sage being is it appropriate or not to use that in Indian practices? So the blurriness is a conversation now.

Peter Biello:
So certainly wise to be sensible and mindful about if we are dabbling in this, it may it may mean something to someone else that that pretty emotionally strong, certainly.

Justine Paradis:
Yeah.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk a little bit about more recent history involving witchcraft starting in the 1970s. Witchcraft as a practice really started to develop as its practice today. Tricia? Can you tell tell us what we need to know about that time period, the 1970s.

Tricia Peone:
So the 1970s see an explosion of interest in the occult. And part of the really cool thing that happens for for me to kind of study is the fact that there's more being published, more books being published about. So anyone could really just pick up a book at their local bookstore and learn about witchcraft or or to or kind of become a witch. So it's that kind of explosion in popular culture of witchcraft and occultism, which you see in books. You see it on television shows in the 70s, you see it in the movies. The whole horror genre really explodes in the 70s to some of those really amazing movies that people are probably watching this week for Halloween. Right. Like the exercise, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, those movies that explore the occult, you have this idea of kind of the witch in popular culture that's really emerging at that time and kind of becoming cool like it's it's fashionable in the 70s to to be a little bit to dabble in the occult or to call yourself a witch.

Peter Biello:
It was fashionable.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah.

Peter Biello:
Yeah. And then. Yeah, definitely the time of year for it for the movies. We've got some questions here that I'd love to be able to incorporate if we have some time. One of them goes back to the history part of this. So I wanted to bring a comment in from Michael was there's some Michael says was there some tolerance of witchcraft by folks in our history. Michael continues I've read stories of which is providing healing services to communities while living as outsiders. Tricia, is this something you've heard of?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, that kind of tricky part there. Is that what we would consider today to be witchcraft related to healing? People at that time might have just considered medicine or the best science. So, you know, they're using alchemy and medicine. They're using astrology in medicine. They're also using folk remedies in medicine in the 17th century. And when we look back on that today, we would say, oh, we'd lump that all together as kind of magic or witchcraft. But people at the time may have understood it differently.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. And things evolved such that. Well, you mentioned that there were books published in the 1970s making it a little more formalized. One of the people who was really influential, as far as I can tell, is Aleister Crowley. Mm hmm. I don't know if I'm pronouncing that correctly. Do you are you familiar with the name?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. Aleister Crowley was was probably the most famous a cultist in the 20th century. He was. He was British. He died, I think in 1947, but his works become increasingly popular over time and in the 70s there's a revival of interest in him and his work. He wrote a lot of books explaining kind of esoteric Lee like explaining his system of magic. He created his own system of magic. He created his own nickel orders, some of which actually are still around in the United States today and in England. And he was very revered in popular culture. A lot of influential people cited Crowley as an influence. The Beatles, Timothy Leary. There are a lot of people in that kind of culture, counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s that that admired him.

Peter Biello:
We mentioned earlier in the program that those Salem witch trials were in some ways a symptom of cultural stress. Was there some kind of cultural stress that you can identify in the 70s that may have contributed to the re-examination or the rejuvenated interest in witchcraft? Tricia or Justine?

Justine Paradis:
Well, I mean, I think, though, we have to draw the distinction between witchcraft accusations and interest in the occult treasures, speaking with Tricia. There's there's waves of increased interest in the occult over our history. The Civil War and World War One, for instance, people are interested in speaking with the dead. There's so many people who went off to war and passed away. The nineteen the 1950s in the 1970s, because Raymond Buckland published his book or excuse me, Gerald Gardner published his book in the 1950s

Justine Paradis:
You know, that was a time The Crucible comes out that's seen as a response to McCarthyism. At the same time, these laws are being repealed. So they're definitely cultural conditions that point to it. We are now in a in a kind of another revival.

Justine Paradis:
And people do point to the political turmoil that we're going through right now as a reason that witchcraft has such a prominent presence on the Internet. The witches of Instagram hashtag I looked up last night has three and a half million posts, which is of Instagram, which is an Instagram hashtag. And so you can peruse that to see some of these sort of aesthetic.

Peter Biello:
So what would I see if I haven't seen this or what would I see if I went to witches of Instagram?

Justine Paradis:
So, for instance, there's this woman, Chani Nicholas, who's a one of the most famous astrologers out there right now. And she just posted a couple of days ago signs that you're a witch. At least one of your confidence is an animal spirit or ghost herbs and plants are your friends. And then she goes, you work to dismantle sis/het, colonial, white supremacist, patriarchal systems of violence and oppression that threaten the existence of all life on Earth.

Peter Biello:
So witches of Instagram,.

Justine Paradis:
#WitchesofInstagram! So that's one thing you might see.

Peter Biello:
We should totally put a link to that at NHPR.org. We've got a question from Liz in where who who wrote in to say, I self-identify as a witch. What I wanted to know is, what do you think about the rise in witchcraft in pop culture and how it has related to more young people self-identifying as a witch? Tricia, your thoughts on those comments?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, I think that's a great question. And it seems like certainly in the 90s, the pop culture, which was almost targeted to teenagers. If you look at really popular movie in the 90s called The Craft, don't know if you've seen that movie, but. And then also Sabrina, the teenage witch, which was on TV in the 1990s, but now is kind of been revived for a new series on Netflix. So there's almost a marketing of the idea of the pop culture, which to teenagers. And I think the reason why is because by the 1990s, people had decided partly through through feminist and women's spirituality groups that witchcraft could be empowering. And teenagers often feel like they don't have power. And turning to witchcraft seemed to some people to be a kind of a good way to to take that power back.

Peter Biello:
Let's go to the phones and talk to Linda in Boscawen. Linda, thank you very much for calling. You're on the air.

Caller:
Yes. Good morning.

Peter Biello:
What's your question?

Caller:
Well, my question is I'd like to know of a good reference, a resource for researching history. It appears I have a person on my dad's side, Samuel Wardwell, and a person on my mother's side, John Proctor, who were both hung in sixteen ninety two after being accused. And I'm trying to find out more about it.

Peter Biello:
So where would she go? Tricia.

Tricia Peone:
I can help with that. That's what I do.

Tricia Peone:
So I posted a list, a reading list of sources to accompany our first episode and we can send you the link for that. And where you might want to start is looking at the records of the Salem witch trials that have been digitized and they're all available online.

Tricia Peone:
So you can find Samuel Wardwell and John Proctor and you can read all of their evidence presented against them. You can read about what happened to them. It's the University of Virginia maintains that the transcriptions of the Salem witch trials. And I've got a link to that on my reading list. So that's a good place to start.

Peter Biello:
Reading list at NHPR.org Can we find that?

Justine Paradis:
We can we can post it. We can share it with The Exchange. And it's also that New Hampshire humanities.

Tricia Peone:
It's on the New Hampshire humanities dot org Web site under our podcast.

Peter Biello:
Great. OK. So we mentioned feminism a few times. We should really talk about that cause it's very important. Tricia, what would you say is the connection between witchcraft, the image of a witch power, as we've been talking about, and feminism as we know it now?

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, it's it's interesting because what happens in starting the late 60s is women trying to reclaim this label of which is a way to empower themselves. And if you see if you look historically at witchcraft as a mechanism of persecution against women, which many people have argued that that is the case, although certainly it's a little more complicated than that. You can see that reclaiming that label could make some people feel empowered, that it's a way of kind of liberating themselves. And so this connection that starts probably in the late 60s, early 70s has continued today. And it's basically a way to to kind of find a voice. I think I think that's a big part of it.

Peter Biello:
Justine. Agree?

Justine Paradis:
Yes, certainly. I think that people, you know, witch is something that's used to, you know, to convict people, it's a it's a crime. And then and it's also I would say, you know, a lot of the time in our reporting, we've had people sort of compare, you know, the way we thought about witches back in the day. That's how we think about terrorists now. It's how we how something about immigrants now. And. Well, I I see that they're trying to make the comparison between the way that certain groups are scapegoated for society's troubles. But I don't think that you need to shift the metaphor for how well witches represent. There's a New York Times article there's just came out where Pam Grossman is quoted, and she's the author of Waking the Witch. And she said in the article, I often say, show me your witches and I'll show you 0- I'll show you your feelings about women, witches reflect our fears and fantasies about women with power. So I think as as women are, you know, feminism and the #metoo movement and all kinds of ways that women are sort of claiming their voices. There's a way that the the label of the witch falls perfectly into that.

Peter Biello:
We've got a question from Pamela in Marlborough who wrote in. Or maybe it's not a question, but a comment, she said, which is, as we think of them, may have started out as women who were brewsters Brewsters, female Brewer's. They wore tall hats to be seen in the marketplace and had cats to prevent rodents that would eat the grain. The brooms helped mark the stall as well.

Peter Biello:
So that's the comment from Pamela in Marlborough. Tricia, is this something you've heard of?

Tricia Peone:
I have heard this theory. Unfortunately, there's no good evidence to support it. Oh, okay. So it sounds really appealing and it would be great if that were true. But unfortunately, historians and anthropologists have looked at that and they're just there just aren't connections in the records. There's a great book about women as Brewsters in England by Judith Bennett, who's a historian, who writes about the, you know, how women became marginalized in the brewing industries that women used to be brewers. Predominantly beer was brewed by women. And when that kind of transitions to a male dominated working arrangement, women are kicked out. And it's an interesting process in itself. But it didn't really have anything to do with witchcraft, unfortunately.

Peter Biello:
I see. But so it seems like the image of a woman in tall hat huddled over a hot kettle has evolved from the actual the brewing thing that she's describing to like a potion, like a strange potion and some some kind of magic.

Justine Paradis:
Well, it's interesting because that the tall hat and the broomstick and you could add the green skin. That's The Wizard of Oz. Wicked Witch of the West. And that's something that again, at the Salem Witch Museum. They have an exhibit for The Wizard of Oz and a lecture series around The Wizard of Oz or a lecture around The Wizard of Oz, because it is such a that image of the witches. So that's the Halloween costume, right? And there's a debate about where that comes from.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah. Yeah. Historically, women were women were portrayed as witches in very different ways. So initially, they're mostly portrayed as kind of like an old hag, right? Mostly portrayed naked, sometimes portrayed as an object of desire. But the image we have today of a witch doesn't really develop like that picture that the hat, the green skin, the broomstick, the cauldron that is mostly coming from the 19th century, actually. So it's not quite the historical image of the witch that we would have seen. And we actually posted some images of witches from the 17th century, some woodcuts to accompany that episode.

Justine Paradis:
Yeah, it's on our Instagram.

Peter Biello:
So, so much to check out online after the show. I can't I can't wait to go off and see what you guys have posted online. I haven't seen yet. Last question before we headed to a break. And it has to do with the representations in pop culture that that come close to a a fair and respectable image that that people who practice might say, yeah, OK. That comes pretty close. That's not offensive. Is there anything into your mind that that comes close, a movie or television show, a story?

Tricia Peone:
I think it's really about your personal preference and what you identify with as a witch, because there's so many different kinds of witchcraft that people are practicing today. So they might identify with the craft. They might identify with Sabrina Spellman and the chilling adventures of Sabrina. They might identify with practical magic like we saw Nate do this weekend. So it kind of depends on on your interpretation. But I honestly, I think a lot of people who practice witchcraft today might be uncomfortable a little bit with the way witches are still are still represented in movies and TV.

Peter Biello:
Well, if you are a practicing witch. Now, what would you like to see as a representation of what you what you believe in and what means the most to you? Give us a call.

Peter Biello:
We'd love to hear from you. I'm Peter Biello. This is The Exchange. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio. I'm Peter Biello in for Laura Knoy. Tomorrow on The Exchange. Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts and Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential primary. We'll sit down with Laura Knoy and Casey McDermott before a live audience as part of our New Hampshire Primary 2020 candidate forums. This event is sold out, but you can tune in tomorrow at 9:00 to hear the show today. Who are "The Real Witches of New Hampshire"? This is the question at the heart of the first three episodes of the second greatest show on Earth, a new podcast from an HP bar. And the second episode drops tomorrow. So be sure to search for second greatest show on Earth wherever you get your podcasts. Listeners, if you identify as a witch, what does that mean to you? What would you like people to know about what you believe? I'm here in the studio with Justine Paradis., producer and reporter for Second Greatest Show on Earth. And Dr. Tricia Pyong, historian with New Hampshire Humanities, who studies with a focus on magic, witchcraft and the preternatural, who also co-reported The Real Witches of New Hampshire discussing witchcraft and hearing from people about what they believe can be quite complicated.

Peter Biello:
That's why we're spending part of this hour today hearing from people who who practice. Author and metaphysical instructor Roxy Zwicker runs the "spirits of the past trolley tour" of Newcastle and which includes the setting of Jane Walford story. Jane Walford, someone we discussed earlier. Here she is describing herself and how she describes what she believes.

Sound:
What do I call myself? You know, I always when people ask a question, they always have such a hard time with it, because I know as soon as I say what I think I am, immediately someone's going to have their perception of what I'm trying to say. And it may or may not be right. So I'm I always tell people, you know, at at first blush that I'm pagan and I fall earth based spirituality. If you want to dig in a little bit deeper than I will tell you that I do practice witchcraft. It's one of the things I I often try to keep outwardly separate on my tours because people will come on the tours and immediately, if they hear, oh, well, you know, helps, which gives me a tour, then they're immediately going to judge me. And I don't want to be judged for the spirituality that I practice. I want you to come on the tour. I want to have a good time once you understand the history. Is that going to scare you? Now you're gonna be thinking, OK. So, you know, she's going out into the woods and worshipping the devil. I'm not. That's not what I do. That's not what I believe. You'll find me at the ocean sitting there meditating. That's what I do. And it's why I find sometimes, which is no other, which is like sometimes I'll finish up a tour and like some kind of giving.

Sound:
They give you the look. And they're like, oh, I know what you are like. I'm one, too.

Peter Biello:
So a complicated, deeply intimate and personal relationship with what you believe. Hard to explain in some ways. Joining us by phone is Knate Higgins, program manager of 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. And this year's grand marshall of the Portsmouth Halloween Parade, which is in its 25th year. He's also a modern occultist and a chaos magician. And it's also was also the manager of Deadwicks in Portsmouth, a source for the occult on the seacoast. Knate, welcome to the show. Thanks for being on the line.

Knate Higgins:
Thank you so much for having me. Thanks. Thank you.

Peter Biello:
So understanding that it can be kind of complicated. We love to hear from you. Tell us about your practice.

Knate Higgins:
Sure. So my my practice is a little oh, my goodness, the practice is a little less ancient, but it definitely draws upon. I would say historical aspects of magic. But I primarily practice chaos, magic and chaos. Magic is sort of it's sort of a self-guided system. It's using whatever you draw inspiration from. To create a new sort of know outcome for your intention. So I use chaos magic, too. I use it pretty much every day in little tiny ways. And those little system practices are incredibly personal to each chaos magician with the understanding this personal and please turn me down if this is too personal.

Peter Biello:
But can you give an example of how you might use it?

Yeah, sure. So sometimes first thing in the morning I'll just set a quick intention and they never look the same. They're always different. I try to keep a lot of liminal space, my magical practices, as opposed to going and using something that I guess they would say I use over and over again. I use something very different. So my morning intentions can be as simple as ringing a bell at my alter space and just kind of, you know, heralding in some good energy for the day. It can also move throwing on some dance music and dancing around my apartment. Raising some energy just to kind of bring my energy up for the day with chaos, magic. There's really no rules. The sort of thought process behind chaos magic is that if you can change your perception of something, you can change your reality. And how you change your perception is the magic.

Knate Higgins:
Essentially, there's really can be anything.

Peter Biello:
Tricia Peone is nodding to. This is so it seems like, Tricia, you've heard of this kind of thing before.

Tricia Peone:
Yeah, I think that's Nate's we're doing a great job of explaining what's so appealing about magic to a lot of people today because it's kind of a tool you can use. Right. So you don't have to necessarily think about these historical witch trials. If you're talking about a practicing magician today. What Nate's describing is, is tools that anyone can use to improve their own life .

Peter Biello:
Is this, are there is there a community of witches that that you meet with? And if so, what? What do you get out of that community?

Knate Higgins:
There's definitely, I definitely have separate communities that I kind of work with and different aspects of occultism and sort of the history of magic. But as a chaos magician, chaos magicians think is think of think of Merlin, if you will, sort of the archetype of the wizard. You know, living in the woods by themselves, you know, retreating anytime anything gets, you know, too serious or too crazy. They kind of run to the woods and work their magic and affect the world and the way they know how to, I guess to affect the world in the best way they know how.

Knate Higgins:
Which is sometimes retreating and going into himself and sort of finding the answers within yourself. So chaos magic is is traditionally, you know, there are groups for it. But I personally do not practice with any group has, like I say, certain groups and certain circles that I kind of walk in, that there are some definitely some awesome group based work. But for myself, I've found that I don't know, my spirituality is so personal. And if chaos magic, I can kind of tailor it to what I want it to look like when I wanted to be. And my interpretation of, you know, what success is within, you know, within the magical realm is going to be very different than somebody else's interpretation of what successes. So I find that working independently, I get my best results for sure.

Peter Biello:
If there were people out there who wanted to join a group, how would they go about it? How would they how would they even find a group?

Knate Higgins:
That's that's a great question. And you know what? There's it's a very simple answer. There's you cannot go into those and go onto a website called thewitchesbox.com... I think it's still around. This is this website has been around since like the Internet started. It is a sort of resource you can search by. You can plug in your your zip code and you can search by groups that meet regularly that are you know, you can search for a couple of stores, you can search for open circles, you can search for those stores like Roxy has. There is. It's been a sort of an invaluable resource for a lot of people throughout the years when they don't really know where to turn. They don't really know where to go. You can find, you know, your local coven is probably on which box. Yeah. Which is voice is another name for it as well, too. But I know that the actual website itself is which box in their own coven.

Peter Biello:
If I could just pause for a moment. Just your web. Can you give us a breakdown of that word coven.

Justine Paradis:
Sure. Sure. Tricia would be able to speak to this as well. But in the Wiccan communities, specifically, the part of the rules that Gerald Gardner laid out were to you that you do practice in a common in a group.

Peter Biello:
Ok. And so so, Nate, I wanted to ask you, when when it comes up in a group of people who who may not know anything about this, how does that conversation go? To what extent do you take time to really spell out what it is you believe and how it fits into the larger framework of beliefs? Or is it a little more awkward? And do you just decide that you don't want to talk about it and bow out? How does it go?

Knate Higgins:
That's a that's another very good question. I think I wear my sort of art on my sleeve within this community. And sometimes it's sort of a given that, you know, I'm sort of this weird, magical figure here in Portsmouth, but I don't. I also being a drag queen for 15 years. I know my audience. You know me. I tend to explain a little bit more. If I'm in within a conversation and somebody asks me about my spirituality, I definitely gauge that conversation and kind of, you know. That person's energy, see where they might be going with this. And I give as much or as little information as I feel comfortable with each person and each sort of scenario. If people ask and they asked point blank, I mean, I sort of tell them and say, you know, these are the systems that I've worked with and these are the things that work for me. They may not necessarily work for you. You may not agree with them. But at the end of the day, you know, one is not hurting anybody. I think we're doing OK.

Justine Paradis:
Yeah. Well, speaking of leaving a drag queen, Knate. I actually went to see Knate's drag show this weekend. The Cult of Horror in which you were performing in your alter ego, drag queen Bunny Wonderland, which is an amazing show. But I wondered a lot of the time or sometimes you'll your magical practice and your drag queen performance will intersect. And I wondered if you if you were willing to speak about that.

Knate Higgins:
Yeah. So within the system of chaos, magic, you yourselves are sort of the conduit for your intentions. So how you decide to me, how can I break this down? You haven't. You have a goal that you set and you want to use magic to get that goal. So what you decide to use for magic is sort of your own. That's your. Think of that as your paint palette.

Knate Higgins:
For me, my paint palette is using drag. So a lot of times I will open up intention with an audience and ask them to participate in setting an intention with me and let my performance be the conduit. Let the energy that I raise during that performance. B be the energy that sort of pushes that intention forward through the universe. And so I've been practicing magic for so long. I've also been a drag queen for so long. It's just it was a couple of years ago that I decided to marry the two. And it really does work with our audiences. Pretty it's pretty unbelievable to see that people keep coming back to the show. And when we don't do chaos magic at night, they're really disappointed. So I sort of always done like a little banishing ritual with all of my performers.

Knate Higgins:
That will do. I perform Petula Clark's "Downtown" and I we hand out napkins to the entire audience and I have them, you know, put all of their nastiness that they've had throughout the week, the day, the hour, the month, the minute, whatever it might be. You just put all of that into the napkin.

Knate Higgins:
And then every time that Petula Clark sings "Downtown," I actually have people take their napkin and, you know, bring it down to the floor and then bring it back up to the heavens. So what they're doing is essentially taking your bad energy and throwing it up back up into the air and allowing it to go away. So it's this - But most people in the audience, if they don't know the actual formal breakdown of what they're doing, but it is a banishing ritual, it is a way to sort of banish these sort of unintended sort of negative energy or nastiness that might be in your life. It's just a way to kind of do that. But using Bunny as the conduit or using using Bunny as that magical battery is something that I just kind of started to tap into this just a couple of years ago.

Knate Higgins:
And I found that, you know, it works incredibly well for me and it works well with the audience. Do we have a really fantastic result? People will come to me after the show. We set different intentions and I'll get messages from people and they just say, like, wow, this this totally worked for me. You know, no matter - I didn't think going to a drag show would, you know, change my life. You know, it in an ethereal sort of way or, you know, a magical sort of way. But it really at the end of the day, for me, that's, you know, magic is art art this magic. If you're creating something from that was not once there before. That in itself is an act of magic.

Peter Biello:
Well, Knate Higgins, program manager of 3M's Art Space in Portsmouth. This year's grand marshal of the Portsmouth Halloween Parade. Thank you very much for joining us for this part of the program. We really appreciate it. And we'll put links to your Web sites on our page as well. We're glad you participated today.

Knate Higgins:
Lovely. Thank you so much. It's been my pleasure.

Peter Biello:
Thanks also to Dr. Tricia Peone, historian with New Hampshire Humanities co-reported Real Witches of New Hampshire, along with an h.p.'s Justine Paradis. Second greatest show on Earth, second episode of the three-pa rt Witchcraft series drop's Tomorrow. So be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Tricia, Justine, thank you very much for being here this hour.