Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

(1632-1692)

DJ Name: DJ Head Bish in Charge

It’s T minus two days until Halloween, so this week we’re heading back in time to learn about one particular witchy woman who had raven hair and ruby lips and sparks that flew from her fingertips. OK, we actually can neither confirm nor deny any of that, but we’re confident Bridget Bishop was the inspo behind the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” which, coincidentally, Bridget listened to on her fav Spotify playlist before heading to town to spread some rumors that she could rock you in the night-time ‘til your skin turns red. Again! We are not purporting that she could actually do this! Don Henley took some creative license with our mysterious mademoiselle. 

Not too much is known about Bridget Bishop, AKA DJ Head Bish in Charge, but current historic evidence suggests she was a wily woman accused of witchcraft who lived in Salem, Mass., in the 1600s so you can probs guess how this story ends. 

Anyway, time to get spooky and switch on Bridget’s playlist that’ll get you in the mood to don your costume and down some Snickers bars. (When she tired of her own playlist, sometimes she switched to this one, by Tik Tok star Allison Perrone.) Let’s get to it:

Bridget Playfer was born approximately in 1632ish in NorWITCH, England. Because women’s lives were documented based on their association with men back in the 1600s (#rude), we can’t say much about her childhood and early adult years until April 13, 1660, when she married her first husband, Samuel Wasselby, in England. Not long after they wed, the couple crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the ol’ U.S. of A. She and Sam had a pretty traditional marriage for the era and she popped out three kiddos in no time: Mary, Benjamin and John. However, their traditional marriage lasted a mere four years because Sam passed away in 1664.

Two years later, Bridget married her second hubby, a widow named Thomas Oliver who also had children from a previous marriage. In 1667, they added a daughter named Christian to their already sizable fam. However, they were also a quarrelsome couple and their frequent fighting caught the attention of local leaders. In classic Scarlet Letter energy, Thomas and Bridget were once forced to stand gagged in the public center with pieces of paper with their offenses written on them fastened to their foreheads. Their frequent offenses? Bridget called Thomas profane names on the Sabbath and Thomas seems to have physically abused her as her face often appeared bruised and injured throughout their marriage. 

In 1679, 13 years after their nuptials, Hubby Number Two, AKA Thomas, passed away. So began the first wave of witchy accusations, mostly stemming from her’s and Thomas’ children (again, #rude), likely because they wanted to inherit his property. Since he didn’t leave a will when he died, all of his goodies went straight into the pockets of Bridget’s petticoats, but their offspring wanted a chunk of that change. However, these accusations were thrown out due to a lack of evidence. Phew! Dodged a bullet with that one…for now. Until…

Bridget married Hubby Number Three, AKA Edward Bishop. With yet another ring on her finger from a new lover in her life, Bridget was faced with much gossip and many accusations against her way of life from everyone around town. Three marriages? Unheard of. A woman owning property? Couldn’t be! Bridget was ~different~ from the rest and that drove them nuts. “Different” wasn’t allowed because it made the Massholes uncomfy as they were facing a lot of change in their colonial town of Salem already. 

Before the witchy ways of women reached the colonies, tens of thousands of accusations and hangings riddled the streets of Europe from the 1300s through 1600s. Honestly, what wasn’t happening in Europe during this period? Revolutions, plagues and witches, oh my! OK, real talk, though, the belief in witches was all just hocus pocus (or was it? ~spooky~) from many practicing Christians, and some other religions, who believed that these “supernaturals” were followers of Satan who traded their souls for his assistance. And in return, these Devil followers could accomplish magical deeds and put spells on people or harm them in return for their loyalty

A book called Malleus Maleficarum (sounds like a book of spells to us) was published and for more than 100 years it sold more copies than the oh-so-popular Bible. These Christians traded in their Bibles for the Maledicarum as they handed out cries against witchcraft left and right. Single women and widows who were on the margins of society were the main targets. This novel (not book of spells) called witchcraft heresy and was referred to constantly by Protestants and Catholics more so than the Bible because it was their guide to rid society of the outsiders, or what they called “witches.” Weird that these God fearin’ and Jesus lovin’ lads didn’t actually treat others the way they probs would’ve wanted to be treated. Hm. 

Across the sea and nearly a century before Paul Revere warned of the Red Coats and Tommy Jefferson crossed his T’s and dotted his I’s, Massachusetts was a lil’ ol’ colony owned by Mother England and ruled by William and Mary (#tribe). As the witch hunts throughout Europe reached their end, those in New England were just getting started. The Salem folk were also scared of outsiders. Willy and Mary held a war against the French and Native Americans which had battles tear through towns in upstate New York, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Many a displaced person had to leave their northern homes and join the growing communities in further south New England; specifically, Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. With the refugees came tension because the people of Salem felt that these new folk in town put a strain on their resources. All the while, Salem-ites were also fearful of the surrounding Native American tribes as well, whose land they took and were…living…on. 

Since a majority of those living in Salem and throughout New England were Puritans, they were taught that man was inherently evil, so it was easy to blame community problems on people who were in the slightest way different because different = evil. Makes total sense! *eye roll* And these “outsiders” were the prime targets for the witch hunts that began in early 1692 when a group of three young gals in the village of Salem claimed that they were being controlled by invisible forces that bit, pinched and flailed their limbs. A few more girls joined in on the nonsense claims and panic eventually ensued. It didn’t help that two of the “bewitched” girls were the daughter and niece of the local minister, Samuel Parris.

Naturally, the local community said that the girls were diagnosed by a local doctor as bewitched (where that medical degree from, tho?). So the girls, who were, ya know, under spells and shit, accused three women of casting their powers upon them, wand and all: Tituba, who was a slave of the Parris family; Sarah Good, a local beggar; and Sarah Osbourne, a widow. Not included in this list is our head bish in charge, Bridget. But, her time would come. After all, she most certainly was not your status quo of a woman: married three times, owned property and straight up dressed differently. She wore a black cap, hat and red paragon bodice (like a dress). This meant she was the perfect target. 

Local magistrates questioned the accused, people listened in and gossip ensued, naturally. While Sarah squared declined the claims against them, Tituba shared that Satan revealed himself to her and that she signed his devil’s book with her own BLOOD alongside Good’s and Osbourne’s names. And with that, the hunts were on and the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer was formed in May 1692. This court handed out its first conviction against Bridget Bishop. Neighbors and family members, who clearly still weren’t over the fact that she got the dolla dolla bills from her late hubby Tommy, spoke out against Bridget’s apparent witching ways of life. They said she attacked and killed children; made pets disappear and monkeys talk; and bewitched her husbands to death. During the trial, a physical examination ensued and the jury found a third nipple on her so that really freaked them out. We wonder what these accusers would think, if around today, of Harry Styles’ 4 nipples. Would he be a wizard? You’re a wizard, Harry!

All by herself on the bench with the whole town against her, Bridget Bishop stood steadfast in her declaration of innocence. She wasn’t provided legal counsel nor did anyone volunteer to defend an apparent witch. The jury found Bridget Bishop guilty of witchcraft on June 8, 1692 and on June 10 she was the first person hanged as a victim of this Salem madness. Years later, those who accused Bridget of her witchy ways rescinded their claims. Seriously?! In the 1700s, the Massachusetts government cleared the names of those who were wrongly accused of witchcraft, but weirdly Bridget’s was not included on that list. But don’t fret! Almost 300 years later, in 2001, her name was finally cleared. 

Bridget Bishop may have faced a full life of harsh judgment, but all we have to say is, in the words of our witching queen Aggie Cromwell, “Being normal is vastly overrated.” Happy Halloween to our historic shufflers. 

3 thoughts on “Bridget Bishop

  1. Spoopy, Creppy, Joke confetti- yet educational! Nice work ladies, I thoroughly enjoyed this, fantastically written/composed! HAPPY HALLOWEEN to you and yours 0.O keep up the good work!

    Like

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