Witches tossed overboard to stop storms

I just had to share this bit about tossing witches overboard … after a long voyage, it must have been a convenient way to ride the ship of a busybody!


“The weather in this New World was of great interest not only to future colonists, but to curious Old World weather watchers. Then, as now, observing the weather was something of an obsession among people from all walks of life. In “A Relation of Maryland” published in 1635, the writer praises the weather in the colony: “The temper of the Ayre is very good, and agrees well with the English … In Summer it is hot as in Spain, and in Winter there is frost and snow; but it seldom lasts long. The windes there are variable; from the Souths comes Heat, Gusts, and Thunder; from the North, or North-West, cold-weather, and in Winter, Frost and Snow; from the East and Southwest, Raine.”

If the writer seems to have downplayed the worst of the weather, it should come as no surprise that he was writing a kind of travel brochure to lure potential immigrants. These optimistic or favorable descriptions were thus to be expected.

At a time when the cause of storms was beyond the knowledge of even the most educated scientists, a great deal of superstition still went hand-in-hand with attempting to understand and predict the weather, and these superstitions were heightened at sea. Several accounts of voyages to the New World describe how desperate, storm-tossed passengers sought to blame the bad weather on a witch aboard the ship. In some cases, the crew and passengers settled upon a likely suspect and threw her overboard. This murderous act did nothing to lessen the effects of the storm except in the survivors’ imaginations, but it probably did rid the ship of an annoying old nag.”


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