Salem Witch Trials Causes

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Salem Witch Trials: Causes

The Salem Witch Trials took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony the years 1692-1693 and resulted in the death of twenty accused and convicted witches (Britannica). These acclaimed witches were accused by adolescent girls who suffered from fits thought to be caused by the witches. However, over three hundred years after the Salem Witch Trials, people are still speculating as to how and why they arose. There have been several theories and ideas presented since that time, most of which could possibly be true. The Salem Witch Trials may have been initiated by divisions within social classes, the colony’s isolation and culture, or by religious beliefs and the lack of medical knowledge.
The colony was established by
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The government was originally a theocracy, which is a government operated under divine rule or religious influence. Only the male members were allowed to hold public office and vote. (Britannica) In 1662 King Charles II sent a letter to the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordering “freedom and liberty of conscience” for all residents. This letter extended voting rights to people of other religions, that they might have “their votes in the election of all officers, both civil and military.” The General Court delayed the effects of the king’s ruling for as long as possible. First, the court waited three years before announcing the king’s letter to the colony. Then the letter was ignored whenever possible. By 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was no longer a theocracy. However, in practice male Puritan church members still held most of the power. (Woods)
The Puritans viewed the world in basic black and white. They believed that the forces of evil were engaged in an unceasing battle for the souls of the Lord’s legions. Devotion and discipline were their watchwords. Historian Sally Smith Booth1 says
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According to the church, demons used magic and sorcery to seduce innocent people into worshipping evil. Fortune tellers, folk healers, witches, wizards, and sorcerers were lumped together as the “Devil’s demons” and were believed to fly through the night, seduce innocent people, and sometimes transform themselves into animals. By the tenth century, witchcraft meant entering into a formal covenant with the Devil. (Mather) The 250,000 word book Witches’ Hammer, written by Germans Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger in 1486, contained everything known or imagined about witches. The book claimed that the entire female gender was evil, vain, mean-spirited, and weak. “What else is a woman but a foe to friendship,” the writers asked, “an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation?” The authors said that it was no wonder that the Devil sought them out. After the publishing of this book, the focus of witch hunters turned exclusively to women.