Closure in the Salem Psychic Wars?
Last year I devoted several posts to a local struggle in Salem over the licensing of psychics. One group, led by Laurie Cabot, wanted to limit licenses and inhibit traveling “psychic fairs” (which they felt “poached” their profits), the other, led by Christian Day, wanted more relaxed rules that would allow for a greater number of licensed psychics. Eventually a compromise measure was reached, but in the process, remains from a dead raccoon were left on the doorsteps of two local metaphysical shops.
“The remains of a mutilated raccoon were left at the doorways of two of the city’s psychic shops. At 12:41 a.m. yesterday, John Ray of Salem flagged down police Sgt. Richard Gagnon and alerted him to a raccoon’s skull and a pile of intestines that had been left at the entrance to Angelica of the Angels, a shop at 7 Central St. While patrolling Essex Street about an hour later, Gagnon discovered more remains at the door to The Goddess’ Treasure Chest at 172 Essex St.”
Some Salem residents cast suspicion on Day, accusing him of working malignant magic, but it soon came to light that the perpetrator was psychic and Salem Witch Sharon Graham, who had been nursing a grudge against Christian Day.
“Richard Watson said he went back to his Bridge Street apartment on the night of May 26 to a disturbing scene: his roommate, Sharon Graham, dressed in black, surrounded by four young men, also all in black, standing around a jar. Inside that jar was the eye of a raccoon, police say. And in two trash bags in Watson’s refrigerator was the rest of the critter, which had been dismembered.”
Now, nearly a year later, and after further accusations of witness intimidation, it looks like we have some closure. Sharon Graham, in a plea agreement, has admitted to a judge that she placed the raccoon remains in front of those shops, though she claims to not know why she did so.
“A self-described Wiccan high priestess admitted yesterday that she had placed pieces of an eviscerated raccoon on the doorsteps of two local businesses last year. But Sharon Graham said she still can’t explain why. Graham, 47, formerly of Salem , admitted during a hearing in Salem District Court that prosecutors had sufficient evidence for a conviction on charges of littering and wanton destruction of property. Judge Dunbar Livingston called the case “certainly a somewhat bizarre and troubling incident” but agreed to go along with a plea agreement that called for the charges to be continued without a finding for a year on condition that Graham perform 20 hours of community service and remain in counseling. If she complies with those conditions and stays out of further trouble, the charges will be dismissed in a year. Prosecutors also agreed to drop the most serious charge against Graham, a count of witness intimidation.”
Graham has moved out of Salem, is receiving counseling, and is being supervised by a probation officer. Christian Day has gone on to become an even bigger fish in Salem’s pond, working with the city to promote Halloween season tourism, and co-running his own Witch shop Hex. Laurie Cabot continues to be as famous (infamous?) as ever, celebrating her 75th birthday in March with Godsmack frontman Sully Erna, among others, in attendance. So it looks like this matter is finally closed, and life in Salem, in all its Witchy glory, can continue.
Self-Proclaimed Salem Witch High Priestess Charged With Tossing Raccoon Heads on Business Doorsteps
Sharon Graham, 46, and a fellow Wiccan, Frederick Purtz, 22, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of littering and malicious destruction of property. Graham also was charged with intimidating a witness.
They were accused of putting a raccoon head and entrails on the doorsteps of Angelica of the Angels and the Goddess' Treasure Chest in May.
The historic seaport, famous for holding witch trials in the 17th century, has an active Wiccan community and thriving witch-related tourism.
David Gavegnano, a lawyer for Graham, and Sean Wynne, a lawyer for Purtz, both denied that their clients had anything to do with the incident. They also argued that at any rate, the malicious destruction charge wasn't valid because the storefronts weren't permanently damaged.
A witness, Richard Watson, told police he accompanied Graham, Purtz and other people when they put the raccoon remains on the doorsteps. He said Graham hoped to frame a Wiccan businessman who had fired Graham from a psychic telephone business last spring.
Watson also said Graham had a disagreement with the owners of the two targeted businesses over proposed regulations that would limit the number of psychics who come to the city during the Halloween season. He said he was told the group had found the raccoon dead.
Gavegnano declined to comment on Watson's accusations Thursday. Wynne told The Boston Herald said there were likely "internal issues within the Wiccan community," but the tossing of raccoon entrails may be a "bastardization" of Wiccan practice because the religion doesn't condone harming others.
What makes a Witch a Witch?
A commentary by Lillee Allee
It is sad that Salem, Mass, "the Witch City" again hits national news with a rather embarrassing story. As if the psychic licensing controversy was not enough to put the spotlight on the merchantability of Witches and Witchcraft, now we are told about a side issue. This time, individuals allegedly cut up a raccoon, don black robes, and smear the remains of said racoon on two storefronts. Accusations were thrown around like white on rice, but finally two people are arrested for the deed.
It should stop there. Sick people perform sick acts every day, Unfortunately, we see that certain claims by one of the individiuals who allegedly performed this act are being taken seriously.
Claim Number One:
According to the August 22 article in the Salem News written by Bruno Matarazzo Jr., Sharon Graham who was arraigned for this incident, said that she was "the high priestess of the Salem Witches." Since she used this term in advertising for her own gain, is this simply puffery, or is there any proof of her position? I have my own suspicions, but I leave this to the news reporters in Salem to further research. If she is a priestess of any recognized group, then a simple check of the records in Boston will reveal whether or not she is a minister and whether or not there is such a group as "the Salem Witches." I personally do not believe that she was a member of any recognized religious organization. I am unaware of any group called the "Salem Witches" that is legitimate and in Salem, Mass. Certainly, a reasonable person can understand that there are way too many Witches in Salem for any one person to be a high priestess of the whole community. The fact that she felt she could speak for all the others may also indicate delusions of grandeur.
From my own research, I can comfortably state that she was once a member of a class for the priesthood from a recognized tradition of Witchcraft, but she never completed the class. I think it is a safe conclusion that her interest in Witchcraft began and ended with her interest in gaining money as a psychic in Salem. I have not seen her name on any conference,convention or Pagan Pride day roster. I have never seen her author an article or book in the new age movement or the occult category, In fact, I have not seen her name outside of commercial ventures, I have seen her name around during October in Salem. You may draw your own conclusions.
Is it a coincidence that the same two stores that were targeted are both owned by individuals who did not want any licensed readers who may have questionable credentials, training or backgrounds? Is it a coincidence that there seem to be no other connection to this woman and the two shops or their owners?
There is also the issue of whether she was a "card-carrying Satanist" as she claimed to many, including myself. Wearing a baphoment does not make one a Satanist anymore than carrying a croos makes one a Christian. John Allee states that she said she was a member of the largest Satanist organization, but neither or us saw her "red card" nor did we see any other card that would state she was clergy or a member of any organization.
If we choose to believe her claims, then one only has to look at the Satanic Rules of the Earth, written by Anton Lavey, founder of the Church of Satan. He stated quite clearly that Church of Satan members do not harm animals or children. She can claim what she wants, yet right now her behaviors are not appropriate for anyone, including a Satanist..
Some of those interviewed by the Boston television channels claim the use of the raccoon to be significant. This is simply erroneous in this case. We know there is no Satanic correlation, and Witches do not harm animals in any way. It was Gerald Gardner who popularized the Wiccan Reed which clearly states "harm none." While animals are used in rituals of African-Caribbean magic, there is no evidence that raccoons are to be used this way in any of the traditions. Ms. Graham did not self-dentify as Caribbean - but as a "Satanic Witch."
Sadly, this adds more fuel to the fire regarding Witchcraft, and there are hundreds of other Witches in Salem who will go on record to say that this act is not to be identified with Witchcraft. Most Witches will go to great lengths to protect animals, not to use them in a pathetic scare tactic. Most pagans believe in following the laws of the land, and would never condone this type of hate crime. Unfortunately, this is just another example of the occult being used as an excuse for bad behavior. The tragedy is that she is damaging the good works of Witches everywhere by identifying herself as a Witch.
She also happens to have blonde hair. I can assure you her actions do not speak for the actions of any other blondes but herself. Instead of focusing on what these people claim to be, it is time to focus on what would cause an individual to act like this. It is time to look at the individuals allegedly responsible and not blame a group of people for her bad behavior.
We have seen many "Christian" individuals go to jail after being convicted for horrible crimes such as rape and murder. These acts should not and do not reflect on the entire Christian community or on Christians in general. We have seen acts done in the name of religion. Yet these are crimes committed by extremists, and again can reflect on a whole religious belief system. It is clear that this act was not done in the name of any religion. Yet the situation can be taken a step further. I can tell you I am a purple unicorn, that does not mean that I am.
Unfortunately, because the pagan religions and spiritualities rely on self-identification these situations can and will occur. Before the finger pointing, however, a check on the person's activities and organizations will often bear the fruit of truth.
In 1692, people were accused of witchcraft due to their unpopularity in the community. Let the lesson in Salem in 2007 be that anyone may claim to be a Witch, but a quick look at their actions and beliefs may prove otherwise.