Thursday, October 28, 2010

St. Dionysius the Aeropagite (? to c.95)

"You shall not allow a sorceress to live." (Exodus 22:18)

It's the time of year when I wonder what it would have been like to live during the Salem Witch Trials. Being from New England, I think about visiting Salem every October although I do go there several times a year on the "off season."
Short of giving a history lesson, here's a quick refresher. In February 1692, Abigail Williams, age 11, and her cousin, Betty Parris, age 9, began throwing fits or seizures. A local doctor suggested it was "bewitchment." But, most of the townspeople said the girls were doing it for attention or had experienced food poisoning. Sometimes I think that if I were Abigail or Betty and had to live in Puritan New England, I probably would have done the same thing with my cousins, to spark some excitement.
In 1976, a scholar/scientist claimed that perhaps the strange behavior of Abigail and Betty was caused by eating fungus-infected rye.
Whatever the reason, it sparked the Salem Witch Trials, causing the deaths of 19 innocent people. The cousins soon had a following of young teenage girls who also acted in demonic fashion.
One of the first three people accused of being a witch was a slave named Tituba. Of course, she wasn't one. However, after being tormented by her accusers, she "confessed" that she had spoken with the Devil and thus set off the hysteria.
St. Dionysius the Aeropagite is the patron saint against the Devil. He lived during the time of Jesus Christ and a legend is told that he observed an eclipse during the Crucifixion (depicted above).
St. Dionysius the Aeropagite was converted by St. Paul. He was the first bishop of Athens, Greece. He died a martyr in c.95 and his feast day is Oct. 9.

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