What caused the Salem witch trials of 1692? This question has been asked for over 300 years. Although it is a simple question, it doesn’t have an easy answer. The answer is difficult because there are numerous factors and events that helped create and influence the trials. The main factors that started the trials were politics, religion, economics, and the imaginations and fears of the people.
To understand the events of the Salem witch trials, it’s necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. A strong belief in the devil, a recent small pox epidemic and the treat of attack by warring tribes, created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion.
Salem is situated in the east side of Massachusetts, a state in the United States, more precisely in the bay of Massachusetts. (2 kaarten tonen)
Salem Village had a very colourful history before the famous witch trials. It was not exactly known as tranquillity in New England. The main reason was that its 600 inhabitants were divided into two parts: the inhabitants who wanted to separate from Salem Town, the farming families, were located in the western part of Salem Village. Those who wanted to remain a part of Salem Town were typically located on the eastern side of Salem Village. So Salem was divided into a prosperous town and a farming village. The two were bickering all the time. In turn the villagers were split into factions that fiercely debated whether to seek religious and political independence from the town.
In 1688, John Putnam, one of the most influential elders of Salem Village, invited Samuel Parris, a former merchant in Barbados, to preach in the Village church. Parris accepted the job as minister and he moved to Salem Village. His rigid ways and seemingly boundless demands for compensation increased the friction. Many villagers vowed to drive Parris out. The Salem that became the new home of Parris was in the midst of change: mercantile elite was beginning to develop, prominent people were becoming less willing to assume positions as town leaders. Two clans, the Putnams and the Porters were competing for control of the village. There was raging a debate over how independent Salem Village should be from Salem, because Salem village tied more to the interior agricultural regions, while Salem was a centre of sea trade. (Foto Samuel Parris)
Samuel Parris had a relatively small family. He was married and had a nine years old daughter, Betty, and a twelve years old niece, Abigail Williams, who was an orphan. Abigail was expected to earn her keep by doing most of the household chores. Betty’s poor health prevented her from helping with the household chores, so much of the work feel on Abigail’s young shoulders.
After chores were done, there was little entertainment for Betty and Abigail. Salem Town was eight miles away, and Boston was a twenty mile journey over unforgiving roads. So Samuel Parris only visited these places when business required it. He also opposed the girls playing hide-and-seek, tag and other childhood games because he believed playing was a sign of idleness, and idleness allowed the Devil to work his mischief.
Reading was a popular pastime during the winter months. There was an interest in books about prophecy and fortune telling throughout New England during the winter of 1691-92. These books were especially popular among young girls and adolescents. Some girls formed small, informal circles to practice the divinations and fortune telling they learned from their reading to help pass the cold months.
Betty Parris, her cousin Abigail Williams, and two other friends formed such a circle. Tituba, Parris’ slave, would often participate in the circle. She entertained the others with stories of witchcraft, demons, and mystic animals. The girls invited several friends to share this delicious, forbidden diversion. Tituba’s audience listened intently as she talked of telling the future. So other girls soon joined their circle in the evenings to listen to Tituba’s tales and participate in fortune telling experiments. They would tell their fortunes by dropping an egg white into a glass of water and then interpret the picture it formed. However, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams began to become upset and frightened with the results of their fortunes.
Sometime during February of the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, young Betty Parris became strangely ill. She dashed about, dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. The cause of her symptoms may have been some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis, but there were other theories. Cotton Mather had recently published a popular book, "Memorable Providences," describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and Betty's behavior mirrored in some ways that of the afflicted person described in Mather's book. It was easy to believe in 1692 in Salem, with an Indian war raging and the village in political turmoil, that the devil was close at hand. Talk of witchcraft increased when other of Betty's playmates, including eleven-years-old Ann Putnam, seventeen-years-old Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott, began to exhibit similar unusual behavior. William Griggs, a doctor and physician called to examine the girls, suggested that the girls' problems might have a supernatural origin when his own nostrums failed to effect a cure. The widespread belief that witches targeted children made the doctor's diagnosis seem increasing likely. Doctors and ministers watched in horror as the girls contorted themselves, cowered under chairs, and shouted nonsense. (Foto Betty and Griggs)
A neighbour, Mary Sibley, proposed a form of counter magic. She told Tituba to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim and feed the cake to a dog. ( Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands.) Her participation in the urine cake episode made her an even more obvious scapegoat for the inexplicable.
Meanwhile, the number of girls afflicted continued to grow. Soon Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis were also reporting seeing "witches flying through the winter mist." Tituba spoke of black dogs, red cats and yellow birds. She also named a white-haired man, who sometimes appeared as a dog or a hog and who bade her sign the devil’s book and to do his work. In a village where everyone believed that the devil was real, close at hand, and acted in the real world, the suspected affliction of the girls became an obsession.
Sometime after Tituba baked the witch cake, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflicters and the witch-hunt began. Parris and other local ministers began the hunt with zeal. The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a house of ill repute, critical of her neighbours, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft. Three others to be accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn. Each woman was something of a misfit. Osborn claimed innocence. Good did likewise but fingered Osborn. Tituba confessed she was a witch, and moreover she and four other witches, including Good and Osborn, had flown through the air on their poles.
Governor Phips of Massachusetts decided that fast action was required. By the time the witch-hunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed; at least four accused witches had died in prison. One victim of the Salem witch hunt, a man named Giles Corey, was not hanged, but rather pressed under heavy stones for two days until his death, for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. About one to two hundred other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Salem ended. (Foto Governor Phips)
As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims' families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of "witch hunting" like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s are remarkable.
Today Salem is a city of fascinating complexity. Traces of her history can be seen everywhere from the 17th-century buildings, the priceless items brought back from exotic ports by Salem ship captains, the extraordinary architecture and the multi-ethnic character of her streets. Today the city of Salem attracts many visitors. (foto Museum)
In July 1999 the Salem Witch Museum was opened. There you can follow the history of witches and witchcraft through the ages. The presentation in the museum takes you back to the events of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Visitors are given a dramatic history lesson using stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and narration. Because there are many international visitors the have translated the presentation into Japanese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. So it is possible for every human on earth to visit the Museum.
A nice statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem, stands outside the Salem Witch Museum. Because of the statue's proximity to the museum and because of his cloak, hat and generally impressive appearance, Roger Conant is often mistaken for a participant in the Salem witch trials.
(foto standbeeld roger conant)
Andere boeken van deze auteur:
Home - Contact - Over - ZoekBoekverslag op uw site - Onze Boekverslagen - Boekverslag toevoegen