The Salem Witch Trials and The Reformation

Posted on November 18, 2011 by

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During the 1620s through the 1630s Anglican views increased and many religious minorities, including Puritans, migrated to North America. According to Wikipedia, as people resettled in North America many self-governed colonies were developed. Among these colonies was Salem Village, which was governed by the Church. Since the Church was Calvinist children were to be educated about God and the Bible only. Furthermore, many holidays, music, dancing, and toys were outlawed because they were not a part of the Puritan religion. Among the many things prohibited dark magic was definitely one of the least tolerated. People believed that the devil, as well as those serving him by using dark magic, was the cause of any unfortunate and unexplainable event. This fear of demons and magic, along with a string of ambiguous events, ultimately led up to the Salem Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Trials were a succession of hearings, which went from February 1689 until May 1693, set in order to prosecute those practicing witchcraft. During these trials, which took place in Salem Massachusetts, over one hundred and fifty people were imprisoned. These trials all started with Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, ages nine and eleven, who claimed to be bewitched. Both girls would have seizers, throw fits, and randomly talk nonsense. According to EyeWitness to History, doctors could not find a cause to their behavior and the community decided that it was caused by the devil. It was not long after Betty and Abigail claimed their bewitching that many other girls and the occasional boy came forward too claiming to be bewitched.

Not only were children announcing that they were bewitched, but they also claimed they could identify those behind the bewitching. According to UMKC School of Law, the first people to be accused of practicing dark magic and harming children were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. Sarah Good was known for her bad reputation of not following Puritan ways, Sarah Osborne was looked down on for not attending church and remarrying an indentured servant, while Tituba was a slave, not a Puritan, and told stories of magic. These three women were all outcasts in Salem Village, so there was nobody to stand up for them. When Martha Corey, an active member of the church, questioned the accusations made against the women she was automatically charged for witchcraft because she attempted to stand up for the outcasts. The idea that anyone could be involved in magic worried a great number of people and lead to more accusations and persecutions. I was really interested in learning more about those who were accused of practicing witchcraft, so I found some more background information about Tituba, one of the most well known people from the Salem Witch Trials.

Tituba was born in South Africa, but as a child she was taken to Barbados where she was sold to Samuel Parris. As stated by Discovery Education, in 1680 Samuel Parris moved to Boston taking Tituba and his other slave John with him. During the nine years they lived in Boston Parris got married and had children, along with becoming a minister. Samuel Parris, his wife, three kids, Tituba, and John moved to Salem in 1689, which was the same year John and Tituba got married. In Salem Samuel Parris became a pastor and his wife was often busy with her obligations as a pastor’s wife, so Tituba often took care of their children.

At nighttime Betty, the Parris’s middle child, and her cousin Abigail Williams would listen to Tituba’s stories and play games. Tituba would tell stories about magic and spirits and played fortune games, all of which she learned during her time in Barbados. Soon many of the girls who lived near Betty and Abigail would secretly join them at night to be entertained by Tituba. Even though these stories and games were veryPopular among many of the childrenin Salem Village, they were illegal because they were associated with witchcraft.

Although Tituba told stories and played games corresponding with magic, when confronted about practicing witchcraft she denied the claims of her actions. Samuel Parris promised Tituba freedom if she cooperated during her interrogations.  Tituba accepted Samuel Parris’s proposal of freedom and cooperated during her examination, confessing of her relations to witchcraft. Despite Samuel Parris’s promise for Tituba’s freedom he never paid the fees to liberate her from prison. Tituba remained in prison until she was sold and taken away from Salem.

After spending time searching the Internet I was able to obtain the court record of the first Examination of Tituba. Since this primary source is an official transcript I was assured that this would give me an accurate idea of what the beliefs were during this time. However useful and interesting this examination is, I am left feeling slightly perplexed after reading it. Not only am I unable to make complete sense of Tituba’s claims, it appears that neither is she or the interrogators. Tituba contradicts herself a few times and the interrogators are constantly asking for confirmation.

The court record of Tituba’s examination can be viewed at this link: http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal3R?div_id=n125

When asked why she hurts the children Tituba denies this claim saying she has not hurt anyone and that it must be the devils doing. Although she insists she has done nothing it is not long before she reveals that a man, along with four women and many animals, come to her threatening to hurt her if she does not injure the children.

(H) why do you hurt these children

(T) I do not hurt them

(H) who is it then

(T) the devil for ought I know

(H) did you never see the devil.

(T) the devil came to me and bid me serve him

Tituba ends up admitting to inflicting pain on children and says she regrets it. As the examination goes on Tituba tells the interrogators more of her encounters with these people and animals coming to her and asking her to serve them. She explained that they tried bribing her and threatening her to harm the children, and would end up forcing her to hurt children.

H) did you not pinch Elizabeth Hubbard this morning

(T) the man brought her to me and made me pinch her

As if Tituba’s claims could not be more unexplainable and unnatural, she claims at the end of the examination that she has gone blind and cannot see.

 (T) I am blind noe I cannot see

The puzzling and mysterious examination is just like the Salem Witch Trials as a whole, unexplainable. People were so scared, confused, and yearning for that perfect Puritan community that they were driven to prosecute anyone accused of having even the slightest connection with evil. The Reformation was all about enforcing purity in churches and when that could not be achieved in Europe people moved to New England to develop the ideal Puritan community. When these people were exposed to something as forbidden as “dark magic” they were terrified and their ambition of creating a virtuous town was ruined. Out of fear and desire to ensure purity, the Puritans of Salem Village went through drastic measures to rid the town of all evil, whether they had evidence or not.

Works Cited:

“Salem Witch Trials – The People – Tituba – DiscoverySchool.com.” Free Teacher Resources | Discovery Education. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. <http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/people/tituba.html&gt;.

“The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Volume 3 : Verbatim Transcipts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692 / Edited and with an Introduction and Index by Paul Boyer and StephenNissenbaum / Revised, Corrected, and Augmented by Benjamin C. Ray and Tara S. Wood.” Web. 10Nov. 2011. <http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal3R?div_id=n125&gt;.

“Salem Witch Trials.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials&gt;.

“The Salem Witch Trials, 1692.” EyeWitness to History – History through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/salem.htm&gt;.

“The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692.” UMKC School of Law. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SALEM.HTM&gt;.

“Salem Witch Trials: Tituba Images.” The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. <http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/salem/people/titubapics.html&gt;.

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