It was on September 19th, 2016 that I took my first step in Salem, Massachusetts. There was an air of excitement as childhood fantasies of going to one of the birthplaces of American witchcraft were realized. The city itself was beautiful, taking care to preserve the historical aesthetics. But something else was present that I have to think that not everyone who walks those hallowed brick walkways experiences: the history.
When I attempted to explain to my boyfriend how Salem made me feel, one word kept popping into my head. I told him “I just felt an ancestral connection.” It was absolutely the case – I had visited a plethora of historical sites. I had been to Athens, Rome, Pompeii, and tons of historical sites in the US. I had visited spots where history was bloody, but never had I felt like I was intrinsically wrapped in that history. Never had I had the intense desire to move to those places and drink up the energy as if it wouldn’t be there forever. In Salem I felt a connection to the past so assaulting that even now, after exactly seven months, the experience still weighs heavily on me.
On the base level, nothing too otherworldly happened. We visited a cute gift shop where I bought a Bewitched t-shirt and a cool coffee mug. We ate at a nice restaurant on the pier. We went on one of those ghost tours that advertises itself by claiming that other guests have died after taking the tour. (“Look it up – they died!” the tour guide in ostentatious clothing proclaimed.) But what was happening to me on a spiritual level goes beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.
The women of Salem had always held a special place in my heart. When I learned about Salem as a kid, I was fascinated. When I learned about sexism as a teenager, it was impossible not to link the two. These women, usually unmarried and completely rejected by the strict puritan culture that surrounded them, were murdered at the cry of one paranoid villager, often blaming some common illness or disease on the neighbor. And certainly, witchcraft has always had its place in the world and it’s entirely possible that some women in this community were practicing. Honestly, I would be shocked if they weren’t. But it was this connection – the intersection of my feminist beliefs with my fascination with the witch trials and all things “spooky” – that was the dominant thread in my mind as I walked past the shops and met friendly women selling trinkets and gifts to visitors.
In the very core of my being, in my soul, being in Salem just felt right. It felt like I was being empowered by the spirits of strong women who had dared to be different. The history felt like it was living in the most literal sense. The city itself pulled me in, and the energies made me feel more like myself than I had ever felt before.
Today, the ghosts of Salem still haunt me. I think about it nearly every day. I bought Tarot cards. I find myself becoming more and more interested in learning about this secret history. And on multiple occasions, I’ve found myself daydreaming about living there. What I thought was a vacation was more like a pilgrimage, and on it, it seems as though I found myself through the connectedness of feminine energy throughout history.
What a strange, new feeling.