Salem witch trials were a wave of accusations and prosecutions ofpeople indicted for witchcraft practices in colonial Massachusettsbetween the years 1692 and 1693. Several of local women in SalemVillage were accused of witchcraft allegedly responsible for a groupof girl’s possession by the devil. The continuation of the hysteriawave prompted the convention of a particular court in Salem toaddress the cases. Bridget Bishop was the first condemned occultistto be hanged in June 1692 followed by others. Because of the finaldecision reached in trials, fourteen more women and six men wereexecuted, and an accusation of 150 people in other towns followed. InSeptember 1692, the madness declined in the public opinion, whichturned against the trials leading to the annulations of such cases(Murrin, 2003). This paper will focus on the context of this event,the colonial impact, the American philosophies regarding this eventas well as provide a perspective on the Salem witch trials.
Context of the Event
During the time colonial era in America, people consideredsupernaturalism as part of the daily lives. People believed that aslong as God existed, so did Satan along with his maliciousactivities. Supernaturalism originated in Europe during the fifteenthcentury where peasants used white magic to invoke particular charmsfor farming. This practice transformed to bad practices and spread tothe American North colonies. The Puritan leaders who had dominatedbefore 1680 opposed the majority of the Protestants ways of worshipand were more affluent in the Salem Town community (Murrin, 2003).Since they had a long-standing rivalry with the neighbors, theyfeared attacks and fueled resentment and suspicions toward theirneighbors and outsiders. If one`s behavior fell out of the normal,the villagers suspected and related it to witchcraft.
Two daughters of Reverend Parris began having “fits” includingthrowing things, screaming, uttering strange words and twisting theirbodies in peculiar positions. A local doctor attending to them didnot establish a physical cause and concluded evil works behind thegirls’ situation (Jones, 2016). The pressure multiplied whenanother girl experienced similar symptoms and blaming three women:Good, Sarah and Tibuta, for their predicament. The local magistratesinterrogated the three women for several days before taking them tojail. Finally, the three women faced execution and such trialscontinued until the wife of a minister were similarly accused puttingto an end of these trials.
Influence of the Regional Characteristics
Constitutional turmoil has characterized the people of the SalemVillage. They were known for involvement in several internal andneighboring village rows. Their church privileges were widespread andvillagers disagreed on grazing rights and property lines to theextent of voting to hire their minister in1672. The first twoministers served for short periods after the congregation failed tohonor those full rates. The third minister serving the year 1688 quitbecause the Salem refused to ordain him. In 1689, they violated 1681resolution that allowed the inhabitants to pass on Ministrybelongings to another person for voting and other ways (Murrin,2003). The new minister, whom they had disagreements ordaining,lacked the means of settling disputes in the village. He deliberatelymade the church suffer and mostly contributed to the village tensionand belief in supernatural existence (Jones, 2016). Parris madevillagers believe that all the quarrels were devils work.
Philosophy leading to the Event
In the 17th century, there was almost no American philosophy becausethis is the same period that it began. The Puritans who arrived inthe colonial Northern America influenced the Americans belief in God.They set the earliest American philosophy that laid on religioustraditions that placed emphasis on the association between communityand people. After emerging victorious in the England civil war, thePuritans dominated the North America influencing it with its cultureof self-governance and religious beliefs linked to supernaturalism.Eventually, the need to separate those used by the devil to harmothers led to the occurrence of this event (Jones, 2016). As the timewent by philosophies tied to the certainty of knowledge and proof.The legislature and the law enforcement bodies have not formulatedclear guidelines of supernaturalism existence. By declaring suchtrials futile, slowly people moved away such beliefs to thecontemporary philosophy built on explanations and proof.
Perspective on the Event
The people of the Salem village lived relatively in order until whenthey violated their resolution and first ordained the Puritanminister who accelerated tension leading to the event. Parris blamedthe influence of the devil on economic prosperity and the inhabitantsdwelling on worldly ways. Consequently, his style of leadershipfurther separated the two groups of the village. It is most likelythat the differences between the two groups played significant rolesin the witch trials. Parris seemed a vigorous supporter of the witchtrials making his actions fan the flames of the hysteria.
Supernaturalism existed in the colonial North America during the 17thcentury. People believed in Devil human agents sent of harm othersleading to the need for excluding them from the communities. Salemvillagers attributed witches to individuals who seemed off with thetraditions. The belief prompted the trials dubbed Salem witch trialsaccounted for the approximately 200 deaths (Jones, 2016). Thepresence and involvement of the Puritans contributed to the Americanideals and as much as times have changed witchcraft still prevalent.
Jones, S. E. (2016). Holy hysteria: A new look at the Salem witchtrials. In church &state AcademicOneFile.
Murrin, J. M. (2003). Coming to Terms with the .American Antiquarian Society, 1-40.