JK Rowling Salem Witch Trials

When we study the Salem Witch Trials in school, we examine a period of paranoia and religious fanaticism run amok.  Women were tortured until near death in order to coerce them into admitting they were witches… after which they were executed for being witches!

As bleak a period as this was, historically speaking, it’s quite fascinating!  Now J.K. Rowling is exploring this time in her new series ‘The History of Magic in North America’, available for reading on PottermoreThe first chapter embellished the mystical abilities of pre-Columbian Native Americans including shamans and shape-shifting skin walkers.  It also explained by North American wizards didn’t need wands to perform their feats.

The second, which is now available, investigates the days of the early settlers, most notably the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Here is the chapter’s description:

Seventeenth Century and Beyond
Debuting March 9 at 9 a.m. EST
Being a witch or wizard in North America is even more dangerous than in Europe. This account, which includes the histories of the Salem witch trials and the Scourers (a rogue band of magical mercenaries), explains why.

This is a pivotal chapter, in that it clearly establishes that it was much deadlier to be a wizard in the New World than it was in the old country.  Rowling introduces the Scourers, essentially the Western version of Death Eaters in the ‘Harry Potter’ stories.  It was these mercenaries that were partly responsible for the Witch Trials, taking advantage of the paranoia instilled in the Puritan colony.  Initially, the Scourers were used as magical law enforcement… before they became corrupted.

The Witch Trials led to the formation of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, essentially the American version of the Ministry of Magic, to prevent events like this from ever happening again.  They sought to capture and execute the Scourers, but some of the worst and most powerful escaped and blended into No-Maj society, fueling anti-magic paranoia and fear, resulting in a much more hostile environment for magicians than the population of Europe, scaring off most magic-wielders, resulting in a much lower wizard population in America and a higher No-Maj population.

Rowling does spend time with the more modest magical inhabitants, particularly the formation of the American school of wizardry and witchcraft, Ilvermorny, a more humble establishment than Hogwarts to put it mildly.

There are two more installments on their way, leading up to the events in this winter’s ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’:

Rappaport’s Law
Debuting March 10 at 9 a.m. EST
In the eighteenth century, the laws governing secrecy for the wizarding community became even stricter after a major violation that resulted in humiliation for the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic.

1920s Wizarding America
Debuting March 11 at 9 a.m. EST
Ollivanders might have a corner on the wand market across the pond, but the American makers of the finest wizarding implements were Wolfe, Jonker, Quintana and Beauvais. This is their story.

You can read them all on Pottermore.

Source: Entertainment Weekly