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Salem Witch Trials

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Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials

Superstition and witchcraft resulted in many being hanged or in prison. In the seventeenth century, a belief in witches and witchcraft was an agreed upon opinion. In Salem Massachusetts where the witch trials took place many people that were suspicious were accused of witchcraft and hanged. The Salem witch trials changed many peoples lives and even lead to death for many. There is really no one cause for the events that took place during the Salem witch trials. A combination of different events and factors helped lead to the beginning of the trials.

What caused the Salem witch trials of 1692 to begin? Although this might seem like an easy question, it does not have a simple answer. Many different perspectives are taken into account therefore ending in various different answers. Some of the main factors that helped influence and create the trials were politics, religion, family feuds, economics, and the imagination and fear of different people. Many had strong beliefs that Satan was acting in the world. Such satanic acts included disease, natural catastrophes, and bad fortune which all attributed to the work of the devil. Another cause was a belief that Satan recruits witches and wizards to work for him. A time of troubles contributed to the causes making it seem likely that Satan was active. Such troubles consisted of smallpox, congregational strife in Salem village, and frontier wars with the Indians. Having no television, no CD's, and lots of bible reading along with strict and humorless households contributed to teenage boredom which could have been another cause for witchcraft. During this time period it was said to believe that women were starting to have a higher power then men. Therefore many historians believe that the charges of witchcraft were a way of controlling the women who actually threatened the power of men. A major cause of the Salem witchcraft trials was superstition. The Puritans in Salem had even more reasons to be superstitious. A popular and widely known Puritan writer Cotton Mather's wrote "Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions." The book mostly contained terrifying, inaccurate accounts of witchcraft. More importantly, war with a nearby Indian tribe was bound to happen in terms of circumstances. Therefore when livestock died, Puritans thought there town was cursed but Indians attacking was what really went on. According to all these causes, it is said to believe that many rational, caring people allowed these trials to proceed.

Causes for the outbreak of witchcraft led to crucial examination of many women. The first to be examined was a girl named Sarah Good who was a beggar and outcast who lived wherever someone was willing to put her up. Hundreds would show up at the trials to see what was really going on. During the examinations the girls would describe their attacks as if they were acting out a scene in a play. Many would take the girls serious and therefore caused superstitions to arise. Some villagers would come to the stand and describe how such items as their food or animals would go badly after a visit from one of the girls. One girl who was so afraid of being made a scapegoat claimed that she was approached by a man who could turn himself into a dog. Obviously this young girl was implying the sightings of "Satan" who she also said asked her to sign in his book. She declared that she was indeed a witch and that her and four others had flown through the air on their poles. The young girls who were being put to trial tried running to the reverend of the town for help but were said to be stopped by Satan. The examinations would get so bad that even a 4-year-old girl was arrested, kept in jail for months and watched her mother get carried off to be hung.

Many would say that the girls would use confession as a way to avoid the hanging process. Therefore a new court had to be created. The new examinations consisted of the "touching test" which was basically just touching one of the alleged witches to see if it would stop their contortions. It was generally assumed that witches had "witch marks." In all reality they were just looking for moles that back then they claimed were from witches sucking on the skin. Some evidence that would be excluded from courtrooms today was generally admitted then. Such evidence that jury's included then was hearsay, gossip, stories, and unsupported assertions. Many protections that modern defendants take for granted were lacking in Salem: accused witches had no legal counsel, could not have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and had no formal avenues of appeal. Defendants could however speak for themselves, produce evidence, and cross-examine

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