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Salem Witch Trials

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The government realized it was in error and stopped the trials. The episode permanently marked Salem, and to this day it is a favorite gathering place for people enamored of witchcraft.
 
The Salem Witch Trials happened in a time period a little longer than one year. By contrast, during the European [[Witch trials in the early modern period]], people were put on trial and some were executed over more than a 300 year period.
 
==Salem in the 1690s==
Salem was a small Puritan settlement in the Massachusetts woods, not far from the coast. It was not a particularly successful settlement, with its villagers struggling to grow enough food to survive and always wary of the forest surrounding them - in their minds, the trees could be hiding murderous Indian raiders or demons or any number of evils. Thus, it was not a happy, cohesive community - this was not helped by the recent outbreak of smallpox and the Puritan's sexist practices of women being absolutely deferential to the men in their lives, and the belief that women were more susceptible to the Devil's charms. With everyone living in each others other's pockets, it was impossible to keep secrets - everyone knew everyone else's business. There was a lot of fear and tension in this village.<ref>Norton (2002)</ref>
Under the [[Puritan]] beliefs at the time, the existence of [[witch]]es was accepted as clear fact on scriptural grounds. In accordance with [[Exodus]] 22:18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," witchcraft was criminalized and considered a capital offense.
The girls soon began to accuse people of bewitching them - the first were Sarah Osborne (an invalid old woman who had married her servant), Sarah Good (a short-tempered beggar) and Tituba. They were all outcasts of the community, and so were easy targets - nobody stood up for them. Arrest warrants for these three were issued on February 29, 1692, and they were quickly arrested and tried by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne.
==The escalation==
More accusations followed the imprisonment of the first three accused. They included: Dorcas Good (4 -year -old daughter of Sarah Good), Abigail Hobbs, Deliverance Hobbs, Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey (an outspoken woman who was openly skeptical about the girls' accusations), Elizabeth Proctor and John Proctor. These new accusations frightened the community, as Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey had been virtuous, upstanding members of the Salem community - if these people were witches, then anyone could be.
The number of accused in the jails of Boston, Salem and surrounding towns grew rapidly, until they were overflowing - having no real government, the villagers had no organized way to try all these accused witches. A new Governor, Sir William Phips, arrived in May of 1692 and began the Court of Oyer and Terminer ("to hear and determine") to try the masses of accused witches. It comprised 7 judges: Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin.
==The trial==
Three women were brought to trial and, under pressure, stated the names of others who were working together to possess the girls. The Puritans governing Salem then saw this as an opportunity to use the legal procedure of court trials to identify and uncover the ways of the occult. Public trials were held and testimony was elicited in an attempt to bring forth the workings of the devil.
==Executions==
These three women, along with sixteen others who were were accused of witchcraft were hanged. Nearly 150 were imprisoned. Those who had reservations about the proceedings often found themselves to be accused. It is interesting to note that to avoid hanging, all the accused had to do was admit their guilt, but many refused. The refusal to admit guilt to save their lives may be attributed to the sturdy Puritan-based morality of the community at the time. One man would not even dignify the proceedings by entering a plea and was pressed to death.<ref>
Five men were convicted and hanged, and one man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to cooperate with the court. [http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/education/faq.shtml]</ref>
Due to the continued notoriety of the trial, tourists have streamed here since 1854; Salem is now known for a high density of [[occult]]-themed shops.<ref>Stephen Olbrys Gencarella, "Touring History: Guidebooks and the Commodification of the Salem Witch Trials," ''Journal of American Culture'' 2007 30(3): 271-284,</ref>
==Other communities==
Salem had the only mass witch hunt in American history. However , there were 152 accused witches in over two dozen other communities. Latner (2008) challenges the traditional image of Salem as the site of a year-long epidemic of hysteria. Instead, accusations progressed as a sequence of limited and brief flare-ups and the accused were generally logical targets. Within most nearby communities, the witch-hunt passed quickly and the number of accused was small. Even in the high -profile centers of the storm, such as Salem and Andover, the episode was limited in duration. The victims of 1692 most often resembled those who were traditionally associated with witchcraft in 17th-century England and New England, generally. Despite its reputation for irrationality and excess, the Salem witchcraft experience demonstrated the kind of constraints, limits, and coherence that scholars have found in other forms of collective violence. Such an approach helps explain how the outbreak spread to numerous communities as well as why the episode came to an end in relatively short order.<ref>Richard Latner, "The Long and Short of Salem Witchcraft: Chronology and Collective Violence in 1692," ''Journal of Social History'' 2008 42(1): 137-156,</ref>
==Historigraphical debates==
* LeBeau, Bryan F. ''The Story of the Salem Witch Trials: "We Walked in Clouds and Could Not See Our Way."'' (1998). 308pp.
* Norton, Mary Beth. ''In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.'' (2002). 436 pp.
* Rahming, Melvin B. "[[Phenomenology]], Epistemology, Ontology, and Spirit: The Caribbean Perspective in Ann Petry's 'Tituba of Salem Village'", ''South Central Review'', Vol. 20, No. 2/4 (Summer - Winter, 2003), pp.&nbsp;24–46 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/3189784 in JSTOR]
* Rosenthal, Bernard. ''Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692.'' (1993). 286 pp.
 
==See also==
* [[Malleus Maleficarum]]
 
== References ==
{{reflist|1}}
==External links==
*[http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/ASAL_CH.HTM Chronology of Events Relating to the Salem Witchcraft Trials]
== References ==
 
<references/>
[[Category:Puritans]]
[[Category:Law]]
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