In the Salem Witch trials of 1692, many individuals were accused of witchcraft. However, the reasons for which they were accused differed greatly from person to person. The classification of a witch, how people were tested for witchcraft, and specific witch accusations in conjunction with other logical explanations may be the reason why people were condemned as witches. A witch is defined as a person who has made a deal with Satan (Witch-Hunt, 33). It is believed that the witch gave up his/her soul in exchange for the capacity to channel Satan’s power.
This power gave the witch the ability to harm his/her victims. A witch was seen as different from others because, he/she used “angry words” and “had an obnoxious mouth” (Witch-Hunt, 34). The witch was believed to feed her pets with her unnatural breasts and was the reason behind deaths of infants (Witch-Hunt, 108). A person whom is believed to be a witch is often associated with ritualistic activities such as voodoo dolls or fortune telling.
In fact, the egg in a glass ritual is believed to have started all of the Salem Witch trial accusations.
It is though that nine year-old Elizabeth Parris used this seemingly innocent ritual to find out her future. When she witnessed the shape of a coffin in her glass, the odd possession-like actions began happening to her and numerous other young women (The Salem Witch Trials, 12). In additions to the fortune telling, there are numerous reasons believed to have been behind the accusations of witchcraft in Salem. One possibility is that the young girls and other villagers may have eaten rye meal that was contaminated with Ergot, a fungus that has similar effects to the drug LSD.
It is also thought that the young girls may have become so ashamed that they had been using such rituals that they experienced psychological trauma (By Faith Alone, 168). Along with these more pragmatic theories, there are theories that suggest the Salem Witch Trials were a conspiracy emerging from political or business reasons. It is believed that the growing merchant areas may have shunned the agricultural families and, therefore, the agricultural families retaliated with fabricated witchcraft accusations (The Salem Witch Trials, 7).
Whatever the reasons may have been, many people were accused and tested for witchcraft. The tests they used to prove a person was a witch were often cruel and meaningless. Although a person could not be convicted of witchcraft unless they confessed or had testimony of two or more witnesses, the accused persons would be put through a series of merciless tests (Witch-Hunt, 33). An accused person would be stripped to search for the “witch’s mark,” which were blemishes described in the Malleus Maleficarum (By Faith Alone, 169). These blemishes could be anything from birthmarks or freckles (The Salem Witch Trials, 12).
It was also believed that if a person could say the Lord’s prayer without fault, then that person could not be a witch because, Satan would never allow his followers to recite the prayer (The Salem Witch Trials, 31). A phenomenon called echomania occurred when the girls were face to face with an accused witch. It is said that when they made eye contact, the girls would fall into their fits and claim to be tormented by the witch’s specter. Once the alleged witch touched the victim, the fits would end (Witch-Hunts in the Western World, 140).
Such tests were witnessed in the hearings of many accused witches, including Tituba. Tituba was the slave of the Reverend Parris, who also owned Tituba’s husband, John Indian. Both were believed to be of Caribbean descent. Tituba’s stories from home, which may have even included voodoo, might have created the image of possession in the minds of the children she often cared for. However, it is uncertain if this actually occurred (Witch-Hunts in the Western World, 139). According to Marc Aronson, “Tituba seems to have been an intelligent, adaptable, woman who quickly learned from her owners. (Witch-Hunt, 66).
Thus, when the young girls accused Tituba, she would have known exactly what to say. Tituba admitted to witchcraft, named additional witches, and even expounded upon the story on how she became a witch (Witch-Hunt, 81). She stated that she had seen Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne with a tall man in Boston and that it was they who made Tituba hurt the girls (Witch-Hunt, 82). Her story continued to describe birds that were the witches’ pets and how the tall man, which was then believed to be the devil, offered her nice things if she joined him (Witch-Hunt, 83).
This all correlated with the girls’ stories of seeing Tituba where no one else could (Witch-Hunt, 67). In fact, as Tituba continued adding details about the witchcraft, she started to experience similar fits like the girls, as if Satan and the other witches were torturing her as well (Witch-Hunt, 82). Whether this testimony was genuine or just a really good performance, one thing is for certain: Tituba did not perish due to the witch trials (Witch-Hunt, 82). Two hundred people were accused of witchcraft in 1692 at Salem, Massachusetts, and even today, the reasons for the accusations are still unclear (A brief History…).
There are numerous possibilities, including paranoia caused by children in need of entertainment or even drugs such as LSD. However, it is undeniable that something in Salem that year caused the biggest witch scare in United States history–and possibly the world–whether the accusations were true or not.
Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003. Griffeth, Bill. By Faith Alone. New York: Harmony Books, 2007. MacBain, Jenny. The Salem Witch Trials: A Primary Source History of the Witchcraft Trials in Salem, Massachusetts.
New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. , 2003. Pavloc, Brian A. Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition Through the Salem Trials. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2009. Blumberg, Jess. “A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials. ” Smithsonian. com. Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. Outline: Thesis: In the Salem Witch trials of 1692 comma many people were accused of witchcraft; however, why they were accused greatly differed from person to person. I. A witch is classified as a person who made a pact with the Devil and can now use some of the Devil’s power.
A. A witch can use rituals to do numerous things. 1. Sieve and Scissors Use 2. Egg White and Glass of Water 3. Voodoo Dolls B. Witches cannot recite prayers or other Godly rituals II. There are several discoveries that are believed to have caused the accusations of witchcraft. A. The fungus in the rye plant caused mass paranoia. B. Many of the people accused were either very low in social rank or very high, would make them likely targets needed to be out of the way. III. The tests used to prove a person was a witch were often cruel and meaningless.
A. They searched the accused witches’ naked body for abnormalities. B. Plural not possessive Witches’ were forced to recite prayers flawlessly. C. Confession was often tortured or intimidated out of people. IV. Tituba was the Parrises’ servant who was accused by the family’s children. A. She was of Caribbean/ African descent and was probably raised in the voodoo religion B. As the girl’s nanny, she was often left alone with the children C. She admitted to witchcraft under intimidating questioning and even accused others V. Conclusion
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