Itsy Bitsy Witchy A Brief History of Witchcraft

"In the most general sense a witch is a person who possesses a supernatural, occult, or mysterious power to cause misfortune or injury to others."
Witches as depicted in modern popular culture

Witch. The word recalls to most individuals an image of a gross, old, hag that wants to brings harm upon innocent villagers and/or children and whom worship Satan as god. As depicted in modern popular culture, witches either can have a good or bad affiliation, can sing to seduce children and adults to do their bidding, and have an insatiable desire to cause mischievousness stuff. As depicted above in the quote as well as the image, a witch is not limited to the female sex. The affiliation of witches being female stems from the famous witch trials and hunts intensified by branches of the Christian religion, specifically Catholicism and Protestantism.

During the witch-hunts, which peaked during the "Burning Times" between 1550-1650, 75% in Europe and 80% in the American Colonies of the cases of those accused were women. Women where more accused of being witches because they were seen as the inferior sex, which was, "a necessary evil," seen as more able to converse with devils during menstruation, had "insatiable carnal lust" (aka-horny 24/7), and had easier access to bodily fluids and body parts, such as semen, blood, hair, and dead babies. The average woman victim of witchcraft has a certain profile. This profile has the following elements: the accused was post-menopausal, the accused was single or widowed with no male protection to vouch for them in the various courts, had years of dislike against them, were outspoken, and were either very poor (ex: beggar) or very rich (mostly when there was no male heirs). However, the other 25% in Europe and 20% in America accused of rehearsing witchcraft were men.

In Iceland alone, 92% of witchcraft accusations where men. Men would general become accused during large outbreaks, such as the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. When men were accused, it was general because: they were related to female suspects, part of a large panic, where witchcraft equaled heresy (which equaled death), "male magic" such as crop failure, and their jobs if they were against normal (ex: male dancer), traditional male jobs. Most males accused escaped death because they fled the site where accusations were brought against them.

The most common way of executing accused individuals of witchcraft was via burning at the stakes. St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.), widely considered the founder of Christian theology, urged the burning of all witches because it would give them a taste of what's to come. St. Augustine was ahead of his time in complete witchcraft destruction as during his period, the Christian religion, specifically the Catholic branch, tolerated it but condemned it as pagan. Most citizens during the conversion period (300-1100 C.E.), would practice both Christianity and "witchcraft" because most where confused by Christian theology. During the evolution of church stance on witchcraft, during the 12th century Renaissance, there was "good magic" (white; ex: Astronomy) and "bad magic" (black: harmful); traditionally, white magic was performed by highly-educated men while black magic was practiced by women and lower-educated men.

Coming full circle, the church during the late middle ages (starting around 1350 C.E.), using St. Augustine's ideology, condemned all magic as bad and as a collective institution of demonic carriers that was too damn humans to the fiery pits of hell. Venturing back to execution, while burning at the stake was the most common way of dispatching the sentences, hanging was the preferred way of executing on the British islands and the American colonies. With that being said, there is a unique case.

The witchcraft trails of Collette du Mont, Marie Becquet, and Isabel Becquet in Guernsey in 1617 resulted them in being hung (English practice) then have their bodies burned after death (French practice). The reasoning behind burning witches at the stake, other than giving them a taste of what's to come, was to "boil their magic," it was believed that witch magic was in a witch's blood. However, despite the preferred methods of executing witches being presented, 75% of witch accusations were dismissed. The only exception to this is Germany, which executed most of the accused because they had tortured a confession out of them. The idea of witches in modern day popular culture is a warped analysis of the past, and needs to be corrected. Witches aren't just female, not everyone died by fire, and not everyone suffered by magic, good or bad.

January 27, 2017


Witches burning at the Auto de Fe
Billy Butcherson: Go to hell! Winifred Sanderson: Oh! I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely. --Hocus Pocus (1993)

Burn the Witch! This fanatic cry has echoed into modern popular culture in regards to how evil witches, such as witches on the third season of American Horror Story, should meet their end. Despite this being the popular way of dispatching witches, it was not the only way to kill or torture said accused. In an analysis of countries, Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) need to be compared to present a greater idea of witchy torture.

Germany, by far the highest accused-to-execution rate of all countries during the witch-hunt craze of the 15th and 16th century, had a unique way of perpetrating witches. Said accused would be captured by the German authorities and placed into a witch holding cell that also housed a torture facticity, called a Hexenhaus. On the first day of residency in this jail, the accused would be stripped of all clothes and given a “tour-de-torture” of the location and told what each instrument of torture would do to the body. Some of these devices are pictured below.

German torture devices: Thumb Screws (Top Left), Rack (Top Right), and Squassation (bottom)

Germans believed the only way that someone could be absolved of witchcraft is that if they admitted to it during torture; if the accused did it at any other time, it was considered false. It is because of this reason, unlimited torture to extract confession, that the number was so high in Germany of those burned at the stake. A German inquisitor, Phillip Adolf, alone burned 900 witches, including seven-year-old children.

Spain has a unique case behind how they dealt with witch burnings. For starters, those accused of witchcraft is nearly hard to discernment from those of those that just committed heresy. During this period, the “little known” Spanish Inquisition was occurring, and all those convicted to heresy after struggling was burned at the stake. Notice after struggling was mentioned. Unlike Germany, accused individuals could confess to their sin before being tortured and they might either receive jail for life or public ridicule, such as floggings.

Spain is also unique in that those accused would all be executed or face public ridicule all on the same day, called the Auto de Fe. This event would usually occur on Sundays and everyone was required to attend these public gatherings. The individuals slated for execution would be led to the pyre wearing a san benito, which was a yellow, tunic-like garment that had devils dancing and victims being burned alive on it.

Once at the pyre, the victims could confess to the preacher that was present of their sins. If they did, an executioner would strangle said victim and then turn their san benito inside out (then called a fuego resuelto) as a sign that they had embraced their infractions of the Christian religion. Then, the either unconscious or dead victim’s body would be burned. However, if the accused refused to absolve their sins to the preacher at the pyre, then their face was singed with a candle and burned alive.

Scandinavia, composed of five different counties as listed above, share similarities with the two pervious countries mentioned. However, as is the case when comparing locations, Scandinavia is unique in some aspects. These aspects include: more men where accused, and executed of witchcraft then women because the spoken word was the most powerful tool of witchcraft, and men had more access to it, all featured a governing body, called a ping that determined the fates of the accused; the ping would decide, before the church took control, the punishment (exile or penalty) or submit the family of the victim of the accused to decide the fate (usually would result in death), and nearly 40% of the population accused of witchcraft. In addition, Scandinavia, despite the church fighting it, confessions of the accused could not be used to convict others, multiple witnesses had to have seen the witchcraft occur, and torture could only be administered after a guilty conviction. Also, people accused of witchcraft couldn’t accuse others of it (but could accuse them of other crimes, say murder) and Cunningfolks (a kind of medicine man) would be exiled.

Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia, all having extreme differences, all share one common thing—burning witches at the stake. Like stated at the start of this week’s blog, the most common form of dispatching witches is by fire, but in the United Kingdom and in the United States the preferred form was hanging. Either burned, hung, stoned, or any other way a stick can be altered, it cannot be denied that a lot of people was killed.

February 03, 2017

Spicy Vodka Witches

Baba Yaga, the most famous Russian Witch
"Take a toad. Obtain some of the hairs of your victim. Tie them to the left leg of the toad, and put the animal into a covered pot. As it suffers the enemy will suffer, when it dies he will die...

That’s a spicy meatball! In mother Russia, Vodka drinks you! Mama Mia! Stereotypes. These stereotypes are strongly connected to human imaging towards either Italy or Russia. Just like these invalid stereotypes, we also tend to stereotype both traditional witches and high body count thanks to both countries history of violence. However, when compared to all the other countries discussed so far, the combined number of both Italy and Russia witchcraft cases are but a mere fraction of ONE of the other European countries.

The Roman Catholic Church, housed in Rome, Italy, was the powerhouse behind both the Spanish and the Venetian Inquisition. With that blatant fact, one might think that the body count for witchcraft or heresy would be just as high in Italy as it was in Spain. However, that is defiantly not the case in Italy as there was NO successfully proven guilty of witchcraft.

The pure fact that no one died from witchcraft accusation in Italy may come as a shock, especially with the ever-looming threat of the Catholic church, but the explanation for this phenonium could possibly be linked to a combination of a few different variables. One of these variables could be that the issue was on the church’s “stomping ground.” In explanation, the church was more concerned with other countries than their own because of the threats of other religions! Other popular beliefs that there was no guilty witchcraft verdicts in Italy can be attributed to the following four things: Dominican Inquisitors where generally cautious and methodical, the jurisdiction of the local tribulations did not want to evoke the Holy office into their affairs because they did not want to lose power, there was a belief of supernatural illness (Stregheria) vs. natural illness and in the court, it had to be proven by a medical doctor if it was either one of these, and the evidence to convict a witch was based on a few things instead of just one thing.

Evidence for witchcraft in Italy usually included many household items, such as herbs and spices. However, this was not enough to convict outright someone of performing the devil’s art. Italians followed a sort of manual, entitled the Directorium Inquisitorum by Nicolau Eymeric. In this book, the art of witchcraft had to have two things to be considered legitimist. One of these was devil worshipping and the other was abusing holy sacraments. In other countries, these could be grounds enough to execute someone by hear say, but in Italy, it had to be witnessed firsthand. In an ironic twist, there was a collection of ladies, called the donna di fuora (Sicilian fairies) that were basically like Cunningfolks. What’s ironic about this is that the Catholic church states all magic is bad, yet they allow some said “magic” to occur in their home country.

As for Russia, there was a small body count. In the period of 1622-1700 C.E., 99 witches were tried; during these years, Russia saw its highest number of witchcraft cases and burnings. Of those 99 accused, 59 of them were males, 49 were females, 10 were killed, five were exiled, and three died during torture. Russia is unique in that out of all the witchcraft cases in their history, only one was linked to devil worshipping, only one case had child abduction, there was more men accused than woman, there was no children accused or the accuser, and everyone could be tried, that it had no definite economical class that it attacked.

The number of witchcraft cases in Russia was lower because, like Italy, they believed in good magic (called dvoeverie). Fowl magic in Russia, called Porcha, can be broken down to the following six categories: taking life, mamaing, causing illness, stealing reason, infertility in men, and crop failure. But, Porcha could only be proven in trial, which was sparked by accusations, torture (Ogovor), or eye witness accounts.

Looking at the history of Russia, most can conclude the most witchcraft cases emerged either during natural disasters or due to political unrest. An example of both would be the 1024 C.E. burning of elderly people in Suzdal because of famine and Tsar Ivan IV’s grandmother being accused of witchcraft, which resulted in the deaths of her and Ivan’s uncles. His grandmother was blamed for the great Moscow fire of that period (1500s). For confession during these rough times, most of those accused of witchcraft would admit to doing it after had been knoutined which is a couple of sessions of 30-40 whips per time. Deifying common beliefs, Italy and Russia were not as blood thirsty as they are imagined to be.

March 3, 2017

Cor Blimey! Tis a Witch!

Modern British popular culture witch Hermione preforming the killing spell on Harry Potter.
Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it--JK Rowling

When one views American history, it can be determined that the clear majority of individuals that originally came to establish the towns and colonies in North America, after the native Americans, as of European decent. To be more exact, many people think of the United Kingdom and the various trifles between them and the colonist as the catalysis for the United States. Since this is the popular view of many American and this is an analysis of the history of witchcraft, the writer of this blog feels that witchcraft must be discussed across the pond before in the land of the free.

England and Scotland, the two areas to be discussed in pre-American witchcraft chaos, combined had a total of 5,000 witchcraft trails with 2,000 believed to have been executed. As stated in previous weeks, English people had a great fondness for hanging witches as opposed to burning them. However, that was not the case in Scotland, to which they burned the convicted to a crisp. Backtracking to the trails of those accused in England it had to be a unanimous vote by the jury to kill someone while in Scotland, it could just be a majority. Thanks to this stance, Scotland ratio of executions compared to England was 3:1.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom was late into joining the world-wide-witchcraft killing. This is due to an incomplete concept of witchcraft, the absents of a Catholic Inquisitors, different ideas of a witches Sabbath (a dinner, not a sexual orgy), a scattered use of torture (must be authorized by the government), and trial by jury. Because of this, the height of trails in England was in 1640 while Scotland had two “panics” from 1590-1592 and 1661-1662. England and Scotland had very different concepts of material that could lead into witchcraft accusation and trials.

England, having a law on the books dating from 1542 that made witchcraft a crime, had an evolution of witchcraft punishments. After the 1542 law came the law of 1563, which gave punishments to witches from a year to jail for the first offence to death. The next law, emerging in 1604, ignored giving grace to witches and just outright killing them. With such extreme punishments, the evidence to support the claims of witchcraft had to be a combination of two-eye witnesses (children and spouses could testify), a notorious stance of preforming witchcraft, malious towards objects, blood relationship to an accused witch, successful counter-magic, a diligent interest in an ill neighbor, injuries of curses, and/or confession.

Emma Watson

With the list above mentioning “evidence” there also had to be sufficient proof to kill witches in England. Proofs include: accusation by another witch, unnatural marks on the body, two devil-pact witnesses, the discovery of voodoo like dolls called poppets, bleeding of a corpse touched by a witch, a given gift causing a person to become sick, suckling animals, and confession. Despite all this possible evidence, the jury still had to rule in 100% favor to kill someone, which resulted in most of the accused being released.

Scotland, on the other hand, had an imported view of witchcraft from Europe proper as presented in their 1563 law; because of stance, that is why witches were burned instead of hung. Scotland has a feature it shares with Russia—a panic caused by a king. In the case of Scotland, the king in question, King James VI, started the panic upon returning to Scotland after his honeymoon. During his honeymoon, he was stranded by a big storm and convinced by his lover’s surfs that witches caused it. Upon his return, 100 people were accused with him authorizing torture upon them. King James VI, responsible for writing the King James version of the bible, also, in 1577 wrote a book (Daemonologie) to serve as a witch-hunting manual. In Scotland alone, 2,000 out of the 5,000 trails were here.

As an extra bonus, Ireland is to be included into this blog! A 1586 statue in Ireland stated that witchcraft is a crime but had issues enforcing it. Ireland, which is quite easy to tell if one researches a little, has had a rocky history with England. Because of this, there was also a conflict in accusing witches as two religions were competing for domination over the country. Despite this, Ireland had a huge fair culture (like Italy) that spat on the concept of witchcraft.

Now that the United Kingdom as well as the rest of Europe has been covered, it is time to venture into North American witchcraft!

Catch-Up--February 10, 2017

Non-Salem North American Witchcraft Pt. One

Before this day be through you will all get a worse ducking than I--Grace Sherwood

If someone was to be asked to think of witchcraft in the United States, the automatic response would be the 1692 witchcraft hysteria outbreak in Salem Village, Massachusetts. Not discrediting this extremely popular and historic conundrum of the “devil’s art,” Salem was not the only geographic location in the North American colonies to experience witchcraft cases. The only difference in the rest of the colonies compared to the Salem case is that there was no blood shed or death. Virginia and Connecticut both experienced cases of witchcraft, but are largely forgotten.

Virginia, having witchcraft cases dating from 1624-1730, had a total of 10 trials (8 women, 2 men). Prior to the first case in Virginia, there was a belief amongst the colonist that the Native Americans were devil worshippers and that the wilderness of North America was the devil’s playground; King James alludes to this idea in his Daemonologie. In 1613, it was written down that the North American continent is the place where the devil has the strongest hold on the world.

colonial Virginia

Stepping away from witchcraft briefly, the environment of colonial Virginia must be established. Towns in Virginia had local authority for court cases, but the bigger cases (like the ten witchcraft ones) were tried in the general court in Jamestown. Because of this, many cases brought to court were civil, not criminal. Venturing into the culture further, in Virginia’s earliest days, men outnumbered women 6 to 1 and women were the largest land owners (due to dying husbands/small children) before the sex ratio became evenly balanced. This might be a huge reason as to the low numbers of witchcraft cases—women are a rare commodity!

Despite this ratio imbalance, the Virginian colonist still produced their first witchcraft case to Jamestown’s general court in 1624. The accused, Joan Wright, was charged with killing a newborn, accurately predicting several deaths, and killing livestock and crops. Wright confessed to knowing how to preform witchcraft but was miraculously acquitted; if she was in Europe she would have been killed!

In 1655, an order was passed that if someone was to be tried as a witch, the accuser must have proof of it or be fined 1,000 pounds of tobacco. Due to this order, quite comically in retrospective, husbands ended up giving a lot of tobacco to the state because their wives would accuse each other of performing the craft. Thanks to an extremely high amount of complaints from husbands and others, the order was amended shortly after that excused the husbands of their wives’ unsupported claims and would dunk said wives in water for every 500 pounds of tobacco owed. Thanks to this amendment, the number of cases severely decreased. However, the cases that did emerge and had proof were mostly based on circumstantial evidence, such as in the case of Grace Sherwood.

A "Ducking Stool" such as that used on Grace Sherwood

Sherwood, the most famous Virginian witch, had her troubles start in 1698 when her neighbors accused her and her husband of being pig killers and Grace transforming into a cat and causing the neighbors’ wife to miscarry. The Sherwoods sued (didn’t win) and shortly after, Mr. Sherwood died, which left Grace defenseless. The case was escalated to the general court in 1706 for which the court found two witch marks on her body and decided to dunk her on the famed ducking stool. Since she floated during the test, Sherwood became the only convict witch in Virginian history and was imprisoned. Eventually, she was acquitted during a second trial.

The reason Virginia is largely forgotten when one thinks of North American witchcraft is because there was no wide spread panic as there was in Salem Village. In fact, Virginia was struggling for many years until the sex ratio balanced to stabilize itself. In addition, there was very few clergy to push witchcraft hunts and, like mentioned, women were severely outnumbered. Honestly, the colonist had larger concerns (like surviving!) then to hunt for witches.

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this week’s blog, Connecticut also experienced witchcraft cases. However, as both the case of Salem needs to be discussed prior to Connecticut and addition research needs to be conducted, that discussion will emerge as part two of this blog at another time. As stated, the next look at North American witchcraft is Salem and what leads into it and aftermaths.

Catch-Up--February 24, 2017

Puritans and Christ Seed

A modern day assumption of Puritan clothing

As this blog moves on to the iconic accounts of Salem Village and its 1692 panic, one must get a better understanding of the world the colonist lived in. Massachusetts, specifically around the Boston and twin Salems (Town and Village), consisted of mostly individuals of the puritan faith. As this is the faith that brings about the crisis at Salem, the religious aspect of the puritan faith must be examined.

Puritans emerged from a further division of the church of England, for which King Henry VIII separated from the catholic church so he could divorce in 1534. This uber religious 24/7 sect wanted to “purify” the church of England’s religion, thus emerging. In numbers in the new world, pilgrims (separatist) ranged 40 in 1607 vs. 200 puritans in 1620 when comparing starting numbers of colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts.

The popular garments of the puritan (see above) are seen as monochromatic black. However, this is not the case as they wore a wide range of other colors. However, no over the top looks were allowed as it was seen to show an attachment to possessions. In their beliefs, the puritans feel that all their souls are female to “marry” Christ in the afterlife; regardless of being born male or female, the soul is female. Because of this, in many testimony of the time, many write very sexually about wanting Christ’s “seed” and that all souls are equal.

In addition to the female soul concept, called Providentialism, the puritans also believed in preparing one’s self for possible salvation, pre-destination, and moral stewardship. The puritans believed in creating “a city upon the hill” and molded their towns on this concept. The three important institutions to them, family, church, and government where what they focused their attentions on. The family was called the “little commonwealth” as it was believed to be a mirror of the society because if you could manage your family, you can manage the government. As for the most important of the three institutions, religion, the puritans attended church twice a week for eight hours both days. In the religion, everything that happens is God’s will and if something negative occurs, its punishment that needs payment of atonement and fasting.

Despite the souls of all puritans being equal, their worldly bodies were not. Women were seen in a “pre-lapsarian Eve” view, or pre-apple Eve, as she was the perfect model of womanhood. Women were secondary citizens (best serve God by serving man) and seen as a necessary evil. The “necessary evil” of women was that they could bear children, for which most puritan women were chronically pregnant (and there were high numbers of pre-martial babies as well). In addition, other than producing more hands for the field and the house, women were also used for agricultural assistance, domestic production within the house, and as deputy husbands in the event the husband was away (aka—the pants wearer in the family for a brief period).

Moral Stewardship, briefly mentioned above, is the idea of if your neighbor sins, you are just as guilty unless you stop it. Thanks to this idea, the puritans designed their whole towns to be able to essentially spy on each other. A good example would be the houses, which were mear feet away; if someone was committing adultery, it will be rather hard because the neighbors can see and hear basically everything.

An average Puritan house in Salem, MA

The average house of Puritans in 1690 was 16x20 with no windows and no privacy. With Puritan women being chronically pregnant, the homes were usually full and in the winter, full of emotions. As the religion doesn’t let one lash out at their family, it usually equals to them lashing out at neighbors. It can be argued that this is the real cause of the witchcraft cases in New England—displaced anger.

In addition, there was no downtown ever between chores and church. During the winter months, the women had to do stuff by firelight as there days were full of events. Thanks to this, more anger emerged. Also, if order to prevent favoritism towards any of their children, Puritans would, basically, exchange children. The exchanged children would live with other families to learn different trade, thus adding more stress for the home owners as they had to care for their apprentices while they were there.

Girls orphaned or born out of wedlock had it the worse out of anyone. In these cases, the girls would live with their closest living relatives and were basically treated as slaves. These girls were by and far ignored and usually led unmarried, miserable lives. It’s from these roots were the blooms of Salem spout.

Catch-Up--March 10, 2017

The Four Fuels of Salem

You have Witchcraft in your lips--William Shakespeare, Henry V

Now that the usual daily lives of those individuals involved in the 1692 crisis of Salem Village have been explored, there are still two remaining things to discuss for you, the reader, to obtain a better understanding of the unfolding events. Left to discuss before dissecting the events of Salem, the actual world of colonial North America needs to be further established prior to the events. In addition, famous scholarly pieces to explain why Salem occurred need to be analyzed because that will give one a better understanding on the mixed believed causes to the event. In this blog and the next, these two subjects will be discussed in depth.

As explained in previous blogs, the individuals of New England were carrying a lot of emotions, especially during the winter months. That fused with the idea about Native Americans worshiping the devil makes the new world a very deadly place. A combined total of witchcraft cases in the new world in the 17th century, including Salem, resulted in 243 accusations and 36 executions, with 86% of the total being women.

Building up to the explosion at Salem, there was four things that threw fuel on the fire. The four, in no order, are: tensions with natives, especially King Phillip’s tribe, the invasion of the Quakers, the war with France England was engaged in from 1688-1991, and domination of New England by the crown. Regardless of the situation, the puritans would repent and ask, “what have we done to anger God?” It can be argued strongly that these four events fused with hidden resentment caused Salem—that Salem was a result of fear and anger.

Metacomet, leader of the Wampanoag Indians (left), the first thanksgiving between colonist and Metacomet's tribe (top right), A early photograph of what PTSD looks like (bottom right).

Analyzing the four fuels, native relations was the most far reaching. Maintaining their ideas of life from Europe, the traveling colonist brought livestock into the new world. Thanks to these hard-headed travelers, native relations soured as the livestock of the colonist, especially pigs, began to ravage native crops. In addition to being hard-headed on livestock management, colonist was also convinced that they needed to convert the natives to the Christian religion and away from savagery. Thanks to this, the colonist created “prayer towns”, or conversion centers; these towns also ravaged the native cultures with European diseases. This further the strain on colonist-native relations.

It was in one of these prayer towns were natives broke the string holding the frail relationship together. Before explaining what happened, it must be established that there was a mutual agreement between the two groups. Both groups decided to interact with criminals within their own races. However, that said, it was the mixing of the races that broke the camel’s back.

Sossaman, a Wampanoag Indian, was in one of the prayer towns set up by the colonist and had converted to their faith. Thanks to this, members of his tribe killed him and ran back to the safety of said trip, led by Metacomet. The agreement between the two groups was violated when the colonist capture the two natives that killed Sossaman and hung them; the colonist felt that Sossaman was part of their community because of his conversion. After this violation, Metacomet and his tribe declared war on the colonist, which is known to this day as either Metacomet’s war or King Phillips’ War (1675-1676).

The year war was a very gruella style bloodbath that resulted in the death of one out of every sixteen military age males. In addition to the extreme number of casualties, twelve towns were completely razed and half of the entire number of Massachusetts’ towns and villages were destroyed. Also, the war cost nearly 100,000 pounds, which nearly bankrupted the state. Further, it can be discussed that many individuals that survived the native war lived with PTSD, which could likely explain the start of the Salem outbreak thanks to the appearance of Tituba and John, Caribbean natives, into the village.

2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney fused with James II, making a smug face.

The second and third fuel of Salem is linked to relationships with the crown. James II removed Massachusetts’ charter and fused the eight towns into New England to be governed by an appointee of his choosing. James II appointed Edmond Andros to govern New England, and the colonist hated him. Andros, and in fact the crown, had been catholic at the time of his arrival into the new world, which threatened the colonist, especially after Andros demanded they build a catholic church for him from the money given to the local priests. After James II was overthrown by William and Mary in 1688, the colonist sent Andros back in chains to England to get rid of him and his religion. Also, England, hell-bent on control, started a war with France that spilled into the new world, with natives serving on the France side; this, again, caused natives to attack PTSD ridden colonist.


The last fuel of Salem was the invasion of the Quakers. As explained in multiple places in this blog, the puritans were very intolerant of other religions. Quakers, in practice, are the opposite of Puritans. In fact, the first two Quakers in Massachusetts were female preachers; female preachers in the Puritan religion was extremely taboo. Thanks to this, both women were captured and killed as witches. The flame is about to cause the Salem combustion.

March 17, 2017

Why do the events of Salem Still Fascinate Us?

The cast of American Horror Story: Coven

Before describing both the Salem outbreak and what historians have discussed about it, we must answer the question on why Salem still fascinates people. This question is very easy to ask, but very hard to answer. However, the blogger himself feels that the fascination with the events that occurred at Salem Village stem from the idea of control for "second-class" individuals.

In clarification, as known to historians, The Salem outbreak was perpetuated by a collection of women that were on the lower totem of society--the unwanted. However, because of their involvement, they shifted their futures from being a literal servant to being a "pure" woman. Things in popular culture about Salem support this concept.

The third season of American Horror Story, called Coven (see cast picture above), was about witches from Salem blood. In the season, all the witches are basically competing with each other for power, which results in many deaths, injuries, and murders. With this idea, the control of "second-class" individuals reaches a wide-spread American audience.

The witches of Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson Sisters

An example that could be used to counter this argument is 1993's Hocus Pocus. However, it is easy to point out that the three Sanderson sisters fights for control over their food source--children. Set in Salem, they fight for control to live in a world that has killed them.

The Courtroom scene during a live production of The Crucible

Another very good example to cement the idea of "second-class" power struggles is displayed in Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible. Despite this play being a highly dramatic and fictitious account of the Salem witchcraft trials, it does highlight the struggle that the girls had to face to be heard. Be it from the sexual feelings Abigail Williams feel towards John Proctor (which couldn't have happened mind you) to the convulsing on the floor, it is all for control.

The blogger could provide many more examples of Salem and control, but due to constraints, cannot. It is control that keeps humans coming back to the story of Salem Village. Control that was given to someone that was never expected to have it. In a warp assumption, this power struggle keeps people crawling back as conflict is the most interesting thing humans can do.

April 14, 2017

The Case of the Salem Outbreak as told though Nathaniel Saltonstall--Historical Interperpation

A popular idea of Salem Village Trials

In the year of our lord 1692, there was an illness that grabbed this established Christian community. This illness, originating from the devil himself, swept throughout the community and claimed the lives of 19 innocent people. These people, accused by uneducated heathens, where accused of preforming witchcraft and afflicting the accusers. The “evidence” presented in the court was, at best, results from common occurrences, such as the discipline of unruly girls. So, the questions that comes from all of this, who caused all of this to happen, who inadeptly claimed the lives of 19 innocent individuals and how was it caused. I, Nathaniel Saltonstall, can prove that all the issues caused in Salem Town stem from the collective team of Abigail Williams and her uncle, Pastor Parris.

As said in court, miss Williams mentioned that she was just twelve. To her, she is not responsible for any deeds as she believes nothing could have transpired without adult involvement. True, however, it was her that convinced more women of Salem to collectively convulse and complain of imaginary afflictions. To this, a lot of men took notice.

Before venturing to adult involvement, we must first understand Williams. Williams, as mentioned, was twelve at the time of the trials. According to multiple sources, Williams is the niece of Samuel Parris. As she is the niece of our pastor, it must be known that she came to him as an orphan. Williams parents were both killed during an Indian raid. This fact is a major contributor to the spark of this event.

Parris had a pair of native-African slaves from the Caribbean when he moved to our town of Salem. As they are natives, it makes them Indians. The fact that Williams’ parents were killed by natives and that she was in such proximity to people of similar culture could have sparked a reaction. Parris saw this and adjusted accordingly.

Williams, being so close to the most major player of the outbreak, fell into collections with the collective affiliation of females. If it says anything to the pure, “innocent” influence of Williams, we must view the court records of the Goodwife Corey trial. During this case, Williams claimed a yellow bird was bothering her. Immediately after mentioning said bird a completely calm girl in the collection, one Ann Putman Jr., “saw” it as well. A chain reaction; this was just an example of her power in the court as a lot of the cause was started by her.

However, as Williams mentioned, she believes that she could not be the person to start everything. Yes, I agree, she does not share the full blame. However, she does share a partial blame for causing the outbreak with her uncle Parris. As believed in common metaphor, men are supposed to be the head of household and control what goes on. Because of this, Parris obviously did not have a grasp on his household.

Parris, a very angry man, came into a hostel and broken environment and used it to his advantage. A very worldly man in a world that is supposed to be believe based, he is very selfish when things do not go his way. With this, he used Williams’ “fits” as a catalysis to punish people that didn’t pamper him.

In the collective documents gathered by Richard Goodbeer about the Salem witch hunt, there are mentions of Parris giving inflamed sermons that increased in intensity. As they increased, they because more pointed and more about control struggle. So then, is it not obvious that he is one of the causes of the outbreak because the start of it exploded from his household around the same time as the peak of his fevered sermons?

Summarized, Williams and Parris both are to blame for the cause of the 1692 Salem Village outbreak as they both consciously decided to blame others. As sought by the queen, I, Nathaniel Saltonstall, fullhearted believe that both are guilty. However, both are guilty on different accounts because of Williams comment of control. Because of this, I believe that Williams is guilty of disturbing the queen’s peace and Parris is criminally responsible and thus punished. Both need punishment to appease the spirts of the innocent.

April 21, 2017

Historians on Salem

Hands of the Girls encircling an accused witch
I am no more a witch then you are a wizard. If you take my life away, God will give you blood to drink.--Sarah Good

The most famous witchcraft case in North America, already having been covered in four post already, is Salem. This week’s blog does not seek to explain the personal of the Salem Village Witchcraft trials. Nor does it seek to explain the author’s expressed interest in guilt of the out-of-hand killings. This blog seeks to only present view points on cause of Salem and what historians have argued about it. Serving as the last blog on Salem, and the second to last in this overall series, it is nice to end with potential causes that may influence future readers.

The earliest people to explain the causes of Salem where people directly involved with the case. Cotton Mather, in 1692, felt that the Salem outbreak was the devil’s work and the death of the innocent was justifiable by this. A couple of years later, in 1697, Robert Calef explains that the event was caused by evil, but that Mather’s viewpoint is ludicrous.

Skipping a whole century and a half, the next big scholarship to emerge about the Salem trials appeared in 1867. Charles Upham argues that the reason of the outbreak, which many have come to believe as the true cause, is that the “affected” girls were lying and that vengeful adults controlled them. Another whole century passed before any new significate scholarship appeared. In 1968, Chadwick Hansen argues that there was actual “witches” in Salem (using Bishop as the example) and that the killings were fine to occur because of this.

Boyer & Nisscahawm's map

In Salem Possessed (1974) by Boyer & Nisscahawm, which serves as the premiere modern historical piece on the Salem Village trials, argues that the outbreak was caused by economic, political, and social community divisions prior to 1692 that combined to cause a world wind of destruction. Further, the author pair argue that since the town was so divided on hiring Samuel Parris that it ultimately leads to bloodshed; the item that supports this claim comes from their famous map (see photo). Because the outbreak started in Parris’ own household, and most of the accusers where Parris supporters, the argument the pair presents is very convincing.

However, after Boyer & Nisscahawm, there have been three authors to discuss different possible causes to the outbreak. The three big theses, two presented in 1992 and one in 1987, present very different argument to the premiere duo. The earliest of the three, featured in Carol Karlsen’s 1987 book, The Devil in the Shape of a Women, argues that the cause of the outbreak was started because of major gender inequality. Women during the Salem outbreak where seen as property, especially most of the girls at the core of the accusers. In fact, because of the trial, the girls went from being on the low rung of society to being high upstanding Puritan women written out of the pages of history in their older years; this argument states that the girls loved the attention they were receiving, and abused it.

The first of the 1992 analyses cover about the same thing as Karlsen does. However, Entertaining Satan by John Demos, the piece, adds the idea of angry menopausal teenagers. Boiling it to its purest form, Demos is arguing that Salem occurred because of teenage angst. His argument, while valid, is largely ignored in favor of the two immediately above.

The other 1992 book, Devil’s Dominion by Richard Goodbeer, argues that the case broke because of the imbalance of power within the town. Since half of the town was active in local affairs and half wasn’t, many individuals on the half wasn’t was accused.

One special source, published in 2002, provides perhaps the most unique valid catalysis to Salem. In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton, the Salem Village outbreak of 1692 was cause by PTSD experienced by the girls of the village, especially the girls that were orphaned (like Abigail Williams), when they interacted with Parris’ Native slaves, Tituba and John. The blogger fills that this is the closest answer possible to finding the source of Salem. However, despite the blogger’s personal views, these viewpoints combined show just how much Salem and its case have manipulated thoughts for centuries.

Catch-up--April 7, 2017

Non-Salem North American Witchcraft Pt. Two

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies--Fleetwood Mac

As mentioned during the February 10 catch-up blog, there are other cases in the United States involving witchcraft other than Salem. In said article, Virginian witchcraft produced no casualties, but some accusations and a conviction. Per the blog, allusions to another case, in Connecticut, occurred around the same time as the outbreak at Salem Village. Chronologically, this witchy event occurs last in the three cases; the order is as such: Virginia, Salem Village, and Connecticut. Since the two former states have been discussed, the later must be discussed.

Gathered into one source, Richard Goodbeer presents a narrative approach to the 1692 Connecticut witchcraft case that examines primary accounts in his book, Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692. Goodbeer argues that the notoriety of this case has been eclipsed, and forgotten, because of the monster that is the Salem Village Trials. In addition, comparing this event to Salem, it is forgotten, according to Goodbeer, because the town it occurred in were very skeptical about the accused and quick to stop things from getting out of hand.

Katherine Branch, the afflicted, was a servant in the house hold of the respected Daniel Wescot and his wife, Abigail. Occurring in the town of Stamford with and directly preceding the Salem Village cases regarding time, Branch “suffered” seizure-like symptoms. Branch’s fits, which relieved her of chores, caused her to become bed ridden.

While in bed, the Wescots sought the council of the community and for a variety of different people to watch Branch and her fits. Because of this multi-witness council, half of the viewers were convinced Branch was possessed while the other half were convinced she was lying. An example provided by the “believers” point to orbs circling Branch in the night and an example to benefit the “lyres” would be a sword test that would have resulted in Branch being bled; Branch, in a “fit” refused this pain.

After weeks of this, Branch finally convinced enough people in the town that she was bewitched. First having very vague descriptions of women, then more specific but wrong images, Branch finally accused her tormenters. Three names were mentioned, but only two of these were persuaded in court—Elizabeth Clawson and Mercy Disborough.

Both Clawson and Disborough were older women that have, “coincidently” butted heads with the Wescot family. Both women alluded to the “beef” between themselves and the Wescots in their cases as well as pledged innocents. In addition, both woman has something uncommon occur to them during the period, which could have led to them being singled out; Clawson was outspoken and could be verbally abusive while Disborough was a widow sinking into financial despair. Ultimately, both women were placed onto a dunking stool to gauge whether they were witch or not. Regardless of the results, both women were acquitted because, as the trails proceeded, more people began to doubt Branch’s testimony. The results of the Stamford Witchcraft Trails ended with no lives being taken.

It’s argued that the reason this case did not escalate into another Salem is because of a combination of multiple-eye witness viewing and emerging skepticism brought about by the Salem trials. If Salem Village had used multiple-eye witnesses on the afflicted girls that started the outbreak, many stories would be very different today. In addition, If Salem would not have occurred, then this case might have been deadlier. Both cases, separated only by body count and location, featured puritans, and puritanism mindsets. Who’s to say that Salem wouldn’t have happened anywhere else?

It has been a great experience creating this blog. I hope you have received new knowledge about the history of witchcraft. As a last note, enjoy the music of the "Witch Witch" Stevie Nicks!

Created By
Cody Douell

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