The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman
In “The Witch’s Trinity,” Erika Mailman tells the story of Gude, a confused old woman living with her son and his family in the early 16th century. Gude’s village has been laboring under a famine for quite some time when a friar comes from a nearby town. Almost before Gude knows what has happened, her best friend – the only other woman of her age in the town, as far as I could tell – is being tried and burned for witchcraft. Like her friend, Gude is on the margins of society as those who cannot work are not looked upon with favor during a famine. What’s more, Gude’s son’s wife very much dislikes her. Will Gude be next? What can she do to avoid being burned like her friend?
Mailman’s novel explores witch trials in a way with which most Americans are not terribly familiar. Although we all know about the paranoia and mass hysteria that contributed to accusals of witchcraft, this is frequently obscured by the familiarity of the Salem story. Or perhaps some of us forget that burnings happened other places than Salem. In “The Witch’s Trinity” it is clear how accusations are used to pin certain people – generally those without much societal protection – as scapegoats to ease the suffering of the town. Or, more maliciously, to ease the suffering of the town or certain individuals by being able to steal an accused’s resources, or unburden one’s self of a non-contributing mouth to feed. After that point, the hysteria takes hold and no one is safe.
“The Witch’s Trinity” is quite enjoyable, although I wasn’t really crazy about the ending. However, this was a piece of historical fiction that addressed something I’ve never quite seen addressed before, and I very much appreciated that.