Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Trip to Salem: Magic, Mystery and More

Yesterday I returned from my trip to Salem, MA. As I mentioned prior to my departure, I flew out to spend some time with my friend and colleague, Pastor Phil Wyman of The Gathering. Phil has been described by the locals as a "revolutionary pastor," and that is certainly true in my experiences with him during the week. I lost track of how many times we were walking around Essex Street and the surrounding area when a Witch or Pagan would call out "Hey, Phil!" and would then proceed to thank him for helping to create a better environment between Pagans and Christians in Salem. Phil and his church members are now preparing for the Brimstone Chronicles, an event that presents a Christian perspective on death and the afterlife as part of the Festival of the Dead events in the city.

While I was visiting Phil I had the opportunity to share my story with his church members on Sunday morning, and to have a teaching time on Sunday night on why I as a Christian enjoy Halloween. The feedback was positive, and I enjoyed meeting members of Phil's church.

With the Halloween season this is the time of year to visit Salem, and the rise in tourism was in swing while I was there, but this will continue to rise as the calendar moves closer to Halloween. As I walked along the streets I had the opportunity to visit lots of shops and to meet a variety of interesting Witches and Pagans. Some of these folks include the gentleman I am pictured with in this post, Christian Day, who is the moving force behind the events associated with the Festival of the Dead. I had an opportunity to discuss a few areas of common interest with Christian, and I hope to keep in touch with him. In addition, I spoke briefly with Dr. Rose Wood who has a Ph.D. in science fiction literature. I mentioned my research in the area of religion, pop culture, and speculative fiction, and she shared her well informed perspectives on this topic.

I also had a chance to do a little sightseeing and I used the opportunity to visit the Salem Witch Trial Memorial and cemetery, and it provided for an interesting time of historical reflection as well as a somber mood as I stood in the place where one of the hanging judges from the sixteenth century with trials was buried, and also stood over the grave of one of the pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. Salem is indeed filled with a lot of history, an element of the macabre, and a great place to interact with Witches and Pagans. I hope I can return in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Hi there!
I'm new to your blog...I linked from Phil Wymans blog...which I linked through...mmmmm, I don't know anymore.
Anyways, ended up here...and I'm glad I did.
I am exploring what place Sci-Fi and Fantasy has in my life as a Christ-follower..and I would like your take on it.
Do you have a particular article you've written about this topic?
If so, I've really like to read it.
Having spent most of my life hating Halloween, I've gotten to this point...and think that I may have just followed the whole 'sheep' mentality...which I find embarassing.
So, I'm on a hunt for information...

John W. Morehead said...

Hello, Che. Thanks for stopping by. I have a separate blog where I explore the kinds of issues you are asking about. It's called TheoFantastique, and it can be found at I'll send you a separate email through your blog on this, but thought I'd respond here too for others.

Anonymous said...

Thanks alot.
I'll check it out.
I added your blog to my reader, and look forward to some interesting articles.

Anonymous said...

You should become a witch, pagan, or something. As things now stand, you don't have anything about you that would identify you with Christianity. Take the plunge. After all, it's what you're really interested in. You know: horror, burning man, paganism, etc. Quit denying who you are. Just think, you won't have to worry about repenting of anything. ("Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law."- Crowley.) Aren't you tired of kidding yourself? You know you're not really into the whole Christian religion thing.

With complete irreverance, contempt and despisement for all that you are and do,

Mark Scheiderer

John W. Morehead said...

Mark, you should be ashamed of yourself because of coming to a blog maintained by a Christian and engaging in poor reasoning (e.g., somehow connecting horror to Paganism, confusing certain interests in religious studies like Neo-Paganism with practicing such spiritualities, etc.), making false accusations, and engaging in judgmentalism. It's "Christians" like you that confirm the stereotypes and push Neo-Pagans, Wiccans and others away from considering the pathway of Jesus.

One more thing: since you find this blog and my thoughts so despicable please save your time and don't drop by anymore. We can do just fine without you.

Anonymous said... you get that alot?
Since God is so incredibly good, how come we christians can be so mean?
Guess He still needs to do some work here...

Anonymous said...

Dear John,

I met you Monday, I was the guy behind the desk when you walked in who greeted you. Christian Day and I were fellow coven mates when Shawn Porier was alive; now we kind of call each other coven in-laws, since we haven't practiced together since Shawn's death. We have many wonderful memories of Shawn, and many a sabbat meeting over the last five years that I have known him. Phil Wyman has been a great supporter of us, I do respect him.

Samhain is a small part of the big picture of what witches celebrate, there are actually seven more sabbats ( you know this). Samhain is part of three of the harvest sabbats, the other's called Lammas, and Mabon( which we call "The witch's Thanksgiving). I would be happy to explain to you what each of these sabbats mean, and how they lead up to Samhain; you will see they have a lot in common with Christianity in a more metaphysical manifestation; I find it fascinating. I've written extensively on it. Anytime, I can share with you what I know.

Nathaniel McManus

Matt Stone said...

Mark, just because you are recovering from an abusive “cult” experience ( doesn’t give you license to be abusive in turn. In fact I would have thought it would have given you pause for thought!

John W. Morehead said...

Che, I don't get comments like Mark's much but they do happen from time to time, which is why I moderate comments here. For some fundamentalists and evangelicals my associations, theology, and praxis makes them uncomfortable and it results in being labeled and put in boxes they feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, it goes with territory.

John W. Morehead said...

Nathaniel, I remember you. Thank you for your help and hospitality while I was in Salem. It is good to hear your favorable report about Phil as well.

As an academic researcher I have been exploring Neo-Paganism and Wicca for several years, but I would be happy to hear your perspective that will enrich my knowledge and experience of another's spirituality. Thanks for making this offer and for leaving this comment on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the reason you moderate comments here is because a year or so ago I posted info on JPUSA on your's, Jon Trott's and Eric Pement's blogs (all within a one hour time span.) All three of you then switched to comment moderation within days.
TRUTH - when it clashes with your own predetermined ideas - is something you run from.

ANATHEMA to your works,

Mark Scheiderer

John W. Morehead said...

Actually, your comment provides another saddening example that you need to get your facts straight. I started moderating commments well before you started sending your diatribes and as a means of facilitating informed, reasoned, and reflective dialogue on important issues. Unfortunately, your comments do not meet any of these criteria. I have been gracious to you in approving your comments up till now, but until you can be civil and thoughtful any future comments will be quickly deleted.

nic paton said...

Hi John
Greeting to you in the midst of acrimony. Your witness is one of peace and tolerance. You care enough to be extremely scrupulous with the truth, and that is apparent to all.

I enjoyed your story of Salem, and it gives off the aroma of Christ, open, accepting, and at the same time in no way compromising His truth.

You're obviously able to handle yourself in the face of misunderstanding. I do love the Blog-Pastor role, where you actually face adversity and have to publically demonstrate a response (I went through something similar in relation to defending ).

As an aside, I have spent the last week studying your burning man material, and it is a great preparation for our first
Afrika Burns event next month.

John W. Morehead said...

Nic, thank you for your kind and gracious comments. I'm glad you found the Burning Man material helpful. And thanks for introducing me to your blog.