Originally posted: July 13, 2006
In a great victory for witches and advocates of trial by jury everywhere, the governor of Virginia gave an informal pardon Monday to a woman named Grace Sherwood, who exactly 300 years ago became the only person ever convicted via the then-popular "floating litmus test." Sherwood, who evoked suspicions from neighbors by wearing men's clothing on occasion, was accused of using witchcraft to ruin crops, kill livestock and premature babies, and control the weather. (This is an artist's rendering of Grace--looks like a witch, right? Except, kinda beautiful and nice-looking. But that's how they get you!)
On July 10, 1706, Sherwood was dropped into a river and floated, providing the evidential lynchpin for the prosecution and confirming her guilty, black spirit.
I know this seems like a huge stride for America, and for the feminist movement--but I worry about the implications. Today, it's a pardon for a drought-inducing, cross-dressing witch. Tomorrow, whose name will we be clearing 300 years after their death? Mayan insurgents? Slave rebels? Japanese immigrants? It's a slippery slope.
I am slightly reassured by the fact that this was not an official pardon--actually, it was just a letter sent on Virginia Governor's Office stationery to be read at the annual "Sherwood Riverside Trial Reenactment" put on by radical anti-water trial activists. As a former Senate intern, and writer of those types of letters, I know who writes those types of letters, and I'm willing to venture that 'twas not the Governor's sweet lips that graced that envelope.
Still, I suppose this landmark was an important reminder of the progress we've made since Sherwood's trial. We've come a long way in 300 years, and we are lucky today to live in a time where our courts system ensures above all else that justice is served, and that the innocent are no longer convicted and put to death without substantial, compelling evidence that will later be debunked by DNA testing.
But this isn't a cue for us to let down our guard. Never trust a woman wearing slacks--she's probably hiding something. And you'll know it's witchcraft when she gets the promotion you were up for.