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The Salem Witch Trials
Transcript of The Salem Witch Trials
Salem, MA 1692-93
What took place in a small Massachusetts village in the late 1600s has echoed through the ages.
More than 200 hundred people were accused of witchcraft during the witch hunt in Salem.
20 were executed (19 were hung, 1 was pressed to death)
Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted.
Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice.
A History of Witch Hunting
During this time 40-50,000 people were executed as suspected witches.
When the King James version of the Bible was printed, King James himself (who was terrified of witches, witchcraft, black magic, etc.) had a line translated from "You shall not allow a sorceress to live." to "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." -Exodus 22:18
The Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1486 which defined witchcraft and detailed procedures for identifying witches. This was the “how-to guidebook” for identifying, trying and torturing witches.
A History of Witch-Hunting (cont.)
Before this time, many people didn't believe in 'magic' or witchcraft and claimed belief in such things as superstitions.
The Catholic Church began The Inquisition to combat heresy (speaking out against the Church).
Soon they were torturing and burning heretics at the stake.
Then the freezing weather, failing crops, rising crime, and mass starvation was blamed on witches, starting the Witch-Hunt craze that took over Europe for the next 300 hundred years.
A History of Witch-Hunting (cont.)
Witch hunting began in Europe during the mid-fifteenth century (c.1450)
"The Witches Hammer"
The main purpose of the Malleus was to prove that witchcraft existed and argue against those who thought otherwise, to claim that witches were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates (town officials) on the procedures that could identify and convict them.
Women were more likely to be witches than men due to their natural lustfulness and curiosity. Therefore, women more likely to be evil & sign the 'devil’s book'.
Details for inspecting a woman’s body for the “Devil’s Mark”.
Detailed instructions for convicting and torturing suspected witches
Many tribes in Africa still practice a form of witchcraft; like this tribe in South Africa;
Does "Witchcraft" Still Exist?
"Witch-Doctor" or Traditional Healer
Papua New Guinea
Yes! But it's not what you might think!
Native American Medicine Man
United States & U.K.
In Popular Culture
We see witches in our everyday culture, from 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Harry Potter' and especially around the time of Halloween. It's important to realize how our perceptions of witches and witchcraft have changed over time and how they differ from reality.
or this tribe from the Sub-Sahara.
As we continue this journey analyzing the Witch Trials we must be conscience of the fact that the events that took place in Salem were real. They actually took place and affected the lives of real people. These events have forever changed the way we view our justice system and made us look at what happens when fear gets carried away.
The Salem Witch Trials
What happened in Salem?
Intense Puritan religion encouraged uncertainty of individual goodness or badness. Puritans believed a person was predestined to heaven or hell. However, no one knew where they were predestined to go. This caused Puritans to be overly suspicious and worried.
Salem Village vs. Salem Town-Friction between farmers of the village and wealthier merchants of the town, putting a strain on Salem's resources.
Not everyone in Salem was a Puritan (although most were) and some colonist had different reasons for colonizing. People who did not attend Puritan Church were more suspect of witchcraft.
Puritans were on constant guard against evil, i.e. signs of the Devil
Puritan Factors in Salem
In January of 1692, Reverend Parris' daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having "fits."
.They screamed, threw things, uttered peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions, and a local doctor blamed the supernatural.
Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes.
In February under pressure from the town magistrates the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: First Tituba, the Parris' Caribbean slave; soon after Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman.
The Puritan faith did not allow children to act and behave as they do today. They were forbidden to playing with toys and spent their free time reading from the Bible.
Paris' slave housekeeper, Tituba, came from Barbados and told the children many stories, showed them magic tricks and fortune telling games.
These types of activities were very taboo for the time period/Puritan culture and were considered to be "dark arts" and works of the Devil.
The children were caught playing a fortune telling game where they would drop egg whites in warm water and wait to see the face of their future husband.
During the Trial
While being questioned, many of the victims (the accused) where unfairly treated.
They were stripped of their dignity, put through un-passable tests and even tortured until they gave a confession.
The Puritans believed that moles/skin blemishes, having animal "familiars" and being a general outcast from society were all common traits most witches shared.
When being questioned by the authorities/magistrates the affected girls would start to point the finger of blame at one of the accused. As soon as the accused denied being a witch or practicing witchcraft, the girls would then start to act strangely or start to act as if they were in great pain.
This led everyone to believe the girls were under some painful spell, thus starting to accuse the victims more harshly or naming new people in town they had a grudge against.
One piece of evidence used during the Trials was the idea of "spectral evidence". This was later deemed "not acceptable".
During the Trials (cont.)
The Accusers During the Trials
The Accused During the Trials
Would you confess or deny witchcraft?
The sad fact is that people were dehumanized and tortured in an attempt to "stop the Devil".
They tried to prove normal skin blemishes were some kind of "supernatural mark".
Confessions of witchcraft were gained by dunking and other forms of torture.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial
The Death Toll
In 1711, the colony passed a bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused and granted £600 restitution to their heirs.
However, it was not until 1957—more than 250 years later—that Massachusetts formally apologized for the events of 1692.
Today, many people visit Salem every year to learn about the witch trials and the legacy it has left behind.