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 had an ancestor arrested for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, and her name was Sarah Pease. But then, just last month, I discovered that I have another direct ancestor, Elizabeth Hart, who was also arrested for witchcraft in Salem in 1692 (in fact, her ancient home still stands in Lynnfield, Massachusetts). In addition to that, I found another tie to those famous 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.
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 was 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 in my soul.
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 (you can read about my experience with this song here). 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.