Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials The Salem Witch trials started in 1692 resulted in 19 executions and 150 accusations of witchcraft. This is one of the historical events almost everyone has heard of. It is a topic that is talked about, and can be seen as controversial.

A quote by Laurie Carlson shows just how controversial the topic can be. (A) character myth is certainly what the witch hunts in Europe and Salem have become, though they have more basis in fact than most myths.The stories of the witch hunts are character myths for our time, to be told by feminists, left-wing intellectuals, and lawyers for President Clinton, each taking what he or she needs from the story, adding or subtracting as it seems fit. (1). The trials began because three young girls, Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam began having hysterical fits after being caught engaging in forbidden fortune telling.

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That’s right fortune telling, not dancing naked in the woods like the story has been told to many times (2). The fortune telling occurred because they were trying to find out what type of men they were going to marry.Betty Parris’ father was a reverend of the town on Salem, Massachusetts. The Reverend, Samuel Parris called in senior authorities to determine if the girls’ affliction was caused by witchcraft. Although Betty was sent away fairly soon, and did not participate in the trials, the remaining two girls were joined by other young and old women in staging public demonstrations of their affliction when in the presence of accused witches. The events in Salem have been used as a theme in many literary works. Anthropologists also take interest in these writings because they display some of the characteristics of village witchcraft as well as some of the features of the European witch craze. Many commentators have seen the Salem witch craze as the last outbreak of the European witch craze which was transported to North America.

As in African and new Guinea villages, the original accusations in Salem were made against people who the accusers had reason to resent or fear. Moreover, the first few of the accused fit the definition of marginal persons likely to arouse suspicion.However, as in Europe, the accusations spread, and soon encompassed people not involved in any of Salem’s grudges or problems.

As in Europe, there was a belief that the accused were in league with the devil. Supposed experts went out to do scientific studies to diagnose witchcraft. Interestingly, during the colonial period in Africa, just after WWII, there was a number of witch finding movements in Africa that closely resembled the Salem episode. Typically in these witch finding movements, the witch finders would come in from outside a village and claim to be able to rid the village of all of it’s witchcraft.At this period there was great dislocation, with people moving around because of government employment, suitable farmland, and many other causes. Some people were improving their economic status as a result of these change, and others ended up being worse off. Whereas in the past, everyone in a location had followed the same religion, people were now exposed to Christianity and the local religions of people who had moved to their region, or whose regions they had moved to.

In the cities of central and Southern Africa, many local religions and Christian sects could be found, as well as Islam. Belief in witchcraft tended to unite people across religious differences. Frenzies increased throughout time, people began to be accused who had not aroused any particular jealousies, possibly because they possessed a peculiar looking item which might be said to contain magical medicine.These crazes tended to die down, at least after considerable conflict and property damage, and the witch finders would then move on to the next town. As witchcraft accusations still occurred in the areas, we can conclude that the movements did not get rid of witches forever.

Witch Trials 4 There have been three basic approaches taken to the analysis of the Salem witch trials. Scholars have sought psychological and biological explanations for the symptoms displayed by the bewitched girls. Sexual repression in Puritan New England, the low status of women, especially young women, in the community and the lack of opportunity for any sort of entertainment are among the psychological explanations which have been offered. Group Psychology , or the tendency for out of control behaviors to spread in crowds, have also been mentioned.Various dietary deficiencies at the end of a New England winter is the third option that was studied as an option to blame for the symptoms. Calcium deficiency is known to cause muscle spasms and hysterical states. It has also been suggested that some of the spectral evidence (claims to have been visited or actually sat upon, choked, etc. by the spectres of accused witches) might have been the result of a condition known today as sleep paralysis.

The reasons why witchcraft was blamed for the symptoms, rater than psychological disturbance, physical illness, or even religious conversion have often been sought in the theology of the Puritan inhabitants of Salem.Another generation of New England Puritans, just over fifty years later, did experience a similar outbreak of spasms and hysterias in young girls seen as salvation, which led to The Great Awakening, a series of mass conversion experiences throughout New England. A core belief held by New England Puritans, which may have led to both interpersonal suspicion and conceptions of a secret world, hidden from living humans, was the notion of predestination, the belief that God had already determined who was to be saved and who was to be damned. In the Salem Witch Trials, both church members and non-church members were accused of witchcraft. For a true believer, a decision to make a false confession or alibi might really appear to be sacrificing a hope of eternal life for an extra few years of life on earth. During the century after the Salem Witch Trials, the New England Congregationalist church struggled to reconcile the notion of predestination with a culture to place strong emphasis on individual ambition and responsibility.

The Great Awakening was one of the evidences of this new opportunity for individuals to actively seek evidence of salvation, but even back then, there was dispute as to how open church members should be. Jonathan Edwards, the minister who diagnosed the Northampton, Massachusetts girls as being visited by divine spirit, rather than bewitched, eventually was dismissed from his pulpit for insisting that only those who had experienced conversion, and not those who simply awaited it, might take communion. Witchcraft confessions were incomplete without reference to attendance at secret meeting to worship Satan. Acknowledgments that the accused and others had signed secret documents enrolling in Satan’s secret services was even more hoped for.

Belief in a secret world where forces of good was at war with the forces of evil prompted for a search of visible clues that at least some peop …