WGN Salem is a show that draws much from popular culture and literature, especially from old ballads, legends, and myths but also by modern horror literature. Here are the meanings behind the choice of the names of the various episodes.
1.01 The Vow
- It refers to John's Vow when he splits in half a silver coin as a token of love.
- It also refers to the pact with the Devil made by Mary Sibley to get revenge on the Puritans.
1.02 The Stone Child
- In reference to the dead and deformed fetus, delivered by the prostitute but also to Mary's lost child.
1.03 In Vain
- From the Bible 1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing That your toil in the Lord is not in vain."
- In Salem, however, it can be interpreted as betrayals and lies that the characters tell each other.
- In reference to the survival of John Alden to the war with French troops and Indians.
- William Hooke, John Alden's old comrade, is also a survivor who returns to threaten him.
- Mercy Lewis is another survivor.
- Referred to the lies and mischief perpetrated between the characters and the subterfuge used by witches to infiltrate among the notable families of the town.
- The lies put in place by Essex Hive to enter the novice Mary Walcott in George Sibley's bed after marriage.
1.06 The Red Rose and the Briar
- From the song "The Red Rose and the Briar" by John Wesley Harding. It appears on his first album, "Here Comes the Groom" as said by co-creator Adam Simon in the Writer's wrap of this episode.
1.07 Our Own Private America
- A pun to a phrase taken directly from the 1980 dance-pop song, "Your Own Private Idaho" by the outrageous party band, the B-52's and reprised by the 1991 Gus Van Sant "My Own Private Idaho". It means "living inside an Idaho potato", or a very small space. Metaphorically, it refers to someone who is not paying attention because he is daydreaming, or under the influence, or otherwise wrapped up within his own very narrow sphere of interest or frame of reference.
- In Salem, it refers to the Puritan town haunted by the evil hive of witches who are not aware of the arrival of the infamous Increase Mather.
- It refers to the banning of the hapless Gloriana Embry, banished from the town by Increase Mather and also the departure of the dreams of some of the characters, Cotton and Mary in the first place.
1.09 Children, Be Afraid
- A pun with Bible verse Isaiah 41:10 which invited not to fear anything because the Lord is with us. Increase Mather instead invites the poor souls of Salem to fear for their own safety, especially children.
1.10 The House of Pain
- The Divining Rod brothel confiscated by Increase Mather, has been colloquially dubbed "The House of Pain" by Salem citizens.
1.11 Cat and Mouse
- Cat and Mouse, often expressed as the cat-and-mouse game is an English-language idiom dating back to 1675 that means "a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes." In colloquial usage, it has often been generalized to mean simply that the advantage constantly shifts between the contestants, leading to an impasse or de facto stalemate.
- It is a clear reference to the new policy of terror practiced by Increase Mather, and that undermines the plans of Mary Sibley, giving her a hard time.
1.12 Ashes Ashes
- From the biblical verse Ecclesiastes 12: 7, often recited at funerals, it is a memento mori, or a warning to the transience of life. Referred to Salem, it's about the defeat of the Essex witches as Mary Sibley feels trapped and unable to accomplish her task due to Increase's constant presence.
1.13 All Fall Down
- This title is meant to draw attention to the effect of the self-motivated, destructive passions unleashed within the characters in the course of the story. Like a house of cards, all fall down.
Further information would be found at Writer's Wrap, a series of commentary videos with the show writers.
2.01 Cry Havoc
- A phrase from Act 3, Scene 1, line 273 of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war." It refers to the war between witches and the one with the Puritans. "Dogs of war" mentioned in the verse has entered into common parlance as a synonym for mercenaries.
2.02 Blood Kiss
- In reference to the way the Countess Von Marburg steals thoughts and secrets from her victims, by sharing with them a "blood kiss" as said by Adam Simon in the Writer's Wrap.
2.03 From Within
- Because of the various directions that the characters are taking, moved by feelings rather than by clear mind. From within are also the attacks on witches as said by Adam Simon in the Writer's Wrap.
2.04 Book of Shadows
- It is a clear reference to the new addition to the series mythology, the Book of Shadows. The Book of Shadows is a popular element of Contemporary Witchcraft. The term was coined by Gerald Gardner in relation to the collection of Wiccan teachings but nowadays generally refers to a witch journal.
2.05 The Wine Dark Sea
- The descriptive phrase "Wine Dark Sea" first appears in Literature in Homer's Iliad. The phrase is also used four times in the Odyssey. "Wine-Dark Sea" sparks our imaginations to think of mystery, adventure, the aftermath of the battle and perhaps a calm after a storm. Mariners have long had a saying, "Red sky in morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailors delight." Perhaps the intoxicating wine-red red sea is telling us that our work is done for now and that it is time at last to rest. Tomorrow we shall venture forth again as "rosy-fingered dawn" spreads across the sky.
- It is a clear reference to the first meeting between Mary Sibley and the infamous Countess Von Marburg, whose personality is fickle as the blood red sea.
2.06 Ill Met by Moonlight
- "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania." is the Fairy King Oberon's first line in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a comedy play written by William Shakespeare.
- In reference to the arrival of the rich Von Marburg aristocratic witches to Salem.
2.07 The Beckoning Fair One
- As said by Adam Simon in the Writer's Wrap of this episode, it is a reference to the regained beauty of Mercy Lewis as well as a literary reference to the novella The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions, widely regarded as one of the best in the genre of horror fiction, especially psychological horror. This novella is included in Widdershins (1911), whose name gave inspiration to some characters on Salem.
- In Modern and Contemporary forms of Witchcraft, the word 'widdershins' is used in reference to counterclockwise ritual gestures. The Widdershins in Salem speak backwards.
2.08 Dead Birds
- As mentioned by Adam Simon in the Writer's Wrap, in Western Magical Tradition the death of birds is an omen of misfortune. For millennia witches and priests have used birds for divination purposes.
- In Salem, "little John" hid a litter of dead crows in his beds and flocks of crows die in front of his window.
2.09 Wages of Sin
- From the Bible verse Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." as said by Brannon Braga in the Writer's Wrap.
- In Salem, it means preparing the Rise of Satan through the Grand Rite as well as breaking some old friendships, like that between Mary and Tituba, now at the mercy of the Countess' games.
2.10 Til Death Do Us Part
- A phrase from the marriage liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. It refers to Anne and Cotton's wedding, but also the preparation of the dreadful Grand Rite. And only Mary's death can prevent the Devil to become flesh and blood.
2.11 On Earth as in Hell
- We are at the final chapters and the flames of Hell began to claim more victims. Nothing is as it was, especially for Mary Sibley who has lost everything.
2.12 Midnight Never Come
- As mentioned by Adam Simon in the Writer's Wrap of this episode, it's a reference to the famous poem "Doctor Faustus", where the main character hopes with all his heart for midnight to never come, because at that time the devil will come to reclaim the soul of the necromancer. Like Dr. Faustus, Mary also hopes in the defeat of the Great Rite and for the dreaded hour to never come.
2.13 The Witching Hour
- A famous saying in contexts linked to witchcraft. Colloquially it refers to midnight but in this particular case, it refers to the fateful hour when the Devil came to Earth to bring the defeat of humankind, including even his most faithful witches.
Further information would be found at Writer's Wrap, a series of commentary videos with the show writers.
3.01 After the Fall
- After the Fall is a free reference to Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible. This idiom often refers to the fall of humanity tempted by the Devil to sin against God. Even Lucifer once fell - literally or figuratively - when he was cast out of Heaven.
3.02 The Heart Is A Devil
- Love is a strong feeling that leads to pleasure, but also to evil and temptation. In Salem, this is quite literal.
3.03 The Reckoning
- The Reckoning refers to the namesake ritual used to deprive witches of their powers as punishment. The ritual is a showdown in all respects.
3.04 Night's Black Agents
- The title designates witches hired by the Devil.
- It is a reference to one of Adam Simon's favourite quotes, taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; Whiles night’s black agents to their preys do rouse." (Macbeth, Act III, Scene II)
3.05 The Commonwealth of Hell / The Witch Is Back
- Commonwealth refers to the greater good. For the evil ones.
- Witch is Back in reference to the return of the Countess Von Marburg.
- The last words uttered by Mary at the end of the episode are a clear statement that marks the return of Mary Sibley as she once was.
3.06 Wednesday's Child
- Wednesday refers to the day of the week events taking place. Moreover, it is a clear reference to the eerie nursery rhyme, the "Poetry of the Devil."
- The child mentioned in the title is a reference to Cotton and Gloriana's Unborn Child stolen by Anne Hale.
3.07 The Man Who Was Thursday
- Thursday refers to the day of the week events taking place.
- The Dark Lord is defeated by Mary and the Essex Witches, and he's no more.
3.08 Friday's Knights
- Friday refers to the day of the week events taking place.
- Knights can refer to John Alden, Mary Sibley, Cotton Mather, Isaac Walton, and Sebastian Von Marburg who formed a group of opponents to The Sentinel. Or the Sentinel himself, an angelic warrior who has fallen.
3.09 Saturday Mourning
- Saturday refers to the day of the week events taking place.
- The end of the days is getting closer, and the characters can only mourn their fate.
3.10 Black Sunday
- Sunday refers to the day of the week events taking place.
- Black Sunday is the satanic Easter, the unholiest day in the Devil's calendar.