Tuesday, July 11, 2006

300 Years to Right a Wrong

Three-century-old Virginia Witch is Exonerated
Grace Sherwood was convicted through trial by water in 1706

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (AP) -- The Witch of Pungo is no longer a witch.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine gave an informal pardon Monday to Grace Sherwood, who 300 years ago became Virginia's only person convicted as a witch tried by water.
"I am pleased to officially restore the good name of Grace Sherwood," Kaine wrote in a letter that Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf read aloud before a re-enactment of Sherwood's being dropped into the river.

"With 300 years of hindsight, we all certainly can agree that trial by water is an injustice," Kaine wrote. "We also can celebrate the fact that a woman's equality is constitutionally protected today, and women have the freedom to pursue their hopes and dreams." (www.cnn.com July 11, 2006)

I just love it when ignorance is rectified, and it only took 300 years. The problem is, the same ignorance that condemned innocent women to death 300 years ago, still prevails freely in our society, as evidenced by current battles for equal rights by gays/lesbians. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a world of difference between what happened 300 years ago and what is happening today, the same basic ingredient – ignorance – is involved. 300 years ago, because of ignorance – well, you might want to add spite, jealousy, envy and a few other undesirable emotions into the mix – many innocent women were put to death under the false guise of witchcraft. Today, in an entirely different comparison, those same emotions seem to guide lawmakers in their decisions to deny equal rights to gays/lesbians. I can only hope that it does not take 300 years to rectify the situation. Just a lovely thought for the day.

BTW - Grace Sherwood's guilt was proved by throwing her in the river. Since she floated, it was a sign that pure water would not contain evil and she was convicted of witchcraft. If she had not floated, ie., drowned, then she was not a witch. Talk about your scientific ways to prove guilt. She did spend some time in jail, she was not killed, and in time was released and regained her land. Still, she went through life under the stigma of being a witch. Guilty until proven innocent. My, how things stay the same 300 years later.