Salem Witchcraft Trials

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Examination of a Witch

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Examination of a Witch

This article on the Salem Witchcraft Trials describes the people and events that led to the hanging of 19 people in Colonial times

  • When were the Salem Witchcraft Trials?
  • Who were the Salem Witches?
  • What type of people were accused of Witchcraft?
  • History and Facts about witches and Witchcraft
  • What were the names of the Accusers?
  • History Timeline of the Salem Witchcraft Trials
  • Interesting facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials - an educational resource for teachers and kids
Text of the Memorable Providences of Witchcraft
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Salem Witchcraft Trials: Accusations of witchcraft were made against men and women in colonial Massachusetts.

Salem Witchcraft Trials
What were the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Definition: The Salem Witchcraft Trials were a series of cases brought before local magistrates and the county court of trials in 1692. the Salem Witchcraft Trials last for three months from June to September. Accusations of witchcraft were made against both men and women in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of colonial Massachusetts. The Salem Witchcraft Trials resulted in 19 people being sentenced to death by hanging in Puritan Massachusetts. One old man was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Hysteria
The Puritan Salem Witchcraft Trials quickly grew in momentum and 100's of people were accused of witchcraft as hysteria spread. Many of the men and women accused of witchcraft spent months in jail without a trial. In just fifteen months hysteria regarding witches and witchcraft spiralled out of control. Why did this occur in Salem? What were the influences and causes of the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Why were people accused of witchcraft? What made people believe the accusations of witch craft were true? What did people perceive a witch was capable of - and why were witches believed to have 'familiars'?

 

Salem Witch

Picture of a Salem Witch

 
Salem Witchcraft Trials - The Innocent Victims
The Salem Witch Trials took many innocent victims and resulted in:
  • 100-200 arrests
  • The Execution of 19 convicted witches
  • One man pressed to death
  • One man stoned to death
  • Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches (familiars).

A Witches Familiar was believed to be an evil spirit, in animal form, who was used by a witch to perform evil deeds and cast malevolent spells. The witches familiars were small animals like the Dog, Cat, Frog, Pig, Goose and Mouse.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Puritans
Why were the Puritans involved in the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Puritans practised strictness, simplicity and austerity in their religion, lifestyle and conduct. Puritans were strongly opposed to sensual pleasures and were strong advocates of propriety, modesty and and decorum. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were conducted using various methods they were sensational, exciting, salacious and spicy. Witches were also known for satanic and sexual abominations - the Puritans were the last group of people that would normally be associated with any of these terms. The history of witches and witchcraft help to provide the answers to these questions and provide an insight into the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - The History of Witches and Witchcraft
It is difficult to understand why the Salem Witchcraft Trials occurred unless they are taken in context with the history of witches and witchcraft and the general beliefs of people in the late 1600's, when the Salem witchcraft trials took place. People were obsessed with witches and witchcraft during the 1500's and 1600's when there was limited understanding of the cause of devastating events, such as sickness, deaths, poor harvests, drought and disease. Such disasters were believed to be brought about by supernatural forces which resulted in scapegoats, witches, being blamed. The renaissance era was a period of enlightenment, new thinking and new inventions including the printing press. Books about Astrology, Alchemy and Magic were readily available and increased the interest in witchcraft, witches and witch hunts. A book called the 'Malleus Maleficarum' was published as guide used for the torture and persecution of witches - it was a best selling book, only being out-sold by the Bible.

 

Salem Witchcraft Trials - The History of Witches, Witchcraft & Witchfinders

The Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches) was published by two Dominican inquisitors vividly describing the satanic and sexual abominations of witches. In England there were laws against witchcraft. The 1562 Witchcraft Act was a law passed in England 'agaynst Conjuracions Inchauntmentes and Witchecraftes'.

In 1587 a Clergyman called George Gifford published 'A Discourse Concerning the Subtle Practices of Devils by Witches and Sorcerers'. King James I had published a book on Demonology and in 1604 he issued his statute against witchcraft, in which he wrote that they were "loathe to confess without torture".

The witchcraft hysteria grew in England and eventually led to the Parliamentary appointment of Matthew Hopkins as Witchfinder General in 1644. His task was to seek out witches. Matthew Hopkins wrote a book called 'The Discovery of Witches' which was published in 1647.

The history and the belief in Witches and witchcraft in England was sanctified by the law, the crown and the church. These strong beliefs in witches and witchcraft were brought by the English to America, it was part of their belief system and culture passed down from one generation to the next and responsible for the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Frontispiece to 'The Discovery of Witches' by Matthew Hopkins

Frontispiece to
'The Discovery of Witches'
by Matthew Hopkins

 

Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

  

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Witches were Heretics - the Greatest of Crimes
Witches were deemed as heretics to Christians. Heresy is the denial of the fundamental beliefs accepted and professed by the Church which all true Christians must reject. Witchcraft became the greatest of their crimes and sins as seen in the Salem Witchcraft Trials. In Law witchcraft was 'crimen excepta' meaning that witchcraft was a crime so foul that all normal legal procedures were superseded. Because the Devil was not going to "confess", it was necessary to gain a confession from the person involved. Witchcraft persecutions became common in New England as superstitions became associated with the devil. In "Against Modern Sadducism" by Joseph Glanvill and published in 1668, he claimed that he could prove the existence of witches and ghosts of the supernatural realm.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Memorable Providences by Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728) was an influential New England Puritan minister of the Old North Church in Boston. Boston, and other parts of New England, had been plagued by horrifying, highly contagious, smallpox epidemics in 1689 - the smallpox mortality rate could reach as high as 30 percent. There was no cure for smallpox and, in the absence of any other explanation, many people believed that such devastating diseases were brought about by witches. In 1689 Cotton Mather published a book on the subject of 'Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions' which was widely read at the time of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. In his book, Memorable Providences, Cotton Mather described a case of supposed witchcraft that had occurred in Boston in 1688. Read the Text of the Memorable Providences of Witchcraft for his graphic details. The case was against an Irish washerwoman called Ann Glover (aka Goody Glover). All the children of the Goodwin family in Boston had begun to act strangely after a disagreement with Ann Glover and, after examining the children, Cotton Mather concluded that the children were innocent victims of Ann Glover’s witchcraft. The Boston witchcraft trial resulted in Ann Glover being denounced as a witch and her public execution by hanging. Cotton Mather's account of the witchcraft trial in 'Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions' also described the symptoms of witchcraft - the same symptoms were detailed at the Salem Witchcraft Trials. The book was widely read throughout Puritan New England. Cotton Mather believed witches to be "among the poor, and vile, and ragged beggars upon Earth," and considered any people against the witch trials to be witch advocates.

The Scene is set for the Salem Witchcraft Trials...
The history of witches and witchcraft, the terrible smallpox epidemic and the 1689 book of 'Memorable Providences' set the scene for the Salem Witchcraft Trials. A copy of the 'Memorable Providences' book was found in the small library of  Samuel Parris, the Salem minister and father of Betty Parris, in whose house began the events of 1692 which led to the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials
The history of witches, witchcraft and witchfinders provides the backdrop to the Salem Witchcraft Trials. The following section containing facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials addresses the story of the Salem Witchcraft Trials using facts and a fast fact file format. The facts about Salem Witchcraft Trials includes dates, names and the events of the Salem Witchcraft Trials which took place in Massachusetts in 1692.

 

Facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 1The Salem witch trials took place in colonial Massachusetts. The trials were conducted in a number of towns across the province of Massachusetts including Salem Village (now Danvers), Ipswich, Andover and Salem Town.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 2The infamous witchcraft trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 3Dates: The Salem Witchcraft Trials lasted for three months from June to September 1692
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 4In November 1689 Samuel Parris was named as the new minister of Salem and moved from Boston to take up his position with his wife Elizabeth, his daughter Betty, niece Abigail Williams and his female Indian slave called Tituba
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 5The hysteria associated with the Salem Witchcraft Trials started with the mysterious illness of a young girl called Betty Parris in February 1693.

 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 6The sickness of Betty Parris was demonstrated by strange and frightening symptoms - she had violent fits, dashed about in a frenzy, dashed about, hid under furniture, was contorted in pain, was vomiting and choking.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 7The symptoms of the mysterious illness inflicted on Betty Parris and others in Salem were similar to those described in a book called 'Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions' by the Puritan Minister Cotton Mather published in 1689.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 8A copy of the book was found in the house of Samuel Parris, the Salem minister and father of Betty Parris where the story of the Salem Witchcraft Trials began
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 9The book by Cotton Mather was a recent best seller - the people of New England and Salem, including the children would have been aware of the contents.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 10Other friends of Betty Parris, including Abigail Williams, 11 year-old Ann Putnam and 17 year-old Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard began to exhibit similar unusual symptoms and behavior.

 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 11A doctor, assumed to be Dr. William Griggs, could find no physical evidence of any ailment and suggested that the girls' problems might have a supernatural origin.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 12The widespread belief of the time was that witches targeted weak children and made the doctor's diagnosis seem plausible - Salem people believed that the strange sickness was due to the work of witches and witchcraft - Salem was ready for the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 13Mary Sibley, a neighbor of the Parris family, tells Tituba, the recipe to make a "witch cake" of rye meal and the girls' urine to feed to a dog. Dogs were believed to be used by witches as agents to carry out their satanic commands.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 14Pressured by ministers and Salem townspeople to say who caused her odd behavior, Elizabeth Parris accuses Tituba. The other girls later accuse Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of witchcraft. Sarah Good was a beggar and Sarah Osborne was old - they were prime targets, neither had a family who could help them in the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 15On February 29, 1692 Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin issue warrants to arrest Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 16March 1–March 7 1692: Tituba confesses during the Salem Witchcraft Trials and confirms Good and Osborne are her co-conspirators. Her confession prompts the citizens of Salem to hunt for more witches
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 17More arrests are made of other Salem women and a four-year-old child, Dorothy Good. They are all thrown into jail without trial during the Salem Witchcraft Trials
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 18On April 11, 1692 John Proctor, becomes the first man accused of witchcraft and is jailed.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 19People who did not believe accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves. John Proctor openly denounced the witchhunt and paid with his life.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 20Thrown into jail with the damning testimony of the afflicted girls widely accepted, the suspects began to see confession as the only way to avoid the gallows.

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 21A new court was convened to hear the Salem witchcraft cases. Five judges, including three close friends of Cotton Mather, were appointed to the court. The Chief Justice was William Stoughton, a notorious witch hunter. The judges looked to ministers, who had no legal training, for guidance

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 22The court agreed to the examination of the bodies of accused for evidence of "witches' marks". Witches marks were deemed to be moles upon which a witch's familiar might suck. See the top picture of the Salem Witchcraft Trials.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 23The ex-minister of Salem, George Burroughs, who was living in Maine in 1692, was identified by several of his accusers as the ringleader of the witches and eventually executed

Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 24During the Salem Witchcraft Trials a man in his eighties called Giles Corey was another accused of witchcraft, and spent five months in chains in a Salem jail. Giles Corey refused to stand for trial and was pressed under heavy stones until his death on September 22, 1692.

Salem Witch Trials - Giles Corey is pressed to death

Salem Witch Trials - Giles Corey is pressed to death

 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 25Three days after the death of Giles Corey eight more convicted witches, including Giles' wife Martha, were hanged. They were the last victims of the Salem Witchcraft Trials.
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 27On October 12 1692 Governor Phips stopped the proceedings of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, fearful that innocent people were being execute
 
Salem Witchcraft Trials Fact 28The Salem Witch Trials took many innocent victims. The Salem Witch Trials had resulted in:
  • Salem Witch Trials: 100-200 arrests
  • Salem Witch Trials: The Execution of 19 convicted witches
  • Salem Witch Trials: One man pressed to death
  • Salem Witch Trials: One man stoned to death
  • Salem Witch Trials: Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches (familiars)
 

Facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials

  

Salem Witchcraft Trials

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  • Facts and info about Salem Witchcraft Trials for men and women
  • Fast Facts and info about the colors and meaning of Salem Witchcraft Trials
  • Salem Witchcraft Trials - and educational resource for kids
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Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

 

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