The Salem Witch Trials
Having watched a documentary about the beginning of the Salem Witch trials, I thought I would share some of the shocking discoveries it unearthed.
The Salem witch trials are commonly known to have occurred between 1692 and 1693. The documentary in question, presented by an ancestor of one of the alleged "witches", attempts to delve deeper into the mystery and attempts to shed light on what actually happened.
There are many beliefs as to what could have caused the behaviour commonly known as witchcraft. One explanation is that the "affected" had eaten Rye Bread infected with a fungus that has properties very similar to LSD. Other explanations are more far fetched with sleep paralysis being offered as an explanation for the nocturnal occurrences.
While there had been accusations of Witchcraft prior to 1692, it was during this one year period that saw the height of the hysteria. Salem was a puritanical town with a fanatical pastor, Samuel Parris. During this time, the Pastor was seen as one of the highest authorities within the town. Religion, similarly to other countries, was a very strong method of conveying a message.
One of the basic ideas of puritanism during this time was that the devil was amongst the community, an idea that Parris was quick to utilise. New evidence has come of light that could suggest the seemingly benevolent pastor orchestrated much of the evidence of the Salem witch trials.
Parris was placed in Salem with unprecedented rights, including a salary, the deeds to the parsonage and an allowance of fire wood (something that was crucial for the long winters) This, though not questioned at first, was later a major talking point within the community and ultimately led to a political coup.
The pastor was well placed within the community to sow the seeds of any ideas that he felt necessary. There was however a small section of the town that were not impressed with the favourable treatment Parris received.
In 1692, Parris' own girls were accused of being possessed by the devil. On a cold winters day, a beggar woman came to him and asked him for food and while he gave her some, it clearly wasn't enough. Parris recalls that the women walked away whilst muttering - perceived as witch craft.
Parris began to struggle to hold his grip on the town and needed a way to make himself needed once more. Prior to his girls being accused of witch craft, unbeknownst to the two, Parris received a book. This book was a guide to spotting the signs of Witchcraft. Parris swiftly set about imbuing the ideas within this book to his slave. It was this slave that consequently accused several others of witchcraft, whilst confessing at the same time.
It is interesting to note that those who confessed were not hung, it was only the non-confessors.
As the height of the witch craft passed, over a hundred innocent people had died. This was through a mixture of hangings, crushing's and dying in jail. Parris was never held to account for his part in the Witch Trials but it is clear that he was instrumental in creating the hysteria within Salem.
Parris was eventually ousted from his Church and went onto preach in several other towns before dying in the two of Sudbury.