Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Spectral Evidence

I'm reading a Margaret Atwood book on writing (this one), and I stumbled upon this passage:
Those who have taken an interest in the Salem witch trials in the seventeenth-century New England will be familiar with the concept of "spectral evidence," which was accorded the same legal status as more tangible exhibits, such as wax effigies stuck full of pins. Witches were supposed to have the ability to send out their "specter," or incorporeal likeness, to do their dirty work for them. Thus if someone saw you in the barnyard hexing the cows and you could demonstrate by witnesses that you were home in bed at the time, what was proven was not your innocence, but the fact that you had the ability to project your own double, and were therefore a witch. (It was not until spectral evidence was barred from the courts that the New England witchcraft trials finally ended.)

Isn't that uncomfortably similar to what's happening now with conspiracy theories? There are so many people in the U.S. who believe in every conspiracy theory that comes by, and this is exactly the way their minds work: everything that happens, no matter what it is, is interpreted to bolster the conspiracy theory. 

It would be nice if we could progress beyond the seventeenth century. 

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