Sorry–my title does not refer to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but rather to two elementary schools on either side of the Atlantic Ocean: the Witchcraft Heights Elementary School here in Salem and the Warboys Community Primary School in Cambridgeshire, England. There has been some discussion in Salem about renaming Witchcraft Heights after a recently deceased city councillor, during which the School Committee member who proposed the change commented that the term “witchcraft” could cause confusion about “what type of school it is”. Never mind that the proverbial cat has long been out of the bag regarding witchcraft terminology and iconography in Salem and the fact the school is situated in the city’s Witchcraft Heights neighborhood, this little flurry reminded me of a somewhat similar debate in Warboys. Here are logos for the two schools in question, first Salem’s, then that of Warboys:
Look familiar? Well, both communities are products of their history, and the marketing of that history. A century before the Salem Witch Trials there was another sensational trial involving apparently possessed adolescent girls throwing fits and naming names. The sensational “Witches of Warboys” case began in 1589, when the five daughters of local baronet Sir Robert Throckmorton demonstrated signs of a hysterical demonic affliction, and cast blame for their states on a poor neighbor, Alice Samuel, and her family. The Samuels were powerless to prove their innocence, and found guilty and executed for witchcraft in 1593. The circumstances of the trial, involving the lurid testimony of the girls, captured the attention of the kingdom and ultimately led to the publication of a very popular pamphlet and the passage of a much stricter English Witchcraft statute in 1604.
Sound familiar? Well, there are lots of similarities between the Warboys and Salem witch trials but that is not the subject at hand. Flash forward to the twentieth century, when both towns began employing witchcraft emblems for some (or in the case of Salem, ALL) of their public institutions. Warboys, which is much smaller than Salem, certainly did not turn itself into Witch City, but the witch logo above was adopted for the primary school in 1946, and 60 years later the school governors began to question it, fearing that it might have been “putting off” prospective teachers and students. A counter-campaign to keep the witch ensued, with the end result of a newly designed logo incorporating several aspects of Warboys’ history: the witch, the tree for which the village was named, an open book (and crossed pencils) representing learning, and the village clock tower. The children of Warboys designed and approved the new symbol for their school, which might be a good solution for Salem.