Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dunking of Grace Sherwood

Grace Sherwood, also known as the Witch of Princess Anne County, lived in Virginia in the early 1700's. Not much is known of her, what is known comes from the scattered remnants of court room records and local folklore.

Mrs. Sherwood was a widowed land-holding woman, most likely of mixed African descent, who lived along Bansnett's Creek near the Chesapeake region of Virginia. Her story begins with a trial in which she accused a local man, Luke Hill, of trespass, assault, and battery. She won the trial, and collected damages, but Mr. Hill accused her of witchcraft in retaliation, leading to another trial in which she was the main attraction. Folklore makes it difficult to determine whether there is any validity to his accusations, but spite is obviously what motivated him.

During this whole debacle, the local authorities were apprehensive about even trying her at all and tended to delay and stall the process. She was examined twice for Witch's Marks while the courts argued over jurisdiction and sent her case back and forth. To top it off, an all woman jury could not be found who could preside in her trial, leading to postponement of the final date. She was allowed to undergo trial by ordeal as an option. Her ordeal was to be "Ducked" in water, to determine guilt or innocence. Innocence being determined in this case by the innocent party sinking to the bottom, and God miraculously saving the accused because of their pure and innocent heart. Anything else was deemed a sign of guilt.

The local authorities really wanted no part of this, other than to make it go away. They even went so far as to provide boats for her rescue, and to schedule it on a day where the weather would not make her ill from the exposure to cold. On July 10th, 1706 the day finally came. They took her to the appointed place (now called Witch's Duck, on Chesapeake Bay) and tossed her in. Doing what any sane able bodied American would do, Mrs. Sherwood swam back to shore, sealing her guilt in the court's eyes.

Unlike most trials of this nature, Mrs. Sherwood was not sentenced to death. She ended up spending some time in the local jail, how much we do not know, since the court records end with her sentencing. It is known that her land was legally passed to others many years later, so it is assumed by most historians that she did not serve much time in jail and was soon released. Maybe there was validity to the accusations, as she seemed to get off rather light compared to most victims of the Witch Trials. Archeological records have even turned up "witch's bottles" in the area where she was suspected to live, leading to further speculations. A vivid psuedo-historical folklore has sprung up since her death, and she has become an almost mythical figure in the obscure history of the Chesapeake Region.

Her case also highlights the fact that most trials for witchcraft in the early American Colonies, centered around widowed land-holders, and in most places the legal system had no real desire to pursue it.

The picture above is a piece of artwork by Joshua Shaw, illustrating the place where her "ducking" took place.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tyranny of Stupidity...

With the seating of a new Congress, all eyes are upon their plans for the future. Here are a few gems that show what we are in for. Here is my take on real bills currently up for consideration...

1. Georgia Bill Would Ban Drivers' Licenses - These evil things are apparently oppressive, or something like that.

2. Forcing Science Teachers to 'Question' Evolution - Since Driver's Licenses are government oppression, having the government force science teachers to question science must be freedom.

3. Let's Use Tax Dollars to Finance Anti-Government Militias! - Um, what can I say? Sounds like a GREAT use of tax dollars to me. Not like we could actually do something useful with the money.

4. Let's Pay China's Central Bank and Default on Grandma and Grandpa - This debt ceiling thing is just ugly, but in the end, this will certainly kill the US and leave us totally broke.

5. Bill Criminalizing Health-Care Reform - Because helping people should be illegal, and you should go to jail for trying it.

6. Slew of Birther Bills - Long form birth certficate now required - Oops! your state doesn't issue one - Sorry can't hold office.

7. Arizona's Let's Re-Litigate the Civil War Act - OK, didn't we resolve this in 1865? No matter how many times we talk about it people, your plantation lifestyle is not coming back - not even in the desert.

8. Two-Tiered Citizenship - Because America needs a designated underclass, or a caste sytem... or maybe both.

9. Health-Care Mandates Are Unconstitutional, So Let's Force Everyone to Buy Guns - Can't have everybody going around and helping each other, better to just shoot them and get it over with quickly. It also cheaper than providing health care.

10. The 'Don't Call Those Sluts Victims!' Act - Because rape is such an ugly word...we should just ignore it.

11. The 'Make Sure Doctors Don't Ask Patients Too Many Questions' Act - Freedom means we can't have doctor's asking personal questions to crazy people, like "do you have a gun"?

This article was paraphrased from this one at Alternet.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anarchist Politics and the Spanish Inquisition...

Everyone knows about the witch trials in Europe and New England, but less is known about the trials conducted by the Spanish in early America. Unknown to most Americans, the Inquistors plied their trade in this country just as well as they did in the Old World, only most of it was directed at the native inhabitants they found. The underlying reasons were very different, however, with much of it rooted in destroying militant politics intent on stopping the Spanish Conquest.

The Native Americans equated the priesthood and missionaries with disease, since they were often the first Europeans they encountered. As such, the early contacts were marked by many of the American Indians seeing the priests and missionaries as sorcerors carrying a great plague. This led to endless struggles and violence when these folks encountered each other.

After the plagues ran their course, the tables were turned. The Spanish, in particular, elevated fears of Witchcraft by selectively singling out individuals who proved difficult to control, or were inciting rebellion amongst the native population. Indeed, the Catholic church was actually less concerned with spell casting and other sordid spiritual matters as long as loyalty to the Spain and the Catholic Church was maintaned. Those they accused as witches were not just rebelling against God's order, they were usually militantly encouraging and leading the others to armed rebellion as well.

In 1679, the Franciscans of New Mexico conducted a witch-hunt, leading to the destruction of sacred Kivas and violent attacks on the natives as they performed their ancient rituals. The next year, the Pueblo indians could stand no more, and rose in rebellion. The Pueblo Revolt as it is now known, drove the Spanish out of New Mexico for many, many years. They were led by an accused "witch" known as Pope` who had been one of the 47 accused of witchcraft in the preceding witch-hunt. He had been whipped for his part in trying to curse the Spanish and "steal their hearts".

This pattern is seen over and over in regions conquered by Spain, in their subjugation of the indigenious people found there. These people accused as "Witches" are analogous to the later political "Anarchist", seeking freedom from his oppressor for himself and his people. The act of "witchcraft" as termed by the Spanish, was an act of of political and religious defiance. In many cases, they really were what they were accused of, and were militantly trying to overthrow the Spanish and restore their older shamanic ways. This pattern was echoed to a lesser degree in the Old World, with their purges against the Jewish, Basques, and others.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Being Sane in Insane Places

The Rosenhan Experiment was performed in 1973. It was a test to determine if "sanity" can be objectively determined by observation. The results had a lasting impact on proper diagnosis of mental illness, however, the implications go much deeper. Is insanity something that we can determine by observation or comparison with others?

The test was conducted in two parts, one in which healthy "false patients" told medical personnel they had experienced hallucinations and were admitted to 12 different psych hospitals. Part two involved having select staff at a different set of hospitals pick which patients they thought were fake, but no patients were actually sent. The general hospital staff were not told these experiments were being conducted in either Part 1 or Part 2.

None of the fake patients had any history of mental illness, they all were given the same medical complaint - vague auditory hallucinations, with no other symptoms. These patients were then instructed to act "normally" saying they felt fine and no longer heard the hallucinations. The average stay was 19 days, with some staying as long as 52 days until the staff decided they were "well" enough for release. The dehumanizing and labeling process took over from actual treatment and observation, and these "fake" patients ended up staying much longer than expected. Most of these fake patients were released with the stigma of "Schitzophrenia in Remission", though nothing was ever observed and it was all simply based upon hearsay.

Part 2 was not any better - out of 193 actual patients, 41 were reported to be fakes, and another 42 were suspected to be fake.

"I told friends, I told my family, 'I can get out when I can get out. That's all. I'll be there for a couple of days and I'll get out.' Nobody knew I'd be there for two months … The only way out was to point out that they're [the psychiatrists] correct. They had said I was insane, 'I am insane; but I am getting better.' That was an affirmation of their view of me." — David Rosenhan

A famous quote from the study concludes "It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Antonio Longoria's Death Ray

Did his Death Ray really work? We will never know... in a fit of foolishness he destroyed it for the benefit of mankind leading to the permanent revocation of his mad scientist license.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Miami Dade Police to be first in US to deploy UAV drones...

Miami Dade is scheduled to be the first US city to deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle drones for Police surveillance. Pending FAA approval, they will soon be using the Honeywell T-Hawk drone in support of police duties.

See more here...

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Dark Jedi in American Politics...

The I do not support ther goals or plans in any way, I can respect them for their insidious understanding of the human psychology. Truly one of the greatest Psy-Ops ever conducted...

  1. A group of billionaires organized by Koch Industries came together and designed the initiative.
  2. Spokespeople were planted in the mainstream media to suggest that it was time for a revolution reminiscent of the founding days of our country.
  3. A massive media platform, including Fox News and conservative radio, spread the meme to every corner of the country.
  4. Seed funding was provided to organize the first rallies, all the while painting it as a "grassroots movement."
  5. Narratives that had been planted by conservative think tanks throughout the last forty years were evoked as "traditional values."
  6. Real concerns by people suffering under corporate corruption were tapped to evoke strong anger and fear.
  7. People came out in droves to support Tea Party candidates who were actually in cahoots with their corporate benefactors.
I congratulate them for lofting the understanding of our mind far into the realm that was once considered magick - However, I fear it is a bridge that once crossed, Humanity can never return again.

Outline from Truth-Out.