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.