Saturday, April 27, 2013

Haunted Trees of New England

New England is steeped in ghostly legends and folklore, with an unusually high number of haunted sites reported throughout the region: houses, bars or inns that played host to tragic events where tortured souls still reside; desolate roads or old cemeteries where lonely spirits walk the night; and whole areas where cursed villages were abandoned or great battles were fought, charged with the residual energy of the past. There are also haunted trees.

The belief in haunted trees goes back through history and across cultural boundaries. In the folk religion of the ancient Celts, trees were considered a link with the supernatural world. Tribal societies indigenous to the New England region, like the Abenaki and Wampanoag, had similar beliefs regarding tree-dwelling spirits and divinities. And the superstitious Puritans who settled here lived in constant fear of the dark forces that haunted the wooded areas just beyond their village walls...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rebellion of the Damned

Diabolical Witchcraft as Social Revolt in Early Modern France

The Age of Enlightenment had yet to begin and it would be well over a century until revolution touched off in France. Ruled by a traditionalist monarchy and a corrupt state church, the country was still very much stuck in the dark ages throughout the Early Modern period. The Catholic Church dominated nearly all areas of social, political and economic life, and nowhere was the iron grip of "divine authority" felt stronger than by the rural peasantry.

As the largest single property owner in France, the Church controlled nearly 40% of the country's wealth much of which accrued through a heavy taxation on the peasantry and the confiscation of lands. Upper Church officials mostly came from old nobility provincial and royal court families, and they maintained a lavish and decadent lifestyle (“by the will of God”) while the poorest segments of rural society struggled daily against debt, eviction, poverty, malnutrition and premature death.

In the face of such a bleak and unjust state of affairs, what’s a downtrodden peasant to do?