Salem Witchcraft Trials
When did the Salem Witchcraft trials begin? Why did they begin? These are both very interesting questions. The first is quite simple to answer, however, the second is far more complex. This is because there are many different theories as to why the trials began. Is there one right answer for the question about why the trials began? I would have to say no. No one knows for sure exactly what started the Salem witchcraft trials, but I believe that the true answer is a combination of all circumstances in Salem, Massachusetts in the year of 1692. The Salem Witchcraft trials essentially began on January 20th of 1692. On this date Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams started to act very strangely and people believed that their behavior was the result of witchcraft. People felt this way because there seemed to be no reason for the girls behavior. They were presumably healthy young girls. After this date many other girls in Salem, Massachusetts began to also demonstrate the same strange behavior.
In the middle of February 1692 physicians that saw the ill girls were unable to come up with a medical reason for their behavior. At this time the doctors stated that they felt the girls were "under the influence of Satan" (www.salemweb.com). Toward the end of February there were many prayer services set up as a way to find the witches that many believed were behind all of the strange behavior.
Why were people so quick to believe that witches were behind the girls acting so strangely? There are many different theories to this question. Some people believe that the craze over the witchcraft began due to a conflict of people wanting industrialize over those who were attached to the farming economy. Others believed that the reason for the craze was simply boredom. There was not much for the people of Salem to do, and many believe that people were making up the witchcraft as a means of entertainment. Many people also believe that the cause was that there was so much fear and anxiety among the people due to the recent small pox outbreak, and fear of Indian's attacking that they felt that the witchcraft was god's way of punishing them for all that they had done wrong.
The true meaning for the beginning of the witchcraft craze in Salem, Massachusetts is still not clear, and it probably never will be. I believe that it was a combination of all of the above reasons. I don't think that any one of these reason's alone would be enough to create such an event, but combined I feel that all of the reason's for the witchcraft trials could have great power.
Once the trials began there were seven steps that were used in Salem. These seven steps tell everything that was done from the moment that a person was accused of being a witch until the sheriff and his deputies carried out the death sentence. The first step was for the person who believed they knew who a witch was to make a complaint to the Magistrate. Often times the complaint was made through a third person. This was done as an attempt for the accuser to not be known to the witch.
The second step in the witchcraft trials was for the Magistrate to issue a warrant for the arrest of the person who was being accused of being a witch. Once the arrest warrant was issued the accused person was taken into custody where they were examined by at least two Magistrates. After listening to the accused persons testimony the Magistrates had to decide whether or not they thought the person was innocent of witchcraft or not. If the person was believed to be guilty the accused was sent to jail to wait for a trial. Step four was to present that case to the Grand Jury. All information relating to the witchcraft was given to the court as evidence. The fifth step was for the accused person to be indicted by the Grand Jury. The person accused of the witchcraft was tried in from of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. There was a jury present that would decide whether the person was...
The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History; By: Peter Charles Hoffer.
Salem Witch Trials (People at the Center of) By: Tamra Orr.
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