As part of my #Mythical Creatures Monday series, I thought it would be fun to delve a little deeper into some well known locations and give you a taste of their history. I will provide links at the bottom of my post, as well as anything “witchy” I can find that ties into the area. Because I have been there, the first location I would like to take you to is the Village of Salem, located in the USA in the state of Massachusetts. I am excited to visit again, so let’s begin!
In an earlier post, I discussed some of the history tied to Historical Salem as relates to their part in the Witch Trials in America. You can link to my post here. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a bright point in the small village’s history. While some restitution was made in 1711 to the families of those killed, according to an article I found in The Smithsonian, it wasn’t until 1957 that the State of Massachusetts formally apologized for the events that took place. The link above will take you to their article, or you can find it under the websites to check out links I list below.
Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of immigrants and a man by the name of Roger Conant. The settlement was originally named Naumkeag roughly translated as “fishing grounds”, but in around 1629, the settlers decided on Salem, a derivative of the Hebrew word for “peace.”
By 1692, the witch trials had caused hysteria in their village, and in three month’s time 20 innocent people were killed. It wasn’t until Governor William Phipps disbanded the court, after his wife was accused of being a witch, that the trials stopped.
The Village of Salem Today
I visited on a weekend during Halloween a few years back, and there was so much more I could have seen so I would have liked a few more days there. The festive vibe is not one I will forget soon, and for a few days I was taken into another world. Here are some of the things I saw during my visit there.
Shops and Restaurants
The best place to check out what Salem has to offer by way of shops and restaurants, is by visiting their website. I also found that the best restaurants are always recommended by the locals, so be sure to ask!
Their shops are all quaint and supply just about anything you can think of related to the craft. Most stores carry a supply of herbs and crystals along with books, clothing and figurines. The shop owners are knowledgeable and ready to help with any questions which I found useful during our visit. The aisle-ways are tight and during busy times the shops get a little stifling, so I spent most of my time on the street watching the people go by. There were characters-a-plenty!
The seafood is amazing there, and one of the restaurants we went to was Finz Seafood and Grill, which had great food and a fun atmosphere. Their fish tacos were delicious and it was really nice to unwind with an adult beverage, or two.
The Salem Witch Museum takes you through the Witch Trial timeline, and for anyone not familiar with the history of the area, it is a good place to start. This is also a good place to get your bearings and find out what other things you should include in your time there. I like to pick up magnets for my refrigerator as I travel, it is something small that travels light. The gift shop there had just the thing!
I try to fit something “bookish” into my trips so I made sure that I included the House of Seven Gables museum in my tour. I loved learning about history of the home, and the relationship to it that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to include it in his novel by the same name. I highly recommend the tour as it takes you inside one of the oldest homes in the area. On an interesting side note, Mr. Hawthorne wrote his first novel in Salem, which was self-published in 1828. His Book Fanshawe was considered romantic, which I find fascinating, especially since he was an Independent Publisher. Seems Nathaniel and I have more in common than I originally realized!
The Peabody Essex Museum was founded in 1799 by sea captains, and is the oldest continually operated museum in the country, as referenced here by Salem.org. We weren’t able to make it there, but I know where we will be heading when we make a return trip!
And in 2013, Salem was recognized as the Birthplace of the National Guard which was a tidbit I actually learned while I was researching for this essay. So fun!
Cemeteries and other Monuments
The Charter Street Cemetery was established in 1637, and is the oldest resting place in Salem. Directly behind it are the Witch Trial Memorials, which were dedicated in 1992 and are open to daily visitors to pay their respects and reflect on the historical lessons learned.
We took a day trip to Boston, which isn’t far by car, and is home to some of the oldest established cemeteries in the US. There are grave stones that date back to the Revolutionary War, and many of our founding fathers are buried there. For other Taphophiles like me, you will definitely want to make the trip there if you have time. This link will take you to Five Historic Cemeteries to Visit in Boston.
Your trip won’t be complete without visiting the Bewitched Statue which pays tribute to the television series that filmed its seventh season there. You will want to go early as Samantha gets quite the crowd around her. Salem is also where the movie Hocus Pocus was filmed and there are several locations that you can travel to by foot during your visit. You can link to those areas here.
Witchcraft in Modern Day Salem
There is a lot going on in such a small space, and if you ever want to get a real good taste of the magick of the area, you will head there during a full moon, on Halloween, and partake in the Witch’s Ball. At least that was what we did. Now, my trip was long before social distancing and Covid19, so I’m not entirely sure what the events will look like moving forward, but I will say I have never seen so many people in the streets dressed in costume in my life. It was a lot of fun, although the introvert in me must warn you that it was a lot of people…. when I say a lot…. I mean A LOT! If crowds aren’t your thing, I would avoid that particular weekend, perhaps even the entire month of October.
The witches in the area hold circles, and welcome out of town visitors to their ceremonies. Halloween (Samhain) is particularly meaningful, in that the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest and it is when the souls of the departed can return. It is also the witches new year, the end of the fertile season, and a time for wrapping up the old and looking forward to the new. The holiday known as Samhain is also a time to honor our dead and to assist those who have passed but may have lost their way. Much like the Day of the Dead traditions, a lit candle on a grave can be a guiding light for the departed, and gifts of bread represent nourishment for the souls return journey to the afterlife.
All of this chatting about Salem has me wanting to make a return trip! Anyone who writes Paranormal or Fantasy, this is a really great place to check out while doing your research. I’m not sure about you, but I always get more out of an actual visit to an area, than I do reading about it.
If you have been to Salem, tell me about your experience! Would love to know what I may have missed on my first visit! And if you are liking this series and have a location in your part of the world that ties in, please let me know about it! I always love learning about new places! You can link here for past and future posts on this series, I have quite a few planned, so you are in for a treat! Happy Travels! XO
Websites to check out:
Check out Salem’s Shops and Restaurants – www.Salem.org
A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-the-salem-witch-trials-175162489/
Halloween History: The Witch Trials That America Forgot – https://time.com/4543405/connecticut-witch-trials/