What the Salem Witch Trials Meant for Witches
Every Witch, young and old, should know or at least recognize the Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials were a dark moment in Witchcraft history that triggered a downward spiral of negative connotations towards Witches. Because of these Trials, Witches now have to suffer from a negative image and reputation, stereotyping, and downright rude remarks that we can do little about. The Salem Witch Trials are not something pleasant to think about, but if we educate ourselves in what these Trials were, we can use the knowledge to show people who Witches are.
When and Where Did The Salem Witch Trials Originate?
The Salem Witch Trials period was short, only lasting from February 1692 to September 1692. The infamous event took place in Salem Village, Massachusetts, now known as Danvers, Massachusetts.
What Triggered The Salem Witch Trials?
Many factors lead to the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. For one, there had already been a “witchcraft craze” before the Salem Witch Trials that struck Europe from the 1300s till the end of the 1600s. The Salem Witch Trials pretty much began after the European fear had passed. Another circumstance that may have triggered the Salem Witch Trials were the strain affecting the people in Salem Village. A war known as King William’s War affected many of the colonist’s settlements, causing refugees to flee inland and find small towns to hide, like Salem Village. Salem Village was already short on supplies and having more people come in caused aggravations, rivalries, and short fuses between families. Everyone was so riled up at each other they were a ticking time bomb waiting for the right trigger that would set everyone off.
Then, there was the fear of the Devil influencing people’s thoughts. Salem Village was a small, isolated town greatly influenced by the beliefs of Puritans and Christians, so they had no idea of how the outside world worked, nor desired to find out. A fear that many Puritans and Christians had was that the Devil was able to walk on the Earth and grant magical abilities to people who worshipped him. Due to this fear, it is no wonder why people were quick to accept that there was evil amongst them, especially if it meant harming their religious beliefs.
But, perhaps what truly caused the Salem Witch Trials to occur was a misplaced accusation. In January 1692, The Reverend of Salem Village, Reverend Parris, had his daughter and niece examined by doctors after displaying odd “fits” that were concerning. Elizabeth and Abigail Williams were screaming, throwing things, uttering odd words and noises, and contorted into strange positions. The doctors ruled their odd behavior to be caused by the supernatural, though it is most likely that the girls had been suffering from some form of diagnosable mental issues. In February, due to being pressured by magistrates, the girls blamed three women of having cursed them. These three women were outcasts, which made them easy targets. The three women accused were Tituba, the Reverend’s slave, Sarah Goode, a homeless beggar, and Sarah Osborne, an elderly and impoverished woman.
The three women were brought before the Reverend and magistrates and were interrogated for several days. Goode and Osborne claimed they were innocent, but not Tituba. She claimed that the Devil had spoken to her and offered her power if she agreed to serve and worship him. She also said that there were others like her near who wanted to take down the Puritans. That statement triggered a wave of hysteria and paranoia of the Devil hurting and killing people. Many started to claim other women had cursed them, spoken to them of the Devil, or were seen performing magic. The hysteria grew with each accusation, and all the tension and anger that had built up over time exploded, causing the Salem Witch Trials to occur.
How Many Lives Were Lost?
A total of 200 females were accused of being witches. Twenty of those indicted were ruled guilty of being Witches and were executed, 19 were hung, and one was tortured to death. The remaining accused remained imprisoned until they were pardoned and released from prison in early 1693.
What Do the Trial Mean for Modern Witches?
Even though the justice system which ran the trials claimed that they were in the wrong, it did nothing to remove the fear and hysteria that Witches could be evil. For us, Modern Witches, we have to live with that backlash and the constant accusations thrown our ways. We are lucky that we cannot have a repeat of the Trials that occurred, but it still doesn’t stop outsiders from acting on their fears. We continuously hear from people and the false media beliefs of what Witches are, misguided hate, and so much more that harms us mentally more than physically. Unfortunately, since the negative thoughts have been spread far and wide through religious beliefs or word of mouth, we have to live with them and do our best to correct where we can.
We can try to correct people or explain to them how wrongly the Trials accused Witches, but it can be so hard to convince people to think a different way than they were raised to. We can get tired, disgruntled, and furious at people that will not hear us, but that will only further cement people thinking all Witches are bad. The best thing we can do to help ourselves is to keep trying. Keep trying to show outsiders that Witches are good. Explain to outsiders the rules we have to follow, which the number one is never to harm others. Try to explain to outsiders how biased the Salem Witch Trials were. Be persistent in explaining how Witches in pop culture is not an accurate representation of true Witches.
Most importantly, never stop being you. If you give up on yourself and your Witchy side, then we will never win the fight of changing the image of Witchcraft. We need to come together, stand together, and strive for a judgment-free world.