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Witchcraft In Colonial Virginia

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Witchcraft In Colonial Virginia
battled Native Americans, disease, hunger and sometimes each other. Throughout this period, the colonists in Virginia also displayed a profound fear of witchcraft and the works of the Devil. To guard against this phenomenon, witch pots were employed just as they had been in England. In 1978, a witch pot was recovered in Virginia Beach. Unfortunately, the relic was found by an amateur collector and most of the details regarding the find have been lost due to negligence. However, the loss of information does not render the discovery invalid as it clearly displayed that colonists in Virginia were attempting to prevent witchcraft from its very beginning. The records of colonial Virginia are explicit to this need for the prevention of witchcraft. …show more content…
Beginning in 1698 and lasting until 1706, Sherwood was accused multiple times of being a pawn of the Devil. At her trial in 1706, her accusers claimed that she “…was a witch and bewitched their pigs to death and bewitched their cotton.” Yet another accused “…Grace came to her one night and rid her and went out of the key hole or crack of the door like a black catt.” In an effort to clear herself of these accusations, Grace Sherwood agreed to the water test as advocated by Mathew Hopkins during the 1640’s. To Grace’s sure dismay, she floated during the test indicating to her colonial English accusers that she was a religious dissenter and had rejected her baptism for the wiles of Satan. She was convicted of the crime of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Curiously, her sentence was never carried out; she was eventually released from prison in 1714, eight years after her conviction. Grace Sherwood’s witch trial was one of many cases in Virginia where persons were accused and later released. In total, there were twenty four known cases of witch accusation during the 17th and 18th century in Virginia. In all likelihood, there were many more cases, but archival evidence was damaged and lost during the American Civil War from 1861 through …show more content…
Realistically, religious intolerance and the fear of witchcraft permeated every colony. While it is true that the severity of executions was grandest in Salem Massachusetts in 1692, the fear of witchcraft did not die with the closing of those cases and the death of Cotton Mather. Rather, the fear of the Devil’s actions continued well into the 18th century, as exemplified by the use of witch pots in Holmdel New Jersey and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Also, social ostracism being associated with witchcraft was not unique to Salem, for it was present at the execution of the elderly Katherine Grady in Virginia. Therefore, perhaps the history of colonial witchcraft needs to be examined from an English colonial experience and not just a Puritan experience in Salem Village. It has been this essays fundamental goal to pursue this aim and as more Archaeological and archival work is accomplished unquestionably a more complete picture will emerge as to the true nature of the pervasiveness of witch craft in English colonial

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