Monday, October 26, 2015

Salem Witches

 What is a witch?

According to the Free Dictionary the noun witch refers to:

1. A person, especially a woman, claiming or popularly believed to possess magical powers and practice sorcery.

2. A believer or follower of Wicca; a Wiccan.

3. a. Offensive An old woman considered to be ugly or frightening.

b. A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing.

c. Informal A woman or girl considered to be charming or fascinating.

4. One particularly skilled or competent at one's craft: "A witch of a writer, [she] is capable of developing an intensity that verges on ferocity" (Peter S. Prescott).

All of the above can apply to those women who were accused of beings witches during the 17th’ century’s Salem Witch Trials in New England. It also applies to the men who suffered at the hands of those determined to rid their communities of these evil people.

Overall, the trials which resulted in the murder of 20 people and the death of many more in captivity began after two girls with inexplicable, incurable fits started blaming others as being witches responsible for their condition.

Once accused, the people suspected of being witched were given little, if any respect. After failing witch tests they were either hung to show humiliation or crushed with stones. They were also buried in shallow unmarked graves like those found in the Burying Point Cemetery in Salem in the Essex County of Massachusetts.

Some of the victims of these religiously-induced Salem witch trials included:

Bridget Bishop - An outspoken woman known for running a guest house and for being vocal about her family affairs. She was accused of being a witch because she didn't uphold the religious ways required of her.

George Burroughs - He was the only puritan minister who was executed in the trials. He'd served the ministry in Salem and had gotten involved in the social conflict which could explain why he was targeted.

Martha and Giles Corey - The couple was accused of committing witchcraft. The wife, though a staunch Christian, had been suspected and associated with witchcraft because she'd condemned the killings of the people. She was accused before her husband and after conviction, was hanged. Her husband, Giles, was accused because of association with his wife. He denied the charges and the court pressed him. The pressing was to lay stones on him until he pleaded guilty to the charge. After three days of pressing without a plea, Giles Corey died.

Sarah Good - Convicted of witchcraft, she was sentenced to hand and the actual location of her body is unknown. This is because accused witches were not accorded a church burial and their bodies were sometimes thrown in a ditch with nobody to claim them.

To learn more you can check out these resources:

Penguin Book of Witches


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