Land of the Brave

Salem Witchcraft Trials

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

Salem Witchcraft Trials
What were the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Definition: The Salem Witchcraft Trials were a series of cases brought before local magistrates and the county court of trials in 1692. the Salem Witchcraft Trials last for three months from June to September. Accusations of witchcraft were made against both men and women in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of colonial Massachusetts.

The Salem Witchcraft Trials resulted in 19 people being sentenced to death by hanging in Puritan Massachusetts. One old man was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Hysteria
The Puritan Salem Witchcraft Trials quickly grew in momentum and 100's of people were accused of witchcraft as hysteria spread. Many of the men and women accused of witchcraft spent months in jail without a trial. In just fifteen months hysteria regarding witches and witchcraft spiralled out of control. Why did this occur in Salem? What were the influences and causes of the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Why were people accused of witchcraft? What made people believe the accusations of witch craft were true? What did people perceive a witch was capable of - and why were witches believed to have 'familiars'? (A Witches Familiar was believed to be an evil spirit, in animal form, who was used by a witch to perform evil deeds and cast malevolent spells. The witches familiars were small animals like the Dog, Cat, Frog, Pig, Goose and Mouse.)

Salem Witchcraft Trials - The Innocent Victims
The Salem Witch Trials took many innocent victims and resulted in:
  • 100-200 arrests
  • The Execution of 19 convicted witches
  • One man pressed to death
  • One man stoned to death
  • Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches (familiars).

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Puritans
Why were the Puritans involved in the Salem Witchcraft Trials? Puritans practised strictness, simplicity and austerity in their religion, lifestyle and conduct. Puritans were strongly opposed to sensual pleasures and were strong advocates of propriety, modesty and and decorum. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were conducted using various methods they were sensational, exciting, salacious and spicy. Witches were also known for satanic and sexual abominations - the Puritans were the last group of people that would normally be associated with any of these terms.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - Witches were Heretics - the Greatest of Crimes
Witches were deemed as heretics to Christians. Heresy is the denial of the fundamental beliefs accepted and professed by the Church which all true Christians must reject. Witchcraft became the greatest of their crimes and sins as seen in the Salem Witchcraft Trials. In Law witchcraft was 'crimen excepta' meaning that witchcraft was a crime so foul that all normal legal procedures were superseded. Because the Devil was not going to "confess", it was necessary to gain a confession from the person involved. Witchcraft persecutions became common in New England as superstitions became associated with the devil. In "Against Modern Sadducism" by Joseph Glanvill and published in 1668, he claimed that he could prove the existence of witches and ghosts of the supernatural realm.

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