A Long Time Coming: Clearing the Name of Long-dead “Witches”

In my recent release, The Witch of Roan Mountain, one of the main characters is a ghost. Delphine, a woman accused of witchcraft and hanged, was convicted on very flimsy charges and seeks the help of a living woman to clear her name. Set in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the book is the story of how one doomed love affair is the only thing that saves a contemporary love affair.

Over the centuries, thousands of women were jailed, convicted and executed for witchcraft. The definition of witchcraft varied widely and was often just a way to get rid of an inconvenient or unconventional woman.

If you’ve read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play that focuses on the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, it’s easy to see how flimsy some of the charges were and how many of these persecutions were motivated by elements other than religion. Often they were no more than personal vendettas, a quick way to get rid of a rabble-rouser or homewrecker.

Recently, some jurisdictions have begun clearing the names of women executed for witchcraft.  You can read about that here or here. It fascinates me that hundreds of years later, some people are determined to exonerate women they never knew. I like to think that the women know they’ve been cleared, set free, absolved of the horrible crimes they were executed for committing, that their spirits can finally be free of the shame that must have been overwhelming to bear.

In The Witch of Roan Mountain, I explored the themes of persecution based on personal vendetta and how dangerous it could be if you were an unconventional woman living alone in the wrong place at the wrong time. While I couldn’t find any actual witches in the North Carolina counties I wrote about in these books, there were some witch trials in the eighteenth century, just a little more than sixty years before the Civil War.

The one thing I took away from all the research I did for the book was this:  Any time a society becomes too short-sighted and too intolerant, bad things can happen. Quickly. Even though we’re not persecuting witches these days, the history is still relevant.

I hope you enjoy the book. You can buy it here for $0.99. There’s an excerpt below.

WitchOfRoan

I’d love to talk witchcraft so if you have any comments or discussion items, post them in the comments. I’ll be checking in all day!

Be sure to check out the other authors on the Paranormal Love Wednesday Blog Hop. There are some fantastic ones participating this week. Click here for the list.

Happy Reading, Y’all!

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Maeve decided to start with an easy hike. It had been years since she’d roamed these mountains and the gym work-outs she’d done in Atlanta didn’t even come close to getting her into the shape she was in when she lived here. The Roan Mountain Gardens trail was just what she needed. Easy and quickly rewarding. She tossed her things in the passenger seat of the Volvo and drove down Jane’s Bald Road.

She turned at Carver’s Gap and followed the winding road up toward the gardens. After stopping at the kiosk, paying the usage fee and putting the hang tag on her rear-view mirror, she steered her Volvo sedan into a parking spot. The parking lot was empty. Too early for the fall foliage peak and too late for the summer riot of Rhodendrons, Maeve had the place to herself. She grabbed her water bottle and a small daypack from the trunk and headed toward the paved trail that led to one of the best views anywhere.

Because it was still early, most of the boreal forest leading to the overlook patio was still shrouded in mist. Maeve took her time winding through the moss-covered trees, savoring the rich earthy smell of the soils and the beautiful, vibrant greens of the plants. As she walked, the fog began to lift and disperse, allowing the sun’s light to penetrate through the trees in watery stripes.

She had no idea why she’d stayed away so long.

It was eerie being alone up here. Even though she’d been on this path dozens of times, this was the first time she’d been by herself.

In high school, it had been one of her favorite places. She and Campbell used to come up here and picnic. Kiss. Make love. She smiled at the memory.

Campbell Hyatt. Her first love.

He was still in town. A sheriff’s deputy. Single, no kids. Granny kept up with him and Maeve suspected that the old woman still fostered dreams that Maeve would come to her senses and marry Campbell.

It was too late for that. By a decade.

Campbell would always be a small-town boy. He’d never leave Avery County. The place, with its towering green mountains and ice-cold streams, was as much as part of him as the blood running through his veins.

Maeve got out of the county as soon as she had a chance. Undergraduate degree at Clemson University and then law school at Wake Forest. As soon as she’d graduated, she was off to Atlanta to work for one of the best criminal law firms in the South.

She’d planned to stay with Palmer, Norris, Howard for the rest of her career.

Until she’d let her ethics get in the way.

She had blown a big case. A case she could’ve won, should’ve won. But she just couldn’t compromise her principles.

Now she was back where she started. Avery County, North Carolina. No job, no plan. No direction. But she wouldn’t be here for long. It was too small, too confining.

Maeve took a deep breath and tried, for the thousandth time, to relax. Chill. To not think about the Juris Doctor she’d worked so hard to get only to piss away less than ten years later.

She rounded the corner and the view cleared her mind instantly.

Spreading out in front of her were the green folds of mountains and the crisp tucks of valleys for as far as she could see. Some of the trees, especially the ones high on the ridges, were beginning to turn yellow. Fall was on its way and would light these mountains aflame with color.

She sat down on a bench and pulled her water bottle and a granola bar from her daypack.

Maeve heard the woman before she saw her. A childhood spent in the woods had given her sharp ears. There was no mistaking the soft footsteps on the fallen leaves coming toward the bench as those of a woman.

When she looked up, she was shocked.

Staring back at her was the one woman she ever expected to see.

*****

I’d known that she was coming. I’d felt it in the wind, the trees, the change of the seasons. We were tied together, she and I, and she was the only one who might be able to help me. I’d prayed for her to hurry.

Even dead women pray. Probably more than the living ones.

The woman on the bench was small, tiny. Fragile. More like a teenager than a woman. Long blond hair pulled back off her oval-shaped face. The most remarkable thing about her was the way her blue eyes were as sharp as icicles.

It worried me. I’d waited a long time for her to come home and now, looking at her from behind the trunk of a balsam tree, I wasn’t sure she was going to be able to help me.

She wasn’t like her granny. Where her granny was mostly gristle and vinegar, this girl was cotton and clouds. I was terrified that I’d wasted all my energy to get up here just to find I’d been wrong.

I wasn’t sure she’d even be able to see me. Not at first. It might take her awhile to believe I was real. Well, mostly real.

I eased out so that I was standing on the pathway. She turned immediately. I put all my energy into making myself visible. It felt strange. I’d spent so many years hiding and now I was trying to do the opposite. I bit my lip and concentrated as hard as I could.

Her eyebrows went up.

She saw me.

That fast.

Maybe I was right in waiting for her. She had the gift.

“I’m Delphine,” I said. It took all the energy I had to mutter two words. Back when I’d been alive, I could talk all day without flagging an inch but now it was exhausting.

The woman nodded. “I know who you are.”

“Help,” I muttered. “Need help.”

And then I faded into nothing.

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