Salem Witches Essay
Scouring through the events of 1692 in Salem Village, Massachusetts, the temptation to explain the trials and witch hunts cannot help but allow us to dig deeper into the analysis of the precipitating factors that led to the phenomenon. The mythology behind the occurrence forced numerous interpretations and assumptions among which witchcraft was sought to explain the behavior of women believed to be witches. People in the village believed that the devil lurked in the community and within the individuals in their village according to Rosenthal (1995, p. 11). Such ideas evoked a magnitude of cultural disbelief after the death of 19 men and women accused as witches that has coupled with the hysteria and confusion in the village. It has also sparked intolerance that catapulted hate crimes proffered through superstition that involved real people whose alleged crimes were never proven in law and beyond any reasonable doubt.To recall, the witch scare flared up in New England where the British settlement clustered along the coast and up the major rivers in Roach (2004, p.442). Many individuals and families in the community belonged to the Puritan churches and believed that the soul should be purified and the devil banished from existence among mere mortals according to Roach. Everyone was involved in a struggle between good and evil that resulted to tides running high between the girls of the village and the slave, Tituba who taught them magic in the confines of the Parris’ household kitchen as related in Roach (p. 3). Reverend Parris, often with delayed salary received much support from the poorer farmers of the village. Economically, these farmers saw the increasing presence of merchants in the village from the Salem town as a threat to their stability with their non-conformity to the Puritan codes in Wilson (1997, p. 67). The village has sought autonomy and an independent township status from the town and as Parris arrived he acted as the leading town minister.Studies have also revealed that the town was in fact fraught with superstition and practiced magic while church ministers preached against the practice as the “devil’s work”. Religious Puritanism sought for someone to blame as Reverend Parris threw off the burden of personal responsibility for the trouble in his household in 1692 and wrote a letter to equally troubled Thomas Putnam who asked the magistrates to arrest three women believed to be witches according to Wilson (p.83). This started off as three girls came forward acting strangely and believed to be the initial victims of witch spells and curses. Many believed that the slave Tituba had a huge contribution to the bizarre behavior that she and her husband introduced in their wild stories consistent with the practices of magic that the community had learned in Rosenthal (p.11). Starkey once wrote in 1949 (Rosenthal, p.12), that Tituba yielded to the temptation of showing children tricks and spells and fortune-telling which grew to a regular audience of girls aged nine to twenty curiously observing and definitely enjoying Tituba’s lore.Soon Betty Parris, age 9 and daughter of Reverend Parris and his niece Abigail Williams, age 11 fell victims to unnatural fits that Lawson once pointed out as the devil’s handiwork according to Rosenthal (p.39). The girls screamed and hollered and even contorted into positions unimaginable during a sermon reverend Parris made in the pulpit while no doctor could historically find physical evidence of any ailment or affliction. Many men and women were accused and arrested including the initially accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne and Tituba all marginalized women vulnerable to being suspected of witchcraft due to their absence from the religious Puritan gatherings. Several other women belonging to an outspoken and upstanding group joined the accused as the girls pointed to them as the perpetrators of witchcraft in the village as the magistrates manipulated their confessions in Roach (p. 69). Findling and Thackeray wrote that the witch hunt took place within a society that lacked legal framework with an absent governor from British appointments (2000, p. 169).In retrospect, the witch hunts were confined to single small towns long notorious for the intensity of factionalism that bitterly existed in the Salem Village according to Richard (2004, 44). We can recall that the nearly all of the accusers belonged to the marginalized sectors of the village while the accused were from the higher echelons of the Salem society. People of the village believed in witches while some did practice witchcraft according to Richard (p.45). Dr. Mc Hugh of the John Hopkins University once related that personality disorders of putative causes in childhood sexual abuse to the Salem witch hunts (Ford, p. 178). The spectral evidence that saw an apparition was used as evidence although many had claimed that those who claimed and used it were all liars in Roach (p.317). In Rosenthal (p.186), Andrew Lang in 1907 has reminded that the witch hunts and trials were not results of bigotry no barbarity but on the history of witchcraft.John Hale, a minister at the Essex county and an observer of the Sale, trials and witch crisis initially supported the court. The accusation against his wife soon provoked a realization that any spectral evidence was actually unbelievable as innocent blood and gore was shed according to Godbeer (p. 2003). Hale agreed that Salem’s court executed unfair decisions and erred in their judgment as problems of evidence magnified the scale of the witch crisis that soon gave way to an end on all pending trials and executions in Godbeer (2005, p. 225). Crimes relative to the occult and paranormal was heavily questioned and catapulted in by Puritan ideals that clergymen contradicted. The plight of young and old, pregnant and nursing women faced a perilous winter that changed the active persecution standards in indifferent bureaucracies processed by the remaining victims according to Rosenthal (184). The people of Salem who were found guilty were soon reprieved by the governor during the spring. The hysteria of witchcraft and demonic possessions greatly declined with the arrival of the new governor and convictions ended. Such phenomenon does not actually rely in the occult nature of the Salem witch hunts and trials but on the maneuverings of socio-political and economic tendencies perpetrated by the marginalized villagers against the better individuals who contributed heavily to the society.