The Salem Witch Trials

Essay on the Witches in Massachusetts
by Lars M?llegaard Hansen (F)
What evil spirit have you familiarity with?
None.
Have you made no contract with the devil?
No.
Why do you hurt these children?
I do not hurt them. I scorn it.
Who do you imploy then to do it?
I imploy no body.
What creature do you imploy then?
No creature. I am falsely accused.
Dialogue based on the examination of Sarah Good by Judges Hawthorne and Corwin
Even though Sara Good claimed that she was wrongly accused, the judges did not take her word for it. Instead they trusted the testimony of children, children who had no proof or evidence of any kind. To understand why one must look into the society in which the trials took place.
It was a society where Puritanism ruled. The extreme Protestant movement who sought a purification of the English church, which of curse meant a swift and thorough elimination of all that threatened their beliefs, including witches. One must also remember that the power of superstition and hearsay can distort the truth. And indeed it was a time of rumors and an almost unquestionable belief in the supernatural.
For Salem Villagers, Satan was a living, supernatural being who could and did appear to people, either in his own form or that of another. He could converse with mortals, bargain with them, even enter into agreements with them. The witches who submitted to such devilish compacts bargained their souls in return for special powers or favors: money and good fortune, perhaps, or the ability to revenge themselves on others.
Demons at that time was as real as TV is today, and maybe that was why the ministers was so quick to believe the testimony of the children. If the demons was real then just as real was the church, and of curse the ministers could not believe that the children would lie to the church. Leave out the possibility that real witchcraft was in fact what happened, and that the children did not lie to the ministers, then how could such a tragedy occur?
The deterioration of Salem’s social structure precipitated the murders of many innocent people. Arthur Miller’s depiction of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible and later the motion picture: The Salem Witch Trials, deals with a community that starts out looking like it is tightly knit and church loving. It turns out that once Tituba starts pointing her finger at the witches, the community starts pointing their fingers at each other. Hysteria and hidden agendas break down the social structure and then everyone must protect themselves from the people that they thought were their friends. The church, legal system and the togetherness of the community died so that children could protect their families’ social status.
Being isolated from any other group of people with different beliefs created a church led Puritan society that was not able to accept a lot of change. The church was against the devil, at the same time it was against such things as dancing and other premature acts. The reputation of the family was very important to the members of the community. When the girls were caught dancing in the woods, they lied to protect not just themselves but the reputation of their families. They claimed that the devil took them over and influenced them to dance. The girls also said that they saw members of the town standing with the devil. A community living in a puritan society like Salem could easily go into a chaotic state and have a difficult time dealing with what they consider to be the largest form of evil.
Salem’s hysteria made the community lose faith in the spiritual beliefs that they were trying to strictly enforce. The justice system was designed to protect the people that it serves but during the trials the accused witch had two choices, death or imprisonment. The punishment of death was given to all people that pleaded not guilty; the other punishment was to plead guilty and avoid execution. Salem was turning into a ghost town. With the community turning on each other, the church loosing its respect and influence, and an unjust legal system, it is only natural that the people were in a state of total chaos. John Demos writes:
…only at Salem did