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The Salem Witch Trials Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2019

Introduction

The Salem witch trials can be described as diverse and distinct hearings that were held before different county courts. These trials were mostly initiated to prosecute individuals who had been accused of witchcraft. It should be known that these trials were mostly conducted between 1692 and 1693 in Massachusetts (Godbeer 12).

As far as these trials and persecutions are concerned, it is estimated that approximately 200 individuals were accused of witchcraft (through practice). In this case, witchcraft was widely referred to as the devils magic which ended up with 20 executions (Godbeer 24). As time went by, the colony admitted that those trials were unwarranted thereby calling for the victims to be compensated. As much as these trials can be referred to as the Salem trials, initial hearings were conducted in a number of towns in 1692.

This was mostly in the Salem village which is the present day Danvers. Despite all this trials, the best known ones were done in the court of Terminer and Oyer. This means that as much as other people were accused, they were not formally pursued to stand trial. Ipswich and Boston experienced some trials but the outcome was three convictions. These convictions came out of more than 31 trials that had been initiated (Godbeer 32).

Many people were convicted as far as these trials are concerned whereby they were accused of capital felony of witchcraft. There are cases where punishments differed but the most notable ones are where people ended up being convicted by hanging. Others were crushed to hanging by being stoned which was an attempt to force them to give out information.

Despite all these trials, it should also be known that there are other five people who died in prison before being taken to court (Weisman 35). There is a case where one man refused to enter into trail and he paid the price by being stoned to death which was an attempt to force him into plea. All in all, these cases can be described as mass hysteria which revolved around diverse and similar trials that were going on.

This episode has been used on different scenarios to explain the dangers of isolationism. In this case, it is as far as political rhetoric’s are concerned which has extended the idea of religious extremism. As far as popular literature is concerned, we have had cases of false accusations every now and then. There should be no lapses in the due process and this is an aspect that has been reinforced by these episodes.

Discussion

The Salem witch trials can be described in a broad way as intrusion of individual liberties by the government which can not be entertained in the current world and society. Before these trials, it should be known that the supernatural world was part of people’s daily lives. This is mostly based on a strong belief that different people had about the presence of Satan (Weisman 39).

In this case, they believed that Satan was active and present on earth thereby having an influence on their daily lives. The concept of the presence of Satan emerged in the fifteen century and later on spread to other parts of America. As much as there was a different perception to witchcraft, it was only used by peasants.

In this case, they relied upon it for agriculture and farming by using particular charms that they considered effective and efficient. This form of witchcraft was mainly referred to as white magic but it later on transformed to dark magic as time went by. This therefore implies that dark magic was characterized and associated with evil spirits and demons. As time went by, there were a lot of superstitions that were believed to be related to the devil. This is the period that saw a lot of witchcraft persecutions taking place.

It should be known that this was mostly between 1560 and 1670 where people’s perception about witchcraft started changing significantly. There was a claim by different people that they could prove the existence of evil spirits and demons which tried to reinforce a strong believe in superstition. This was mostly by Joseph Glanvill in 1668, whereby he tried to explain the aspect of bodily resurrection (Weisman 51). In fact, this was the period when we had a lot of issues about supernatural spirits.

There was an argument that men should be able to believe in the existence of evil spirits because if they denied such a reality, then they were questioning the reality of the almighty God. In fact, ingenious men were expected to admit the existence of apparitions and witches. All this aspects implied that the supernatural world can not be denied which relates well with the Salem witch trials.

Such works therefore tried to reinforce the fact that demons were indeed alive. As time went by, human beings were meant to believe that demons were part of them on earth based on different happenings and events. The people of Salem believed that all their predicaments were as a result of the devil and evil spirits. In fact, they could not explain their misfortunes like infant deaths and failure of crops.

In other cases, there was friction among the congregation where the supernatural world was blamed. There was an unusual outbreak of witchcraft issues and accusations and this ended up reinforcing the need for trials. As much as there could have been other factors, people’s mindset had been tilted to believe that all their predicaments were as a result of witchcraft. All this can be considered as contributing factors in relation to different aspects from a historical context.

There were earlier executions in England where it is estimated that 12 people were killed (Aronson 78). 24 other people were later on executed at Salem. It should be known that there is a political context to the Salem witch trials because of the tension that had arisen between colonialists. As much as there was need to sort out governor issues, it was necessary to come up with a legitimate court system that could conduct trials.

This is what led to the formation of a special court of Oyer and Terminer that could handle people who had been thronging the courts for justice (Aronson 65). From a local context point of view, Salem village was synonymous with disputes between its village and town populations. In fact, the population was mostly regarded to be quarrelsome by its neighbors.

Because of constant bickering among villagers, there were bound to be numerous conflicts in the Salem. Before 1692, there had been rumors of witchcraft in other towns and villages that mostly neighbored Salem (Aronson 39). The development of casting spells began after many children started experiencing strange fits.

This was mostly referred to as the disease of astonishment which was quickly associated with witchcraft by the population as time went by. The children had unique symptoms that had never been seen before which again fuelled the speculation of witchcraft among the population. For instance, flapping of arms had never been witnessed and some of the children went to the extent of harming others. It should therefore be known that these are issues that fuelled the craze against witchcraft in 1692.

The most notable trials can be explained from the afflictions of different girls that occurred in early 1692 (Aronson 112).This account ends with trials that were conducted in May 1693. Some of the trials can be traced from initial witch hunts that had started earlier on which can be looked at from a wider context. There has been information about restitution as far as these trials are concerned which needs proper evaluation.

Conclusion

All this accounts can be traced from two girls (Betty and Abigail) who exhibited strange symptoms that could not be proved by a medical doctor. For instance, they complained of being pricked and pinched by people whom they did not see and this behavior later on spread to other young women. These events led to the first trial of three people which implores that a family feud might have been behind all these trials.

Salem can be described as the home of a vicious rivalry that led to the famous witch trials because everybody was involved in one way or the other. This can be traced from heated debates that could even lead to fighting among different people. Most of these women who were accused had the descriptions of usual suspects who could fit as witchcrafts. Nobody stood for the women which culminated to them being brought before a local magistrate.

Many other trials followed these ones as instances of witchcraft continued to be reported in Salem and its environs. As much as the last notable trials were conducted in 1693, public response to most of these events has continued as time goes by (Hill 63). Most of these issues have revolved around establishing the innocence of the accused individuals because they are supposed to be compensated.

The descendants of people who were unfairly accused have been trying to honor their memories which are good developments. There have been revelations that the devil can give people the powers to harm others in return for loyalty which can be described as an aspect that has some relevance in today’s society.

A seed of paranoia had been planted in Salem which explains the sequence of events that followed as far as witchcraft persecutions are concerned. The story of Salem witchcraft trials has captured the attention of different stakeholders like artists and writers despite the fact that these events happened centuries of years ago. In this case, different aspects have taken liberties from distinct interpretations that have been explored (Hill 94).

The events that happened before have helped to reinforce the fact that there is a boundary between post-medieval and medieval aspects that relate to different cultural constructions. It should occur that the cause of different symptoms that were encountered at that given time will continue being a subject of interest.

This is because explanations of those symptoms have been explored by different researchers to explain diverse occurrences that we are witnessing today. The world has seen some attacks on people because they are considered to poses supernatural powers which reinforces the fact that such issues will continue being witnessed every now and then.

Works Cited

Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Atheneum, 2003.

Godbeer, Richard. The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Doubleday, 1995. Print.

Weisman, Richard. Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th Century Massachusetts. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984. Print.

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