Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Samhain Salem Trip (Vegan Style)

So team vegan pagan just returned from our Samhain trip to Salem Mass! I try to go at least once a year (though sometimes there is a draught) but it was Gwen’s first trip. It was totally exciting for me to get to show her all my favorite attractions and shops. It was kind of like being there for the first time again myself!

As vegans traveling we had no trouble whatsoever. As a special treat we did get a few soy lattes from Starbucks and from local coffee shops like Jaho in Salem. We took a cooler with a few items in it, like Gwen’s tempeh tuna and eggless salad. I had quite a few bulk-bags of nut mixes and some primal strips as well. We had peanut butter, instant oatmeal, freeze-dried miso packets, and bread. All in all we didn’t pack a ton of vegan survival items, though.

From my past excursions, I knew we would have a mini fridge in our hotel and that there was a well stocked grocery store near the hotel (selling tofu, gardein, fresh produce, and quite a few vegan specialty items as well as mainstream non-animal fare). So we went to the store and both spent about $30 on grocery items we both agreed on, and that was it. We didn’t have to spend tons of money eating out on the whole trip. The last vegan restaurant standing in the Salem/Danvers area appeared to be Life Alive (rest in peace, Coven and Each Peach). We didn’t even eat there, however. That was our goal because we wanted to spend what mad money we had in Salem’s dozens of cool pagan shops or tourist attractions.

We were delighted to find that we had our own microwave in the large room we had booked. In the past I had used the microwave in the hotel breakfast area whenever I needed one. We had instant brown rice (those microwaved individual portions) with mandarin chick’n gardein one day in the hotel. We made some killer queso with fresh salsa and daiya solid cheddar also. We each shared a large cup of miso about once a day just for a little supplement. We had tofurkey sandwiches and sandwiches from the salads Gwen had made (along with the nut mixes, fruit and jerky) to pack into Salem with us during our days of touring. We took advantage of the hotel breakfast each day, though I found I had to supplement it with my own instant oatmeal and more fruit (grapes, apples, and bananas) and whole wheat bread from the store.

Now for Salem! We took the informational trolley tour around town first so Gwen could hear a lot of local lore and history all at once and get her bearings on what was where. I had never been to town so close to Halloween before and I definitely noticed the crowds. We had to wait a while to get on the trolley but it wasn’t too bad.

After the trolley we did the witch museum that has been open in Salem the longest. It is a bit kitschy but we figured Gwen had to be able to say she’d been there. It used to be very exploitative of witchcraft but for the past decade or more the museum has tried to redress this – even adding an exhibit about the “changing perceptions” of witchcraft and what it really is (or isn’t).

We visited some of the awesome pagan shops, of course…most of them more than once over the course of the three days. Nu Aeon, the Broom Closet, Pyramid, Artemis Botanicals, and Hex. I had a lot of fun in the Goth clothing and memorabilia store, The Fool’s Mansion. My personal broom closet of witch’s supplies and ritual ingredients is fairly well-stocked so I enjoyed the novelty of Fool’s Mansion rather than buying a lot at the other stores. I have bought plenty from them over the years, you can be sure.

Of course we went several times to the remaining Cabot store, the Crow Haven Corner. We took a tour about modern witchcraft that they offered there which included an opening ritual out behind the store, then a walking tour of some of the common attractions, which ended at Hex so people could shop.

One of the cool Halloween things we did was to attend an evening of ghost stories told at the House of Seven Gables. That was kind of a novel way for Gwen to experience that great colonial home and museum (though their normal tour is extensive and very interesting). What we attended was a series of ghost stories told by actors portraying characters in Hawthorn’s book about Seven Gables. It was pretty cool.

One of the big things we planned to do on the trip was to attend Laurie’s Cabot’s Witch’s Ball (done by the Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple). That was happening the night before we left. We were getting a little worn out by that day so we slept in and took things a bit slow during the day. We decided to tour some of the historical attractions in Danvers, where our hotel was, and only go into Salem that evening before the ball.

Danvers and some other nearby towns like Peabody were originally part of the rural sprawl that was Salem. During the times of the witch trials, modern Danvers was actually the location of the Salem Parish House, where the first accusers lived, and the Meeting house where the accusations of the witch craze victims actually occurred.

We toured the Nurse Farm museum, which is run by Revolutionary War re-enactors as a non-profit organization and memorializes the life of famous witch trial victim, Rebecca Nurse. The tour of the Nurse farm included a replica of the old Salem Meeting house, which was built at the Nurse property for the filming of historical documentary “Three Sovereigns for Sarah.” The family cemetery at the museum is one of the only known gravesites of a witch craze victim, since most victims were buried in unconsecrated, unmarked graves or were hidden by their families.

While still in Danvers we viewed the site of the old meeting house, which is near another witch trial memorial. This is different from the more popularized one in modern Salem, but in a way feels more powerful due to its location near the place that holds the energetic memory of the accusations themselves, and the place that many witch trial victims saw as their spiritual home prior to being attacked.

Later that evening we made our way into Salem to do some last minute walking around before heading to the events hall where the witch’s ball would be. We found getting into downtown and finding a parking place to take a full hour longer than normal and be fraught with terrors that had nothing to do with ghosts or goblins. It was more about all the semi-sober adults swarming around everywhere in their costumes! But we did find a parking spot thanks to some real witchcraft and took our last look around town before knowing we would leave the next morning. One hurried tour of a few shops, one last soy latte from Jaho at the wharf, sitting there looking at the historical ship the Friendship with a nearly full moon shining above the water.

Then came the witch’s ball. This was not the event that the mainstream Halloween partiers attend at the Hawthorn hotel, by the way. This was a smaller affair done by Laurie Cabot’s Temple and held at a Moose Lodge a mile or two from the craziness of downtown. We did have to go in costume however, though anyone going as a Green Faced Hag would be turned away at the door. Gwen and I wore matching lavender colored dresses we got off ebay a few years ago.

The ball began with a brief Samhain ritual. I wished it had been longer, since that was my primary reason for attending. Afterwards, however, there was a nice buffet and we had no problem finding vegan fare (which pleasantly surprised us). There was a nice green salad and one of the hot dishes was Israeli cous cous salad. It may have been partly because I had been sure to have a big lunch in preparation but either way, I was full after supper.

Dancing was (not surprisingly) the primary entertainment of the evening, but early on there was a belly dancer who performed with one of her eleven pet snakes, who was a python. After they were done dancing Gwen went to meet the snake, since she and her husband have three of them as well.

So that was the bulk of the trip! The ball was a great climax. We managed to get up and out of the hotel by about ten the next morning. We stopped in Portland on the way home for one last soy latte and one last pass at Lush, which is the only location that franchise has in Maine. It was our only chance to get the fresh facials and items that they don’t sell online. In case you don’t know, Lush is a cosmetics company making all natural, non-animal tested products and many of them are vegan. They sell make up, henna hair dyes, facials, foot scrubs, shampoos, bath bombs, lip scrubs, deodorants, and more. It is exciting to go through a store and see so many items clearly labeled “V” for vegan and to know that you are shopping with a clear conscience due to that company’s great values.

So home we came and here we are! We got home in time to attend the actual Samhain circle held in Bangor by Temple of the Feminine Divine. We both renewed our Temple membership for the coming year and look forward to doing many great, magical and ethical things here at home! So happy Samhain and blessed be.

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