Saturday, July 11, 2015

Salem and Witch Trials of 1692

Posted by: Ruth A Casie
I recently watched a  History Channel YouTube video about the famous 1692 witchcraft trials for a class I'm taking on Magic in the Middle Ages.

The discussion centered around the differences, or similarities, of the witch trials in Europe. In many ways the results of the trials were similar. Religious fervor, desire to eradicate evil, purge the world of the heretic were the basis for the witch hunts in both Europe and the United States. The witch hunt targeted healers and midwives, those who were the most helpful--women. The ultimate results of the witch hunts were the same, families pulled apart and innocent people tortured and killed.

The Salem incidents grew out of a pot that was waiting to boil over:

  • Clergy -- A minister who was having difficulty both with his own self-esteem and conflict between his church and the church in Salem Town. He needed to secure his livelihood.
  • Young girls -- in an associated video (Ancient Histories - Witches) the girls are depicted as playing a game with their servant and got carried away. When they became the center of attention, a position children (girls in particular) were accustomed to, they were caught in a situation where they were damned if they confessed the truth (it was all made up) or continued the lie.
  • Settling scores -- It is very suspicious that one family made the most accusations and all were focused against a single family.
At the fever pitch of the trails, people were tortured to confess and name those with whom they cavorted. Good people were named and accused. No one was safe. According to the Ancient History video, the witch hunt stopped when the wife of the governor of Massachusetts was accused. It begs the question, perhaps in the heat of the accusations what would have happened, would the trails ended sooner, if someone had accused the magistrates?

The witch hunts in Europe stopped as society moved away from using the supernatural as a means of explaining the unknown and into scientific reasoning.

As an observation, the role of women in this period and the belief that they were evil (original sin) were lustful and without merit made them an easy target.

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