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Song of the Day for May 27: "Season of the Witch" by Donovan

Leitch Mills
Pop singer Donovan, right, and his musical director, David John Mills, are seen on their way to Marylebone Court, London, to face marijuana possession charges, June 10, 1966. (AP Photo)

Europeans did more than bring new religion and language to the New World. They brought witch trials. Yes, those trials.

For nearly 300 years in Europe, witches were scapegoats for mental illness. They were blamed because it was believed the devil took hold of a person’s mind and body. Thousands of women were executed as witches.

The Salem witch trials, the most famous in the New World, began May 27, 1692 in Salem Village, Massachusetts. A doctor said witchcraft was why three young girls were having fits, spasms and outbursts of screaming. The girls claimed that three women had put a spell on them.

One woman confessed, saying the Devil had recruited her. She named others in the community as witches. She was found guilty and hanged. But that was only the start. Five more people were found guilty and hanged in July. Thirteen more were hanged in the following months. Seven people died in jail awaiting trial. Another person was stoned to death.

The trials slowed as the outbursts did. The governor ended the trails after hearing that his wife had been accused of witchcraft. In 1711, Massachusetts courts gave restitution to the heirs of people who were killed and jailed.

A 1975 study in Science magazine blamed the outbursts and spasms on “fungus ergot found in rye, wheat and other cereals. … The article claimed that the fungus caused symptoms such as delusion, vomiting and muscle spasms.

The English singer Donovan brought his own contribution to the New World. Song of the Day, “Season of the Witch”, is considered one of the very first psychedelic songs. Donovan recorded it in 1966, just before being busted for marijuana. The song ended up on his “Sunshine Superman,” album. The album clearly put a spell on record buyers because it rose to number one in England and the U.S.