Unable to find any medical reason for their condition the village doctor declared that there must be supernatural forces of witchcraft at work. This began an outbreak of hysteria that would result in the arrest of over one hundred-fifty people and execution of twenty women and men. The madness continued for over four months.
In some teenage girls in Salem, Massachusettsaccused a West Indian slave named Tituba and two white women of practicing witchcraft. The girls behaved strangely and were subject to bodily fits.
Most Puritans believed in witchcraft, and witches had been prosecuted in Massachusetts several times in the preceding decades. By April the girls began to denounce others as witches, including a former minister.
The events that followed are notorious in American history. A special court was convened in which the judges were not trained in the law and in which the accused had no attorneys. Such a specter could only be seen, it was believed, by the victim, so the evidence could neither be refuted nor corroborated and for that reason had not been admitted in the past.
The trials that followed resulted in hundreds of accusations, over one hundred guilty verdicts, and the executions of twenty persons, mostly women.
By early several ministers had expressed grave doubts about spectral evidence, and the governor pardoned those condemned and eventually suspended all the trials. Even though the hysteria was not limited to Salem, a close analysis of the community reveals some patterns concerning witchcraft accusations throughout New England.
Most of the accusers came from the more rural Salem Village, with a third of the accusations originating with members of the Putnam family.
The accused generally were prosperous and from the commercially oriented Salem Town. Most of the young girls who made the accusations had lost a parent in Indian raids and now worked around Salem as servants, while most of the accused were prosperous, older women without husbands or sons. More broadly, the witchcraft hysteria of reflected deep anxieties among Puritans that the idealized, pious way of life they had created was ending.
They had lost their charter in the s, and under the new charter of the male members of the Puritan Congregationalist churches had to share the vote and office-holding with Anglicans. The tight-knit religious communities of their founders were giving way to more business-oriented and competitive towns.
These changes, coupled with their sincere belief in a spiritual world in which good and evil fought for the souls of humans, made it easy to believe that there were witches among them causing all sorts of problems.
Even so, the simple legal error of admitting spectral evidence turned what would have been isolated, ugly episodes into a yearlong horror for Massachusetts.
Harvard University Press, ; Carol F. Karlen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.Margaret (Stephenson)Scott is my 10 greats grandmother twice on my mothers side of the family,I am also descended from more people who died in the Salem,Mass.
Witch Trials such Roger Toothaker who is my 8 greats grandfather on my fathers side and also 9 greats grandfather on my mothers side, and also Sarah (Proctor)Dodge who is my 9 .
Nov 04, · Watch video · The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of , after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women.
Salem Witch Trials Student’s Name Instructor’s Name Date “Salem witch trials” During the year , there was a lot of accusation of people for serious problems they caused to others, owed to limited information (Roach, ).
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