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A study on witchcraft at salem in 1692

Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. At the end of the 17th century, after years of mostly resisting witch hunts and witch trial prosecutions, Puritans in New England suddenly found themselves facing a conspiracy of witches in a war against Satan and his minions.

What caused this conflict to erupt? Or rather, what caused Puritans to think of themselves as engaged, at that moment, in such a cosmic battle? These are some of the mysteries that the Salem witch trials have left behind, taken up and explored not just by each new history of the event but also by the literary imaginations of many American writers. The primary explanations of Salem set the crisis within the context of larger developments in Puritan society.

Though such developments could be traced to the beginning of Puritan settlement in New England, most commentators focus on shifts occurring near the end of the century.

This was a period of intense economic change, with new markets emerging and new ways of making money. It was also a time when British imperial interests were on the rise, tightening and expanding an empire that had, at times, been somewhat loosely held together.

In the midst of those expansions, British colonists and settlers faced numerous wars on their frontiers, especially in northern New England against French Catholics and their Wabanaki allies.

Finally, New England underwent, resented, and sometimes resisted intense shifts in government policy as a result of the changing monarchy in London. A new government imposed royal rule and religious tolerance. With the overthrow of James II in the Glorious Revolution, the Massachusetts Bay government carried on with no official charter or authority from 1689 until 1691. In other words, in 1692, New England faced economic, political, and religious uncertainty while suffering from several devastating battles on its northern frontier.

All of these factors have been used to explain Salem. When Governor William Phips finally halted the trials, nineteen had been executed, five had died in prison, and one man had been pressed to a study on witchcraft at salem in 1692 for refusing to speak.

Protests began almost immediately with the first examinations of the accused, and by the time the trials ended, almost all agreed that something had gone terribly wrong. Even so, the population could not necessarily agree on an explanation for what had occurred.

Publishing any talk of the trials was prohibited, but that ban was quickly broken. Salemwitchcraftwitch-huntingNew England17th centuryPuritanismGothiccultural memorytragedy What Happened in Salem The fits began in January 1692.

A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

Moreover, Puritan theology taught that such afflictions usually came as chastisements from God, requiring the minister, Samuel Parris, to examine his ways and repent. Either because of his embarrassment or because he genuinely repented, Parris did not suspect witches for many weeks. After more than a month of continued fits, he finally called a doctor.

When the doctor pronounced the girls bewitched, it both relieved a burden and added a new one. The girls were not possessed; they were attacked.

But who the devil was bewitching them? This was called white magic, or countermagic, and it was long used and widely practiced in Puritan New England. Though uniformly condemned by the clergy they believed all magic, for whatever purpose, worked only through the power of Satanthe practice of countermagic continued through the 17th and 18th centuries. Lay people did not necessarily associate magic with the devil, but approached it more pragmatically: The witch cake Sibley ordered apparently worked.

It also produced collateral damage, however, for the same day the witch cake was baked, two more children fell ill: The four girls collectively named three witches, and Samuel Parris had good reason to be relieved.

  • Returning many rights to the Massachusetts citizens, it nonetheless retained a royally appointed governor and still required religious tolerance;
  • Some were among the most intelligent and advanced figures of their day;
  • Finally, New England underwent, resented, and sometimes resisted intense shifts in government policy as a result of the changing monarchy in London;
  • Beginning with Sarah Good, Hathorne interrogated the defendants in an attempt to force confessions;
  • Common citizens brought their testimony of harm to magistrates, but harm in itself proved nothing.

Now, finally, he could lay the blame elsewhere. He rebuked Sibley and forced her to confess before the church.

  • Bonds were not required for many months, swelling the number of complaints;
  • Before proceeding, the magistrates wanted some approval from Puritan ministers;
  • Good claimed her innocence, and each denial of guilt evoked a series of fits from the four afflicted girls;
  • According to this idea, the afflicted consumed a fungus that grows on moldy rye bread, causing symptoms similar to those of LSD.

Then he used the evidence she procured through countermagic to begin proceedings against the witches. The first suspects were the predictable ones: Tituba, a slave from the West Indies; Sarah Good, a poor beggar who offended everyone; and Sarah Osborne, a bedridden widow who had scandalized the town by marrying her servant.

As Carol Karlsen succinctly writes: It confronts us too with systematic violence against women. The community would purge itself of those who did not fit, and then it would reunite through the process of uncovering and overcoming the devil.

Salem Witchcraft in 1692: A Bibliography

Beginning with Sarah Good, Hathorne interrogated the defendants in an attempt to force confessions. Questions led with an assumption of guilt. Rather than asking whether Good injured the four children, Hathorne simply asked why she did. Good claimed her innocence, and each denial of guilt evoked a series of fits from the four afflicted girls. Finally, Good accused Osborne, attempting to shift the blame, but when the magistrates examined Osborne, much the same occurred.

It was when the court finally heard from Tituba that Salem exploded into an unprecedented affair. First, the afflictions of the girls ceased, confirming that confessions were the best way both to prevent further harm to the girls and to legitimate the actions of the court. According to the trusted Puritan theologian William Perkins, a confessed witch who accused others offered valid testimony against them. Tituba explained that Good and Osborne had forced her to harm the girls, and the court believed her.

Third, Tituba offered several elements in her confession—all guided by Judge Hathorne—that would become routine in future confessions: Tituba eventually testified to a total of nine witches, though she could not say who they were. Suddenly, a full witch conspiracy was underway, a war of Satan against the Puritan churches of New England.

To survive, the godly would have to unmask their foes.

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Meanwhile, the afflicted multiplied. John Proctor responded by beating her, which seemed to cure her of the problem, and apparently he proclaimed that if he were left alone with John Indian, he could beat the devil out of him as well. But when Mary recovered and turned against the afflicted, the afflicted turned against her: Then she accused Giles Cory.

The Salem Witch Trials

She rejoined the ranks of the afflicted and spun out accusations in tandem with them, saving her own life but costing the lives of many more. With the confession of Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield, who would also soon join the afflicted, the trials turned their attention to Maine. Hobbs claimed to have become a witch in the woods of Casco Bay.

All along the Maine frontier, the English Puritans were losing in a long war against the French and their Wabanaki allies. Wabanaki raids repeatedly wiped out Puritan towns, and several of the afflicted girls were orphans and refugees from the conflict.

Burroughs was a Puritan minister with Baptist leanings who had preached in the divided Salem Village church a decade before; he had a reputation for mistreating wives and an uncanny ability to survive Indian raids. Both aspects made him suspect. At Salem, he became identified as the ringleader of the conspiracy, the minister of an inverted covenant of witches. He presided over black masses and bloody sacraments. He recruited the formerly godly to war against New England.

When the court took up his case, more than thirty witnesses volunteered to damn him. Until June, the examinations of the accused witches had not been able to proceed to actual trials because the colony lacked an official charter and an ability to try capital offenses.

Stocked with high-ranking officials from Boston, this court could move from the initial depositions, testimonials, and examinations to grand jury indictments and finally jury trials. The court first tried Bridget Bishop on June 2. Bishop denied her guilt, which would prove a good way to die in Salem. The trial proceeded quickly, and on June 10, she was hanged.

At that point, Salem paused.

A Personal Study of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692

Accusations and examinations had swept up a series of accused witches, mostly from Salem Village and its immediate vicinity. But now it had executed its first witch, a woman who disconcertingly refused to confess even on the scaffold.

Before proceeding, the magistrates wanted some approval from Puritan ministers. Asked for their thoughts on the matter, several prominent ministers took two days to respond. The judges at Salem approached spectral evidence in direct violation of precedent and principle. Ignoring all other ambiguities and cautions, the court pressed on, turning its attention in a second phase of trials from Salem Village to the nearby town of Andover, where a great number of accused persons quickly confessed—many doing so explicitly to save their lives.

It began rather with the accusation itself, the taint of dark magic and ungodly ways, the loss of reputation. For those like Rebecca Nurse, who was a church member, the suffering continued with an official excommunication before execution.

And suffering extended elsewhere as well, to the forfeiture of property and constrained conditions for surviving children, and to a study on witchcraft at salem in 1692 prisons, which were wretched, unsanitary, overcrowded, and dangerous. The first to die at Salem was not Bridget Bishop but Sarah Osborne, the bedridden widow, who perished in jail a month before her case could even be heard.

In total, nineteen would be executed, one man would be pressed to death between boards, and at least five would die in jail before Governor Phips, under growing opposition, would finally close down the Court of Oyer and Terminer—much to the dismay and indignation of its presiding judge, William Stoughton. Phips created another court to hear the remaining cases, and this second court cleared the jails, refused to accept former confessions, and acquitted all but three. Governor Phips immediately reprieved the convicted three.

No one else would die for witchcraft in New England.

  • Why they suddenly sought convictions is difficult to determine, but if the judges had not so desperately wanted the prosecution to succeed, the witch hunt could never have taken off;
  • This political instability, some have argued, caused the witch hunt;
  • More generally, why do Americans keep remembering, reliving, and remaking Salem?
  • A concise and straightforward timeline of the events in Salem surrounding the famous trials, from the first signs of strange behaviors exhibited by Salem girls in January 1692 to the final trials in May of 1693;
  • In 1689, no one with an actual divinity degree could be lured to its parish;
  • Much about Salem begs for explanation.

Explanations of the Salem Witch Trials Most scholars agree on the basic narrative of the Salem witch trials. Disagreements abound, with alternative explanations for the afflicted, the accused, the judges, the ministers, the magistrates, and the proceedings as a whole.

Much about Salem begs for explanation. Not only was the witch hunt larger and more extensive than anything New England had ever seen, but those in authority acted quite differently than had their colleagues in prior cases. Young girls and others had fallen into fits and afflictions before; in fact, almost simultaneously with Salem, the same kinds of fits with the same sorts of accusations were beginning among a small group of girls in Hartford, Connecticut.

Yet neither in neighboring Hartford in 1692 nor in the previous six decades did such afflictions lead to stuffed jails and mass executions. At Salem, something beyond the regular business of life broke out.

  1. Petitions continued to grow during the trials, with more and more brave persons signing documents attempting to save the lives of their neighbors.
  2. Salem Witch Museum This official website of the Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts includes essays on the hysteria surrounding the trials, a map of the surrounding area, and a tour of the sites from the Salem of 1692 that can still be seen today.
  3. Bishop denied her guilt, which would prove a good way to die in Salem.
  4. It also produced collateral damage, however, for the same day the witch cake was baked, two more children fell ill. While talking with them, he witnessed the suffering of innocent persons in terrible, sickening jails, and he turned against the trials for good.

What made Salem go so wrong? Three prominent and overlapping explanations have come to the fore, each emphasizing a particular aspect. One early and influential account laid all the blame on economic development and communal division. In Salem Possessed, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum saw Salem Village at war with forces of modernization that threatened a close-knit, traditional agricultural society.