1.23.2013

Safe Haven

What is it about witches and similar folklore that has captured my deep and abiding interest for most of my life? I have often wondered why. And recently, as we've been starting to decorate our master bedroom (the last eight months since have been spent entirely on decorating all the public spaces in our home), it became apparent just how much those things resonate with me and run through my soul.

I still haven't painted the walls (planning on going with a more pale, grayish green), but immediately I decided that I wanted a Halloween theme for my room, concentrating mainly on witches. Now, when I say Halloween, I don't mean over-the-top, grotesque, gruesome, in-your-face, hey-it's-Halloween sort of a feel, but more of a folk art, primitive, slightly spooky, yet sweet sort of a feel. I bought some fluffy rust-orange pillows (you need at least a bit of orange for a Halloween theme, after all) for my bed and also bought a pillow from a prim artist on etsy that says Salem 1692.


I've known for quite some time that I have several ancestors arrested for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, one even lost her life. I am directly descended from Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Pease, and Elizabeth Hart. Elizabeth Howe was hung July 19, 1692. In addition to that, I found another tie to the witch trials, when I traced my family line back to Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged as a witch in the Salem witch trials. She apparently is a great aunt.

I have also been researching the history of my antique home, and found it interesting that in those early 18th and 19th century days, many of the first owners of my home were women, either widowed or never married. One of these women was Eliza Carleton and she lived in my home for over 40 years. She was also the great granddaughter of the famous Proctors, John and Elizabeth. The Proctors were heavily featured in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. They were a married couple in Salem who were both accused of witchcraft. He was hanged, but she had was given a reprieve due to her pregnancy. A later owner of my home was also descended from the poor Proctors.

So, the legacy of the accused Salem witches runs deep in this house. And, on top of that, the novel I am writing is set in two different time periods, both periods linked by a house, and one of the main historical, New England characters I am writing about is an accused witch.

I often try to comprehend the mindset of those days. I wonder why many had to die because of another's unprovable accusation. These people were hanged with no tangible evidence. One of my theories is that in those days communities relied so heavily on one another. Today things are much easier, we don't even have to talk to our neighbors for months if we don't want to. We are independent. But in those early days of our start-up country, back when it was the colonies, everyone counted on one another, to do their part, and it was often a life or death struggle to survive. If there were some who were slacking, or who were perceived to be doing wrong, therefore bringing down God's wrath and punishments on all of them, they needed to be corrected and fast. Everyone's survival was at stake! Everyone needed to be meticulously controlled. And that need to control the community, to weed out the ones who would possibly lead to the destruction of all, often overtook all reason and civility. Those who were different or odd, who complained, or who didn't live in strict accordance with the Puritan standards were sacrificed, if you will, for the greater good of the community.

And I do believe that's where my fascination with those long ago accused witches stems from. As someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse, I get it. I was controlled in a destructive way. That's what being abused is all about, being the target of someone who has an insane need to control, to make you submit. These accused witches too were victims of a community's overzealous need to control them. My heart has always been soft for them, and I relate. Their stories resonate.

So, I am trying to create, in my room, a safe haven from the world. A place where I can reflect on my story, their stories, and therefore influence my own writing.


On one of our dressers, by the tv, I put up my Nicol Sayre witch art doll (you may remember her from here), and I bought a little folk art Halloween tree. Haven't put ornaments on it yet, but yes, these will remain up year round.




On the other side of my bedroom, I put up my other little witchy Nicol Sayre doll, a toile pumpkin, and I also hung the framed lyrics from my favorite song.


It's a line from Blackbird. Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly. That song has always been sacred to me, as I'm sure it is for a lot of people who have had to endure abuse or extreme control. And every time I read those words on my wall, it inspires me to write. It inspires me to take my brokenness and use it bring about something special.



Still have much to do to finish up our bedroom. I am already planning a commission for a bit of art to hang on the walls. I need to replace our current desk with a bigger one, also need to replace our Ikea chair with a huge, oversized leather chair and ottoman where my husband and I can cuddle to watch movies. And a weekend paint job is in order as well. But even though it's still a work in progress, I already feel my room turning into my safe haven, my place to be inspired.

16 comments:

  1. I love what you've done with your room. I'm coveting hat little window seat in the corner. How cozy.

    I am saddened to hear of your abuse. So glad you have distanced yourself mentally and geographically from that scary, sad place and have found a safe refuge with your little family in New England.

    Best,
    Jenny

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  2. I love your idea for your room and the little details you've displayed! I actually keep a lot of my Nicol Sayre witches in my room too, hehe! Their black and white color schemes make their witchiness more subdued and frankly, they're too cute to shut away except for a month.
    I find your research into your family and your home so fascinating! I cant wait to hear all about it, and I look forward to reading your story!
    I'm so proud of you for overcoming so much heartache and abuse as a little girl, and using the lessons you learned from all that to become a strong and beautiful person. Your empathy for those going through hard times and your writing talent will just blossom into something wonderful in your story, I just know it! Happy writing and decorating!~

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  3. As soon as I started reading your post I was reflecting on how your abuse would give you great empathy to those accused as witches, and then you went on to talk about that!

    I'm so impressed at how much you get done...always working on your house, your book, and your blog, not to mention exploring! Maybe when my kids are older I will understand how it could be possible! :)

    You are creating your room to be a space that's supportive of you where you are right now! That's so awesome. I'm excited to see your plans unfold, and your lyrics are displayed in the coolest way...I love it! Did you do that? I'll probably think of you everytime I hear that song from now on...though come to think of it, I haven't heard it in a long time! What perfect words for your story! Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with all of us in this post! You really are making a difference for so many people with your honesty and by bravely living out loud.

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  4. Wow, so many points here, and so much openness. I had an ancestor on the Mayflower, so that interests me a bit. However, I think the witch trails are more fascinating. I love how you are trying to get into their heads - and I had no idea you are writing a book! I love reading about your process and background - what makes you tick.

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  5. Jenny - Thank you so much! That's very sweet. And i love that window seat too! I just need to add some pillows and cushions. We have another window seat in our bonus room and they are just the best thing.

    Heather - You are so right! They are too pretty to be put away! And I plan to buy at least another one to put in our bedroom. And I can't wait to add the silhouettes you're going to paint o our bedroom!

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  6. Megan - Thanks so much! I always love hearing from you! And I've been meaning to get back to your email and also respond about the photos you sent! So cool! You will for sure get so much more done when your kids are older! I have a somewhat lazy personality to begin with, and I somehow manage to get a lot done now that my kids are in school all day. It also helps that we now hire people to clean the house! ;) Thinking of you right now since I just happen to be watching "Gilmore Girls" reruns!

    HH UK - Thanks so much! I always love to be open about things. It takes away the power of secrets.

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  7. I adore the way the bed looks! I love all of the witch dolls, but I am such a fraidy cat, I probably wouldn't sleep!

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  8. First off, you are such a great woman and an inspiration I'm sure to those who have experienced abuse in their lives!

    And the novel you are writing, I want it. I'm serious. The day it's available I want to know and to be the first person to buy it.

    If we lived near each other I am convinced we'd be best friend (whether you like it or not haha ;) because we love the same things. I've always been fascinated with witches and New England colonial history. Every time I read your blog it makes me happy. Makes me want to get out there and explore the region. On day...

    :)

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  9. Wow, what a great post this is! I understand a little better now your connection to "Blackbird." Love the history - yours and your house, love what you're doing with the room, and I want that toile pumpkin. Your writing is terrific and I can't wait for the book...

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  10. Hi there - thanks for stopping by my blog. I love your approach to decorating, i don't think many people put that much thought or research into a scheme for a room. Your bedroom already looks good, I have to say.

    Gillian x

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  11. Gosh, how amazing that you can trace your ancestry so far back and that you have such a strong connection to it. I'm loving how your bedroom is coming together, the colours and patterns are so soft and welcoming. I also had no idea you were writing novels! Good luck!

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  12. Hi. You so accurately describe the way I feel at times. Even in the remodel of a bedroom. I want to make something beautiful out of my own brokenness as well. I think that is why I love Halloween. It is a celebration of the harvest, but also a celebration of those things which are different. A time for accepting with open arms our fears and oddities. I have a long road of recovery from abuse ahead of me, but I hope I can face it in the same creative and hopeful way that you are. The movie ParaNorman is so fitting when it shows how quickly even now, a mob mentality can take over. I think we have seen that on our society today as well to some extent. It is unfortunate that this part of the human psyche exists, and that most often it is the best and brightest freethinkers that are it's victims.

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  13. Nantucket D - Thank you! I'm loving how it feels to be in my room now. Amazing how little changes can make such a difference.

    Leeann - Thanks so much! You are always so supportive! And that would be awesome if you lived near me. I think we'd be great friends too! x

    Paigenicholl - Thank you! I really appreciate it. I got the toile pumpkin on etsy.

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  14. Gillian - Thank you! And thanks for stopping by!

    Meghan - Thanks! Yes, been working on my novel for a little while, now that all 4 kids are in school.

    Hansonpatch - So glad to hear from you!! I've thought about you a lot! I've wondered how you were doing. I hope you are doing well. You totally get me! And, oh my gosh, I LOVED Paranorman!! I've watched it a million times, and I actually listen to the soundtrack when I'm writing because I find it so inspirational. I love it for all the same reasons as you. If you get a chance, shoot me an email and let me know how you are.

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  15. I like what you're doing with your room! I like rooms with slanted ceilings like that. My mom's house has those upstairs and I like the cozy feel they give.
    I think the connection you found between the Salem witch trials and your past is so interesting. How beneficial to be able to realize that. I love how history resonates so deeply in you and in your home. I can't wait to see it this summer! And you too! :)

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  16. I love that bedspread and pillow. You certainly have a unique and special style - I love it!

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