Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Witchcraft’ Category

A Genealogy of Witches

In Witchcraft on December 23, 2014 at 10:52 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

As a genealogist and librarian it really isn’t strange that I receive requests from people interested in finding their roots. Every single day the appeals come in. Morning, noon and night my phone lights up. But every so often, I receive a different kind of request….to help someone locate a very “special” kind of ancestor. These messages are always from young girls. They come to me from all over the world. These girls tell me—with urgency—about themselves and how they just know that they are “different.” They feel things. They can do things. And then, ultimately…it is always the same request:

Can you help me find if I am related to any witches?

First, I wondered why they chose to ask me. Several years ago I wrote a piece on a most interesting lineage society called the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches (ADEAW). So I think that this is how they find me—through the magic of Google and the internet. This very serious lineage and history-oriented society is mainly concerned with proving direct lineage to Colonial Era men and women who had been accused of witchcraft. I respond to these young women and I tell them that I can certainly help them complete their family tree. I ask them if they know of any possibility that their families had been in America during the 1600’s. I tell them this will be a great deal of work but we can do it together. And we start. I begin a file. We exchange some information and then…nothing. Somehow they drift away. It is too much work! I tell myself. They are young. Perhaps, they really aren’t all that interested. So many people begin this journey and then are tied up in their everyday lives and they stop. They put it away for when they have the time. So then I also put away their files and work on something else…until this week when a series of dreams beginning on the Winter Solstice set my mind to action. When I realized that I am not serving these young women as I should be serving them. In fact, I am finally willing to truly answer this question that they ask so regularly:

Can you help me find if I am related to any witches?

I know what it means to be different. I know what you are truly asking of me. It was hidden from me before. But now my eyes are open. You are the ones who feel everything. You have the beautiful voices. You are alight with creative powers. You have visions. You are a healer. Men are in love with you. Your hands bring a vitality to plants. You speak to the animals. You sing and you dance. You are moved by the sun and the stars and the moon. You speak their language. You are not just asking me if your ancestors are acceptable members of a lineage society such as ADEAW. For you know your people probably were not in America then. Maybe you are Polish, Lithuanian, African, Italian…Maybe you don’t even know where you came from at all. You are asking me simply if I can prove to you that you are a witch. And I believe that I can…with a little genealogy…if you are willing to do some inner searching.

This journey begins, first, with you. Tell me about yourself. Where have you come from? Who are your parents? Your grandparents? Know that there are people who came before you and that they were just like you. It will be like looking into a mirror. And they were witches. In fact, a lot of your ancestors were witches. Do you really know what a witch is? According to the dictionary a witch can be defined as a woman who is thought to have magic powers; a person who practices magic as part of a religion (such as Wicca). Are there women in your family history who practiced magic? Magic is defined as the use of supernatural powers…a power that seems mysterious. Are any of your ancestors witches? Did your grandmother make a soup that brought more than nourishment to your body? Did your grandmother mend birds’ wings? Did she sing like an angel? Did she contrive fairy tales and bedtime stories that followed you into your dreams? What about her garden? Was it teeming with life? Did she heal you and others? Did she touch you and everything was better? Did she pray with you? Was she devout? Did everyone come to her for advice? Did she know things?  Maybe there are little clues that we can find when we dig up her story. Historically witches were midwives, nurses, teachers and artists. Maybe they didn’t even know they were witches? They just did what came naturally. Sometimes the places where our ancestors came from explain the magic we feel in our lives today. Were there ancient traditions associated with the land and the people? Find your deepest ancestry and learn about their customs and their spiritual ways. You will probably have fireworks go off in your heart when you learn that you have always loved these ways. It will all seem right.

Sometimes churches were built upon ancient temples. This is a church called Santa Maria della Neve in Bugnara, Italy. It was once the site of a temple to the goddess Ceres. In fact the tiles from the ancient temple are still visible.

Unfortunately there were times in our world’s history that singing beautiful songs, dancing, healing, having men fall in love with you and celebrating these ancient beautiful places and traditions… were looked down upon as evil attributes. Mostly women were found guilty of being witches. From 1400-1700 an estimated 500,000 to one million people were burned as witches. History has forever supported the theory that women are inferior and foul beings. Women such as Eve and Pandora were said to have brought all of the evil into the world—according to some of our stories. However the Old Religion held the sacred female abilities of creation, healing, spirituality and beauty in esteem and personified these qualities into the figure of a goddess. The most harmful book ever written against womankind was a manual about witchcraft. Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer) blames all of the world’s ills on the female sex. I have this book and I have read it in all of its ugliness. It was an explicit guide for trying, condemning and executing witches. It is possible that most of today’s negative notions concerning women can be traced to this book. Basically it states that women who deviate from their humble positions as men’s servants are witches and should be executed. Women are dangerous, it purports, as they take away man’s generative powers. Women are intellectually like children. But the main theme of the Witches’ Hammer was this: All witchcraft comes from carnal lust which in women is insatiable. If you read of the history of the charges brought upon women you might be shocked. Some women went to death solely because they were beautiful and they caused men to desire them. Others danced in the woods or healed the sick. They were different. They stood out from the crowd. This was their magic and for this magic they were burned.

It is hard to believe there could be a society that would want to kill you because of your magic. There is magic everywhere. And what is more magical than life itself? We know that we don’t come from nothing. We come from something. Science tells us this. We are born of love and intimacy—of magic—between a man and a woman. There is a spark at conception. And of course, mothers know all about the magic of childbirth. There is nothing more beautiful in the universe than a new child. When I found myself just upon that moment of bringing new life into this world I could not stop thinking of all of the women before me who had also done this to bring another generation into the world. I thought of my grandmothers. It was almost as if they were all with me in that room. We are nothing but a long inseparable  line of those who came before us and of those who will come after us.

I have known that researching your family history is akin to magic. There are books about this. There’s actually a phenomenon called “Psychic Genealogy.” Those of us who research know all about it. The dead seem to guide us along. It is actually quite beautiful. Renewing these connections between past and present are often moments of intense energy. Of magic. So I invite all of you who wonder…who know that you are from a magical family to let me help you prove this.  History may not have documented your ancestors as witches…but you may find  women who were truly special and magical. And so are you.

 

Are Any of Your Ancestors in the Book of Witches?

In Societies, Witchcraft on April 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm
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A witch trial

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Exodus xxii, 18.

The book finally arrived. Set against a stark black cover is the gilded title: “Associated Daughters of Early American Witches, Roll of Ancestors.” It is quite impressive to look at and I must admit the pages are burning with a little more than just history and genealogy. There is something more in here.
Of course, I poured through it, wondering if my own family might be included. There are over 300 “witches” mentioned and each entry includes birth, death, parents, spouse, children, accusation and references. There is a handy index in the back, as well. And you might be surprised how many national figures from our early American history actually show up in this book! John and Priscilla Alden, Ann Hutchinson….and ancestors of many famous people. But what about my own? I wondered.

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Anne Hutchinson on Trial

Most of my early Americans were in Virginia during this time period. This society (and this book) honors the ancestors of women who were mistreated during the Witch Hysteria in Colonial America prior to 31 December 1699. It covers all of the colonies, however, unfortunately not much remains from the south as many court houses and records were destroyed during the Civil War. But I do have some New England lines and I decided to check them out.

The first thing I did was to open up the index and browse through for any familiar names. And there were a few: Carter, Crawford, Harding, Hobbs, Jones, Taylor, Abbott, and Sanford. As crazy as it seems, some of these very early families are my most documented. But nothing seemed to work out until I came to the last name on the list: Sanford. And this is where I found my “witches.”

I journeyed back in time to a world of treachery and suspicion. No one was safe. If you were beautiful, you had sold your soul to the devil. If you danced in the woods, you were worshipping Satan. If you were a healer, a visionary, if you were gifted in any sort of way, if you had different opinions or beliefs…it was very likely that you would be accused of witchcraft. Those accused were imprisoned, tried, tested, tortured and either acquitted or put to death. Imprisonment was awful. Some were taken from their sickbeds and locked away for months. Women gave birth in these prisons, in shackles and in chains. Others died due to the deplorable conditions before their sentence was announced.

Dunking a Witch

Dunking a witch

You could always confess and that might buy you some time. They wanted you to confess; to justify their accusations. However, such a confession would imply your guilt and complicity in various crimes—often that crime was murder, for unusual and unexplained deaths (especially children’s deaths) were usually blamed on “witches.”

My part in this story begins in 1607, with Thomas Andrew Sanford, my 10th great grandfather. The lineage is a long one: myself, my father, Ada Johanna Knuppel (my grandmother), Mary Winifred Chambless (my great grandmother), Mary Virginia Brown (2nd great grandmother), Sarah Amanda Roberts (3rd great grandmother), Eliza Brown Lancraft (4th great grandmother), Nathaniel Lancraft (5th great grandfather), Sarah Jocelyn (6th great grandmother), Abigail Abbott (7th great grandmother), Anna Sanford (8th great grandmother), Thomas Sanford (9th great grandfather) Thomas Andrew Sanford (10th great grandfather).

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My third great grandmother, Sarah Amanda Roberts

I never knew that Thomas Andrew Sanford existed until now. There are hundreds of sets of grandparents in our family trees but that does not make any one of them any less significant. If just one of them did not exist, we would not exist. It is a matter of science. All we are is the sum product of every person who preceded us. Nothing more and nothing less. Some scientists say that, perhaps, we even carry their memories. Everything is recorded in our DNA. Even our memories and life experiences. Even the memories and life experiences of our ancestors.

Thomas Andrew was born in Essex, England, around 1607/1608, to Ezekiel Sanford and Rose Warner. He came to America on the Arabella in March of 1631 and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Eventually he was granted land in Milford, Connecticut, where he settled permanently. Thomas had a brother named, Andrew, who also came to America, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. Herein lies our family witch story.

Salem, that village whose name is synonymous with witch hysteria, had a rival in the panic of the 1600’s and it was Hartford, Connecticut. In fact, Connecticut’s witch hysteria preceded Salem’s by decades. There is an interesting book, The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, 1647-1697, by John Taylor, that provides some excellent resources for anyone interested in this often neglected part of the story and of the history of our fascination with witchcraft. It contains all the details of the old texts and their descriptions of how to know a witch, how to examine a witch, how to punish and execute a witch. Here is a link to an online version of the book:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12288/12288-h/12288-h.htm

Most importantly, for me personally, this book also contains the story of my uncle and aunt, Thomas and Mary Sanford.
According to written documents, Andrew and Mary were indicted on witchcraft charges on 6 June 1662, based on the confessions of Rebecca Greensmith. The Greensmiths were not popular citizens. They had been accused and convicted for stealing and other petty crimes over the years. It was in prison that Goodwife Greensmith indicted the others.

“I also testify that I being in ye wood at a meeting there was with me Goody Seager Goodwife Sanford & Goodwife Ayres; and at another time there was a meeting under a tree in ye green by or house & there was there James Walkely, Peter Grants wife Goodwife Aires & Henry Palmers wife of Wethersfield, & Goody Seager, & there we danced, & had a bottle of sack: it was in ye night & something like a catt cald me out to ye meeting & I was in Mr. Varlets orcherd wth Mrs. Judeth Varlett & shee tould me that shee was much troubled with ye Marshall Jonath: Gilbert & cried, & she sayd if it lay in her power she would doe him a mischief, or what hurt shee could.”

Goodwife Greensmith and her husband were both found guilty and executed in January of 1662 on Gallows Hill—near Trinity College, where a large crowd gathered to enjoy the entertainment.

Another accusation came from Robert Sterne.

“Robert Sterne testifieth as followeth.
“I saw this woman goodwife Seager in ye woods with three more women and with them I saw two black creatures like two Indians but taller. I saw likewise a kettle there over a fire. I saw the women dance round these black creatures and whiles I looked upon them one of the women G: Greensmith said looke who is yonder and then they ran away up the hill. I stood still and ye black things came towards mee and then I turned to come away. He further saith I knew the persons by their habits or clothes haueing observed such clothes on them not long before.”

Their actual crime was conducting public meetings other than those held by the elders of the village—which, in turn, meant that they were consorting with Satan. The actual offense? They were caught dancing in the woods, drunk on alcohol. Andrew was acquitted, but Mary was found guilty and hanged on Gallows Hill. (Although one account I found said the following: Like some weird spectre of the spirit world, she disappeared!) Whatever actually happened to her, Mary, the mother of five, was only about 42 years old.

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Andrew moved his family to Milford, following the tragic loss of his wife and lived out the rest of his life near his brother, my grandfather. He remarried and died in 1684. My grandfather died in 1681. Although witch accusations were very commonplace in New England during this time, Andrew (and the rest of our family) must have been very fearful of repercussions. For it never ended in their lifetime. Just a few miles away in Salem, Massachusetts, something else was brewing and more lives would be lost.

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Hanging witches

If you are interested in finding if you have any family connected to the early American witches, make an appointment with me at the Lewiston Public Library.  Email : mkratts@gmail.com.   You never know!

Direct lineage to an accused “witch” may make you eligible for membership in the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches.  This is a society of women who claim lineage to one of the individuals who were accused in early America before 31 December 1699.  It is a genealogical society that seeks to preserve the names of those accused.

Check out their website at:

http://www.adeaw.us/

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The Associated Daughters of Early American Witches

In Societies, Witchcraft on December 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm

John Norman, my ninth great grandfather, Broad Street Cemetery, Salem

John Norman, my ninth great grandfather, Broad Street Cemetery, Salem

Mary Ropes Norman, my ninth great grandmother,  Broad Street Cemetery, Salem

Mary Ropes Norman, my ninth great grandmother, Broad Street Cemetery, Salem

It just may be the most unusual and fascinating American lineage society that I have ever come upon. Maybe some of you might consider yourselves prospective members.

They are the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches.
http://www.adeaw.us/index.html

According to their website:

The PURPOSE of this Society shall be:
1. To search for and preserve the names of those accused of witchery in that portion of Colonial America now the United States of America.
2. To locate the living female descendants of all witches who were accused in the American colonies prior to published records of same.

Of course, we’re fascinated with witches and the story of one of the darkest events in American history. Are you connected by blood to this great tragedy? Maybe it’s time you find out.

I have my own Salem ancestors. Through my father’s family lines there is one branch of my family tree that reaches back into old Massachusetts. My ninth Great Grandfather, John Norman, and his wife, Mary Ropes, my ninth Great Grandmother, are just two of my direct ancestors linked to this historic period and Salem, itself.

John Norman and his wife, Mary, lived in Salem during the famous Witch Trials. I’m not sure if they were involved in any way. Perhaps, one day when I have time to research a little deeper into their stories I can find some sort of family connections. There is quite a bit of information about their lives. Oddly enough this time period is extremely well documented and records remain to this day. Regardless… they were there. And in some way, because of them, so was I.

John Norman was born in Salem on March 4, 1637, to John Norman and Arabella Baldwin. His father, also John Norman, was a carpenter and shipwright.  He shared in the first grants to Salem settlers and his first home was in the North Field on land granted to him in 1636.  He eventually settled in Manchester where he opened a house of entertainment to sell wine and beer and provide provisions and accommodations for me and horse.  He was also a constable and served on the grand jury at times.  Records say that he was a “combative” sort of man.  He was summoned to court several times for engaging in physical conflicts with neighbors.  Apparently, his wife, my grandmother, Arabella, was not a meek and mild woman, herself.  She also appeared in court for accusations such as “striking the wife of Nicholas Vinson.”  Yet another time she served as a witness against a man who was tried for “profane swearing.”  Her testimony said that the defendant had uttered: “plague take it.”

Mary Ropes was born on November 3, 1644, to George and Mary Ropes. Her father, George, had been “slain in the wars against the Indians.” Interestingly, she and John Norman both died in 1713. It was a very violent time.

There are other interesting Salem Witch related burials at Broad Street Cemetery. George Corwin, High Sheriff of Essex County, is not buried too far from my grandparents. He carried out the arrests of the accused and executions of the condemned. He was buried first in the basement of his home as his family feared any repercussions. Years later his corpse was exhumed and reinterred. Jonathon Corwin, a judge and jurist during the trials, is also buried at Broad Street.

I would love to go to Salem one day and visit with my grandparents and other family members beside their graves. My curiousity forces me to wonder and search for their personal roles in this horror, yet part of me is afraid to know the truth. Perhaps some things are meant to stay buried. Perhaps some things are meant to be found.