Reasons Behind Witchcraft Accusations
In the Salem Witch trials of 1692, many individuals were accused of witchcraft. However, the reasons for which they were accused differed greatly from person to person. The classification of a witch, how people were tested for witchcraft, and specific witch accusations in conjunction with other logical explanations may be the reason why people were condemned as witches.
A witch is defined as a person who has made a deal with Satan (Witch-Hunt, 33). It is believed that the witch gave up his/her soul in exchange for the capacity to channel Satan’s power. This power gave the witch the ability to harm his/her victims. A witch was seen as different from others because, he/she used “angry words” and “had an obnoxious mouth” (Witch-Hunt, 34). The witch was believed to feed her pets with her unnatural breasts and was the reason behind deaths of infants (Witch-Hunt, 108). A person whom is believed to be a witch is often associated with ritualistic activities such as voodoo dolls or fortune telling. In fact, the egg in a glass ritual is believed to have started all of the Salem Witch trial accusations. It is though that nine year-old Elizabeth Parris used this seemingly innocent ritual to find out her future. When she witnessed the shape of a coffin in her glass, the odd possession-like actions began happening to her and numerous other young women (The Salem Witch Trials, 12). In additions to the fortune telling, there are numerous reasons believed to have been behind the accusations of witchcraft in Salem. One possibility is that the young girls and other villagers may have eaten rye meal that was contaminated with Ergot, a fungus that has similar effects to the drug LSD. It is also thought that the young girls may have become so ashamed that they had been using such rituals that they experienced psychological trauma (By Faith Alone, 168). Along with these more pragmatic theories, there are theories that suggest the Salem Witch Trials were a conspiracy emerging from political or business reasons. It is believed that the growing merchant areas may have shunned the agricultural families and, therefore, the agricultural families retaliated with fabricated witchcraft accusations (The Salem Witch Trials, 7). Whatever the reasons may have been, many people were accused and tested for witchcraft. The tests they used to prove a person was a witch were often cruel and meaningless. Although a person could not be convicted of witchcraft unless they confessed or had testimony of two or more witnesses, the accused persons would be put through a series of merciless tests (Witch-Hunt, 33). An accused person would be stripped to search for the “witch’s mark,” which were blemishes described in the Malleus Maleficarum (By Faith Alone, 169). These blemishes could be anything from birthmarks or freckles (The Salem Witch Trials, 12). It was also believed that if a person could say the Lord’s prayer without fault, then that person could not be a witch because, Satan would never allow his followers to recite the prayer (The Salem Witch Trials, 31). A phenomenon called echomania occurred when the girls were face to face with an accused witch. It is said that when they made eye contact, the girls would fall into their fits and claim to be tormented by the witch’s specter. Once the alleged witch touched the victim, the fits would end (Witch-Hunts in the Western World, 140). Such tests were witnessed in the hearings of many accused witches, including Tituba. Tituba was the slave of the Reverend Parris, who also owned Tituba’s husband, John Indian. Both were believed to be of Caribbean descent. Tituba’s stories from home, which may have even included voodoo, might have created the image of possession in the minds of the children she often cared for. However, it is uncertain if this actually occurred (Witch-Hunts in the Western World, 139). According to Marc Aronson, “Tituba seems to...
Cited: Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Atheneum Books for Young
Griffeth, Bill. By Faith Alone. New York: Harmony Books, 2007.
Blumberg, Jess. “A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document