Another Salem Witch Trials Essay Research Paper

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Another Salem Witch Trials Essay, Research Paper The Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, which resulted in 19 executions, and 150 accusations of witchcraft, are one of the historical events almost everyone has heard of. They began when three young girls, Betty Parris, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam began to have hysterical fits, after being discovered engaging in forbidden fortune-telling (not dancing naked in the woods) to learn what sorts of men they would marry. Betty’s father, the Reverend Samuel Parris, called in more senior authorities to determine if the girls’ affliction was caused by witchcraft. Although Betty was sent away fairly soon, and did not participate in the trials, the other girls were joined by other young and mature women in staging public

demonstrations of their affliction when in the presence of accused "witches." The events in Salem have been used as a theme in many literary works, including the play by Arthur Miller which we are going to read during this unit. They are interesting to anthropologists because they display some of the characteristics of "village" witchcraft and some of the features of the European witch craze. Many commentators have seen the Salem witch craze as the last outbreak of the European witch craze, transported to North America. As in African and New Guinea villages, the original accusations in Salem were made against people who, in one way or another, the accusers had reason to fear or resent. Moreover, the first few of the accused fit the definition of

"marginal" persons, likely to arouse suspicion. However, as in Europe, the accusations spread, and came to encompass people not involved in any of Salem’s local grudges. As in Europe there was a belief that the accused were in league with the Devil and "experts" employed "scientific" ways of diagnosing witchcraft. Interestingly, during the colonial period in Africa, shortly after World War II, there were a number of witch finding movements in Africa, which resembled the Salem episode in some ways, and had a similar status "in between" the sort of witch hunt found in Europe and the typical African pattern. Typically, in these movements, "witch finders" would come in from outside a village and claim to be able to rid the village

of witchcraft. At this period there was great dislocation, with people moving around because of government employment, appropriation of farmland, and other causes. Some people were improving their economic status as a result of these changes, and some were doing much worse than before. Whereas in the past everyone in a locality had followed the same religion, people were now exposed to Christianity and the local religions of people who had moved to their region, or whose regions they had moved to. In the cities of central and southern Africa, many local religions and Christian sects could be found, as well as Islam. Belief in witchcraft tended to unite people across religious differences. Typically, the names brought to witch finders were those of the same sort of local enemies

we have become familiar with in reading about the Azande. As the frenzy increased, people began to be accused who had not aroused any particular jealousies, possibly because they possessed a peculiar bag or horn, which might be said to contain "medicine" – in one reported case, such a container did indeed contain "medicine" but ordinary physical medicine, not magical substances. These crazes tended to die down, often after considerable conflict and property damage, and the witch finders would then move on to the next town. As witchcraft accusations still occur in the area, we can conclude that the movements did not get rid of witches forever, nor, unlike the situation Salem or Europe, did belief in witchcraft itself actually end with the witch crazes. The