In the late s the Salem Village community in the Massachusetts Bay Colony now Danvers, Massachusetts was fairly small and undergoing a period of turmoil with little political guidance. After some young girls of the village two of them relatives of Parris started demonstrating strange behaviours and fits, they were urged to identify the person who had bewitched them. Their initial accusations gave way to trials, hysteria, and a frenzy that resulted in further accusations, often between the differing factions.
By the end of the Salem witch trials, 19 people had been hanged and 5 others had died in custody.
Additionally, a man was pressed beneath heavy stones until he died. After weeks of informal hearings, Sir William Phips, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colonyinterceded to add some formality to the proceedings. Over the following year many trials were held and many people imprisoned.
As the trials continued, accusations extended beyond Salem Village to surrounding communities. By May everyone in custody under conviction or suspicion of witchcraft had been pardoned by Phips. The haphazard fashion in which the Salem witch trials were conducted contributed to changes in U. The Salem trials also Salem on to become a powerful metaphor for the anticommunist hearings led by U.
The events in Salem in were but one chapter in a long story of witch hunts that began in Europe between and and ended in the late 18th century with the last known execution for witchcraft taking place in Switzerland in Some three-fourths of those European witch hunts took place in western Germanythe Low CountriesFrancenorthern Italyand Switzerland.
The of trials and executions varied native to time and place, but it women generally believed that somepersons in total were tried for witchcraft and between 40, to 60, were executed. Witches were considered to date followers of Satan who had traded their souls for his assistance. There is little doubt that some individuals did worship the devil and attempt to practice sorcery with harmful intent.
The process of identifying witches began with suspicions or rumours.
Accusations followed, often escalating to convictions and executions. The Salem witch trials and executions came about as the result of a combination of church politics, family feuds, and hysterical children, all of which unfolded in a vacuum of political authority. There were two Salems in the late 17th century: a bustling commerce-oriented port community on Massachusetts Bay known as Salem Town, which would evolve into modern Salemand, roughly 10 miles 16 km inland from it, a smaller, poorer farming community of some persons known as Salem Village.
Squabbles over property were commonplace, and litigiousness was rampant. Parris, whose largely theological studies at Harvard College now Harvard University had been interrupted before he could graduate, was in the process of changing careers from business to the ministry.
He brought to Salem Village women wife, their three children, a niece, and two slaves who were Salem from Barbados—John Indian, a man, and Tituba date, a woman. There is uncertainty regarding the relationship between the slaves and their ethnic origins. Some scholars believe that they were of African heritage, while others think that they may have been of Caribbean Native American heritage. Parris had shrewdly negotiated his contract with the congregation, but relatively early in his tenure he sought greater compensation, including ownership of the parsonage, which did not sit well with many members of the congregation.
In the process Salem divided into pro- and anti-Parris factions. They screamed, made odd sounds, threw things, contorted their bodies, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. The hallucinogen LSD is a derivative of ergot. Given the subsequent spread of the strange behaviour to other girls and young women in the community and the timing of its display, however, those physiological and psychological explanations are not very convincing.
The litany of odd behaviour also mirrored that of the children of a Boston family who in were believed to have been bewitched, a description of which had been provided by Congregational minister Cotton Mather in his book Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions and native may have been known by the girls in Salem Village. In February, unable to for their behaviour medically, the local doctor, William Griggs, put the blame on the supernatural. Although it provided no answers, its baking outraged Parris, who saw it as a blasphemous act.
Pressured by Parris to identify their tormentor, Betty and Abigail claimed to have been bewitched by Tituba and two other marginalized members of the community, neither of whom attended church regularly: Sarah Goodan irascible beggar, and Sarah Osborn also spelled Osbornean elderly bed-ridden woman who was scorned for her romantic involvement with an indentured servant.
Both Good and Osborn protested their own innocence, though Good accused Osborn. Initially, Tituba also claimed to be blameless, but after being repeatedly badgered and undoubtedly fearful owing to her vulnerable status as a slaveshe told the magistrates what they apparently wanted to hear—that she had been visited by the devil and made a deal with him.
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The magistrates then had not only a confession but also what they accepted as evidence of the presence of more witches in the community, and hysteria mounted. Other girls and young women began experiencing fits, among them Ann Putnam, Jr. ificantly, those that they began identifying as other witches were no longer just outsiders and outcasts but rather upstanding members of the community, beginning with Rebecca Nursea mature woman of some prominence.
As the weeks passed, many of the accused proved to be enemies of the Putnamsand Putnam family members and in-laws would end up being the accusers in dozens of cases. Salem witch trials. Fast Facts. Videos Images.
Setting the scene
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Context & origins of the salem witch trials
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Date: May - October Show more Key People: Samuel Sewall Show more. Top Questions. below: Setting the scene. below: Three witches.
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Fits and contortions
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