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JSCC museum highlights witches through the ages

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Research at Jefferson State Community College Chilton-Clanton took an eerie turn this semester as students in history and English classes worked on projects related to perceptions of witchcraft and related themes throughout history.

English students took themes from works of literature involving witches and compared them to modern movies or TV shows.

“The U.S. History class looked at specific elements of the Salem Witch Trials,” instructor David McRae said. “The Western Civ classes looked at witchcraft throughout history, excluding Salem.”

History students worked in groups of two to complete the project.

“It was actually really great because it was such a broad category,” McRae said. “I had students who looked at witch trials in different countries. I had some that looked at causes of witchcraft, some of them looking at some of the more traditional ideas, such as religion or societal conflict, some of them went outside the box with issues with bread and germs and things that might cause mental illness or cause hysteria.”

Student David Gentry said his group chose to research witch hunter Matthew Hopkin.

“I liked that there was a lot of leeway and creativity that we were able to put into making the poster,” Gentry said.

Gentry drew two images for the display.

“As far as the research is concerned, I found it interesting to learn about someone that is not typically talked about as much,” Gentry said.

He said the group was able to find information in encyclopedias and college journals.

“Not a whole lot is known about his early life,” Gentry said.

However, he thinks as the group researches more they will be able to find more detailed information.

The history museum displays in the college lobby show only a portion of the research students have done on the subject and are a part of a larger research presentation they will be doing toward the end of the semester.

English students had a choice whether to complete the project individually or in a group.

“It really made me excited to see them connect something that they really enjoy in pop culture to the readings they have done in class,” Associate Dean and English instructor Ashley Kitchens said.

The projects involved comparing and contrasting how specific themes were represented in the works.

Student Raylee Pfieffer chose to work on the project by herself. In her project, she explored the theme of family in “Giles Corey, Yeoman” and the magna/anime “Kimetsu No Yaiba: Demon Slayer.”

She said she wanted to pick something different that not everyone would have seen.

“The family in Giles Corey was more … distraught,” Pfieffer said. “They were more of a corrupt family. There was a lack of trust. With the Demon Slayer, there was a very strong bond between one another.”

She explored the psychology of family relations for her project.

Pfieffer said challenges were finding family interaction in “Giles Corey, Yeoman” and locating resources.

She said she enjoyed working with “Demon Slayer” and relating it to the witches in “Giles Corey.”

Students Aaron Binion, Kelly Acosta, Mason Dennis and Virginia Johnston were in a group researching the theme on sexuality in “Giles Corey, Yeoman” and the series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” whose main character is a witch. Binion said his part of the research was watching the show and documenting “the witches and their sexual powers.”

“I watched a couple of the episodes and connected the way they dress, act and how they express themselves (sexually)” and compared it to witches in ‘Giles Corey, Yeoman,’” Binion said.

Acosta said “Giles Corey, Yeoman” is set in the time period of the Salem Witch trials. She said during this Puritan era sexuality was not discussed as much as it is today.

“In 1692, they (witches) use more of their youth, so it’s not really sexual,” Acosta said.

Perceptions of witchcraft in each of the fiction works was also explored. Binion said it is more accepted in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” than in “Giles Corey, Yeoman.”

“Through their sexuality, they would gain power and attention (in Sabrina),” Acosta said.

Dennis wrote about the setting for the fiction works and the symbolism that was used alluding to women. He said he used resources from the Jeff State library.

“It was a very interesting portion that I had to write,” Dennis said.

Scheduling time to work together on the project and put the display board together proved to be a challenge. Decorating the board was one of the group’s favorite parts. Binion said he enjoyed writing about the show characters.

The projects were on display the week of Halloween and will be open to the public in the college lobby Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.