Some of the earliest accusation of witchcraft can be dated back to 1484 in Germany. Many men and women were persecuted, tortured, burnt and even killed because they were believed to be witches under the devil’s control. In this essay I will talk about what witchcraft was, who was accused of practicing it, the social response in Salem and what social and religious factors are given to account for the harsh response to witchcraft.
The direct definition of witchcraft is the use of supernatural or magical powers. It was often believed that these powers were under the direct influence or guidance of the devil. Witchcraft could be found in the form of incantations, charms, and conjurings and were associated with criminal offences, misdeeds and ruins. Many of the unexplained misfortunes of the village were blamed on witchcraft (for example, babies that died before baptism, crops that failed, men that could not beget or women that could not conceive).
Those that perform witchcraft are considered to be witches. Historically witches are usually (but not exclusively) women. The first people to be accused as witches were the heretics of the towns. Anyone who opposed or had a problem with the church was considered to be a witch. The number of people who fell into this category increased tremendously with the Protestant reformation and the rapid spread of the poorly translated Bibles. But the accusations grew from the heretics to the scapegoats of the town. Anyone who did not attend church or was undesirable (for example Goody Good in the Crucible) had a greater possibility of being accused as a witch. At the height of the witch hunts and trials those that questioned authority or the proceedings of the trials were also quick to be accused of serving the devil and being a witch.
The initial social response to witchcraft in Salem was driven by fear. However the responses were instigated by the social structure that was set up even before any accusations of...
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