Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sarah Good, Sarah Wildes, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, and Rebecca Nurse are tried

The history of the Salem witch trials continued when on June 29, 1692, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe were put on trial for witchcraft.

They were all convicted at trial and were later executed on July 19, 1692.

The case against Sarah Good is documented in my book,
Justice at Salem.
She was on of the first accused by the Indian slave, Tituba, of being a witch.
A younger woman, despite popular misconceptions, she, along with her husband, had a hard time supporting themselves and often had to rely on the charity of others. Good was a angry woman and even when others were generous with her, she responded with bitterness and rage. When someone would give her something to eat, she would often mutter curses over the food, leading many to suspect that she was a witch even before the outbreak of the trials. Cattle and other livestock would often become ill and sometimes die after coming in contact with her. During her deposition during the trials she was caught in several lies and even her own husband thought she was a witch, or soon would become one. It is not hard to imagine why the people of Salem thought she was guilty.

Susannah Martin was also hanged as a witch. Martin, like Bridget Bishop, had previously been accused of witchcraft, although that allegation was not proven in court.

Although she was able to quote the Bible during her trial, something which many common folk thought impossible for a witch to do, the Reverend Mr. Cotton Mather, who did not subscribe to such superstitions, was still convinced of her guilt. In his book, Wonders of the Invisible World, he recounted the evidence against her. Most of it related to spectral evidence of her spirit alleging attacking the victims in the courtroom. Some of it seemed to relate to the people having nightmares that they blamed on her. Other allegations involved harm to livestock and various other threats and the use of occasional supernatural power.

Mather concluded his remarks on Martin by writing:
Note, this Woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked Creatures in the World; and she did now throughout her whole Tryal, discover her self to be such an one. Yet when she was asked, what she had to say for her self? Her chief Plea was, That she had lead a most virtuous and holy Life.

Regarding Sarah Wilds or Wildes, Mather had no comment.
The case against Wilds is documented here. Much of it appears spectral in nature, meaning that it ought not to have been enough for a conviction at the time. Much of it is hard to read or follow.

Elizabeth Howe was also condemned. Mather didn't comment on her case either. In his book he tried to document the strongest witchcraft cases and did have doubts about some of the convictions, although not directly expressed.

Under questioning, Howe expressly rejected the witchcraft claim:

What say you to this charge? Here are them that charge you with witchcraft

It it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent of any thing in this nature
Did not you take notice that now when you lookt upon Mercy Lewis she was struck [down?]
I cannot help it.
You are charged here; what doe you say?
I am innocent of any thing of this nature.
Is this the first time that ever you were accused?
Yes S'r.
Howe had several people come forward and offer character evidence for her, including this elderly woman:

The Deposision of Debory Hadley aged about 70 yeares: this Deponant testifieth & s'h: that I have lived near to Elizabeth How (the wife of James How Junior of Ipswich) 24 year & have found her a Neighbourly woman Conssiencious in her dealing faithfull to her mises & Christian-like in her Conversation so far as I have observed & further saith n't.
The rest of the case against Howe is here and includes the usual spectral allegations and problems with livestock.

Finally, Rebecca Nurse was also condemned. When the jury originally returned they had a verdict of not guilty, but after uproar from the victims, the judges sent the jurors back to reconsider (not an uncommon practice at the time, but would be completely rejected as unfair and illegal in America today) and she was convicted. At her execution, she prayed for her accusers, unlike Sarah Good who cursed them.

The case against Nurse is documented here. Needless to say, it was not overwhelming.
When Ann Putnam, Jr, one of the young accusers later sought to become a full member of her church, she issued a general apology for her role in the trials and expressly apologized for her role in condemning Nurse, who had generally been seen as a nice elderly church lady before she was accused.

The Salem Village Church Record Book recorded the event with this entry:

The confession of Anne Putnam when she was received to communion: 1706.

I desire to be humbled before God for yt sad and humbling providence that befell my fathers family in the year about 92, yt I then being in my childhood should by such a providence of God be made an instrument for yt accuseing of severall persons of a grievous crime wherby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons, and yt it was a great delusion of Satan yt deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental with others tho' ignorantly and unwittingly to bring upon myself & this land the guilt of innocent blood Though what was said or done by me against any person I can truly and uprightly say before God & man I did it not out of any anger, malice, or illwill to any person for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly being deluded by Satan. And particularly as I was a chief instrument of accuseing of Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters I desire to lye in the dust & to be humbled for it in that I was a cause with others of so sad a calamity to them & their familys, for which cause I desire to lye in ye dust & earnestly begg fforgiveness of God & from all those unto whom have given just cause of sorrow & offence, whose relations were taken away or accused.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hex Appeal - Magazine - The Atlantic

According to this article in The Atlantic Hex Appeal - Magazine - The Atlantic people are regularly charged and convicted of witchcraft in Africa and receive light sentences. The main reason for this is apparently they fear that without prosecution the common people will lynch suspected witches. Perhaps it never occurred to them to stop this insanity and just stop and prosecute anyone who participates in lynching.

In my book about the witch trials, I pointed out that the common people of New England generally supported the witch trials and it was the elite who were skeptical of the claims. Eventually the elite put an end to the persecutions.

Wednesday's Witches: World Cup, Salem, and Burkittsville witchery!

Wednesday's Witches: World Cup, Salem, and Burkittsville witchery!: "Bishop Isaac Nonyane, a South African 'witch doctor,' has claimed that Australian footballer Harry Kewell's groin injuries and other health problems are due to 'malicious spirits.' The Bishop recommends prayer"

Prayer of course was the cure originally recommended by Rev. Parris before the start of the Salem witch trials. And it was the cure that usually worked best. Bewitchment was usually caused by suggestion and could be "cured" by it as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Religious Establishment Advocated for Restraint - The Return of Several Ministers

Today in the Salem witch timeline:Salem Witch Trials Timeline: "Twelve ministers of the colony advise the court not to rely on spectral evidence for convicting suspected witches."

The document they produced, which was authored by Cotton Mather, was called The Return of Several Ministers Consulted by his Excellency, and the Honorable Council, upon the present Witchcrafts in Salem Village.

It argued for more caution in the prosecution of witchcraft and warned that the Devil may be behind false allegations. Had the judges considered this far fewer people would have been tried. Perhaps there would have been no additional executions.

Many have the view that the religious establishment was behind the witch trials, but the fact is that most ministers were either opposed to the trials outright or were at least skeptical of what was going on.
I address all of this more fully in my book, Justice at Salem.

The document these ministers signed is produced below:

I. The afflicted state of our poor neighbors that are now suffering by molestations from the invisible world, we apprehend so deplorable that we think their condition calls for the utmost help of all persons in their several capacities.

II. We cannot but with all thankfulness acknowledge the success which the merciful God has given unto the sedulous and assiduous endeavours of our honorable rulers to detect the abominable witch- crafts which have been committed in the country, humbly praying that the discovery of these mysterious and mischievous wicked- nesses may be perfected.

III. We judge that in the prosecution of these, and all such witch- crafts, there is need of a very critical and exquisite caution, lest by too much credulity for things received only upon the Devil's authority there be a door opened for a long train of miserable consequences, and Satan get an advantage over us, for we should not be ignorant of his devices.

IV. As in complaints upon witchcrafts there may be Matters of Inquiry which do not amount unto Matters of Presumption, and there may be Matters of Presumption which yet may not be reckoned Matters of Conviction, so 'tis necessary that all proceedings thereabout be managed with an exceeding tenderness towards those that may be complained of, especially if they have been persons formerly of an unblemished reputation.

V. When the first inquiry is made into the circumstances of such as may lie under any just suspicion of witchcrafts, we could wish that there may be admitted as little as is possible of such noise, company, and openness as may too hastily expose them that are examined, and that there may be nothing used as a test for the trial of the suspected the lawfulness whereof may be doubted among the People of Cod, but that the directions given by such judicious writers as Perkins and Bernard be consulted in such a case.

VI. Presumptions whereupon persons may be committed, and, much more, convictions whereupon persons may be condemned as guilty of witchcrafts, ought certainly to be more considerable than barely the accused person being represented by a specter unto the afflicted, inasmuch as 'tis an undoubted and a notorious thing that a Demon may, by God’s permission, appear even to ill purposes in the shape of an innocent, yea, and a virtuous man. Nor can we esteem alterations made in the sufferers by a look or touch of the accused to be an infallible evidence of guilt, but frequently liable to be abused by the Devil's legerdemains.

VII. We know not whether some remarkable affronts given to the Devils by our disbelieving those testimonies whose whole force and strength is from them alone may not put a period unto the progress of the dreadful calamity begun upon us in the accusation of so many persons, whereof we hope some are yet clear from the great transgression laid unto their charge.

VIII. Nevertheless, we cannot but humbly recommend unto the government the speedy and vigorous prosecution of such as have rendered themselves obnoxious, according to the direction given in the Laws of God and the wholesome statutes of the English nation for the detection of witchcraft.

(reprinted in Hansen 123-25)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lady Gaga Undresses LisaNova at the Salem Witch Trials

Perhaps this will help bring back some interest in the trials:

Lady Gaga Undresses LisaNova at the Salem Witch Trials

Perhaps this will help bring back some interest in the trials:

Google Insights for Search - Web Search Interest: salem witch trials - Worldwide, 2004 - present

Google Insights for Search - Web Search Interest: salem witch trials - Worldwide, 2004 - present

I would love for my book about the Salem witch trials - Justice at Salem to be on the first page whenever anyone searches for "Salem witch trials" on Google, but looking at the Google trends, it appears that the term is being search less and less each year:

I also find it funny how the term is search much more closer to Halloween even though most of the events occurred during the spring and summer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bridget Bishop

In 1692, yesterday, June 10, Bridget Bishop was hanged for witchcraft.
She has been incorrectly portrayed as a young woman who was persecuted by the Puritans for wearing provocative red dresses and for running a tavern.
In fact she was a bitter old woman who used her reputation as a witch to get her way. Prior to the Salem witch trials a mere reputation as a potential witch wasn't enough for a conviction. Two witnesses to an act of witchcraft had been the traditional standard for conviction and thus convictions had been very rare in New England.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Salem Witch Trials, Justice at Salem

Justice at Salem is a free ebook about the Salem witch trials. It is also available from Amazon.com.

I plan on blogging about related topics, although I don't expect to post as much as I do on my regular blog, tobaccoland.us.

If you would like to contact me just reply with your email address.