Saturday, October 31, 2009

Witchcraft was hung, in History,

It was the closests I could find to fit halloween with witches and all that? Okay, arguably "One need not be a chamber to be haunted" might have been more fitting, but I chose this instead...

Witchcraft was hung, in History,
But History and I
Find all the Witchcraft that we need
Around us, Every Day--
(F 1612)

Likely the allusion to witchcraft refers to the Salem Witch trials in New England. No doubt Dickinson was very familiar with the history of these trials and how many were suspected of witchcraft and, subsequently, hanged for the perceived crime. Many people like to think that such incidents are isolated in history, happening only rarely and then fading out of practice. Through this poem, however, Dickinson's speaker implies a reversal of the meaning of "witchcraft."

The speaker claims that both the speaker and history "find all the witchcraft that we need / Around us, Every Day", but this leaves the conclusion for the reader to draw for him or herself. Many readers might intepret this poem to mean that "witchcraft" continues in many forms, that it never dies out. This interpretation of the word might mean the casting of spells, good or especially bad, or it could refer to trouble-making, spreading of fear, and suspicious acts. Anything dark or mysterious could be included in this interpretation. And yes, no doubt, such things do continue to happen.

And yet another reading could draw an entirely different conclusion. Perhaps what Dickinson was directing her speaker to imply is that maybe those who think they are preventing evil or the dark from this perceived "witchcraft," perhaps they are the very ones who are committing true witchcraft. Perhaps their destructive or suspicious deeds are the ways they go about spreading the fear among neighbors, scaring those around them with their accusations and making everyone fear what lies around the corner or in the next home. Maybe the doubt and rumors are far more destructive than any spell or hex.

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