I was 12 years old when I first heard the song ‘Vincent’ by Don Mclean and was immediately fascinated with Van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece ‘The Starry Night’. The images conjured up in this beautiful work have become a touchstone of my life, so when I designed my Enchanting and Magical Witch Hat pattern https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/enchanting–magical-witch-hat back in 1999, I wanted to figure out a way to decorate my prototype in the spirit of this beautiful painting- that’s when I discovered needle felting. This technique has become the perfect way to paint with my vast collection of plant dyed wool. It has become a sort of annual tradition to make a new hat every year and this year I have done more than 1, the Starry Night interpretation has become a favorite and gives me a way to pay tribute to the incredible art of Vincent Van Gogh, as well as a light-hearted way to pay tribute to my 10x Great Grandmother, Mary Towne Easty who was hung as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 (along with my 10x great Aunt, Rebbeccah Towne Nurse- my Other Great Aunt Sarah Towne Cloyce nearly died in captivity for almost 2 years)
I guess that magical witchy gene just sort of comes with the territory in my family. These were 3 good women and it was a family tragedy to be sure, but I prefer to remember them with honor, affection and joy. I just get a feeling they would have wanted it that way. Happy Hallowe’en everyone!
Oh, and my daughter sometimes sells my hats and my herbal soaps on her website: https://www.altarandleaf.com/shop
Here’s a light hearted but mostly true little Tribute/Ballad I wrote for Mary:
Mary Towne Easty led a virtuouse life, She was a Mother, Sister, friend and a good hard working wife.
Until some Village girls came down with feigned afflictions, pointing fingers ’round the town and crying ‘WITCHES!’
Salem Massachusetts in 1692 was an OK place to be until they pointed at YOU, you and all the others must have felt so confused wondering why you were ever singled out for such abuse?
Still, at your trial your eloquence and grace almost made them see the error of their ways, when you spoke not for you but for your fellow accused with a courage only found in a soul pure and true. Maybe you planted a tiny seed of reason? The witch trials only lasted 1 more season.
With so much hope in that pure heart you pled “Let no more innocent blood be shed” But someone should have said don’t let them eat the bread, the moldy rye does strange things to a young girl’s head (the moldy rye madness theory has been largely de-bunked, btw).
You were at peace with your maker when they set your hanging date, 18 other blameless souls had met the same fate. They even executed 2 dogs- those puritan gears must’ve really slipped a cog! Still wond’ring why? Maybe land disputes, or was it that moldy rye?
What a dubious honour to be among the last of the innocent victims they hung, but Mary your prophetic words came true, all were pardoned no more innocents were murdered after you- they even issued an official apology, perhaps that’s the magic of your legacy?
I only know I’m proud to be, blood of your blood- blessed be, Mother Mary Towne Easty, rest in gracious Peace
-By Anne Carroll Gilmour 22 Aug 2019
(I sing this solo, accompanying myself on fiddle- the melody is a minor key take-off from the lullaby ‘Mockingbird’, a song that has lulled every baby in my family to sleep for generations, there’s a little ‘hangman’s march’ and ‘How much is that Doggy in the Window?’ sprinkled in just for fun )