Jenni’s Comments on “For Thou Art With Me”
(Last updated 12-22-16)


Setting ~ Language ~ Characters ~ Themes ~ Sources

Historical Inspirations ~ Historical Inaccuracies ~ Challenges


At long last “Touched by an Angel” does its Salem witch trial-themed episode!  Well… sorta.  See, among my many TBAA episode wishes was the idea of an historical flashback episode about the angels’ activities in 1692 Salem Village.  Of course, that never came to pass.  After TBAA stopped production, I toyed with the idea of doing episode-like stories on JABB (with some Dyeland elements thrown in).  However, I still had a year of college to get through and so that never really happened.  Until May of 2005 during which I wrote “Nor Iron Bars a Cage” with the help of some of the
JABB YahooGroup crowd.  The much more Dyeland-centric “The Uninvited Guest” followed in February 2006.  However, it wasn’t until this past late April/ early May that I finally got around to tackling the witch trials.

To be honest, I had written what became a sort of rough draft for the story as it is now in October of 2005.  Some of the elements I took from that early version were:

~ the Hope and Josiah (originally George) relationship

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Andrew as a doctor called in to examine the “afflicted”

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Andrew’s dismissal because of the angel’s distrust of the “afflicted”

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Nathan’s preference for Hope over Leah Harding

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Hope’s subsequent arrest

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Hannah’s unfortunate death and its impact on Hope’s fate

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Hope’s execution and last words

Things that were in my original version but cut from the story:

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Adam originally was the angel of death in Shiloh.  This was, of course, changed to     Henry since I decided Adam couldn’t know about Andrew’s past with the witch trials in order to make the Dyeland frame story work

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Josiah originally lived years after his daughter’s death and married Constance

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All the “afflicted” were young girls

Things that were completely new to me when I set down to write this for JABB:

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Henry’s involvement

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Eben’s involvement and the part this chapter in history played in his fall

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Starling was absolutely no where in my original story

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There was no willow tree

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The Dyeland/Crucible frame story

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Finally, my original version had no sense of why people began to accuse their neighbors of witchcraft

Setting

Perhaps the biggest shift from my original intent was that I completely moved the story out of Salem and to the made-up (but reminiscent) town of Shiloh and set it earlier than 1692.  Well, to be honest, I originally hoped to write about the European witch trials.  I had a number of reasons for this.  Chief among them was that my ancestors would have been in Europe during the 1600s, not the colonies.  So I thought that would make the story more personal for me.  Also, there were vastly more witch trials and executions in Europe.  Some historians say even millions died thus accused.  In addition, I always liked when TBAA veered away from the United States (not that Shiloh is properly part of the United States as we’re talking about a period over 100 years before 1776).  Just cause it was something different.  However, in the end I had to be realistic and admit that A. I’ve never been to Europe so that limits my ability to write convincingly of the area, B. I know next to nothing of witch trials in Europe, and C. I had limited time and funds for research and the American stuff was more easily obtained.  So I ended up with Shiloh, Massachusetts. 

Why Shiloh and not Salem?  My reasoning here was that I didn’t want to reuse the same people and stories so many had heard nor accidentally offend any actual person nor their descendants.  I picked 1651 because outside of 1692 it was one of the most lethal years in the history of American witch trials.  According to this site 5 people were executed that year, a total of 9 accused (potentially more that are not listed).  This site seems to corroborate with 4 of those executions (the Kendall execution is there listed as occurring in possibly 1647).  I chose it over the (also very bad) 1662 because I wanted to put as many years as possible between Shiloh and Salem so readers wouldn’t think “Well, why wouldn’t one of the Shiloh people like Nathan Wilkens have said something about how horrible their own experience was and prevented Salem?”  He would have most likely been dead 41 years after the events in my story.  Of course, it’s doubtful anyone at Salem would have listened, anyway. 

As for why I chose Shiloh, I knew I wanted a biblically based name like Salem.  And Shiloh just came to mind first!  In a happy accident, I later was reminded that Shiloh is where the Ark of the Covenant once was and hence a holy place.  However, according to Psalm 78:60 God abandons Shiloh and sends the Ark away.  I thought that was a really great metaphor for my own Shiloh, once a place of worship and love of God.  However, in my story it is some of the people that abandon God’s way and not the other way around.

Language

Originally I considered writing all the flashbacks in the first person from Andrew’s perspective.  However, first person is kind of awkward for me.  Further, I think using Andrew’s voice would have led to some alterations.  He might have sugar-coated things to protect his listening friends or not admitted his own emotional states.  So, while he tells the story to the Dyelanders, God is also at work showing them what exactly happened.  As Andrew (later Henry) speaks, the real images come into his listeners’ minds.

A second language issue was the most obvious.  Puritans did not speak like we do.  My way of reflecting that was to do away with most contractions, change the syntax some, and use words and phrases we don’t generally now.  For example, “clear” in place of “innocent,” “twas” for “it was,” and “aye” for “yes.”  I’m not claiming I did it correctly but I at least wanted to try.  After some advice from the Yahoogroup, I decided that amongst themselves the angels would speak as we think of them speaking, as they did on the show.  So while still very much in the 1600s Andrew, Eben, Henry, and Sam freely use contractions and a more modern speech pattern with each other.  They do, however, adapt their speech to match the humans when among them.  I hope this going back and forth wasn’t distracting.  I was just trying to use language to further establish their bonds as angels thrust into this horrible scenario.


Characters

Obviously this is a very character driven story.  But things happened with these characters that I have never experienced before.  These were darn pushy characters!  While some had been with me for over a year (Hope, Josiah, Nathan, Anna Jacobs, and various of the accusers) some I never had any intent of giving a role to or at least not the role they got.  So I’m just gonna run through em all!

The Dyelanders- Because they actually have relatively small parts in this story I’ll handle them as a group.  Basically I used the Dyelanders’ play as the impetus for the telling of Hope’s story.  I’d like to thank everyone who let me use their characters and gave me suggestions about what roles their characters might have in the production of a play. 

One surprising thing that happened with this crowd was the sandwich scene between Lady Beth, Lady JenniAnn, and Adam.  I actually dreamed that scene the night after Liz and I had a conversation about Adam.  I dreamed basically what you read: the two women and Adam go off to make sandwiches while Andrew is taking a break from the story.  In the course of that it comes out that LJA thinks of Adam as a father-figure and Lady Beth helps her to voice this.  I never intended to have such a scene in the story but the day after the dream I could not write a single word of the story until I had typed out that scene.  So because of the bizarre way that scene came to me and Liz’s encouragement, I kept the scene in the story even though it is a bit of a departure.  It does work well with what I’m trying to do lately with these stories.  That is to show the Dyelanders as a community of people who actually care a lot about each other.  They’re not just a bunch of people who all like Andrew and tolerate each other.  So there are all kinds of interconnected relationships and such.  Makes it all a lil nicer, I think, than earlier Dyeland-set JABBs. 


Adam- He was pretty much only in here for the occasional bit of humor and supportive remarks to Andrew.  Plus I had a mental image of someone teasing him about the modest clothing given his anxiety over Monica’s strapless dress in “Fallen Angela.”  So I wanted him in the frame story just for that.  Like I said above, the whole sandwich scene came out of no where and was definitely never intended.  But I had referred to Adam as the “den father” of Dyeland in a Commentary piece on Newsletter 163 and did, at some point, want that role expressed in an actual newsletter.  So it came out in this one!

The Shiloh Accusers- As I said above, some of these characters have been with me for over a year.  However, they developed a lot in writing this story.  In my original draft they were all very one-dimensional and I gave no thought to why they were behaving as they were.  Once I realized I was actually going to use that story I knew I needed at least some depth to these people.  Yet, I wanted this to very much remain a story about the angels and the accused.  So my way of adding depth was just to give everyone slightly different motives for crying witch.

I read a book entitled Witches and Historians while writing this story.  It’s a collection of essays about the Salem hysteria dating from shortly after the trials to modern interpretations.  It covers theories from:

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the afflicted girls were basically evil liars.

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there really were witches in Salem and things just got out of hand in prosecuting them.

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the afflicted were victims of hysteria brought on by strict religious principles.  Their "fits" enabled them to voice their repressed feelings and thoughts.

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the afflicted had ingested spoiled rye which led to a serious medical condition know as convulsive ergotism that can exhibit itself in the same manner as a LSD trip.

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the whole ordeal boils down to economic strife with in Salem.

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witchcraft was such a part of European society that, of course, the Salemites brought the belief with them and it was only a matter of time before trials erupted in the colonies.

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the parents put the children up to this in order to gain property, power, etc.
And several more potential motives.  So I kinda went with a modge podge of some of those.  However, I did not feel the need to touch on the evil liars, real witches, or ergot hypotheses. 

To me the Harding, Small, and Paine adults are the true villains of the story.  While scholars have debated the motives of the real accusers, I decided to use old-fashioned greed as mine.  They wanted more land and so they attacked their neighbors.  But they weren’t stupid people.  They knew immediately accusing the well-off wouldn’t work.  So they accused socially disadvantaged people first in order to gain credibility.  Once the rest of the town was on their bandwagon, they started accusing their true targets: those with land they wanted.  Savvy individuals that they were, the adults realized that there would be greater emotional impact if their children pretended to be abused by unseen foes.

Andrew voices my opinion in regards to the younger children.  They were pawns.  Their parents told them to behave in a certain way and they did.  And may be they truly felt they were bewitched. 

Also, child rearing was generally much more strict than it is now.  If your father said to roll around on the ground and pretend like someone’s attacking you… you would probably do it.  If your mother said witches existed and were attacking you, you would probably believe that, too.  Because everyone from the preacher to your neighbors to your extended family to your friends’ parents would have drilled into you the necessity of obeying your parents.  After all, it was a commandment.  Because of this strictness, the children may have even been eager to participate in this acting out.  It was the release Eben saw it as.

In the end, I’m sure I presented a very simplified explanation for what would make a person or group of people accuse others.  Especially knowing full well such accusations could lead to death.  But since I don’t *actually* know any angels who were working amongst the Puritans in the 1600s, I tried my best!  

Sam- Unfortunately, I couldn’t really think of a way to give Sam a big part.  But then since the story is 32 pages as it is, may be that’s acceptable.  I did, however, put a great deal of thought into the few lines he does have.  The unfortunate fact is, Sam would have been a liability to Andrew in Shiloh.  His being publicly seen with Andrew would have, most likely, brought a swift accusation against Andrew.  While I did not find much to substantiate that the Puritans had fear of people of African ancestry, there are an abundance of cases of Native Americans being associated with demons by the accusers.  Therefore, I didn’t think it was much of a stretch that someone looking like Sam would have drawn similar reactions.  Sam’s still a vital part of this story, though.  After all, he’s the first to comfort Andrew over Eben.

Henry- Probably the most surprising character for me in the story.  Originally he was not supposed to be so much as mentioned in the story.  Adam was supposed to be the AOD in Shiloh.  But then I wanted Adam involved in The Crucible part of the story so that wouldn’t work.  So it seemed only natural the part go to Henry.  But he was absolutely never supposed to end up in Dyeland and I never considered his telling part of the story.  But I got to the part where Henry takes over the telling and it was like the character came to me and insisted it was his part.  (No, I’m not saying I actually heard or saw Henry.  I’ve not lost it yet!)  He seemed to say that Andrew had been through enough, he couldn’t possibly be made to continue.  Let him do it.  So I did.  And that’s why Henry ended up under the willow tree and telling the end of the story.  I never really cared one way or another about Henry but in writing this I came to have a considerable appreciation for him.

Hope- Even though this was set in a very different time and culture and even country than some of us know, I wanted my heroine to be as relatable as possible.  Someone that I might have been friends with had I lived in Puritan New England.  I hope Hope is that.  Oh!  A word on her name, first.  Hope is the only character whose name just came to me.  Hope was always Hope.  Josiah was once George and the other characters took me some time to name.  But not Hope. 

Anyhow, so one way I wanted to make Hope relatable is to make her a real individual.  Not such a big deal now and probly most of you reading this consider yourselves to be true individuals, not easily swayed by a group, etc.  But for the Puritans, conformity was a big deal.  So I couldn’t have Hope be completely abnormal or anything.  But I did want some subtle hints that she was her own person.  One was her reluctance to marry.  She was a daddy’s girl through and through.  While her peers (like Leah Harding) may have done all they could to catch a guy, Nathan would have loved to have married Hope but she wasn’t initially interested.  May be she a little immature or may be she just thought she had plenty of time for that and sensed on some level she did not have much time with Josiah.  In either case, she wasn’t just going to marry cause the culture said she should.

I also wanted Hope to be proud and dignified through out.  I was really inspired by the strength exhibited by the three main women (the sisters Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easty, and Sarah Cloyce) depicted in Three Sovereigns for Sarah.  I wanted Hope to be like them.  Strong, unbending in the truth, but also vulnerable.  Real people suffered, cried, felt betrayed, were abandoned, and were ultimately killed.  I wanted Hope to show that.  I didn’t want her so aloof as if to make it seem she didn’t care much about her life. 

One thing I wasn’t sure about in regards to Hope was her appearing with Henry at Josiah’s deathbed.  Definitely not part of TBAA canon to have a deceased human come along with the AOD.  At least not that I remember.  But it’s part of my personal belief system and this is my story.  So, uh, hope no one had trouble buying it.

Finally, there was Hope’s final scene in “Dyeland.”  I’ve not yet even decided for myself if Hope appeared like a spirit in Dyeland.  Or if when Andrew stepped out of Serendipity’s door he actually moved from Dyeland to a willow tree in Heaven.  I’d be interested to know what people think about that.  I had her appear in modern clothes just cause I like to think once we’ve passed on we can dress however we want and no one judges.  And, personally, if I’d spent my life all covered up in layers… I’d go for jeans and a sweater when I could.    

Eben- Okay may be *he* was the most surprising character.  My tragic hero.  See, way back I introduced this demonic character onto the Yahoogroup.  Just to shake things up.  And I probly wanted a lil variety after years of the oh-so-sweet Lady JenniAnn.  Eben told the Dyelanders that he had dirt on Andrew that would change how they thought about him.  But the thread died on the Yahoogroup and I never got the chance to let Eben tell what his big secret about Andrew was.  Probly a good thing since I hadn’t really thought out what the secret would be!

So when it came to writing this story I decided to bring Eben in.  Originally I thought he’d be a demon all ready and aiding the accusers, leading them to sentence innocents to death.  But that didn’t seem right.  I did NOT want to give any supernatural excuse to the accusers when I think the motives were far more likely greed, hatred, etc.  Then I realized that this could be my chance to not only show why Eben fell but what about Andrew he thought was so horrible.  In the process, I started to really like Eben.  In fact, he ended up being the character I related to most strongly.  Even just doing research was enough to cause me to feel very worn down and get angry and even paranoid.  Imagine being there and being powerless to stop the insanity and the murder!  And may be you start to project your powerlessness onto your friend.

So this is Eben’s “dirt” on Andrew: that because of his suggestion Hope was killed.  But I don’t think, in his heart of hearts, Eben truly blames his friend.  I think he probably felt protective of Hope having met her even before Andrew.  He was probably still thinking about Hannah Small seeing him comforting Sarah Anderson.  In his mind, that was what prompted Sarah’s confession.  That confession enabled the trials to continue.  Because they continued, Hope was killed.  So Eben blames himself but projects it onto Andrew.  Then it all happened as Andrew explained to Lady JenniAnn.  After distancing himself from Andrew, Eben falls away from God.  Alone and unwilling to reach out, Eben fell.

And just so people know where I’m coming from in reality: Yes, I do believe in the possibility of demons.  I believe angels and humans both were given free will.  In believing that I have to hold out the possibility that some will choose to turn from God.  However, I do not believe such a decision is necessarily permanent.  In other words, don’t be surprised when I decide to redeem Eben.  Cause I’m rather attached to and overprotective of the poor guy.   

Andrew- Well… I guess in writing him I tried to think back on “Beautiful Dreamer” since that’s the earliest glimpse we get of Andrew that is of any length or depth.  He seemed a bit less sure of himself in that than in the modern-set episodes.  So I figured around 200 years earlier than even that he’d be even less confident.  But still pretty competent.  Competent enough that he wouldn’t need Sam constantly watching over him even if he might still want him to. 

“Beautiful Dreamer” also posed a problem in that it states that Andrew regarded John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Lincoln and then rejection of God’s forgiveness as his first failure.  So I couldn’t have him actually fail in this story.  That’s why Hope’s words to him on her last night were, I thought, so important for his character.  Because of her words he didn’t see her death as a failure nor blame himself. 

This was also a big step for Andrew’s relation to Dyeland and its inhabitants.  To the best of my recollection, his breaking down into tears after telling about Hope’s sentence is the first time he’s cried in front of them.  I wanted to express that he, after being so long amongst them, has started to feel comfortable enough with them to not hide his emotions.  But I also wanted to keep his emotions in check.  I don’t think he’s a “cry at the drop of the hat in front of all the nice ladies” kinda guy. 

Also important to me in regards to Andrew was his relationships with Adam and Henry.  But I’ll talk more about that in the following section.

Just for my future self’s curiosity:  At the time of this writing my favorite Andrew parts of this story are his last night with Hope in the cell and the burial scene.  Cause I like to think, somehow, someway, someone (angel or otherwise) buried those poor people.

Themes

One thing that I’ve found myself doing recently is going for particular themes in my writing.  Both in JABB and even in my various other writing exercises.  And the themes don’t necessarily end up being the ones that I’m going for at all.  In writing this, one quote kept running through my head.  It was this from Shakespeare’s Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”  That line is from King Henry’s famed “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” which even found it’s way into a couple TBAA episodes (“The Quality of Mercy” and “The Penalty Box.”)  It became my inspiration for the male aspects of this story.  The line is spoken by Henry just before his men go into battle.  It rallies them together and spurs them on in the fight.  In this case, it made me think of the three AODs.  Just that there would be such a camaraderie between them.  They’re among a select few who would really know what each other goes through.  In the case of the AODs, I don’t think even other angels of different types can really “get” them.  How often did Monica seem upset to see Andrew?  (Something I projected onto Andrew in this story just to show how little caseworkers relate to AODs unless they’ve been one.)  How do you think that made Andrew feel?  I imagine he and the other AODs try not to take it personally and know their non-AOD friends love them.  But I bet after a while it can wear on them.  I bet they would have a support system amongst themselves.  I wanted to show that here.  With Adam supporting Andrew and especially with Henry later taking over the story after seeing it’s too much for Andrew.  Then the three of them just sitting silently but together.  A band of brothers.

Another theme I was going for was community.  I wanted to show how important it was to the Dyelanders.  I wanted it clear that they confide in each other, love each other, and have a lot of fun together.  They support each other in hard times and, as with Ladies Beth and JenniAnn, help each other when the words won’t come.  And then I wanted to contrast that with Shiloh.  To show exactly why personal bonds are so important.  I doubt the trials and executions could have happened if people had forged friendships or at least deeply felt feelings of mutual respect and care for one’s fellow men and women.  It’s great to gather together under an ideal (Appreciation for Andrew with the Dyelanders, a deep religious faith for the Puritans).  But if people aren’t also committed to each other, no ideal’s gonna do much good.

Finally, communication was a theme.  I think Eben’s “fatal flaw” was that he didn’t go to anyone with his feelings.  He rejected Andrew’s repeated offers to talk.  Andrew, on the other hand, prayed to God and eventually talked to Sam also.  Then let it all out to his fellow AODs and the Dyelanders (even if it was hundreds of years later).  And I also wanted to do a lil push for telling people how ya feel about them before it’s too late a la Lady JenniAnn to Adam and, more drastically, Hope to Nathan.

The power of story was a sort of communication sub-theme for me.  By hearing Andrew's words, the Dyelanders are changed for the better.  His story of the past immediately effects their future.  It finally allows Lady JenniAnn to voice her feelings to Adam.  It inspires Nadia and Danny to not waste a moment of their life together.  The story reminds Lady Beth how important it is to talk about things when we're troubled.  Finally, in telling the story both Andrew and Henry come to terms with what they experienced in Shiloh.  In real life, telling this story meant a lot to me in that it made characters I thought were lost or at least slipping away seems very alive and bursting with energy and love and truth.  It also made me grateful to live when and where I do.  Things may not be perfect but I'm a lot more free as a woman now than many of my ancestresses were. 

Sources

I relied on lots and lots of web sites to discover the small details of colonial life.  While I allowed myself some dramatic license, I did want the little details to be historical accurate.  For example, I didn’t want to feature characters eating food that would have been rare or even inaccessible to their historical counterparts.  So I found the following sites useful for learning about colonial life:

General information:

For clothing issues I used Textiles and ClothingETA: Sadly, this web site is no longer available.  I leave the link only because the Way Back Machine may have picked something up.  I'm not sure.  Just by chance (okay, really it was Halloween costume planning) I did find this site.  I haven't perused it too much but it might be worth checking out.

Colonial America proved a good source for very basic information concerning travel and medicine.  ETA: It appears this one's gone, too...  I think this site may have a lot of the information that other one used to.  When I have a bit more time, I'll looking forward to looking at it.

To figure out what food I could and could not have Hope serve I relied a lot on ColonialLife.  I also used the Colonial Medicine section there quite a bit for vocabulary and related medical issues.

This school web site also had some good links about food.  Some even offer recipes for those so inclined.  I think it might be appropriate for us all to attempt making Johnny Cakes.  ;-)  ETA: Also gone...  But, happy day!, there's a Johnny Cake recipe here as well as some others.

BibleGateway.com was my source for biblical texts.  The Puritans actually used the Geneva Bible but as copies of that are few and far between and certainly not in my possession, I used the King James Version on that site.

ETA 3-6-11: A visitor to our site, Aubrey, was kind enough to send me this link on Colonial America.  Obviously, I did not use it in writing the story since I wrote this tale nearly 5 years ago but those searching for information may want to check it out.  Thanks, Aubrey!

ETA 9-5-12: I received another great tip from a visitor to the site.  If you'd like to learn more about Colonial-era dentistry, look no further than Colonial Dentistry, provided by: Dr. David DiGiallorenzo to get you started!  Thank you to Pedro for finding it and to Susie for passing word along!  God bless!  Ya'll give me hope.  :-)

ETA 12-22-16: Special thanks to Nancy and her students, especially Alexa, for adding to the research links here! Alexa found this site which has some more great information about colonial dentistry as well as general hygiene practices: https://www.faceliftdentistry.com/bite-correction/a-hygiene-colonial-america-teeth-bathing.html.  Thank you to the awesome crowd in the Reading Room!  :-)

Witch Hunt related information:

In addition to the two web sites I mentioned in the Setting section, I found the following useful.

National Geographic offers an interesting, interactive site about the Salem witch trials.  While I didn’t use it a whole lot in researching, it was pretty good for setting the mood I wanted for “For Thou Art with Me.”

One site I enjoyed was this one.  Again, this isn’t a site I used much for research.  (Although it did help to select books to purchase.)  But I did think it was an interesting read.  The author discusses the historical inaccuracies in The Crucible.
 

The absolute best, though not the most modern-reader-friendly, site is the Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.  I referred to that page fairly often to determine words that were likely or unlikely to be used.  It’s searchable and will arrange the documents in a variety of orders (indexed by a person’s name, by keyword, and alphabetically listed.)
 
Print & Other Media Sources:

And here’s everything else I used:

1.  Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

2.  Miller, Arthur.  The Crucible.  New York: Penguin Books, 1981.

3.  Mappen, Marc.  Witches & Historians: Interpretations of Salem.  Florida: 1980.

4.  Hall, David D. Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England.  Boston: 1999.

5.  The Crucible. Dir. Nicholas Hytner.  VHS.  20th Century Fox, 1996.

6.  Three Sovereigns for Sarah.  Dir. Philip Leacock.  DVD.  American Playhouse, 1985.

The above all dealt with the Salem trials.  So I used them more to get a sense of what the clothes looked like, what the language would have sounded like, and people’s theories on why witch trials happen.  If anyone is considering doing their own research, feel free to email me and I’ll give you a better sense of what each one of the above offered.  The two Crucible-related sources I used mostly just to get a sense of the play itself since I originally intended to have more scenes involving Dyeland’s production.  In the end, they served mostly to create a mood for me.

Hall’s Witch-Hunting surveyed *several* witch trials during the era and was not limited solely to Salem.  In fact, only one chapter covers Salem.  While the densest read on the list, IMO, it was very interesting.

The Mappen book dealt largely with Salem and featured the work of historians, sociologists, and more.  While the focus was on Salem, there was a fair amount of historical information covering even the European witch hunts.  This book did detail some of the trial activity but was mostly about theories to explain the phenomena.

Historical Inspirations

While I created all the people of Shiloh I did want to note some historical people who inspired them.  The accusers’ afflictions were inspired largely by the Salem outbreak though various other “afflicted” in other areas behaved similarly.

Six-year-old accused witch, Alice, whom Hope agonizes over was inspired by the real life ordeal of Dorcas Good.  Dorcas was a five-year-old girl who was accused of witchcraft and put on trial in Salem.  She was eventually released from jail but her mother, Sarah, was hanged. 

While other victims of witch hunts may have recited the Lord’s Prayer prior to their execution as Hope did, history recognizes Rev. George Burroughs for reciting it just before he was hanged in Salem.  The belief was real witches could not recite the prayer.  This theme pops up in both The Crucible and Three Sovereigns for Sarah.

No one can for sure say what caused the trials as I stated above.  Very few would probably suggest angels were mistaken for demons as I had Hannah Small do with Eben as he comforted Sarah Anderson.  In fact, I considered cutting that part because it seemed kinda “out there.”  However, in reading Witch-Hunting, I learned about the strange case of Mary Parsons.  One of her accusers claimed that her husband, John Parsons, once confided in him that Mary often walked around at night.  And that she was often accompanied by a strange woman no one could account for.  When a court in Northampton, Connecticut asked him about this, Parsons answered "God preserves his with his angels” (p. 103).  Whether Mary Parsons was, in fact, accompanied by an angel whom her husband or anyone else saw, I can’t say.  But we do know that John Parson’s account of the mysterious figure was introduced as evidence into the trial.  Whether imagined or not, this account and Mr. Parson’s comment to the court about it was enough to convince me to keep the scene in.

I’m not entirely clear on what happened to the bodies of the people who were executed in Salem (let alone elsewhere).  I had heard the bodies were dumped somewhere, unceremoniously.  The film Three Sovereigns depicts this.  In a truly heartbreaking scene, Rebecca Nurse’s son goes to find her body and seeing it flung amongst the woods, cradles it.  That scene really got to me.  That’s why I had Andrew bury Anna Jacobs and help find and bury Hope.  It’s not historically accurate, most likely, but then if Andrew had been in Salem may be the bodies would have been buried properly.  On a related note, according to this page there’s a tradition that Rebecca Nurse’s family did locate her body and give her proper burial.  I’d like to believe that.  You can view the memorial that was later set up for the victims’ at Salem Witch Trials Memorial.

Historical Inaccuracies

I mentioned that I was concerned about the language issue and whether I presented the Puritans’ speaking as at all realistic.  Then the substitution of King James for the rare Geneva Bible translation they used.  To this I’d like to add that I majorly simplified the trial process to the point of only mentioning one hearing per person.  Truthfully, there were multiple hearings before one even got to the trial proper.  However, I didn’t really want the story to get any longer than it all ready was.  Plus I figured anyone looking for a history lesson or just really interested in the trial procedures would rather look to the court documents or a fact-based source for that.  I would hope so, anyway!

Challenges

Now I'd just like to say a few words about what I found most difficult about writing this.  One thing I was very surprised to find myself blanching at was the religious overtones.  As a Theology major, I consider myself to be quite comfortable writing about religious issues.  But this story really challenged me on that.  Especially when the characters would recite from the Bible.  I was concerned people might take offense and think I was trying to turn JABB into some sort of Christian missionary project.  To date those fears seem to be in vain.  No one has taken the least issue with the Christian elements of this story.  Looking back, I'm really not sure why I was so worried.  After all, most of the biblical passages are from the Old Testament/ Hebrew Scriptures and therefore respected by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Also, I was writing about Puritans.  It would have been completely ridiculously to have them or the angels working with them quote any religious texts but the Bible.  The Puritans most likely wouldn't know any others and the angels would just be needlessly confusing an all ready complicated situation.  The one biblical passage I knew would be in this story from the outset was “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Another issue I had may sound silly.  But I got really creeped out at times reading and researching this.  Occasionally I thought I heard noises or saw things out of the window.  Once my mom even heard what seemed to be someone knocking on the door late one evening.  No one was at the door.  So may be it wasn't all in my head.  But it really made me consider how suggestible our minds are.  By just reading these frightening accounts of supernatural phenomena, even while believing they were made-up, I felt myself getting sucked in.  How can I then be sure, had I lived in the 17th century, that I might not have turned accuser myself?  It's a really frightening prospect and may be why the witch hunts are still so interesting to us. 


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