Chapter 4: Innocent Until Proven
When Elsie Whitelaw, another Towers resident, accuses Bertha and Macha
of being idol-worshippers, Rosa decides to play detective. She and Elsie
“invade” Emma Clare’s house, where we see that Elsie is possessed by Padre
Innocente, an inquisitor. He manifests, tries to resume his persecutions
of the women he knew in earlier lives, and is banished (hopefully for good)
by the women with the help of Madame Blavatsky.
Americans like to proclaim that defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
The Inquisition did not operate under this theory. Also, if something is
proven, it’s real, as in the phrase “proof positive.”
The old house that Emma Clare and Julia live in is the setting for major
action, including a number of circle gatherings and the weather war. The
Rose Park historic neighborhood in Long Beach is, however, not Munchkinland,
even though Emma Clare’s house looks a lot like Dorothy’s home in Kansas.
(Aside: Until I read
Wicked, I’ve never understood why anyone would ever want to leave
Oz, much less go to Kansas.)
Craftsman bungalows. Another of Long Beach’s historic neighborhoods is
Craftsman Village. The American Craftsman or Arts and Crafts Movement
is a style of art and architecture established toward the end of the 19th
century and still popular today. Long Beach is filled with restored
Craftsman bungalows, which are single family homes, usually with one
story and distinctive architectural elements. The Rose Park website shows
photos of real homes around Emma Clare’s house. (BTW, the chapter titles
are set in an Arts & Crafts font.)
Rachel is a friend of Milly’s and will later become Wendell’s girlfriend.
Neopagans and witches have normal, mainstream friends who nearly always
accept them and their beliefs and sometimes attend their rituals.
Annunzio Paolo Montovani was the conductor of an orchestra that played
“light popular” music.
Macha goes to Long Beach’s historic, conservative
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church (a real church) with Rosa and Elsie
nearly every morning to honor the Virgin Mary. There is no conflict in
Macha’s mind (or in her circle sisters’ minds) between this and being a
witch. Many neopagans see Mary as a sort of modern goddess, the Christian
incarnation of Isis, whose iconography the fathers and artists of the church
borrowed. Macha is Jacoba’s roommate and will play a major role in Jacoba’s
story (chapter 23).
Barry Fitzgerald (1888–1961) was an Irish character actor. One of his
most famous roles was as a priest in the 1944 film
Going My Way, which starred Bing Crosby. Fitzgerald was famous
for his Irish brogue
Psynetics is the original name of a metaphysical church in Anaheim now
Learning Light Foundation. It was founded in 1962 by Lola and Walter
Tipton. The Universal Mind Science Church, which calls itself the oldest
metaphysical church in Long Beach, was founded in 1968 by the late Damien
Simpson. Peggy Bassett was the senior minister of the Huntington Beach
Church of Religious Science. I’ve been to all three of these churches.
Long Beach WomanSpirit is a real group of affiliated witches and neopagans.
My friend Laura Janesdaughter gave me this information about LBWS:
We are a group of women of varied spiritual paths whose goal is to help
spark the growth of Goddess-consciousness and women's spirituality in the
greater Long Beach area. Bringing the community together through educational
events, conferences, workshops and fairs, Long Beach WomanSpirit provides
opportunities for personal growth and empowerment as well as hope for planetary
healing. Founded in 1987, we celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2007. Since
1997, we have been associated with Temple of Isis/Los Angeles. They
used to hold elegant, entertaining public rituals six or eight times a
year, plus solstice craft fairs in July and December. But we all grow older,
so now they hold only one or two rituals plus the two solstice fairs.
Madonna on Carson. The singer (duh), not the Mother of God.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson ran on NBC from 1962 to 1992.
Seth, Ramtha, Lazaris were discarnate entities whose wisdom was channeled
by well-meaning mediums Jane Roberts, J.Z. Knight, and Jach Pursel. They
attained great popularity.
We see how many older women spend their days—gossiping, watching daytime
TV, playing cards. It’s no wonder these women came out of retirement.
In later stories, Elsie’s asthma attacks confine her to the ninth-floor
infirmary at the Towers. Her poor care and death will contribute to the
plot involving the doctor. I’m a chronic asthmatic. I know what it feels
like when you can’t breathe.
I have a friend who had a friend who was a ferocious Catholic who said
she was possessed by a medieval priest named Padre Piu. She said he talked
to her in her head all the time.
The Order of Preachers (Latin:
Ordo Praedicatorum) was founded in the 15th century by Dominic de
Guzman, a Spanish preacher and contemporary of Francis of Assisi. Dominic
is the patron saint of astronomers. In England, the Dominicans were called
Black Friars, in France, Jacobins. Their primary work was preaching against
heresy and paganism. A French song, “Dominique,” sung by Soeur Sourire
(Sister Smile), aka the Singing Nun, was very popular in 1963-64. Why on
earth would anyone sing a happy song about a dour heretic hunter?
“Thou shalt not suffer not a witch to live.” Exodus 22:18, Authorized
Version. King James I was afraid of witches.
Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis (inquiry on heretical perversity)
began in the 12th century. One of its most famous victims was Galileo.
Catholic Encyclopedia has an article on the inquisition that is worth
reading. Although Napoleon suppressed the inquisition, when he was defeated,
it rose up again. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it’s
still in business. From 1981 until 2005, its prefect was one Joseph Ratzinger,
now Pope Benedict XVI.
The most famous inquisitional book is the
Malleus Malificarum (
Hammer of the Witches) composed in 1486 by two Dominican monks, Kramer
and Sprenger, and translated into English in 1928 by Montague Summers.
It became the inquisitors’ handbook. One
website says the book was written to “lend credibility to,” then “justify,
support, and enforce” a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484.
Notice the irony in the name Innocent.
The words “witch hunt” have other, equally scary, applications. In the
1940s and 1950s, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and
Senator Joseph McCarthy (R. Wis.) gained fame in their zealous hunt for
communists. HUAC also engaged in major censorship. Many writers and entertainers
were accused of being communists and blacklisted. Some of them committed
suicide. Arthur Miller’s play,
The Crucible (1953;
movie, 1996), and Woody Allen’s movie,
The Front (1976), are about the McCarthy witch hunts. Emma Clare
no doubt remembers HUAC and McCarthy, and this may partly explain why she
is so afraid of being outed.
A theaphany is an appearance of the Goddess, a kind of
dea ex machina. Theaphanies also occur in chapters 9 and 22.
Although the women of the circle move the energy, they call on the goddesses
of the world for help. Was Innocente really in Emma Clare’s front room?
The conclusion of this chapter is purposely ambiguous. There really were
persecutions and persecutors, and it’s possible that people meet again
in various lifetimes. In chapter 20, the Wintergreen sisters mention having
What do you believe about reincarnation? Do we really meet people in this
life that we knew in earlier lives? How do we recognize them?
Have you ever witnessed a theaphany or an apparition? What did it look
like? How did it make you feel?
What do you know about the persecutions of women during the religious
wars in Europe? During the Renaissance? In the Massachusetts Colony in
1692? Do you still believe in the mythical ten million burned witches?
What kinds of witch hunts are still going on today? Who’s being hunted
and who’s doing the hunting?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.