Call for Connecticut to acknowledge those wrongly put to death as witches

Relative fighting to get Conn. to clear “witches” – CBS News.

An 82-year-old woman is championing the campaign to clear the names of 11 people who were hung after being convicted of witchcraft in the 1600s.

Bernice Mable Graham Telian, a retired university administrator, told Religion News Services that her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Barnes of Farmington, Conn., was sentenced to death in 1663 for allegedly confessing to consorting with the Devil. She was buried in an unmarked grave.

While other states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Virginia have acknowledged the people were wrongly put to death because of witchcraft, Connecticut hasn’t.

“I’d like to see this happen in my lifetime,” said Telian.

She’s also supported by members of the Connecticut Wiccan & Pagan Network.

The article notes witchcraft was a capital crime in Connecticut from 1642 until 1715 citing Bible references. It was completely removed by 1750 but the victims accused were never exonerated. If it helps to close the book on this sad part of history, it would be worth an act of Connecticut lawmakers to clear these names.

Extra info: Connecticut Law Library – Witches and Witchcraft

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  4 comments for “Call for Connecticut to acknowledge those wrongly put to death as witches

  1. David
    October 7, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Given more recent events, such as the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic on the 1980s in which many innocent American’s were targeted by churches and police for crimes that often had not even occurred, and the fact that many of those organizations still make claims of supernatural Satanic manifestations, this is quite a legitimate point to raise. There is quite a stain raised on the US human rights record from fundamentalist Christian groups abusing the political, legal and policing process with superstitious claims, this is perhaps one of the first and most dramatic, but the fairly consistent history of this sort of thing should be acknowledged and publicized, even if just to help it not happen again. Religious superstition has no pace in the legal system and policing.

  2. Gary
    October 8, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    Are they offering evidence of their innocence? It’s a little hard to claim that witches don’t exist as a defense when you have a group of self proclaimed witches making the demand.

  3. Thomas Goss
    October 8, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Don’t be obtuse, Gary. Ms. Telian is attempting to clear her ancestress of charges of “consorting with the Devil” and being a witch by the early Puritan settler definition – that is, a Satanist. Even the tiniest bit of research into modern-day Wiccans and neopagans is that they don’t believe in the Devil, and have nothing to do with ancient, misguided hysteria. They may share a similar name, but part of their public awareness mission is to uncover the ills of Church persecution against innocent women, and also to attempt to reinvigorate pre-Christian beliefs in nature gods. I myself have only the most glancing acquaintance with Wiccans, and even I know that.

  4. October 9, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    What I find interesting about this are the jurisdictional aspects. Does the current Connecticut state government have any legal lineage from the colonial government of the era in question? If not, it may not necessarily be legally appropriate for them to act.

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