Salem Massachusetts, colonial United states, 1692. A young country still growing and unsteady. A place for the unwanted in England, a place of refuge.
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Among other outcasts there were the Puritans, a group of people that practiced puritanism. They lived their lives directly through the bible. Their ministers and priests held more power than the government. Their religion strongly believed in witches and witchcraft, that the devil was always lurking. If there was a bad harvest, illness or storms they would blame witches and the devil. A few accusations started appearing throughout the town, people being possessed and dealing with the devil. This caused mass hysteria to spread wildly.
It all began in the spring of 1692, when a group of young girls were caught in the woods. They said they were possessed by the devil, they accused several women of being witches and enchanting them. This causes a wave of hysteria to sweep across Salem and surrounding towns. It began with Elizabeth Parris and Abigail WIlliams being diagnosed that they had been bewitched. Soon after other girls in the village also began to show symptoms of bewitchment, such as uncontrollable outbursts, odd speech and fits of screaming. The girls and their families blamed Tituba, a slave and homeless woman, Sarah Good and also the elderly, childless Sarah Osborne. Notice all these women were of the lower class of people at the time, used as a scapegoat. The trials soon began to overwhelm the court system so William Phips, the new governor established a new Court of Oyer to rule over witchcraft cases. Eventually nineteen people were hanged after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Around 150 other people were accused, in 1693 May Phips pardoned and therefore released all people imprisoned under witchcraft charges. But it wasn’t until 1711 when the good names were restored for those convicted. The effects of such a panic are still riddled throughout the town of Salem, Massachusetts to this day.
There were a multitude of outside factors that all mixed together to allow something as horrifying as these trials were to occur. To begin, the primary religion practiced in Salem and surrounding towns was Puritanism; An extremely strict and unforgiving religion that was strongly superstitious. They believed that if they if you sinned even once you were condemned to hell, that is a lot of pressure, constantly walking on eggshells. So when young girls started behaving oddly, they claimed to have been possessed by witches, I believe because they were afraid of the consequences that would come if they were being honest and just came forward about what they were actually doing the woods.
Practicing Puritanism means you must live in a heightened sense of awareness of all of your actions. I believe there must immense pressure to never do wrong,
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