For all the years I’ve lived and/or worked in Salem, someone always comes along with a new offering, such as a shop or event, along with the proclamation that, “there aren’t any public rituals in Salem,” “there’s nothing outside of Halloween in Salem,” “it’s only commercial,” and, most recently, “the magic is not academic or left-wing activist enough” as the explanation for why they suddenly have something new to bring to the table. I remember one particularly austere shop coming in a few years back with the message that they came to a city with no public rituals at a time when I believe there were at least seven or more different groups doing public rituals for all eight of the Witches’ holidays, including Leanne and Nickolas and Tim and the Traditionalist Covens of New England- TCONE at OMEN. I know when Shawn and I first did Festival of the Dead in 2003, we had our own concerns that Halloween itself was slipping but that wasn’t due, in our opinion, to other Witches, but to city officials not wanting to promote it at the time. That has changed and the city is far more embracing of the peculiar tapestry of history, literature, architecture, magic, arts, culture, and even culinary experimentation that is the Witch City. Now, I get it. Most of these battle cries for something new are probably just the result of either antiquated marketing techniques (you’ve tried the rest, now try the best! We beat the competition hands down!) or simply the inability or social anxiety that presents these would-be saviors of Salem from seeing what was already being offered. That has never been an egotism that I’ve suffered from. From the very beginning of my career, I recognized that Laurie Cabot and her family (shout out to Penny Cabot too) made the magic of Salem what it is, and Laurie has not stopped doing so since she first stepped into Salem in the late 1960’s. I have always said from the beginning of my public Witchcraft life that, “without Laurie Cabot, I would have no career.” Shawn and I never presumed to “fill a void” but rather believed that we were adding to and enhancing the tapestry that was already there. Groups like Laurie Cabot & The Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple Witches Costume Ball 2019, Temple of Nine Wells – ATC, TCONE, CUUPS, Witches Education League, and numerous others have interfaced with Salem visitors for as long as I can remember. I may not always see eye to eye with some of the leaders of these groups, but that does not change the fact that they have fulfilled all the roles that some of the younger set are claiming as voids today. Perhaps some are too young to remember when Patricia A. Gozemba and Laurie Cabot getting arrested while protesting the nuclear power plant not so far away from Salem. I remember many gatherings outside of October. I remember many a coffeehouse discussion that may even have been, sakes alive, academic.
I welcome and encourage everyone seeking to help the world realize what a compellingly magical place Salem is, but I think one can distinguish oneself without petty comparisons and attempts to diminish those who have gone before you. All of us stand on the shoulders of someone.
“And we see you over there on the internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you outWe all know now we all got crowns
You need to calm down”
Taylor Swift, You Need to Calm Now