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October 21- Witches Take Massachusetts Governor to Task

SALEM, Mass. (AP) -- A small firestorm is brewing in this community famous
for
its centuries-old history of witch trials.

Modern-day practitioners of the pagan religion Wicca say Republican Gov.
Paul
Cellucci is promoting degrading stereotypes in a new campaign advertisement
that pokes fun at his gubernatorial opponent.

Cellucci's commercial chides state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger for
his
1992 role assisting Salem police when evangelists were accused of accosting
the city's witches. Harshbarger, a Democrat, threatened to prosecute for
civil
rights violations.

In the ad that began running this week, a pointy-hatted, wart-nosed witch
stands in a police lineup along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

The announcer first harangues Harshbarger for banning Christmas decorations
from public areas in his office, then says the attorney general also
``threatened prosecution on behalf of the witches of Salem. Scary, huh?''
The
witch throws her head back and cackles.

``I was so infuriated by the time they got to the statement about the
attorney
general I didn't even hear the next few seconds of the ad,'' said Cheryl
Sulyma-Masson, a 38-year-old mother who heads the Witches' League for Public
Awareness in Rehoboth.

``I was just portrayed, along with every other witch across the country, as
some fantasy creature, and that's appalling to me.''

Salem has a witch-rich history. Beginning in 1692, 19 men and women were
hanged, one man crushed to death and seventeen others died in prison in a
series of prosecutions.

Today's local witches practice Wicca, a religion formally recognized by
Massachusetts that is similar to the ancient Druid faith. Adherents believe
in
the sacredness of nature and practice witchcraft as part of their religious
observances.

The witches say they don't make compacts with the devil, and they don't
appreciate the governor promoting a black-magic stereotype.

Laurie Cabot, a Salem resident who practices witchcraft, lodged a formal
complaint with a state representative and promised a letter-writing
campaign.

``Here we are, still being maligned,'' she said. ``And people are saying `Oh
well, it's only a joke,' or `It's only a political campaign.'''

Sulyma-Masson and others called Cellucci's campaign headquarters Friday to
demand he yank the ad. A spokesman for the governor's campaign did not
immediately return a telephone message.

``Witches are real people. They're doctors, they're lawyers, they're
mothers,
they're fathers,'' Sulyma-Masson said. ``And most important, they are
voters.''