Salem Witch Trials

Topics: Salem witch trials, Witchcraft, Witch-hunt Pages: 5 (1863 words) Published: December 11, 2012

From June through September of 1692, nineteen people convicted of practicing witchcraft in Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trials took place only in America, but the idea of witches has existed in many parts of the world. In Europe witches were believed to be anti-Christian, and to have sold his or her soul to the devil in order to obtain magical abilities, usually to harm others. However, witches in Africa and the West Indies involved concepts other than the devil. From the 1400’s to the 1700’s, the annihilation of witches and witchcraft in England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Spain was promoted by church officials. Between 1484 and 1782, around 300,000 women were accused of practicing witchcraft, and were put to death. People who practiced “white magic” were hardly punished at all, because it only consisted of luck charms and love potions Only the people who practiced “black magic” – witchcraft that was intended to injure or kill other civilians – were executed. Hysterical fear of witchcraft spread through Europe like wild fire between the 1600’s and 1700’s. When English colonists began the new American colonies, they brought the fear of witchcraft with them across the sea. Before the American colonies had even begun, England experienced a similar witch hunting phase. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull called the "Summis desiderantes" which openly called for hunting down, torturing and finally executing Satan worshipers, otherwise known as witches. Even when this persecution finally ended in England, it did not stop for long. The Puritans believed that the Bible was God's true law, and that it provided a plan for living. The established church of the day described access to God as monastic and possible only within the confines of "church authority". Puritans stripped away the traditional trappings and formalities of Christianity which had been slowly building throughout the previous 1500 years. Theirs was an attempt to "purify" the church and their own lives. They contended that the Church of England had become a product of political struggles and man-made doctrines. The Puritans were one branch of dissenters who decided that the Church of England was beyond reform. Escaping persecution from church leadership and the King, they came to America. In 1688, a minister named Samuel Parris was asked to preach in the Puritan Salem Village church. Within a year, he moved there along with his wife, his six-year-old daughter Betty, his niece Abigail, and his Indian slave, Tituba. In the winter, Betty began to have violent fits and fevers. Her friends, Ann Putnum and Mercy Lewis, 11 and 17, began to behave similarly. The girls twisted into bizarre poses, fell down into frozen positions, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. Since the doctor couldn’t find a cure or even explain what was going on, he declared that it was the work of witches. Tituba decided to make a “witch cake” in order to find out who the witch was. A witch cake was a cake concocted of the urine of a witch’s victim. It is then fed to a dog, since dogs are believed to be familiar to the devil. After eating the cake, the dog would supposedly run immediately to the “witch”. However, when the dog ate the witch cake Tituba fed it, it just got sick. Tituba was then suspected of witchcraft because she had made the cake, but also because she told stories to Betty and Abigail about voodoo and witches in her native folklore. After Tituba and a few other women accused of witchcraft were arrested, Betty and Abigail started to name their afflicters. Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborn were the quickly accused and arrested on March 1, 1688 for witchcraft. Tituba was evidently blamed since she cooked the witch cake. Sarah Good was a poor homeless women who often begged for food and shelter, and hadn’t gone to church for over a year. Hundreds of people showed up for their trial in a meeting house. Whenever one...
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