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    Salem witch trials: Casting a spell on the people

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    Today, the idea of seeing a witch is almost inconsequential. Our Halloween holiday marks a celebration in which many will adorn themselves with pointy black hats and long stringy hair, and most will embrace them as comical and festive. Even the contemporary witchcraft religious groups forming are being accepted with less criticism. More recently, the Blair Witch movie craze has brought more fascination than fear to these dark and magical figures. So, it becomes no wonder that when our generations watch movies like the Crucible, a somewhat accurate depiction of the Salem Witch Trials, we are enraged and confused by the injustice and the mayhem that occurred in 1692.

    For most, our egocentric view of the past almost stops us from seeing what a dilemma was brewing in that Puritan lifestyle. At that time, witches were far more than a generic costume for a casual holiday celebration, or a tolerated religion, or a new form of Hollywood fascination, they were the work of an awful, vengeful, unseen power. In the seventeenth century, almost everyone, even those with the best of educations, where under the belief that witchcraft was evil and the control of the devil. Witchcraft had once, before the Middle Ages had been accepted as the powers of medicine and good deeds; however, the church of that time had proclaimed the craft as the work of the devil and the actions of heretics. From then on witches were greatly dreaded. They believed that they had special powers that allowed them to cause harm to those that they had quarrels with; they could read minds, tell the future, bring up ghosts of the dead and force the holy to perform unholy acts.

    There was only one way to save someone who sold their soul to the devil for the gifts of witchcraft, to kill them (Dickinson 4). People were branded witches for unrelated mishaps. If the farmer’s sheep all died from a virus in the water, then the neighbor who fought with him last week must have cast a spell. In a world where people are certain of witchcraft, nothing is accidental. Consequentially, many people were unjustly condemned to death. In the beginning of the century the targets for witchcraft were “the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill, the rude and quarrelsome”, but as the century drew to an end those accused were chosen “more democratically,” even those as young as four were labeled witches (Trask 1).

    Witchcraft in the New England was a civil felony, and those who broke it were hanged. Witchcraft in New England was easier to prove, compared to the English laws where witchcraft was seen as heresy against the church. Approximately 1,500 people in England were killed; but, over three centuries in New England tens of thousands where killed. Many historians believe that many of the witchcraft fears in New England were related to the settlements by the Puritans (Trask 1). In the beginning of the century in Massachusetts, many changes where taking place. It became the settling ground for English Puritans, who fled Europe to dissociate themselves from the Catholic Church, which they believed betrayed God by their “wickedness and vanity” (pg.5).

    Many created small congregations to form a closer communion with God. The Puritan church would become a zealous group of Bible followers that would base the interpretation of their laws on God’s word, even in maters of civil government (Dickinson 5-6). After time, the Puritans prepared a shareholding stock company. Then in 1629, they received a royal charter from the king of England at that time, Charles I, who contracted them the rights to own a sizeable piece of land on the bay of Massachusetts. Those who planned on being the colonists of the state refused to leave their charter in the hands of shareholders that would remain in England, and in secret the emigrating Puritans bought up the shares from the men that were staying behind, and when they left England they took the charter with them.

    With Massachusetts in their ownership, the Puritans could create their ideal state without any interference from across the seas (27: 358). In June .

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