In 1692 the area of Salem town and Salem village became very vulnerable to conflict. Severe weather such as hurricanes had damaged land and crops, the effects of King Phillips War began to impact New England society, and colonists were being forced off of the frontiers by Native peoples. The Church and the government were in heavy conflict. And those residing in Salem began to grow suspicious of one another when some prospered and others hadn’t (Marcus, p13). Suddenly people seemed very paranoid and soon residents were placing blame on one another and accusing each other of witchcraft. In a fifteen month period between 1691 and 1692 nearly twelve dozen people were accused of witchcraft in or near Salem (Norton, p8). Although witch trials were not uncommon in Puritanical New England, none had reached such epidemic proportions as Salem. In 1691 the mass hysteria began when several young girls dabbled in witchcraft and began acting strange. When villagers took notice the girls were seriously questioned and so they began naming people, mainly woman, who had supposedly bewitched them (Boyer, p66). Several other who had been accused were woman displayed ‘unfeminine’ behavior and those who stood to inherit more economic power than most men in the area (Boyer, p66). By 1692 the young girls had continued to make false accusations of townspeople. Many of those accused were townspeople who were more prominent than others. Villagers, such as the young girl...
The inhabitants of Salem village were Puritans who left Great Britain to pursue their religious freedom. However, their search for the sacred land was merely a dream; as they set foot on the new land, they faced numerous challenges. In the article, Boyer and Nissenbaum point out, “problems which [confront] Salem Village … :the pressure of commercial capitalism and the social style that [accompany] it; the breaking away of outlying areas from parent towns … the shifting locus of authority within individual communities and society as a whole” (Text 194). These social and economic problems created a conflict between Salem village and Salem town - in other words, the gap between the poor and the wealthy, “a community … that its inhabitants experienced two different economic systems, two different ways of life, at unavoidably close range; and so structured politically that it was next to impossible to locate” (Text 195). These differences were directly responsible for socioeconomic tensions. However, socioeconomic problems weren’t the only reasons of the tension as the authors believe factionalism play a role as well. According to the authors, “[t]he charges against Daniel Andrew and Phillip English, for example, followed closely upon their election as Salem Town selectment” (Text 195), therefore, these charges were merely a reason to eliminate political opponents. Yet that wasn’t the worse part, the population of the village was divided into two factions: pro-Parris and anti-Parris. After analyzing many different cases, the authors conclude, “supporters of the trails generally belonged to the pro-Parris faction, and opponents of the
In modern times, the most infamous witch trials are the one that occurred in Salem. These specific witch trials are known for the unjust killings of several accused women and men. The Salem witch trials of 1692, is a big portion of what people refer to, when they want to analyze how Puritan life was during the colonial period. According to ‘Salem Witch Trials’, “The witch trials are often taken as a lens to view the whole Puritan period in New England and to serve as an example of religious prejudice…” (Ray p.32). However, as more fragments of textual evidence occur, historians are making new evaluations of how the witch trials were exaggerated by recent literature. Some historians like Richard Godbeer, analyze how witch trials were conducted during the colonial times, but in a different setting, Stamford, Connecticut. In this book,
In Salem Massachusetts, during the summer of 1692 a tragedy occurred that continues to mystify our country. The Salem witchcraft hysteria leaves us with many questions as to what really happened in this small Puritan town. Starting with a small group of young girls trying to read the messages of the future in egg whites, ended with around 19 deaths and over 100 innocent people found guilty of practicing witchcraft. In this Taking Sides Issue 1.4, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum argue that the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692 was prompted by socioeconomic tensions, along with conflicts between ministers and their congregations, loss of lands, and the division of residence in the Salem Town and the Salem Village. While Laurie Winn Carlson
The Salem Witch Trials were a series of prosecutions of men and women who were accused to practice witchcraft or have associations with the devil. The first Salem witch trial began with two girls in 1692, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams who started to have “fits”, in which they would throw tantrums and have convulsions. The random outburst of the girls threw the town of Salem into a mass of hysteria. Although historians have not found a definite reason or cause for the witch trials, they have taken different approaches to explain the hysteria that took over Salem. Some historians approach a psychological theory by proposing the girls suffered from diseases that made them act out. Other historians refer to factors such as religion, economics, and weather to explain the beginnings of an unforgettable time in Salem, Massachusetts. For over 300 years, historians have tried to reveal the truth about the beginnings of the Salem Witch Trials, but in order to do so historians must look at both the way of life in Salem in the seventeenth century and use knowledge that is available now to explain the phenomenon.
On January 20th, 1692, a nine-year-old girl, Elizabeth “Betty” Parris, and an eleven-year-old cousin, Abigail Williams, started the Salem, Massachusetts witch-hunts. Abigail Williams, niece of the village Reverend, began to exhibit sudden, strange behaviors. The young girl screamed blasphemous statements, had horrific convulsions, went into motionless catatonic states, and murmured strange conjurations, and, like clockwork, a small group of Salem children began to evoke the same mysterious behaviors in the puritan village. Two girls continued to ignite one of the most popular trials in witchcraft history because of boredom and personal jealousies.
The people of Salem, Massachusetts wanted to do more than repeat the same things everyday. People of Salem Town claimed that a “Rampant fear among the Puritans in the New England village of Salem sparked attacks against anyone who was suspected of witchcraft.” (History.com “Salem Witch Trials”) yet, it is likely most of the people, accused or not, knew that the accused weren’t witches. People have said that the Betty and/or Abigail were just sick and were being pressured to see if they were being bewitched by so called “witches” to be acting like they were and seeing what they saw. More and more accusers, mostly children, were being caught, but still recanted(page 96). As the judges were being rapt(page 70) listeners, they were wasting their time listening to the attention-hungry accusers. Most accusers used “spectral evidence” so they could get away with saying lies that sounded worthy of execution and “Though the respected minister Cotton Mather had warned of the dubious value of spectral evidence, his concerns went largely unheeded during the Salem witch trials.” (History.com”Salem Witch Trials”). The girls fervently(page 65) said that the accused were indeed witches, trying to act believable and they succeeded. The accuser’s “belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes or spectres to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer.” (Salem Witch Museum “ The 1692 Salem Witch Trials”) and brought sadness to
“The contagion would engulf at least twenty-two Massachusetts villages, culminating in the arrest of over one hundred and fifty people. Fifty-nine were tried, thirty–one convicted, and nineteen hanged (Foulds vi-vii).” Women were the majority of the accused, because in that time witchcraft was mostly a female perversity. The over one-hundred and fifty accused in 1692 were from all backgrounds, ages and genders. “Persons who scoffed at accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves (Linder).”
In today’s times, witches are the green complexed, big nosed ladies who ride around on broomsticks at Halloween. Back in the 1600’s, witches looked like average people, but they worked alongside the devil. Salem, Massachusetts, was a religious town of Puritans. They were strong believers in God, and had believed that witches were the devils workers. Everything was usual in Salem in 1692, until, 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigale Williams had sudden outbursts of screaming, contortions and convulsions, the doctor came and diagnosed witchcraft (Blumberg, Jess) And from this time on, the people of Salem believed there were witches all around them.
Witchcraft had been around long before the Salem witch trials. “Indeed by 1692 the “witch craze,” which had begun in Europe around 1500, was distinctly on the wane so that the trials in the Salem Village were among the last of the major outbreaks-if the execution of only twenty persons entitles this outbreak to be called “major” in the history of European witchcraft.” However, if this was one of the last instances of witches, why is it so famous? They are different in many ways. “Before the outbreak at Salem Village, trials for witchcraft had been fairly common events in colonial America, but they had not invariably resulted in executions or even in conviction.” The other reason the trials are so famous, is the highlight of this paper about proving that the trials were just an act put on by the children who started this outbreak. “Only in 1692 did the accusations multiply so quickly and develop an entire community.”
The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 were the largest outbreak of witch hunting in colonial New England up to that time. Although it was the largest outbreak, it was not something that was new. Witch-hunting had been a part of colonial New England since the formation of the colonies. Between the years 1648 to 1663, approximately 15 witches were executed. During the winter of 1692 to February of 1693, approximately 150 citizens were accused of being witches and about 25 of those died, either by hanging or while in custody. There is no one clear-cut answer to explain why this plague of accusations happened but rather several that must be examined and tied together. First, at the same time the trials took place, King William's War was raging in present day Maine between the colonists and the Wabanaki Indians with the help of the French. Within this war, many brutal massacres took place on both sides, leaving orphaned children due to the war that had endured very traumatic experiences. Second, many of the witch accusations were based on spectral evidence, most of which were encounters of the accused appearing before the victim and "hurting" them. There were rampant "visions" among the colonies' citizens, which can only be explained as hallucinations due to psychological or medical conditions by virtue of disease, or poisoning.
In the early winter months of 1692, in colonial Massachusetts, two young girls began exhibiting strange symptoms that were described to be "beyond the power of Epileptic Fits or natural disease to effect (examiner.com)." Doctors looked them over, but could not come up with any sort of logical explanation for their ailments. Therefore, the girls were accused of taking part in witchcraft. Soon, other young women in the village started showing similar symptoms. This "illness" of sort slowly made its way through the village to many of the residents. Soon, people started coming up with possible theories as to what started all the madness.
The Salem Witchcraft Hysteria was a product of women’s search for power. This claim is supported by Lyle Koehler, from A Search for Power: The “weaker sex” in seventeenth-century New England (University of Illinois, 1980), explained and argues why this is true. Koehler mentions that the women were in search for more power and respect and power equality. She mentioned that the men were afraid of witches because they felt they were superior to them which brought in the question of who really was the superior gender. But really, the women accused others as being witches so as to gain more power from men. Basically, this showed that the women were not afraid of controlling or taking the power from men. In the seventeenth century, the men had power; so therefore, women did anything and would do anything to gain more power than the men. In puritan society, the only women with any significant power were mothers. They had powers not only in their homes but also in the public as long as they accused people of being witches. They also implicated others to achieve this power. An example that Koehler gave would be sociologist Dodd Bogart’s conclusion that “demon or witch charges are attempt to restore “self-worth, social recognition, social acceptance, social status and other related social rewards” is pertinent to the Salem village situation.
In the past, the word Salem has always been somewhat synonymous with the infamous witch trials. Thanks to works such as Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, many people find it hard not to envision a community torn apart by chaos, even though Miller’s play was not so much about the witch trials but instead a commentary on the rampant McCarthyism going on at the time he wrote it. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, however, see a very different picture when the Salem witch trials are mentioned. Rather than overlook the “ordinary” people living in the towns in which they write about (in the case of Salem Possessed, the town of Salem, Massachusetts), they instead take the instance of the witch trials of 1692 and springboard from them into a detailed inquisition into the entire history of the small village of Salem; or, in their own words, Boyer and Nissenbaum have “exploited the focal events of 1692 somewhat as a stranger might make use of a lightning flash in the night: better to observe the contours of the landscape which it chances to illuminate” (xii). That is to say, the authors strive to show how the witch trials were not simply a completely spontaneous event, but rather a long, horrible process by which individuals were singled out, tried, and executed in order to vent emotions of hostility towards change. The way in which the authors go about this, however, is in a somewhat difficult to comprehend style that goes back and forth between the years, forcing one to rethink all the facts thus far each time a new chapter is introduced. In addition, the authors tend to focus mostly on the social and economic aspects of witchcraft, with little to nothing as far as further explanation of the actions of the women accused.
In 1692, sequences of women had begun to have fits. Young girls who were trying out fortune-telling had begun to start acting as though they were being tormented. As well as the fits they were falling into, they felt as if they were being choked, pinched, and jabbed all over (Conforti). People started to question the way women were acting and assuming it was the works of the devil. Sarah Good, Sarah Osburn, and Tituba, a slave in a family of a girl who was one of the girls playing around with fortune-telling games and such, were all arrested due to suspicion of witchcraft (Gragg). Sarah Good pleaded herself innocent, but accused suspicion upon Sarah Osburn. Osburn admitted to suffering symptoms of bewitchment like other younger girls. She had a dream that an “Indian looking figure in all black pinched her in her neck”. Likewise Osburn’s dream, Tituba experienced a similar sighting but in her situation, there were “four women and one man who told her if she would not hurt the children, they will hurt her”. ...