While reviewing some of the reading over witchcraft I have noticed that there has been a big stink made over the young girls at Salem. During the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts a large group of young girls would come to the court room and claim that the accused had performed magic on them or had tried to get them to make a pact with the devil. Often these same girls would start to scream and act as if the “Witch” were harming them. There were several occasions where the accused would try to speak to defend themselves but the girls would start to scream over them and drown them out. Because of these girl’s hysteric behavior several innocent women were wrongfully imprisoned and executed.
Although these girls often did things that bordered in witchcraft themselves they were never accused and were still allowed at trials. Why were these girls immune to the accusations that seemed to be everywhere at this time?
My theory is that their youth protected them. Most women that were accused of preforming witchcraft were older women that were unmarried and had no strong male to speak for them. Since most of these girls were too young to be out spoken in society like their older counter parts they were never really seen as a nuisance. Therefore, they would be much less likely to incur the wrath of witch accusations.
Most of the older women also had no man to speak on their behalf. Women really had very little voice in the community at this time and were only seen as something that was necessary rather than wanted. So, if a woman became out spoken with age many people would claim that she was a witch and she would be brought to court. However, if this out spoken lady had a husband or son to speak on her behalf and convince people she was harmless they would usually be protected. Most of the girls that could have been potentially accused of witchcraft still had living fathers to save them from the courts so their youth saved them here as well.
Most of the out spoken women that were accused were also relatively wealthy and many of them had no heir to for the lands to fall to. Because of this many people might become jealous of the land that they had and level charges against them in attempt to take their property. However, the younger girls still had living relatives for the most part so taking them to court would not benefit any one since their potential inheritance would just go back to their father.
Another theory for their protection is that many of them had no given birth yet. One of the main things that people thought witches used for their spells were babies and the bodily liquids that come along with those sorts of things such as blood and milk. Most of these girls were relatively young and it would be a safe bet to think that most of them had no children and had not matured to this level. However, the older women who had already had given birth would have access to these fluids. Also, these women would have most likely been the ones called when a woman gave birth to help deliver the baby as they would have been the most experienced. Therefore, the older women would have even further access to the fluids that were thought to be necessary to preform witchcraft.
Finally, in this time a man’s manhood was considered something that needed to be protected extensively. Many people held a belief that older women would make men impotent thus ruining them sexually. Whereas young women around the ages of these girls would be at the prime age to be married and would soon be old enough to bear children. Therefore, it would seem like a simple solution to simply dispose of all the older women by accusing them of witchcraft. This would have protected the men from these women. The younger girls posed no threat however and were seen simply as innocent victims.
Whereas there were a few younger women tried in Salem a large majority of them were older women. The young were protected by many factors making it highly beneficial to be young in Salem in this time period.
Torture and other fine hobbies
When most people think of witches torture is probably not something that comes to mind immediately. However, during the various witch hunts that have occurred since the early 1100’s torture has been prevalent in almost all cases. Torture would be used by the supposed witch’s capture to either gain a confession or to force them name other “witches”.
Many regular means of torture were used such as floggings, and beatings, as well as things such as the dunking stool and starvation. However, of all the methods used there were some that were even cruller than one could imagine and some that were just done right goofy.
The first unorthodox torture method was tickling. The torturer would strap the supposed witch down and tickle their armpits, feet, and stomachs to the point that they would lose consciousness from the oxygen loss. In at least four instances people were tickled to death. Although this seems like a less cruel form of torture there is no doubt that it was extremely effective in getting answers and making people miserable.
Another of the cruller tortures was the Jetliner position. In this form of torture the supposed witch was forced to sit against the wall with their legs in a 90 degree angle. This would cause their legs and knees to ache and burn and it would be just generally exhausting. This same technique however is used today as a method of leg strengthening that almost every form of running sport. So many people may have experienced the some of the same torture that a potential witch experienced at soccer practice. At the end of the day the torturers could rest easy and simply claim they were just trying to help the witches get in shape.
Perhaps the simplest form of torture is water cure. In this form the torturer would force the witch to drink excessive amounts of water. At first this doesn’t sound so bad, but when the effects of this are more closely considered it is quite alarming. The first thing that will happen is water intoxication. This is when there is enough water in the body that it actually becomes toxic. The body cannot handle the amount of water that enters the body and sometimes the stomach would even burst. This would cause extreme internal injury and occasionally death. On some occasions the supposed witch would even be forced to drink urine in an attempt to make the experience even more unbearable.
The worst yet is probably the rack. This devise was rather simple in design, only made of a few parts. When using the rack the torturer would strap or chain an individual into a simple wooden frame. They would then begin to turn a lever that was attached to the ropes causing the victim to stretch. This would cause many of the victims joints to dislocate and even some of their bones to break. On a few rare occasions the tendons in and around the joints would even tear or snap making the limb almost useless.
Probably the simplest form of torture was the heretic’s fork. This was devise that had a two-pronged fork on either end which would be strapped between the neck and chest. The victims would have a rope tied around them that was hung in a way that they could not lay down, they would then have the heretic’s fork strapped on. Anytime that the accussed would attempt to drop or droop their head the prongs would dig into their throat or chest causing severe pain. During this they would be questioned constantly until a confession was gained. This went on for several days in some occasions as the supposed witch would f9ind the will to stay awake through this nightmare.
These methods of torture truly show how cruel the human mind can be. When a witch scare like this takes place many people panic and often over react which is why many people created these horrible devices and why they were used for so long.
Jedi and witches
A little while ago I watch the most recent Star Wars film. In these movies, there are people called Jedi the have powers such as being able to push and pull things by just holding out their hands. They also can sense the future and things in their surroundings. While watching one of these movies I could not help but notice the similarities between the Jedi and witches.
The first similarity that I noticed is that both have the ability to see into the future to some degree. Witches were renowned for being able to tell people their futures whether it be through a crystal ball or set of bones. A few Jedi could see events in the future through dreams though these were only events that would occur in their lifetimes.
They both also rely on a paranormal entity to perform their magic. Whereas witches usually granted their abilities using talismans or in some cases Satan, the Jedi relied on what is known as “The Force”. In the films the force is a mystical power that some individuals can use to preforms that Jedi’s “Magic”. The way that they refer to it in the movies makes it sound as if it is some form of god, making it similar to the way that witches supposedly worshipped Satan.
In one of the films a massive extermination of the Jedi is begun claiming that they are all evil. All across the galaxy thousands of Jedi are slain out of fear of their power. This reminded me of many ways of the witch hunts that were conducted in most of the world. For a time, most people lived in harmony with the supposed witch. That would be until someone came along to tell them that the witches were evil and their power was to be feared. This is almost exactly like the story of the Jedi.
There is a cartoon story about a couple of Jedi that survive the mass slaughter of Jedi known as “Order 66”. In this story a young Jedi and his master look to try to put an end to the empire that destroyed the Jedi in the first place. In this story, they are constantly attacked by soldiers of this empire known as “Inquisitors”. These are overzealous men and women that dispatched to hunt down and kill and Jedi that they can possibly find. This is like the inquisitors during the Spanish Inquisition that were sent to find witches. The two kinds of inquisitors are almost identical when compared side by side, the only difference is that the inquisitors I the show use lightsabers instead of swords.
Another similarity is the motivators in the mass slaughter. In the real witch hunts men and women were imprisoned and executed for preforming things that were considered unnatural and wrong. However, the church that accused them of these things often practiced that same “magic” in churches. A person might go to a witch for help getting rid of bad luck if they have had a rough go of things lately, but this is witchcraft. However, going to a priest for the same reason and praying, which is basically the same as a spell, is completely fine. Similarly, in the films There is a group that is similar in almost every way to the Jedi known as the Sith. The Sith bring about the near extinction of the Jedi when the difference in them is almost nonexistent. The only difference between them is how they draw upon their magic. The Jedi rely on will, empathy and courage to use their magic whereas the Sith rely on feelings such as hate, fear and aggression to draw out their strength. This is very similar to the way that priests and witches “Magic” differed, they were really all but the same.
Whereas Salem was certainly no galaxy far far away, and Abigale Williams was certainly no Yoda, it is hard to deny the difference between the Jedi of the Star Wars and the witches of Salem.
sexuality in Puritan New England
As I am sure one would imagine the Puritans did not have many good thoughts about homosexuality. As a matter of fact, in their society Homosexuality was considered a very egregious sin, it was almost thought to be as bad a witchcraft. In many communities, this “Sin” could even be punishable by death. The Puritans believed the homosexuality was like a diesis that would spread among the inhabitants of the new world. They believed that if this supposed diesis spread then it would spread and their communities would become places such as Sodom. This would mean God would destroy their settlement with fire and brimstone because of the horrible diesis.
Many Puritans also believed that when women signed a pact with the devil for magic powers that they were agreeing to have giant witch orgies with the devil. I don’t think that it is necessary to explain why the Puritans had trouble with orgies, but I think the part that needs to be examined more is the sexual relations with many partners. In a Puritan society adultery, such as this was considered a terrible sin and often ended with the accused person being exiled from Puritan society. In some rare cases the adulterers were even executed.
Considering these views, it is interesting to consider the Puritan views of the soul. In the Puritan community, every soul was female because when people died their souls were supposed to become intimate with Jesus in heaven. So how exactly does that and the death penalty go together? It’s truly mind boggling to consider that these people believed in having a sexual relationship with Jesus but saw homosexuality on earth as a mortal sin. Also for this relationship with Jesus to occur Jesus would have to have multiple partners as well which was also a sin in Puritan society. So, had did the Puritans explain their logic then in these cases?
In Puritan society women were viewed more of a necessary evil more than people who needed love and affection. In Puritan society, the only love that was important was the love that a person had for Jesus and marriage was just something that was necessary. Women were seen more a necessary to continue the survival of humans, a sort of vessel of creation, and nothing else. Sex for any reason other than creating a child was completely forbidden in society because sex was just a necessary evil. A puritan man or women was just supposed to save all their love for Jesus when they died because he was the one that was truly their “husband”. So, homosexuality was seen as basically denying Jesus the loved that was owed to him, and seeing as there was absolutely no way that a child could be conceived then it meant that it was just sex for pleasure. Seeing as sex outside of marriage was already seen as one of the worst sins a person could commit it is at least a little more understandable how they could be so angry with something such as homosexuality.
In this long run these views still seem completely ridiculous and farfetched but the Puritans were very close followers of the bible and believed anything that was condemned by the bible had to in turn be condemned by their society. This is how their views on homosexuality came about no matter how strange they were.
Salem and the Crucible
Recently I reviewed information regarding the executions of supposed witch in Salem. This included the names of the people that were executed and reading these names reminded me of the time that I read The Crucible.
The Crucible is a dramatic retelling of the story of the Salem witch trials and in high school I was assigned to read it for a class project. The story revolves primarily around a man named John Procter and his story during the middle of this crisis. In the story, Proctor has an affair with a girl in the town named Abigail Williams even though he is married and she is only eighteen. This affair leads Abigale to believe that John and Abigale are going to run away together but John has no plan of doing this. Distressed over this Abigail starts a vendetta against John and several others in the town which in turn leads to the events of the Salem witch trials. Eventually because of Abigail and several other girl’s testimonies John is brought up on charges of witchcraft himself and found guilty. Just before he is to be executed Abigail pleads for him to run away with her one last time, he refuses and is hung along with a few other townsfolk.
When reading this story one would not think that it was entirely farfetched. However, upon examining the records at Salem it is clear that this story is very different from the events of the actual Salem witch trials.
The first example can be found in Abigail Williams age. Throughout the story, Williams is eighteen years old making it at least a little less odd for her to be having an affair with Proctor. However in reality Williams was only around 12 years old at the time of the witch trials making her relationship with Proctor even less likely. Also, the real Abigail Williams died at the age of seventeen making even more of an inaccuracy with the crucible.
Proctor’s age is also changed quite seriously for the story as well. In the Crucible John is portrayed as being around thirty to thirty-five years old, making his relationship with Williams a little more believable. However in reality Proctor was around the age of sixty when he was executed making him significantly older the story would lead you to believe. The real Proctor had also been married twice before the women he is supposedly married to in the Crucible.
There has also never been any evidence that Proctor had any kind of relationship with Williams meaning that there Is no way that they could have had any kind of relationship. Although Williams was Proctors primary accuser during his trial there were others that contributed and there is no evidence that Williams accused Proctor for any personal reasons.
Also in the events of the Crucible Tituba is accused of witchcraft and immediately Abigail capitalizes upon this and begins naming people as witches. In real life Tituba named several names before Abigail started having her fits, it was after these fits that Abigail began accusing people of witchcraft.
At the end of the play Williams leaves Salem after failing to convince John to run away with her, however this also never happened either as Abigail died just a few years after the witch trials in Salem. Also at the very end of the Crucible John is hung alongside two other women, one of them is Martha Corey and the other is Rebecca Nurse. However in reality John was hung on August 19th, 1692 Martha was hung September 22nd, 1692 and Rebecca was hung in July of 1692. This scene shows all three of them die at the same time when they were all hung in separate months. Also in the story John is brought news of Giles Corey’s death while he is in prison awaiting execution, but in reality, Giles actually died a month after John Proctor making this scene impossible as well.
Obviously, the scenes of this movie were not intended to be historically accurate but rather to tell a story. It is still interesting to see the differences that were made when adapting the story of the Salem Witch trials into a book, play, and movie.