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Causes of The Salem Witch Craft Trials

Uploaded by msdude98 on Oct 25, 2000

Witchcraft, Insanity, and the Ten Signs of Decay


Since there never was a spurned lover stirring things up in Salem Village, and there is no evidence from the time that Tituba practiced Caribbean black magic, yet these trials and executions actually still took place, how can you explain why they occurred?

The Salem Witchcraft Trials began not as an act of revenge against an ex-lover, as they did in The Crucible, but as series of seemingly unlinked, complex events, which a paranoid and scared group of people incorrectly linked. And while there were countless other witchcraft trials, Salem’s trials remain the best-known. In Salem, fears of witchcraft perpetuated by popular writings were personified when two girls were said to be bewitched. A hysteria overcame the people of Salem, whose trials went awry. In less than six months, 19 men and women were hanged, 17 innocents died in filthy prisons, an 80-year old man was crushed to death, and two dogs were stoned to death for collaborating with the Devil (Richardson 6).

How could an entire village, including scholars, believe in witchcraft? Were these trials justified? Or were they evil, as many people think? How could respected, learned men believe the accounts of psychotics? Most importantly, could the trials have been avoided?

A major cause of the Salem Witchcraft trials was superstition, an “irrational [belief] ... resulting from ignorance or fear of the unknown” (Saliba). A lack of scientific reasoning led many people to believe that, for instance, walking under a ladder would bring seven years of bad luck. The Puritans in Salem had even more reasons to be superstitious. Cotton Mather’s “Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,” with its inaccurate accounts of witchcraft, terrified. In addition, crude medical techniques, constant food poisoning, and unsanitary conditions killed many Puritans. (In the Trials, dead people and dead livestock were used as evidence of witchcraft.) More importantly, war with a nearby Indian tribe was imminent (Schlect 1); when livestock died, the Puritans thought their village was cursed, vulnerable to Indian attack. With several factions vying for control of the Village, and a series of legislative and property disputes with the nearby Salem Town which controlled Salem Village, it is easy to see how the people of Salem were so vulnerable to the notion of witches taking over their town.

The Puritans who settled in Massachusetts left England because they thought the Church was obscuring God’s glory with...

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Uploaded by:   msdude98

Date:   10/25/2000

Category:   The Crucible

Length:   10 pages (2,147 words)

Views:   2284

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