American war on (witchy) women

Wonderful essay from historian Stacy Schiff, who knows her witches and witchcraft, in today’s New York Times:

It’s 2016, but people still seem to believe Hillary Clinton practices the dark arts. Source: Witchcraft on the Campaign Trail – The New York Times

Three of my favorite paragraphs (pay special attention to the second one below–it’s got a sly socko-boffo twist):

Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless: They offer the blessed relief of assigning blame; they allow us to distill spite, that heady brew of vindication and humiliation. We may consider ourselves more enlightened than the Peruvian villagers who last month burned a woman alive, or than the rural Ghanaians who banish spell-casting women to primitive witch colonies. But we still have few other names for the way a woman’s voice unsettles, for the queasy sense that the world must be upside-down if she happens to be running it. Nancy Pelosi’s Republican challenger portrayed her as the Wicked Witch of the West in a 2010 ad. (He melted her in the TV spot, though not in the election.) An older woman moreover knows things a younger woman does not; she can say things a younger woman says with difficulty. Like no.

At least some of us can take comfort in the fact that we have tamed many of our fears. Otherwise we might hear the kind of reckless accusation the 1692 witchcraft court did when a blunt, boastful, perversely contentious man came before it. Thrice married, he guarded his secrets closely. He made outsize promises; he threatened and insulted. He broke rank with his establishment peers. He emerged unscathed from a series of savage attacks. Under interrogation, he made an art of “tergiversations, contradictions, and falsehoods.” Among his wizardly feats: He manipulated a very heavy gun despite surprisingly small hands. He was clearly a superhuman mastermind, the most formidable of witches, “the ringleader of them all.” His trial was the one everyone awaited. He was hanged in Salem that August.

Prepare yourself for a storm of witchcraft when a woman alights on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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