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Salem Witch Trials - Essay Example

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When the Puritans arrived in North America and settled their colony in the name of New England they brought with them their ideas about Satan, and the fear of the devil saturated their culture. Puritans belief in witches stemmed from their European heritage, witchcraft was associated with heresy as it revolved around anti-Christian religions…
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Download file to see previous pages The fear that swept through the colony would in today's time be irrational but during this era of Puritanism it was a balanced and bona fide response.
Puritans believed that the devil offered material recompense for collusion with him. Some of the evidence used in the trials was spectral evidence whereby those who had been affected claimed they had seen the apparition of the person who had afflicted them. In order for this to happen the Devil, it was said, had to be given permission by the accused to use their shape when appearing before their victims. A minister who was involved in the trials, Increase Mather and other ministers wrote a letter to the courts of Salem insisting that spectral evidence alone should not be used to convict the accused. (Mather, 1693)
During one trial the accused Mary Osgood in her defense stated "the Lord would not suffer it so to be, that the devil should afflict in an innocent persons shape". She talked about how the devil had offered her rewards for her collusion and whilst she had agreed was able to prove that actually her life had become worse since her involvement with Satan and therefore had never fulfilled any commitment made to him (Reis, 1997). Consequently her life was spared. It was the women who denied conspiracy with Satan that faced execution for witch craft and testified that they would gain absolution from God upon death due to their innocence. At Sarah Goods execution she proclaimed the following to the minister "I am no more a witch than you are a wizard and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink" (Reis, 1997).
During the trials the situation reached hysterical proportions and it is the sheer size of the occurrences of accusations that has warranted further investigation to create a rationale for the multitude of persecutions. Even during the trials the hysteria generated called some individuals to instigate an examination of possible alternatives to witchcraft. The initial accusations in Salem Village resulted with the testimony of Betty Parris, age 9, the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris, the Puritan Minister of Salem during the trials, and her cousin Abigail Williams, age 11, the young girls began having fits that were said to be "beyond the power of epileptic fits or natural disease to effect" (Hale, 1697). Other women in the village also began to display similar symptoms shortly after. The women accused of affecting the girls through the powers of witchcraft were Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good and a female slave called Tituba who was indentured to the Parris family. Sarah Osborn was married to one of her own servants and rarely attended church, Sarah Good was renowned for begging and asking for shelter and Tituba had a different background to that of Puritanism. The girls had accused Tituba of witchcraft and she was consequently beaten into a confession that she was indeed a witch. Due to these three individuals hardly measuring up to being what would have been deemed at the time as respectable members of the Puritan community they were obvious suspects for the rituals of witchcraft. However it wasn't long before upstanding and often influential members of their community began being accused ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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