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The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witchcraft trials in Massachusetts during 1692 resulted in nineteen innocent men and women being hanged, one man pressed to death, and in the deaths of more than seventeen who died in jail. It all began at the end of 1691 when a few girls in the town began to experiment with magic by gathering around a crystal ball to try to find the answer to questions such as “what trade their sweet harts should be of “. This conjuring took place in the Parris household where a woman named Tituba, an Indian slave, headed the rituals.

Soon after they had begun to practice these rituals, girls who had been involved, including the Master Parris’ daughter and niece became sick. They had constant fits, twitched, cried, made odd noises, and huddled in corners. The family called in doctors, and they were treated for many illnesses. Nothing helped. Many weeks later after running out of reasons for their strange behavior, all of their symptoms seemed to lead to one belief, “The evil hand is upon them. ” They were possessed by the Devil. At first the families of the children could not find anyone to accuse for being the witch responsible for possessing the children.

Then, late in February of 1692, Parris’ neighbor, Mary Sibley recommended that Parris’ slaves, Tituba and John Indian should work a spell to try to find the culprits. Even after trying this solution the girls’ condition worsened, and the people responsible still had not been found. The girls began to see hazy shadows and believed that these shadows were of the people who had done this. After more and more children became victims of this, the hunting for the witches who were to blame for the girls’ sickness began to get more serious. By the end of February 1692, not one, but three witches had been named.

These women were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, all residents of Salem Village. Tituba, like Good, was very poor. She worked as a servant in the Parris home and was a Caribbean – Indian born in Barbados in the West Indies. Reverend Parris brought Tituba to New England when he was still a merchant, and after this she married John Indian who also worked as slave for Reverend Parris. Tituba was the person asked to aid with the girls’ illnesses by making a witch’s cake to find their culprit and after this did not work, she was arrested four days later for being a witch herself.

Local Salem officials examined each of these three women before they were sent off to await trial in a Boston jail. The girls, who these witches had supposedly inflicted sickness upon, were also present during these trials to show the court how much pain the three women had caused. During the trial Sarah Good kept insisting that she was not guilty but rather that she had been wrongly accused. When asked why she hurts the innocent children she responded, “I do not hurt them. I scorn it.

Then, she attempted to shift all blame onto Sarah Osborne who in turn responded with disbelief. She said that she “was more like to be bewitched than she was a witch. ” While Good and Osborne were trying to defend themselves, Tituba confessed, most likely in fear of her Master, Reverend Parris. When asked who was to blame for all the possessed girls she responded, “The devil for aught I know. ” Tituba told the whole court about her pact with the Devil and the type of wonderful things he gave her in return for her service and loyalty to him.

Then, after she was done telling her story, when the magistrate asked her who she had seen doing the witchcraft, Tituba says, “Goody Osborn and Sarah Good and I do not know who the other were. Sarah Good and Osborn would have me hurt the children but I would not . . . “ So according to Tituba there were still witches out there bewitching their innocent children. After Tituba’s confession, the entire community of Salem increased their efforts to find the witches who were bringing such horrible events to their village.

The children still were not able to come up with names for their perpetrators until a little thirteen-year-old girl, Ann Putnam, cried out the name of Martha Corey. Corey, like Osborne, was not poor at all. While she was being tried, Martha Corey had the audacity to laugh at questions presented to her. She acted naive and said she did not even know if there were any witches in New England She also labeled herself as a “Gospel-woman. ” Her presence and attitude during the trial led many to believe that she was in fact guilty of practicing witchcraft.

From this point on, after Ann Putnam’s accusation, the females of Salem showed no hesitation in naming the witches who had brought this upon them. The number of women accused was monumental, and the court had very little time to examine each accusation thoroughly. Soon, anyone who was called a witch was jailed, whether it was a man, woman, child, or adult. Even Dorcas Good, the four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good was accused and thrown into jail; a four-year-old child who was barely old enough to make coherent sentences, was convicted of being a witch and “taking supernatural revenge on the possessed for taking away her parents.

This is how paranoid the people of Salem had become. Everyone jumped at the mention of a witch. They were afraid that they would be the next people to become a possessed victim of their mysterious black magic. The villagers went from the four-year-old girl to seventy-one-year-old Rebecca Nurse followed by forty-seven-year-old Elizabeth Proctor. Both of these women who were from very wealthy, prosperous homes, were imprisoned because people thought Rebecca Nurse’s mother and Proctor’s grandmother practiced black magic when they were alive.

At this point, anyone who was a family member of an accused witch was most likely to wind up in jail also. In addition, John Proctor became the first male to be charged for being a witch because he stood by his belief that his wife was innocent and spoke out against the court. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were completely outrageous, convicting women with no solid evidence other than a villager saying that they themselves had seen the person practicing black magic. No one in the court bothered to think that the witnesses could be lying and presenting false testimonies.

After John Proctor a long list of alleged witches followed. Mary Easty and Sarah Cloyce, sisters of Rebecca Nurse who had expressed their negative feelings about the trials were locked up in jail. Dorcas Hoar of Beverly, Susanna Martin of Amesbury, and Bridget Bishop of Salem Town were all taken to jail to be put on trial because they had been convicted of committing witchcraft crimes in the 1660’s, 16670’s, or 1680’s. Afterwards, many of Elizabeth Proctor’s children were named along with her sister and sister-in-law. Likewise, Martha Corey’s husband was put in jail to be brought to trial.

The most shocking was the arrest of George Burroughs, the onetime pastor of Salem Village church. Many villagers thought that he would have become the “RingLeader of them all,” and so he was locked up. While accusations were occurring as routine events for the people of Salem, some came to think that perhaps this outbreak was not related to witchcraft after all. A few in the village had doubted the validity of the trials from the beginning, and as time went on they felt more confident and sure that their beliefs were true.

The protests from the people against the trials were not heard at first, and the members of the court insisted on treating people accused of being witches as the Devil’s servants. Most ministers of Salem warned the government against accepting these testimonies from the very start of the trials. They said the spirits the girls saw could be just hallucinations resulting from their sickness, or they could be the Devil in disguise, but the government officials simply ignored them. Justice Nathaniel Saltonstall also apparently disagreed with the ways of the court because he resigned from his position after the first witchcraft trial.

Chief Justice Stoughton, however, thought that the evil spirits would not disguise themselves to people who were willing to cooperate with them. The trials now became even more complicated because people would confess out of fear of the magistrates’ accusations and the girls’ convulsions. Now that the accusations were flying back and forth in full swing, anybody and everybody came to the court to put their two cents in. Hundreds of these local residents came into the court to help testify against the crimes alleged witches had committed years, and even decades before.

Although many people volunteered to come forward and speak out against these witches, they were very concerned about maleficium, the ability of a witch to do harm to another person through supernatural means. They were afraid that after testifying against the witch that she might put an evil spell on them. Another concern was that the possessed would be forced to sign a satanic pact, and if they did not do so then the witches would inflict pain upon them until they did. The number of accusations is what made the Salem case different from any other case of witchcraft.

After the executions began in 1692, officials began to deal with the problem of credibility by ignoring any accusations made against the wealthy, well-to-do members of the Salem society. At this point, close to two hundred people had been accused of witchcraft, and more than twenty-five people had died because of the trials. The trials in themselves were a big contradiction. People who pleaded innocent were tortured until they “confessed” that they were guilty. One form of torture was the accused would be pressed by a heavy weight until they confessed.

Giles Corey, husband of Martha Corey, was pressed to death when he refused say that he was involved with the Devil, and that he was, in fact, guilty. One form of torture, though, was even more absurd. The witch’s head would be forced underwater and kept there for a certain period of time. If she came up alive everyone said she had magical powers that kept her from drowning, and then she would be executed. If when they lifted her up she was dead then she was presumed innocent, but that was completely pointless. Either way the accused were killed. These were a few examples of preposterous tortures against the people.

The credibility of these trials was challenged multiple times by many people. These people protesting against the trials varied. Some were villagers and some were authoritative figures in the community. One of these people was Increase Mather, who wrote Cases of Conscience. He stopped short of calling the possessed girls liars but instead called them “Deamoniacks” as “mouthpieces for the Father of Lyes. ” He also argued that “no juror can with a safe Conscience look on the Testimony of such, as sufficient to take away the Life of any Man even if the possessed normally knew their real tormentors.

He said the supposed psychic abilities these girls came to have after being possessed should be ignored because God “has taught us not to receive the Devil’s Testimony in any thing. ” Mather also claimed that confessing witches were also “not such credibly witnesses. ” He told the people that witches sometimes lied outright with no shame about their rituals and about the names of their various “Associates in that Trade. ” Other times Satan filled their heads to make them “dream strange things of themselves and others which are not so. ” This work is what eventually led to the end of the witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

Finally, in October of 1693, so many people doubted the guiltiness of the witches that Governor Phips, governor of Massachusetts, decided to stop the trials and the executions. They realized that the trials should not continue due to lack of evidence and credibility of the witnesses. Many people accused others of being witches if they disliked them or if they were outsiders in society. Witches on trial were encouraged to give names of their fellow witches and/or to confess to their evil deeds, and in exchange they would be granted a less severe punishment.

Because of this, the witches on trial would confess even if they were innocent, and they would also accuse other innocent people of being witches. The government saw that there was no real way to make sure the person was a witch before executing them and that there was a great chance that they may be killing innocent people. People were still being accused of being witches even after the trials were suspended, but the charges were not taken seriously. Mostly all confessing witches during this period were females ranging in age from less than ten to more than seventy. Out of the forty-eight possessed, mostly were females.

Forty-four percent of the possessed were females between the ages of sixteen to twenty who were “single-women” or “maids” in seventeenth century terms. Another 38 percent were over twenty while 18 percent were under sixteen. Three-fourths of the non-possessed accusers whose main concern was maleficium were men. In 1711, the legislature passed the Reversal of Attainder, which was an act to clear the names of everyone jailed during the trials. Massachusetts also repaid the survivors and the heirs for jail and court fees and for some property that the government had taken away from them.

The government also wrote up a sincere apology for their mistake in proceeding with the trials when there was no solid evidence and for possibly executing innocent people. As time passed many people wondered what was the purpose of the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Why were so many innocent people jailed or even killed? How could anyone have hanged his or her neighbor for being a witch? People pondered on what kind of an illness could have been mistaken for the symptoms of possession, but some thought that the possessed were simply liars and fools.

Many times, the Puritans were blamed for the trials, encouraging witchcraft fears, and the number of people affected by them. Some people believe that the Puritans blamed anyone who was different as being a witch. This was because the Puritans had always suspected, as one of their main beliefs, that the Devil envied their way of life and was constantly trying his best to make their lives miserable. The Puritan’s goal in life was to “purify the organization of their church” and to rid it of any sign of the Devil.

By accusing so many people of being witches, they thought they were just purifying the church and their community. Most of the time, credibility of an accusation was not checked thoroughly, instead the person accused was simply locked up in jail until their trial time came. Even then, if they did not confess to being guilty they were punished and sometimes even killed. Although the law is innocent until proven guilty, and had been practiced before the trials, in the case of the witchcraft trials, the accused witches were guilty until proven innocent. Not many were given the chance to prove themselves to be innocent.

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StudyBoss » Witchcraft » The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch trials started in 1692 resulted in 19 executions and 150 accusations of witchcraft. This is one of the historical events almost everyone has heard of. It is a topic that is talked about, and can be seen as controversial. A quote by Laurie Carlson shows just how controversial the topic can be. (A) character myth is certainly what the witch hunts in Europe and Salem have become, though they have more basis in fact than most myths.

The stories of the witch hunts are character myths for our time, to be told by feminists, left-wing intellectuals, nd lawyers for President Clinton, each taking what he or she needs from the story, adding or subtracting as it seems fit. (1). The trials began because three young girls, Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam began having hysterical fits after being caught engaging in forbidden fortune telling. That’s right fortune telling, not dancing naked in the woods like the story has been told to many times (2).

The fortune telling occurred because they were trying to find out what type of men they were going to marry. Betty Parris’ father was a reverend of the town on Salem, Massachusetts. The Reverend, Samuel Parris called in senior authorities to determine if the girls’ affliction was caused by witchcraft. Although Betty was sent away fairly soon, and did not participate in the trials, the remaining two girls were joined by other young and old women in staging public demonstrations of their affliction when in the presence of accused witches.

The events in Salem have been used as a theme in many literary works. Anthropologists also take interest in these writings because they display some of the characteristics of village witchcraft as well as some of the features of the European witch craze. Many commentators have seen the Salem witch craze as the last outbreak of the European witch craze which was transported to North America. As in African and new Guinea villages, the original accusations in Salem were made against people who the accusers had reason to resent or fear.

Moreover, the first few of the accused fit the definition of marginal persons likely to arouse suspicion. However, as in Europe, the accusations spread, and soon encompassed people not involved in any of Salem’s grudges or problems. As in Europe, there was a belief that the accused were in league with the devil. Supposed experts went out to do scientific studies to diagnose witchcraft. Interestingly, during the colonial period in Africa, just after WWII, there was a number of witch finding movements in Africa that closely resembled the Salem episode.

Typically in these witch finding movements, the witch finders would come in from outside a village and claim to be able to rid the village of all of it’s witchcraft. At this period there was great dislocation, with people moving around because of government employment, suitable farmland, and many other causes. Some people were improving their economic status as a result of these change, and others ended p being worse off. Whereas in the past, everyone in a location had followed the same religion, people were now exposed to Christianity and the local religions of people who had moved to their region, or whose regions they had moved to.

In the cities of central and Southern Africa, many local religions and Christian sects could be found, as well as Islam. Belief in witchcraft tended to unite people across religious differences. Frenzies increased throughout time, people began to be accused who had not aroused any particular jealousies, possibly because they ossessed a peculiar looking item which might be said to contain magical medicine. These crazes tended to die down, at least after considerable conflict and property damage, and the witch finders would then move on to the next town.

As witchcraft accusations still occurred in the areas, we can conclude that the movements did not get rid of witches forever. Witch Trials 4 There have been three basic approaches taken to the analysis of the Salem witch trials. Scholars have sought psychological and biological explanations for the symptoms displayed by the bewitched girls. Sexual repression in Puritan New England, the low status of women, specially young women, in the community and the lack of opportunity for any sort of entertainment are among the psychological explanations which have been offered.

Group Psychology , or the tendency for out of control behaviors to spread in crowds, have also been mentioned. Various dietary deficiencies at the end of a New England winter is the third option that was studied as an option to blame for the symptoms. Calcium deficiency is known to cause muscle spasms and hysterical states. It has also been suggested that some of the spectral evidence (claims to have been visited or actually sat upon, choked, etc. by the spectres of ccused witches) might have been the result of a condition known today as sleep paralysis.

The reasons why witchcraft was blamed for the symptoms, rater than psychological disturbance, physical illness, or even religious conversion have often been sought in the theology of the Puritan inhabitants of Salem. Another generation of New England Puritans, just over fifty years later, did experience a similar outbreak of spasms and hysterias in young girls seen as salvation, which led to The Great Awakening, a series of mass conversion experiences throughout New England.

A core belief held by New England Puritans, which may have led to oth interpersonal suspicion and conceptions of a secret world, hidden from living humans, was the notion of predestination, the belief that God had already determined who was to be saved and who was to be damned. In the Salem Witch Trials, both church members and non-church members were accused of witchcraft. For a true believer, a decision to make a false confession or alibi might really appear to be sacrificing a hope of eternal life for an extra few years of life on earth.

During the century after the Salem Witch Trials, the New England Congregationalist church struggled to econcile the notion of predestination with a culture to place strong emphasis on individual ambition and responsibility. The Great Awakening was one of the evidences of this new opportunity for individuals to actively seek evidence of salvation, but even back then, there was dispute as to how open church members should be.

Jonathan Edwards, the minister who diagnosed the Northampton, Massachusetts girls as being visited by divine spirit, rather than bewitched, eventually was dismissed from his pulpit for insisting that only those who had experienced conversion, and not those who simply awaited it, might take communion. Witchcraft confessions were incomplete without reference to attendance at secret meeting to worship Satan. Acknowledgments that the accused and others had signed secret documents enrolling in Satan’s secret services was even more hoped for.

Belief in a secret world where forces of good was at war with the forces of evil prompted for a search of visible clues that at least some people were involved in a Satanic plot. This search might be seen as a negative mirror of the search for clues that one was saved. In the film The Burning Times, some of the clues that were seen included strange marks on the body (e. . birthmarks and extra nipples – which were considered witches teats used to suckle demons). More controversial was spectral evidence.

The afflicted girls and some male witnesses said that they had seen spectres (normally invisible spirits) of the accused either in the courtroom or at other times, and that these spectras tried to cause harm to them. These actions included choking, frightening or tormenting them. No doubt, some of those who confessed, and their lives were spared, were able to justify confessing on the ground that their spectras might have done things of which they were not aware.

A book that discusses much of what occurred in Salem called Salem Possessed, attempts to explain the witch craze primarily in sociological, political, and economic terms. It also uses some means of Theological and Psychological views to explain the occurances (3). Boyer and Nissenbaum suggest that Salem was in a state of some transformation at the time of the witch trials. Several ministers had left Salem as a result of factionalism in the village of Salem.

Minister Samuel Parris, in 1962, was involved in several disputes over his salary, the ownership of his home, his supply of firewood, and many other things. Boyer and Nissenbaum go on to tell that they believe the core of the trouble was a tension between the Salem town and the Salem village. From what one can capture from Salem Possessed, is the idea that it is possible that the whole situation was taken too far. Since Parris obviously had some enemies, when the problems with his daughter arouse, people found that this was a way to get back at Parris.

Instead, it actually got back at the entire town. People who were not anti-Parris, were not aware the rumors about the girls were not all true. Instead, the other residents of the town panicked, and started pointing fingers at everyone. One of the earliest people to be arrested, and eventually hung was Bridget Bishop, who ran an unliscenced cider shop out of her home in Salem village. Boyer and Nissenbaum that there were personal enmities, based on land ownership and inheritance in Salem Village and neighboring towns.

There was a general potential for schism between those parts of the village near Salem town vs. the area further away from the town. The authors of Salem Possessed note that most of the accused witches lived in the Salem town side of the village, while most of the accusers lived in the side that was further from town. What finally stopped the witch craze was it’s spread beyond Salem, so that important people in Boston, the capital of Massachusetts Bay Colony, began to get accused. Even a famous figure Cotton Mather was named at one point, even though he was never formally charged.

There was a breaking point however. This was when the governor’s wife was accused. The Governor then called an end to the trial. Eventually everyone who was still in jail was released, and some compensation was paid to the survivors. Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, uses the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for the bsession in the U. S. during the 1950’s, with a vast, hidden communist conspiracy, threatening that all was good in America. (4). This suggestion is trying to show that the girls symptoms were interrupted as they were because of communism.

The kinds of evidence that was used in the trials could also be looked at by this comment as writings of communism. Miller made certain alterations to his play for theatrical convince. These alterations tell us something of the nature of recent witch hunts, as compared to those of the 17th century. The communist fear lead to many arrests and blacklisting. Indeed, many people who worked in industries such as the entertainment and media business, including Miller himself, did not have left-wing sympathies, but it is unlikely that many, or any, were actively working for the Soviet Union.

Pressure was put on publishers and film studios to not allow suspected Communists to work. Arthur Miller himself, already a famous playwright, was at least partially blacklisted until he could prove that he was a normal American. One of the things that helped Miller prove this to the skeptical was that he married Marilyn Monroe. Jewish intellectuals like Miller were automatically suspect, nd given Miller’s history of divorces, his stand would not have been good. He, however, managed to get out of being blacklisted, primarily due to his marriage with Marilyn Monroe.

Sexual conformity during the McCarthy era led Miller to exaggerate the sexual aspects of the Salem story , changing the ages of some of the characters to make sexual interpretations more credible. Sexual innuendoes were certainly not absent in Salem, but sexual politics were were just as present in the McCarthy era as they are today . As this topic was studied, at first I began to see comparisons between feminism and the witch trials of 1692. A book by Frances Hill claims to be a feminist psychoanalytical reading of the events in Salem Village, 1692 (5).

While this book began with the topic of women, it veered quickly from the topic, and did no more to prove that this is a feminism case, than it did to disprove it. Another book, by Carol Karlsen, is another attempt to show the relation to women and how they were treated, and how it relates to feminism (6). This book does show that the typical witch was: female, married (at least at one point in her life), without any sons, past childbearing stage, and related to, or friends of another accused witch.

Once again, not enough conclusive evidence was given, so rather than further an idea, that might not be completely true, the conclusion of this paper is that women were no more picked out to be victims in these cases, than they were victimized everyday, in all situations. The people Salem Village did not only pick women to be witches because they were women, rather because the prosecutors had a problem with either the woman, or indirect problems with her, through her family. Granted, these women were picked out for who they were, they were not just picked out because they were women.

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