September 1st, 2022

“Honey, guess what?” I exclaimed. “I just found out I have a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother who was burned at the stake for being a witch!”

Jon looked at me dubiously, “You seem awfully happy about that.”

It’s not that I’m happy about it. It’s just interesting. Maybe even personally insightful.

My G10 grandmother Ann Hannah Pudeator lived to the respectable old age of 71 before she was hanged for her behavior, which included marrying a third husband two decades her junior and making a lot of homemade soap. She was also a midwife and nurse. Today, Ann Hannah would have been your basic progressive hippie. Back then, she was a witch, her familiar a bird that reputedly flew into Samuel Pickworth’s house to taunt him, even whilst Ann Hannah lay in jail.

Having toured the historic gallows in Salem, of course, I know that you could never “lay” in that jail because the cells were the size, shape, and orientation of phone booths — basically stone sarcophagi built into the walls of dank, lightless cellars. Perhaps this is where my claustrophobia comes from; they do say that trauma can be passed on via DNA.

Here is Ann Hannah’s death proclamation:

To the Marshall of Essex or Constable in Salemnn pudeator of Salem Widdow who stand Charged with sundry acts of Witchcraft by them Committed this day Contrary to the Laws of our Sov’r Lord & Lady. faile not Dated Salem. May the. 12′th 1692s *John Hathorne [unclear: ] Assistse Herrick Marshall of Essex

(And there’s a lot more on the fate of Ann Hannah here.)

I’m sure I’m not the only woman out there who feels like she probably would have been accused of witchcraft, had she been in the wrong place at the wrong time, based on her refusal to abide by societal norms and behave as a nice quiet spinster should. I think it’s not a mistake that most witches in Salem were older women accused by young girls. Growing old is a thing most girls can’t stand to admit is a perfectly normal part of this whole thing — if you’re lucky.

Today is my 51st birthday, a very nonchalant sort of birthday if there ever was one. The passage of another year in which time marched relentlessly, my bones got older, my daughters cooler, the earth hotter, civilization crumblier. On the one hand, they don’t hang old women for being “witches” anymore. On the other…. do they, though, in a way?

Share Button

One Response to “Witchery”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    When I saw my mother’s ancestors in front of a caravan, and remembered that my father’s were privateers, I suddenly felt a lot less like I have to fight being a gypsy pirate.

Leave a Reply