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Continuation - Witchcraft at Salem


anjeaunot

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Chadwick Hansen completed Witchcraft at Salem while on sabbatical leave from Pennsylvania State University. His thorough perusal of all extant transcripts of the Salem Trials, together with contemporary narrative accounts, led him to challenge the prevailing consensus of opinion.

 

Hansen claimed in his Preface: “The Traditional interpretation of what happened at Salem is as much the product of casual journalism and imaginative literature as it is of historical scholarship.” (P9)

 

He summarised the prevailing interpretation as follows:

1. No witchcraft was practised in Massachusetts;

2. The behaviour of the “afflicted” persons was fraudulent;

3. The clergy, particularly Cotton Mather, both inspired and encouraged the convulsive fits;

4. The sermons and writings of the clergy provoked the general populace;

5. Only merchants like Calef and Brattle opposed the Salem proceedings;

6. The mindset of the Puritans was a major factor in the trials and executions.

 

Hansen decided not to employ “the common revisionist technique of quarrelling with my predecessors item by item and person by person…” (p9) He chose to cite transcripts and documented incidents. His book is the better for it.

 

John Hale, a clergyman, traced the initial problems at Salem back to experiments with the occult.

 

Two girls, who were not married, poured an egg into a glass to determine the vocation of their future husbands. They saw a coffin. Hale claimed one girl had “diabolical molestations” for the rest of her life, and died unmarried. The other recovered from her fits.

 

Hansen suggested one girl was Elizabeth Parris, the nine-year-old daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris. In March 1692 her father sent her to the household of Stephen Sewell; “possibly because fits were known to be communicable, and he wanted her removed from contact with those who were still having them” (p53)

 

The other unnamed girl was very likely Abigail Williams, the eleven-year-old niece of Reverend Samuel Parris. Nothing is known of their lives.

 

Parris had been a merchant in Barbados before he entered the ministry. He brought Tituba, a Carib Indian, with him when he removed from Barbados to New England.

 

The slave Tituba has always been credited with teaching the afflicted girls “occult” techniques. Their friends were also throwing convulsive fits.

 

Mary Sibley, the aunt of Mary Walcott, one of the afflicted girls, resolved to use white magic to break the witches’ spell. She approached the minister’s Indian slaves, Tituba and her husband John. They were to make a witch cake from meal and the childrens’ urine. This was to be fed to the Parris dog, which was presumably a familiar.

 

Reverend Samuel Parris had been taking the afflicted girls to a number of doctors in a vain attempt to cure the convulsive fits. He refused to believe witchcraft was involved, but this was the view of his neighbours and one of the doctors he consulted.

 

The witch cake was the final straw for Samuel Parris. He recognised that the Devil had been let loose in Salem – by members of his own household!

 

The witch cake lived up to its reputation. The afflicted girls recovered sufficiently to name their tormentors – Tituba, and Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn, who were two old women of “dubious reputation”.

 

Sarah Osburn’s husband suggested his wife had a “witch tit”. Her four-year-old daughter described Sarah Osburn’s bird familiars, and how they afflicted people.

 

Both Good and Osburn were caught out in lies. Osburn’s problems were compounded because she hadn’t attended church for months; and this in theocratic Massachusetts was tantamount to a sin.

 

Tituba’s revelations caused a furore. The Devil had visited her as a man and as an animal. She acknowledged him as God and agreed to serve him for six years. She made her mark in a book which contained nine “marks”. Two of these belonged to Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn. Tituba went on a long pole with Good and Osburn sitting behind to afflict the children. She didn’t see trees or a path “but was presently there.” (p60) Sometimes the black man was accompanied by two unnamed witches from Boston when they molested the children.

 

Tituba had fits in the court. Hansen considered her to be both a hysteric and a spirit medium. When telling the court who was afflicting the girls, Tituba suddenly called out: “I can see no more. I am blind.”

 

A hallmark of Hansen’s book is his conclusion that pathological hysteria rather than fraudulence was the cause of the convulsive fits. His book has two drawings of hysterical fits which depict the contortions of two patients of celebrated 19th century medical men. There are exact parallels here between the depicted contortions and those of the Massachusetts hysterics. Indeed, there are obvious parallels with cases of demonic possession in earlier Witchcraft trials.

 

Hansen’s argument is all the more convincing because Mary Warren recovered her sanity on occasions, and denied all knowledge of people molesting her.

 

Hansen believed Briget Bishop was a witch. Rumours persisted she had caused the death of her first husband. She was brought before the court in 1679/80 on charges of Witchcraft. This was during her second marriage.

 

Bridget’s third husband told others that his wife was familiar with the devil, who “did come bodily unto her.” (p88)

 

Briget was unable to account for the puppets which were found in the cellar wall of her former home. She employed two men to remove the cellar wall of the house where she lived with her second husband. It appears the charges of witchcraft at this time were well-founded. There were “several puppets made up of rags and hogs’ bristles with headless pins in them with the points outward…” (p89)

 

Samuel Shattuck, a dyer, testified that pieces of clothing brought to him by Briget Bishop were too small to be of any use. Hansen suggested Briget used these to dress her puppets.

 

One of Shattuck’s children had, years earlier, suffered from severe fits.” A passing stranger suggested the child was bewitched and offered to take the boy to Goodwife Bishops’ and scratch her face (drawing blood from a witch’s face was a common means of breaking her spell).” (p90)

 

Shattuck knew counter magic as did many of the Salem townsfolk. He gave the stranger money to purchase a pint of cider from Briget Bishop. “(Obtaining property and subjecting it to occult abuse was a common technique of both white and black magic)” (p90)

 

Briget Bishop was too clever, and refused to sell any cider. She contrived to scratch the boy’s face, whereupon he suffered more grievous fits.

 

Dr Roger Toothaker recounted to a Thomas Gage how his daughter had killed a witch with a counter charm. The doctor’s daughter obtained the urine of an afflicted woman who believed herself bewitched. The urine was placed in an earthenware pot with a stopper, and put into a hot oven. The named witch died the next day!

 

Another self-confessed witch was Candy, a negro from Barbados. Candy claimed her mistress, a Mrs Hawkes, made her a witch. Candy made her mark in a book. The magistrates appointed a person to go with Candy to retrieve her puppets for the court’s inspection.

 

Candy returned with “a handkerchief wherein several knots were tied, rags of cloth, a piece of cheese, and a piece of grass”. (p95)

 

Three of the afflicted girls had violent convulsive fits at the sight of these witch implements. The magistrates decided to experiment. “A piece of one of the rags was burned. ‘And one of the afflicted… was presently burned on the hand’. Another piece was put under water and two of the afflicted ‘were choked, and strived for breath as if under water.’ Another ran down to the river ‘as if she would drown herself, ‘but they stopped her.” (p95)

Hansen pointed out the magistrates were themselves practising witchcraft when they tried to establish Candy’s guilt!

 

Another likely witch was Wilmot “Mammy” Redd, who was known as the witch of Marblehead. She quarrelled with a Mrs Simms who threatened to seek a warrant against her. Redd pronounced a curse. Several witnesses testified the curse was supposed to prevent Mrs Simms from urinating and defecating until she made amends to Mammy Redd.

 

In “More Wonders of the Invisible World”, Robert Calef instanced a deliberate falsehood which the magistrates ignored. One of the afflicted girls claimed Sarah Good had stabbed her in the breast, and broken the knife in the process. Part of the blade was found on her person.

 

Unfortunately, a young man then testified he had broken this knife the day before, and the afflicted girl was present when he discarded the haft and the balance of the blade. The magistrates admonished the girl not to lie, and then urged her to continue giving evidence against the prisoners!

 

Hansen conceded that several of the accusations “were the result of outright lying rather than hysteria.” (p143)

 

Cotton Mather had written to Judge Richards urging that spectral evidence be ignored, and lesser criminals should not be put to death. The magistrates and the Court of Oyer and Terminer ignored his humane advice. It is worth noting that Cotton Mather had protested against the use of torture.

 

John Foster, a member of the governor’s council, wrote to Cotton Mather for advice. Foster was concerned that innocent people would be executed at Salem.

 

Mather mentioned in his written reply that in 1645 the English Parliament had appointed “a famous divine or two” to sit on the special Commission of Oyer and Terminer appointed for Suffolk. It is a great pity that Mather did not push for this to happen in Massachusetts. One or two minsters on the bench would have saved lives.

 

Several factors led to the halt of the Massachusetts witch hunts. The brave showing of the witches executed on 19th August had caused a shift in opinion in Salem. People began protesting at the actions of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Hansen concluded that Giles Corey accepted death by pressing as his personal protest against this court.

 

The pathological hysteria of the afflicted eventually led to preposterous charges against important personages whom nobody could believe were witches.

 

On October 3, “Increase Mather read to the Boston clergy, for their approbation, the manuscript of Cases of Conscience, the little book which put an end to the witch hunt…” (p191)

Chadwick Hansen accepted that the majority of the accused at Salem had been innocent. He kept an open mind about Abigail Hobbes, “a wild and irreverent young girl,” who foolishly claimed occult knowledge and sought a reputation for wickedness. Her examiners had to supply her with details of her supposed craft by prompting Abigail with leading questions.

 

Hansen deemed the evidence against Reverend George Burroughs merely proved that he was a habitual liar. Burroughs foolishly enjoyed his reputation for occult powers.

 

Hansen stated in his Preface: “One cannot fully understand any aspect of the events at Salem without a recognition of the genuine power of witchcraft in a society that believed in it. The failure to appreciate this fact has vitiated all pervious accounts of witchcraft at Salem.” (p15)

 

Hansen’s case would have been further strengthened had he mentioned the remarkable parallels between the convulsive fits of the Salem hysterics and those of the French nuns which occurred earlier in the 17th century.

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Very interesting! Bridget Bishop seems to be the most legit case of witchcraft to me. That and Goody Glover from the previous post. It seems they did catch a few witches after all. Makes you wonder what really happened and who the witches were that didn't get caught because they were smart enough to be silent and careful. Thanks for posting!

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I think I'm going to have to get his book, you've intrigued me. I've never read a book that acknowledged the possibility of any real witchcraft in Salem in that time..

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One of the biggest problems figuring out whether there were or were not Witches in Salem comes from a few different areas.

 

1) William Phips was the Governor at that time, although somewhat well to do, was NOT an educated man. He put together the group in charge of these trials.

 

2) It has also been written that these girls were playing games which got out of hand and in order to save face had to lie about situations in order not to purger themselves.

 

3) Spectral evidence was accepted as fact during these trials, this was not the norm!

 

4) As in England coercion was a HUGE factor for those admitting to being a witch whether it was true or not!!

 

So Yes, people were killed, jailed and tortured, a horrific part of History for sure, were all these people witches?

Doubtful, just as in England it was born of mass hysteria, Puritan beliefs, fear of the "devil"

 

In these times it was fervently believed that ALL witches cohorted with the "devil". Pure insanity.

 

On another note, I have visited Salem and it is in a tragic state of affairs. It has become a joke, a tourist trap and a freak show!

 

The small town is booming with young Goth wanna be Wiccan teenagers clothed in robes, or dressed entirely in black in the middle of summer, piercings EVERYWHERE donning pentagrams the size of dessert plates and running the streets like complete assholes.

Oblivious to any form or witchcraft be it Wiccan or any other understanding of the Craft.

 

Every other storefront in the main part of town is an over priced Wiccan shop selling garbage.

 

I have even seen some of these kids sitting on grave stones smoking cigarettes!!

 

Even though the very small graveyard is gated, they still find a way to enter if for no other reason but to freak out the unsuspecting tourist.

Not to mention the blatant disrespect!!!

 

And they call themselves witches. Yes they do, they carry wands, staffs and are adorned with all sorts of shit!

 

There are literally GANGS of these types of people roaming the main streets of this town, hanging out on street corners near and in the graveyards, it's disgusting at best.

 

Yet I am told that the Wiccans up and down the East Coast make a sovereign journey to this town every October, I can't even imagine the nightmare!!

 

My husband and I visited in August one year, on our way to visit friends on Plum Island in Mass., we were supposed to stay for two nights, spent one and left very early in the morning heading further up the coast.

 

It really was a nightmare!

 

Of course this is neither here nor there, I just felt I should add it if anyone may be so inclined to book a flight or something insane like that :)

 

Thanks for the article, I went to my local library to find this book so I could follow along with your thread, but apparently this book has been misplaced. Hmmmmmmm

 

Sadly I have given up on really delving into the History of it all as the visit left a profound feeling of disgust within me.

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He summarised the prevailing interpretation as follows:

1. No witchcraft was practised in Massachusetts;

I thought it was the general consensus that the charges of actual witchcraft were creative journalism and power plays at best. The Tituba stuff I recall is most interesting and correct me if I'm remembering wrong here guys - how people were unclear about her race, how she did not at first admit to witchcraft but then her story changes, and she's not executed and manages to point the finger at a network of witches and mysteriously bought by a new owner along with her husband - the details of purchase of which there is little to no record. Let me know if I'm missing something on her. Did they offer her a get out of jail card for endorsing their version of things? It seemed to that her role evidences the workings of persecution for persecution's sake to put the usual overzealous politicians on the map by sensationalizing these trials and concepts. McCarthyism comes to mind obviously here, at least for many of us who've been force-fed "The Crucible" lol.

 

What confuses me in the above quote is the claim that the actual witch trials are used as evidence that no actual witchcraft was going on in the entire state of Mass including those who were not on trial. Do you mean that no actual witchcraft was TRIED in the state of Mass? I ask because if you have a culture that believes in it so profoundly, it seems hard to believe that there were no people practicing the real deal and not getting caught - which is sort of a useless argument in itself on my part because no evidence means no argument. But since even non-witches really believed in it, I wonder if there were some people who were practicing and not getting hanged for it because they were discreet and saw the writing on the wall, or those who had practiced and stopped because they didn't want to bear the consequences, or those who may have seen it coming and left their communities.

 

The tendency of human beings is that when someone says "don't push the big red button"...people do it, i.e. drinking during prohibition. If witchcraft was such a taboo issue, I'm not sure all people would be able to resist exploring it themselves. I wonder if there were cases of which we are not aware because those individuals managed to escape the clutches of power hungry politics. One look at the copies of the arrest warrants of some of these people is enough to see that the people making judgment calls here were questionable.

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I think it is reasonable to assume that there were practising witches at the time. Everyone was caught up in the belief of witchcraft, so it had to stem from somewhere. Also, keep in mind that America was supposed to be a country of freedom so many groups of prosecuted people came over from Europe. Isn't it reasonable that witches would be among the groups? Also, I doubt that serious witches would advertise in such a climate anyway. The ones that were accused, were accused by the girls who were trying to play with witchcraft themselves right? After all the attention they got accusing people, it turned in to a new game. One in which they were the center of attention. Now, with randomly pointing fingers at people, especially elderly people, older women and forgieners, I think it is resonable that one or two witches got caught by mere chance. It makes me wonder if the elderly man who got crushed to death was a cunning man. That is what I would do if my words were to condemn my family. Also, something like that takes an iron will. Then the accounts of Bridget Bishop and Goody Glover come into play. Sounds like it is possible that they were practising witches. Another thing to keep in mind is that usually those with the power in communities are the ones with the most to hide.

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Really interesting! Now I want to read the book. Before this I didn't really have much of an interest in Salem beyond loving the Crucible when I was in high school. And I loved it as literature not for the "witchiness" factor. Now I am looking back at what was said to have been done with new eyes. Very interesting.

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Thank you, Lusa, for your reply.

 

The six points summarized by Hansen relate specifically to the Salem witch trials. He listed these as the unanimous conclusion of his academic predecessors who had written about the Salem outbreak.

 

It concerned Hansen that the general public accepted the academic consensus that all the Salem defendants had been innocent.

 

Hansen conceded that many writers “have taken exception to one point or another in the traditional interpretation. The point raised most often has been that witchcraft trials were not at all unusual in the seventeenth century; that they were in fact typical of Western civilization at that time.” (P13)

 

Hansen quoted George Lyman Kittredge, a renowned witchcraft scholar (p8): “The Salem outbreak was not due to Puritanism; it is not assignable to any peculiar temper of our New England ancestors…. They were men of their time. They shared the feelings and beliefs of the best hearts and wisest head of the seventeenth century.” (G.L. Kittridge. Witchcraft in Old and New England (Cambridge Mass: 1929) p338.

 

You made a good point, Lusa. Hansen should have worded 1. “No witchcraft was practised in Salem.” This was one of the six claims he set out to challenge.

 

Hansen wrote: “A few persons have recognized that image magic was actually employed in Massachusetts and at least two have wondered whether there might not have been something behind the charges after all.” (p14)

 

W.F. Poole noted “that Longfellow examined some of the seventeenth-century narratives before composing his play on the Salem trials, Giles Corey of the Salem Forums. Longfellow was learned enough to recognize that Cotton Mather’s suspicions had been aroused by concrete evidence of image magic…That was as far as he got,” (p14)

 

“Barrett Wendell also knew there has been image magic at Salem and was startled to discover that nineteenth century spiritualists were believers in the possibility of accomplishing harm through such means… Wendell never got further than wondering whether there might have been something to the charges after all.” (p15)

 

Hansen wrote: “David R Proper, formerly librarian of Essex Institute, tells me that Kittredge suspected there might have been witchcraft practised at Salem. However, he did not pursue his suspicions; at least I have not been able to discover any further evidence that would lead me to believe otherwise.”

 

“Finally, the late dean of twentieth-century New England studies, Perry Miller, knew there had been image magic in the Glover case of 1688 at Boston, yet he was unable to take seriously a practice he found so contemptible.” (p15)

 

Hansen traced the initial erroneous interpretations of the Salem episode to the writings of the Reverend Charles Wentworth Upham who had been a minister at Salem, and subsequently its mayor.

 

Upham published his Lectures in Witchcraft in 1831. He “published Salem Witchcraft, which has remained the standard history, in 1867.” (p11)

 

Upham’s rambling style presented often conflicting views of what caused the witchcraft episode. The gist of his argument suggests “the entire affair was a monstrous conspiracy, in which the ministers and magistrates took advantage of the fraudulent behavior of the afflicted girls to exercise a mindless and irresponsible power at the expense of the suffering community.” (p11)

 

“… George Bancroft adopted the conspiratorial thesis in his monumental History of the United States of America… Bancroft’s account became the main, and often the only, source for innumerable lesser histories, including almost all school histories.” (p12)

 

Yes, Lusa. Tituba was a Carib Indian from Barbados. Her husband John was also a Carib. He is styled “John Indian” in the Salem proceedings.

 

Tituba admitted being a witch at the first inquiry. She was imprisoned, not executed, because she confessed. Prisoners at Salem had to pay for the expenses of their upkeep. Tituba was a slave and had no money. “She lay in jail until she was sold to pay the jailer’s fees, her master refusing to pay them.” (p61)

 

I will discuss the money that some Salem inhabitants made out of the unfortunate Salem defendants when I reply to Brigid’s post!

 

I guess I am just a romantic at heart (or else a vindictive witch LOL), but I like to think that modern Salem town as depicted by Brigid is fitting revenge for those who died in 1692.

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I guess I am just a romantic at heart (or else a vindictive witch LOL), but I like to think that modern Salem town as depicted by Brigid is fitting revenge for those who died in 1692.

Gotta love an intelligent man with a sense of humor!!!

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A brief history of Massachusetts colony will enable us to understand the fears of the Salem inhabitants. Hansen argued that it was fear of what was happening in their colony, rather than Puritan sexual repression, which was one of the triggers of the Salem outbreak.

 

In 1630 a group of Puritans fled England and settled in Massachusetts. They held a royal charter which proclaimed they were independent of English authority. In 1684 Charles II revoked this charter, and in 1688 James II appointed a royal governor for Massachusetts, Sir John Andros.

 

Massachusetts rebelled against English rule in 1689 and deposed the royal governor. The Puritan colonists now had a real problem. The Test Act of 1673 insisted that only Anglican communicants could hold civil or military offices. In Massachusetts only Puritans could vote and hold civil office. This was not acceptable to the English government.

 

A delegation, led by Increase Mather, sought a new charter from the English government. The new charter was a compromise. The Puritans were forced to accept a property qualification, rather than religious affiliation, for the vote. The Test Act was tacitly suspended to permit Puritans to retain office. Massachusetts had to accept an English governor but his powers were curtailed and he could be nominated by Massachusetts.

 

Increase Mater nominated the new governor, Sir William Phips. “Phips was New England-born, an ardent Puritan, and a protégé of the Mathers” (p145) Mather and Phips arrived back in Boston on the 14th May 1692. Phips left to deal with the French and the Indians, but the Governor’s Council had appointed a Court of Oyer and Terminer on the 27th May1692 because the gaols were full of suspected witches.

 

R.H. Robbins also set the background for the Salem outbreak. “The French were waging war; the Indians were on the warpath. Taxes were intolerable (in 1691 the Colonial government had demanded £1,346), the winter was cruel, pirates were attacking commerce, and smallpox was raging. In addition, the ingrown irritations of a small village, where ownership of land and boundaries were in dispute, increased the tensions.” (The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, p429)

 

R.H. Robbins pointed out that the torture which killed Giles Corey was illegal. “He was slowly pressed to death over a period of two days by weights piled on his body.” (p109)

 

Robbins cited the Massachusetts 1641 Body of Liberties, No.46 “For bodily punishments we allow amongst us none that are inhumane, barbarous, or cruel.” (p110)

 

There are cases of English witches who were tortured. Some are listed in Robbins’ Encyclopedia. It is likely that the confessions made by William Barker and several others provoked a paranoid reaction from both the examining magistrates and the juries.

 

Barker alleged that the Devil had vowed to destroy God’s church in Massachusetts, and was setting up a new religion to replace Christianity. First the Devil had to destroy Salem village. Barker spoke of his pact with the Devil, and named people he had afflicted. He also spoke of Sabbat meetings and a “Satanic militia.” (Hansen pp119-121)

 

Coming so close on the heels of Massachusetts’ virtual loss of her cherished religious independence, the claim that Satan was determined to destroy Christianity in the country (ie: the American Colonies) must have alarmed the Salem townsfolk.

 

This fear of Satan’s plan to destroy God’s church may explain the severity with which the magistrates treated the Salem defendants; and account for their giving credence to the hysterical women’s accusations. No doubt this could explain why they sanctioned torture. Several young men were tied “neck and heels till the blood was ready to come out of their noses.” (p162) Other prisoners were deprived of sleep and prodded to stay awake.

 

R.H. Robbins cited Increase Mather’s Illustrious Providence in his chapter on Spectral Evidence (p478 of his Encyclopedia): “Elizabeth Knapp of Groton, Connecticut, had violent fits and uttered strange blasphemies. ‘She cried out in some of her fits that a woman (one of her neighbors) appeared to her and was the cause of her afflictions.’ Elizabeth could identify the woman with her eyes closed… This is the pattern of many – perhaps a majority – of the English witch trials, and certainly of most of the American trials.”

 

Hansen’s greatest problem was to prove his belief that the hysterical fits of the “witch bitches” were largely caused by pathological hysteria, rather than contrived fraudulence. He did list those cases which suggest fraud and malice.

 

Hansen cited the three attorneys of Salem village. In the dispute with the Reverend Samuel Parris: “That Mr Parris’s going to Mary Walcott or Abigail Williams and directing others to them to know who afflicted the people in their illness, we understand this to be a dealing with them that have a familiar spirit and of denying the Providence of God, who alone, as we believe, can send afflictions or cause Devils to afflict any.”

 

Hansen concluded: “It should be noted in passing that the village attorneys had concluded that the girls’ afflictions were due to illness caused by demonic possession.” (p249) This was 1697.

 

Cotton Mather planned a two-part essay to describe his beliefs and practices during the Salem trials. He had completed the first part by 1695.

 

Mather wrote: …that they who are usually looked upon as enchanted (ie. bewitched) persons are generally, properly, really possessed persons, and that their minds are so imposed upon as so makes very much against any credible validity in their testimonies or informations.” (Hansen p243) Hansen pointed out that Mather then confirmed his belief in witchcraft. “In referring to Balaam, the biblical conjuror of familiar spirits, he says ‘we have seen and known (I say seen and known) such wizards among the Heathen in our own land.” And he lists convincing evidence that his experience of witchcraft extended well beyond what he had committed to writing:

 

 

“I know a young man who had gone so far as to get ready a Covenant with Satan, written all of it in his own blood. But before the signing of it the sinful I was made the happy instrument of his deliverance.

 

“I know a woman whose brother was tortured with a cruel, prickling, incurable pain in the crown of his head, which continued until there was found with her a puppet in wax, resembling him, with a pin prick(ed) into the head of it, which being taken out he recovered immediately.

 

“I know a person who, missing anything, would use to sit down and mutter a certain charm, and then immediately by an invisible hand be directly led unto the place where the thing was to be found.

 

“I know a woman who upon uttering some words over very painful hurts and sores did use instantly (to) cure them, unto the amazement of the spectators. Now, thought I, if this wretch can effectually employ Devils to cure hurts why mayn’t she to cause them also, which is the worst that the witches do?’ “(Hansen pp232-233)

 

Hansen observed: “One other incident recorded in the documents suggests that at least a few of the accusations were the result of outright lying rather than of hysteria.” (p143) He was, of course, instancing the claim that the girls did it for sport – “they must have some sport”.

 

There are two separate versions of this incident, and they differ in various details.

 

Hansen cited RSW, I, PP 115-116 as the first source. Daniel Eliot testified he was at the house of Lieutenant Ingersoll on the 28th March 1692, “there being present one of the afflicted persons, which cried out and said, ‘There’s Goody Proctor.’ William Raymond being there present told the girl he believed she lied, for he saw nothing. Goody Ingersoll told the girl she told a lie. Then the girl said she did it for sport – they must have some sport.”

 

Hansen cited RSW, I, pp 109-110 as the second source. William Raymond testified he was at the house of Lieutenant Ingersoll “some time in the latter end of March. …’ “I was saying that I heard that Goody Proctor was to be examined tomorrow, to which Goody Ingersoll replied she did not believe it, for she heard nothing of it. Some of the afflicted persons being present, one of them or more cried out, ‘There, Goody Proctor, there, Goody Proctor,’ and’ Old witch, I’ll have her hang.’ Goody Ingersoll sharply reproved them. Then they seemed to make a joke of it”

 

Hansen commented: “If all that happened was that the girls ‘seemed to make a joke of it’ then we may be dealing simply with hysterical laughter. But if one of them actually said ‘She did it for sport’ then it is clearly fraud, and it would be helpful to know which one it was. It is unlikely that it was any of the main accusers – Abigail Williams, or Ann Putnam, Jnr, or Mercy Lewis – because this testimony was offered in defense of Elizabeth Proctor, and if one of the main accusers had been involved her name would surely have been mentioned.” (p144)

 

I am satisfied that Hansen was correct to stress pathological hysteria as the factor in many Salem “afflictions”. However, I still suspect that malice and fraud played a greater role than Hansen conceded.

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I agree with your conclusion, that malice and fraud played a greater part in the witch trials. Teenage girls, can be especially cruel and they don't always realise how their jokes and rumors impact others.

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  • 2 months later...
On another note, I have visited Salem and it is in a tragic state of affairs. It has become a joke, a tourist trap and a freak show!

 

The small town is booming with young Goth wanna be Wiccan teenagers clothed in robes, or dressed entirely in black in the middle of summer, piercings EVERYWHERE donning pentagrams the size of dessert plates and running the streets like complete assholes.

Oblivious to any form or witchcraft be it Wiccan or any other understanding of the Craft.

 

Every other storefront in the main part of town is an over priced Wiccan shop selling garbage.

 

I have even seen some of these kids sitting on grave stones smoking cigarettes!!

 

Even though the very small graveyard is gated, they still find a way to enter if for no other reason but to freak out the unsuspecting tourist.

Not to mention the blatant disrespect!!!

 

And they call themselves witches. Yes they do, they carry wands, staffs and are adorned with all sorts of shit!

 

There are literally GANGS of these types of people roaming the main streets of this town, hanging out on street corners near and in the graveyards, it's disgusting at best.

 

Yet I am told that the Wiccans up and down the East Coast make a sovereign journey to this town every October, I can't even imagine the nightmare!!

 

My husband and I visited in August one year, on our way to visit friends on Plum Island in Mass., we were supposed to stay for two nights, spent one and left very early in the morning heading further up the coast.

 

It really was a nightmare!

 

Of course this is neither here nor there, I just felt I should add it if anyone may be so inclined to book a flight or something insane like that :)

 

Thanks for the article, I went to my local library to find this book so I could follow along with your thread, but apparently this book has been misplaced. Hmmmmmmm

 

Sadly I have given up on really delving into the History of it all as the visit left a profound feeling of disgust within me.

You're not kidding. I am sooooooooooo turned off by this town and all the self claimed witch jokes up there. In fact, that would be the LAST place I would point some one to, if they had a strong desire to walk the path, or look for places to acquire useful things to use in their craft.

 

Lauri Cabot is declared the "official witch" of Massachusetts by official idiots on beacon hill that have no clue as to what a witch is. My ass she's an official witch. She's a wiccan sell out that is more interested in profiting off the ignorant than actually being a witch.

 

That pilgrimage you speak of is for this thing called the "witches Ball" I believe. I got an invite to it, which of course I put in the trash when I was it was a Salem affair.

 

The only reason to care about Salem is to honor those that fell due to witchcraft persecution, the history and the ocean side.

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I read somewhere that another possible explanation for the convulsions was ergot poisoning from the grains used for baking. Hallucinations and convulsions are symptoms of ergot poisoning, which, since the people of Salem didn't know about it and would automatically go for the supernatural explanation, was explained as being "witched."

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Conversely, Abhainn - there was a colony in the 1620's that was accused of thinly veiled paganism and "devilry" called "Merrymount" founded by Thomas Morton. Their tressspasses against puritanical views included drunken orgies on honor of Bacchus and Aphrodite, as well as erecting huge, horned, maypoles. It would not be out of the question that descendents of Merrymount, or at the least the "spectre" of the fear it caused might've ruminated in the colonies for another 70 years, eventually (with the combination of a charismatic and trusted Native woman showing the children a few parlor games) leading to a full-blown panic.

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Conversely, Abhainn - there was a colony in the 1620's that was accused of thinly veiled paganism and "devilry" called "Merrymount" founded by Thomas Morton. Their tressspasses against puritanical views included drunken orgies on honor of Bacchus and Aphrodite, as well as erecting huge, horned, maypoles. It would not be out of the question that descendents of Merrymount, or at the least the "spectre" of the fear it caused might've ruminated in the colonies for another 70 years, eventually (with the combination of a charismatic and trusted Native woman showing the children a few parlor games) leading to a full-blown panic.

 

I wish I had know about Morton and Merrymount when I was teaching! It would have made an interesting addition to the rather dour Puritan lit we have to start with.

 

I read a book entitled In the Devil's Snare that theorized that another part of the panic was at least partly do to with the massacres in other villages by native tribes. Since the Puritans considered natives to be heathens, they assumed that the devil was trying to wipe them out and would use whatever methods available (heathen natives, "witchcraft," toxic fungus, paranoia, politics, whatever else...).

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I read somewhere that another possible explanation for the convulsions was ergot poisoning from the grains used for baking. Hallucinations and convulsions are symptoms of ergot poisoning, which, since the people of Salem didn't know about it and would automatically go for the supernatural explanation, was explained as being "witched."

 

Gotta love serendipity. Or maybe synchronicity? (or both) Anyway, not 3 days ago I watched a new special on the Salem witch trials, which attempted to explain what happened. Ergot poisoning was one of the first hypotheses they explored. The first hurdle to proving if it was a factor was to find out if the ergot could actually survive the baking process, where the infected rye was made into bread; at 400F, it really wasn't expected to.

However, they tried it, and upon testing the bread, found that some of the alkaloid did survive.

 

The second hurdle was more of a problem though; ergot poisoning, over time, causes severe circulation issues in the hands and feet, initially causing tingling and other weird sensations, but eventually (with repeated ingestion) causing gangrene. No one is reported to have suffered from this, though it should have been obvious and noted if they had. (then they had to show actual photographs of what finger gangrene looks like, eccch!!) So it's highly unlikely that the months and months of drama and trials could be blamed on ergot.

Of course, it's possible that on the onset, or even in the middle of everything, some of the girls ate a single bad batch of bread, and had some nasty trips; that could have served as a catalyst, or a boost, for the hysteria. I'm sure, in any case, it wouldn't have helped matters.

 

 

I've been to Salem twice, the last time was 1½ years ago. Not impressed. It's just a tourist trap now, and full of shops selling tourist-targeted superficial wiccany trinkets. Overpriced ones, I might add. Bleh.

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  • 4 months later...

One of the biggest problems figuring out whether there were or were not Witches in Salem comes from a few different areas.

 

1) William Phips was the Governor at that time, although somewhat well to do, was NOT an educated man. He put together the group in charge of these trials.

 

2) It has also been written that these girls were playing games which got out of hand and in order to save face had to lie about situations in order not to purger themselves.

 

3) Spectral evidence was accepted as fact during these trials, this was not the norm!

 

4) As in England coercion was a HUGE factor for those admitting to being a witch whether it was true or not!!

 

So Yes, people were killed, jailed and tortured, a horrific part of History for sure, were all these people witches?

Doubtful, just as in England it was born of mass hysteria, Puritan beliefs, fear of the "devil"

 

In these times it was fervently believed that ALL witches cohorted with the "devil". Pure insanity.

 

On another note, I have visited Salem and it is in a tragic state of affairs. It has become a joke, a tourist trap and a freak show!

 

The small town is booming with young Goth wanna be Wiccan teenagers clothed in robes, or dressed entirely in black in the middle of summer, piercings EVERYWHERE donning pentagrams the size of dessert plates and running the streets like complete assholes.

Oblivious to any form or witchcraft be it Wiccan or any other understanding of the Craft.

 

Every other storefront in the main part of town is an over priced Wiccan shop selling garbage.

 

I have even seen some of these kids sitting on grave stones smoking cigarettes!!

 

Even though the very small graveyard is gated, they still find a way to enter if for no other reason but to freak out the unsuspecting tourist.

Not to mention the blatant disrespect!!!

 

And they call themselves witches. Yes they do, they carry wands, staffs and are adorned with all sorts of shit!

 

There are literally GANGS of these types of people roaming the main streets of this town, hanging out on street corners near and in the graveyards, it's disgusting at best.

 

Yet I am told that the Wiccans up and down the East Coast make a sovereign journey to this town every October, I can't even imagine the nightmare!!

 

My husband and I visited in August one year, on our way to visit friends on Plum Island in Mass., we were supposed to stay for two nights, spent one and left very early in the morning heading further up the coast.

 

It really was a nightmare!

 

Of course this is neither here nor there, I just felt I should add it if anyone may be so inclined to book a flight or something insane like that :)

 

Thanks for the article, I went to my local library to find this book so I could follow along with your thread, but apparently this book has been misplaced. Hmmmmmmm

 

Sadly I have given up on really delving into the History of it all as the visit left a profound feeling of disgust within me.

 

I agree with you about Salem now. It really makes me sick that these teens have no respect for the craft and they don't care if they freak people out. Real witches, and I mean real ones, don't advertise that their witches. I got that from 'Wicca still stucks' website. I don't know what's going on today with young people, I really don't. Personally I don't need to wear a pentacle to know what I am. And that's for just me. Oh went into Laurie Cabot's either former shop or former former shop and the stuff there was to high price for my taste.

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