On this day in 1692, five women - Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Wildes - were executed for witchcraft in what would become the Salem Witch Trials. 325 years later, it bares some reflection.
It was not an accident that these 5 people - and indeed the majority of those executed as part of the Witch Trials - were women. It's no accident that the first person accused of witchcraft in 1692 was a female slave. In a community virtually devoid of free people of color and a diversity of religious backgrounds, women were the obvious target. Fear targets society's vulnerable and oppressed. Fear targets those we've deemed "disposable" and "second class."
325 years later, surprisingly little has changed: Women are still fighting for basic human rights, trying to wrest control from brutish white men in power. People of color are demonized - perhaps not as literally as in 1692, though pretty damn close to it - and blamed for society's systemic ills. Sure, our capacity for tolerance and acceptance has broadly expanded, but the dark impulses within us are still the same. Patterns we enact over and over again. We invoke the term "witch hunt" to justify our feelings of persecution, but most of us who benefit from our innate status and privilege don't know the true weight of it. Most of us will never know the cold terror of being pulled from our beds at night, paraded in front of people who do not love us, never loved us, and yet are deemed worthy of supreme and mortal judgement. Most of us will never know what its like to stand on creaking wooden boards, with a rope around our neck, and be forced to recite the Lord's Prayer flawlessly in hopes of staying our fate. Godly or godless, a rope around your neck is want to make you stutter a bit.
There's a temptation to sanitize and kitsch up the darker aspects of history. The pain endured by these women turns into a cottage industry. A community traumatized by the Indian wars and the sheer brute force required to colonize a salty, shitty climate like New England looks for the devil and finds innocent victims.
We don't take on the name "Salem" glibly. Salem is the core of who we are, in all its challenging, knotted aspects. The community that blooms every fall into a horror tour destination is the same community that bears puckered scars of hysteria, rooted in real human suffering.
The name "Salem" is simply a reminder. It's an albatross around America's neck. Which is not to say that we can't make light of it, even explore the kitsch of it. A man walking around with a bird strapped to his chin is still strange and funny, even if rooted in sorrow and regret. That's the kind of thing that we started this all with in mind.
We played our first show on this day in 2014. This was an accident, but seems ultimately fitting. We don't have solutions to any of the evils of the world, other than periodic mindfulness. It seems important to tell these stories, over and over again, even if we never learn from them. It's important to us.
Vanyaland spreads the good news about "Tooth & Nail" with lengthy interview with lead yowler Gray about some of the record's themes, what it means to be a platform for fuck ups, and how the broken world of today isn't so different from what it's always been. Check it.
As Tooth & Nail grows nigh, the great Bishop & Rook is back in action and is currently featuring an exclusive interview and preview of the new record. Check it out as you get read for Sunday's record release at O'Briens, with Today Junior and Atlantic Thrills.
World, meet Susie: She's the star of the official video for "From The Vault," the first single off of the upcoming record Tooth & Nail. As you can see, she's very pleased to meet you. Even better, you can warm up those pipes and sing along with all her bad advice. Check out Susie and all her hijinks.
Dang. Last night's sold out show with Nashville's All Them Witches and Irata at the Sinclair was a banger, and our head are still banging accordingly. Thank yous all for coming and whooping it up. If you missed it, here's a taste of a few choice licks:
Salem Wolves is one of the featured artist included on the first volume of the We Are Not Trump compilation album. The album is available now via Bandcamp, with all proceeds benefiting the American Civil Liberties Union. It's a cause near and dear to our hearts and a true honor to be included. As Vanyaland writes:
Shortly after Election Day, Somerville musician and multi-intrumentalist Christopher Brown (Vary Lumar, DESK, and the Difference Engine) put out a call for bands and artists from New England and beyond to help soundtrack an anti-Donald Trump compilation to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.
Titled We Are Not Trump, or WANT, the comp was supposed to be released on Inauguration Day, January 20, as Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and WANT, which generated significant interest nationwide, is here several days early.
It's with great pleasure that we debut the first track - remixed version of "Shameless," as a tribute to the most shameless, hateful freak we know - off "Tooth & Nail" to support the ACLU Nationwide. Give it a listen and buy the record for whatever price you want.
Never stop kicking against the pricks and raging against the dying of the light.