One of the most dramatic, memorable, and ultimately baffling aspects of many witchcraft trials concern the category of the possessed, or in the terms of the time, the afflicted or bewitched. This was certainly true with Salem, where the afflicted were the major catalysts of the proceedings. Their hysterical and unnerving behavior sparked and drove the trials. The spectacle of young girls screaming, crying, choking, and convulsing in court as they accused innocent people of sending murderous specters to harm them created an enormously compelling scene. To appreciate fully the events at Salem, one must understand the fundamentals of possession, its history, and its place in the courts and in society.
In possession cases, usually female children or adolescents fell into remarkably similar and disturbing behavioral patterns. Predominant symptoms included convulsions, feelings of being pinched, bitten or pricked, loss of speech, hearing or appetite, breathing problems, hallucinations and abnormal vocalizations. This presented the sufferer's family with a truly terrifying situation. As historian Barbara Rosen writes, The sudden emergence, in a docile and amenable child, of a personality which raves,
screams, roars with laughter, utters dreadful blasphemies and cannot bear
godly utterances - or alternatively, withdraws into complete blankness - seems, even today, like the invasion of an alien being.
When faced with such symptoms with no discernable natural cause or cure, people occasionally diagnosed witchcraft. They would identify, accuse and try a witch (usually, but not always, an elderly and troublesome woman). In the belief system of the day, the witch was responsible for the affliction. To decipher these extraordinary cases, people called on doctors, clergymen and magistrates. Authors wrote Demonologies, along with new laws to judge these unusual cases. As author and professor G.S. Rousseau wrote:
Possession and the casting out of demons have existed since biblical times. In fact, employing scriptures to both understand and treat the affliction became customary. Though in the New Testament only a single or few symptoms afflicted the possessed, these behaviors merged by the medieval period to create a stereotypical persona. Cases of possession developed medical and legal implications as well. By the sixteenth century, these issues, medical, legal and religious, became thoroughly interwoven.
Genuine possession was difficult to determine. The causes and symptoms were complex, culturally specific and subject to interpretation. Multi-causal motivations on the part of both the spectators and the possessed included political, religious, or social manipulation, greed, intense spirituality, malice, frustration, or even desire for attention. Historian H. C. Eric Midelfort commented on the need to consider physical or mental illness:
There were solid medical explanations for many of the symptoms. Epilepsy, the sacred disease had been described by Hippocrates two thousand years previously, as was hysteria (a Greek word meaning `uterus') Hysteria has a long, complex, and controversial history.
The author Ilza Veith believes the ancient Egyptians described aspects of hysteria as far back as the Kahun Papyrus (around 1900 B.C.), Describing the symptoms, she writes:
The Greeks believed that the uterus of a woman with an unsatisfactory sex life could wander throughout the body, causing symptoms of hysteria. Plato writes in Timeus that the womb is an animal that desires to bear children, and When it remains barren too long after puberty it is distressed
and sorely disturbed and straying about in the body and cutting off the passages of the breath, it impedes respiration and brings the sufferer into the extremist anguish, and provokes all manner of diseases besides.
This was the same defense the physician Edward Jorden used in his description of Mary Glover sufferings three and a half millennia later (see Chapter 4). Not until the seventeenth century did the etiology of hysteria seriously turn to mental and nervous considerations (see Chapter 5, in which we will also take a longer look at the medical theories concerning possession). Without modern medical psychosomatic theory, people occasionally, under certain conditions, blamed these afflictions on witchcraft. We will examine some of the circumstances that produced accusations of witchcraft.
There was little doubt during the early modern period in Europe about the existence of witches, devils, and possessed individuals. The belief that Satan was present on earth and caused all sorts of calamities was common. Did Satan need witches as intermediaries to possess people? Could witches summon demons to do their commands? Was there a legitimate pact between them? Since the worldview of early modern Europeans contained mysterious wonders, the investigations of these sinister and supernatural relationships took on a profound importance. As G.S. Rousseau states, From the late fifteenth century, in a movement peaking in the seventeenth, authorities, ecclesiastical and secular alike, commandeered the courts to stop the epidemic spread of witchcraft, and concomitantly clamp down on the rise of hysteria it was engendering. Paradoxically, the publicity these possession trials created may have spurred the interest on.
In 1563, the Cleves physician Johanne Weyer published De praestigiis daemonum, which included several cases of demonic possession. Several cases arose in convents and many of the symptoms (appalling vocalizations, contortions, convulsions, lewd body movements, loss of appetite, etc.) were similar to cases examined later in this work. With his abundance of clinical experience, he concluded people could not cause possession, even alleged witches. Weyer did not believe in the existence of actual witches. Though people deluded themselves into believing that they had supernatural and dangerous power, they actually did not. According to Weyer, the possessed were either naturally ill, possessed by demons, lazy, taking a mixture of drugs, or were faking.
Though little read or appreciated in his own time, Weyer is highly regarded today for his compassionate and relatively modern views on mental illness and witchcraft. As a result of his focus on mental illness, he bears the title of a founder, even a father, of modern psychiatry. Other views of his are typically medieval; such as there are seven million, four hundred nine thousand, one hundred and twenty seven demons, commanded by seventy-nine princes.
In France, a succession of politically and religiously motivated show trials exploited cases of possession between 1562-1634. The instigators of these trials manipulated the possessed, usually nuns, into very dramatic and public exorcisms and trials. Trials involving possessed nuns occurred at Aix-en-Provence (1611), Lille (1613), Loudun (1634), and Louviers (1642). All resulted from accusations of witchcraft. The most famous case occurred at Loudon from 1630-34. Powerful enemies of Father Urbain Grandier accused him of bewitching the entire Ursuline convent at Loudun, including the Mother Superior. Though Grandier was well connected, his opponents conspired to stage-manage the nuns and exorcisms, forge evidence and use political influence for revenge. His adversaries had him burned alive at the stake on August 18, 1634.
One difference between the French possessions at the convents and the afflictions occurring in England and colonial America was the lurid sexual theatrics of the French nuns. They raised their habits, begged for sexual attention, used vulgar language, and made lascivious motions. At Loudon, a local doctor, Claude Quillet, considered the disorders hysteromania or even erotomania. These poor little devils of nuns, seeing themselves shut up within four walls, become madly in love, fall into a melancholic delirium, worked upon by the desires of the flesh, and in truth, what they need to be perfectly cured is a remedy of the flesh. English trials, which we will be examining in the next chapter, were much less prurient.
Though there have been many theories regarding possession by anthropologists, physicians, sociologists, historians and others, its causes are still nebulous. An all-encompassing explanation for possession does not exist, for a variety of reasons. One principal impediment is that we do not exist in a culture that takes the concept of possession for granted. Possession was one of the wonders of the time, dramatically drawing upon itself all sorts of spiritually based explanations. Cases of individual possessions were debatable, but there was no doubt of Satan's ability to possess a human being. Though we may look at cases and judge them egregious frauds, obvious expressions of neurosis or as pathetic attempts at gaining attention, our assumptions are not theirs. Many times the most intelligent, erudite and respected members of the community were critically investigating the bewitched person to see if they were dissembling. It was not something taken lightly.
According to their worldview, Satan was so powerful and zealous he would never stop trying to overthrow God's creation. The authors of the era capitalized on possessions to demonstrate their spiritual expectations. When the possessed spoke, their audience considered the message a revelation. The Greeks believed this as far back as their Sybil. People listened and endeavored to decipher any veiled meaning. A good example of this would be the Puritans of New England. Increase and Cotton Mather recorded their astonishing providences and wonders for the edification of the public (see Chapters 7 & 8). Unfortunately, this intensely spiritual vision of New England, coupled with some disastrous secular circumstances, helped set the stage for the Salem witchcraft trials.
The attempt to find meaning and purpose in possession could lead to unexpected results. Ministers could see providences when there was none. To possess a young girl would be not only easy and desirable for Satan on an individual basis, but symbolically it could be seen as what he could do to the Christian world. Once innocent, then tormented in a vicious and painful life or death struggle against a supernatural power, the possessed individual became a visible metaphor for the world. The historian James Sharpe believes people viewed possession:
There is a variety of possibilities why someone would act possessed. They could gain power and attention. As the psychologist and author Nicholas Spanos writes, Those who became demoniacs were usually individuals with little social power or status who were hemmed in by numerous social restrictions and had few sanctioned avenues for protesting their dissatisfactions or improving their lot.
In this paper, I am mainly concerned with the youthful female accusers in the following trials. We see in their patterns of behavior certain
rewards given for acting a certain way. By acting out socially improper behavior while possessed, they would not only be exempt from punishment but also actually receive additional love and attention. They would become a principal actor in a real dramatic piece, with an audience (acquaintances and family) and a possible savior (clergy, doctors or magistrates). They could create a powerfully affecting show, as long as they recognized and responded to clues consciously or unconsciously provided by the spectators.
In his book Servants of Satan, the historian Joseph Klait's description about Salem could apply to all the possessed girls in the following trials:
Throughout the medieval period, jurisdiction over witchcraft in England presided in an ecclesiastical milieu. Since the church was not allowed to harm life, limb or properties, the sentences, largely, were relatively scarce and mild (certainly in regard to the Continental Europe). Involving itself with witchcraft, the secular arm passed three Acts of Parliament, in 1542 (repealed 1547), 1563 (repealed 1604) and 1604 (repealed 1736). English accusations and punishments differed a great deal from the Continent (though Scotland was an exception). Except for the Matthew Hopkins period (1646-7), trials rarely exploded into ever-expanding accusations against neighbors. Maleficium, or causing harm by supernatural means, was the predominant witch-oriented anxiety among the English populace. This contrasts with Continental concerns, such as Devil-Worship, infant cannibalization or riding to Sabbaths on brooms. Though the educated could blend in their more Continental beliefs, presumptions of a conspiracy between witches and Satan were less prominent. Another reason why English trials did not proliferate as intensely was that torture was illegal in England (except in cases of treason). Getting a confession without torture proved quite difficult.
The Acts also allowed for lesser punishments for lesser crimes. England had a trial by jury structure, not an inquisitorial system of justice. The court could not identify a crime, initiate a trial nor decide the verdict. The judge, in theory, was to remain impartial.
The stereotypical English witch was much like the Continental version. According to the modern historians Keith Thomas and Alan Macfarlane, and the sixteenth-century writer Reginald Scott (among others), witches were generally older women, usually poor, unsightly and argumentative. They were social outcasts, reliant upon the good will and generosity of their neighbors for survival.
These unfortunates were not simple beggars. A system of Christian neighborly obligations promoted this cooperation. By refusing to give this charity, conflicts and tensions could ensue. The borrower may curse or mumble as they walk away. Later, misfortune might occur to the person who disregarded their communal duty. Blaming the needy neighbor for this hardship was satisfying for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the person who denied their obligation was feeling guilty. On the other hand, the person could truly believe their neighbor was a witch. Deciding upon witchcraft as the cause, the identification of the witch responsible was almost immediate. Most accusations of witchcraft were against near neighbors. Identification did not always led to directly to trial. Prosecutions, however, may not take
place for years. Gossip, tensions, suspicions and fears festered in these communities. A modern estimate states only one in three instances of bewitchment led to an indictment. Many, if not, most of the witchcraft trials began this way.
Several good examples of this occurred at Chelmsford, in Essex County between 1566 and 1589. The first Chelmsford trial (there were four) occurred a mere three years after the Act of 1563. The accusations against Mother Waterhouse, her daughter Joan and Elizabeth Francis ranged from causing a neighbor to lose her curds to murder. A twelve-year-old girl testified that after she had refused to give Joan Waterhouse some bread and cheese, a black dog with an ape's face and horns on its head came and asked her for some butter, speaking evil words. In the court's interpretation, the dog became one of Mother Waterhouse's familiars. She also had a witches' mark. The court found Joan not guilty while sentencing Elizabeth Francis to two years imprisonment. The court also had the 63-year-old widow Waterhouse hanged.
Witchcraft trials also occurred in Chelmsford 1579 and 1589. Three hangings occurred after the first one, including that of Elizabeth Francis. At
least four hangings took place after the second one, mainly on the evidence of children. All of the executed were female. All three Chelmsford trials included testimony concerning animal familiars. Therefore, the concept of children accusing older women of witchcraft and about keeping familiars, so prominent at Salem, was nothing new.
In 1582, fourteen women from St. Osyth, very near to Chelmsford, stood trial for witchcraft. Like the other trials, this one also included several features significant to English witchcraft. Crucial again to these trials are the inclusions of children's testimony and the concept of a familiar (or imp). Charged and executed for using witchcraft to murder three people in the previous two years, a midwife and white witch, Ursula Kempe, had a unique defense. She testified, though she could unwitch, she could not witch. The manipulation of her eight-year-old son into describing his mother's imps forced Kempe into readjusting her defense. Promised leniency if she confessed, Kempe did so. Her execution quickly followed.
An indirect significance of these Chelmsford area trials was the
influence they had on a nearby gentleman estate manager, Reginald Scot (1538-1599). In 1584, Scot self-published his The Discoverie of Witchcraft, a truly pioneering book in skepticism regarding witchcraft. In it, he found four categories of witches. The first two was if a person accused of being a witch was either innocent or deluding themselves. The other two categories were for poisoners or charlatans. Though there was nothing supernatural about it, the last two groups contained witches and deserved punishment, Therefore, the first two categories, the majority, did not deserve punishment. Though influential to a small number of skeptics, Scot's work had many powerful opponents. King James I may have had the book burned, and wrote his Demonology possibly in response to it. The research of several modern historians have agreed with Scot's sixteenth century observations:
In 1593, a trial occurred in Warboys, England that eerily evoked the Salem trials ninety-nine years later. It provides an ominous template of a repertoire of recognizable and socially understood behaviors that tragically came together. The unusual physical and mental symptoms, the swooning and contortions, the doctor's diagnosis of witchcraft, the spreading of the fits to other females, the ages of the accusers, the credence given to children's testimony, and their inability to see, hear or feel produced a tragic archetype for a possession trial. Nothing quite like it had occurred before. As historian D.P. Walker wrote, this is certainly a case of considerable importance, in that it was known to later demoniacs and their healers, and is the first notorious instance of possessed children and adolescents successfully hunting witches to death.
The parish of Warboys, Huntingdonshire, is seven and a half miles northeast from Huntingdon and eighty miles north of London. It is also less than forty miles east from Bury St. Edmunds, where another famous possession trial took place (see Chapter 6). A small village at the time of the trial, its population only surpassed one thousand after 1800. Today it contains 8435.5 acres with a population of 3169.
The Throckmortons moved into their Warboys manor house on September 29, 1589. They were pious, prestigious, and powerful. Members of the extended family wielded considerable influence both at the Elizabethan court as well as locally in the community. Robert Throckmorton was a close friend with Sir Henry Cromwell, one of the wealthiest commoners in England and grandfather of the renowned Oliver. This was in great contrast to the Samuels, the accused witch family. The Samuels, neighbors of the Throckmortons, were at the bottom rung of society. Impoverished, of lowly reputation, and poorly educated, they did not have the abundant resources of friends, family, and status that the Throckmortons possessed. The conflict between the families began within six weeks of the Throckmorton's arrival.
All our information about the trial comes from one widely read pamphlet, published a year after the trial. Entitled The most strange and admirable discoverie of the three Witches of Warboys, arraigned, convicted, and executed at the last Assizes at Huntington, for the bewitching of the five daughters of Robert Throckmorton Esquire, and divers other persons, with sundrie Divellish and grievous torments, it affected thinking about bewitchment for following generations. It appears to have several authors,
possibly the afflicted Throckmorton children's father, uncle, and doctor. Naturally, it presented only the Throckmortons' version of the events. The author or authors describe the original symptoms:
The parents first believed it might be falling sickness, epilepsy. When the elderly Alice Samuel came to visit, Jane accused her of being a witch. Up to this point, the parents had shown considerable restraint. Seeking a natural explanation for their child's afflictions, two respected doctors, one a physician from Cambridge, examined Jane and diagnosed witchcraft. The Throckmortons were new to the area and did not feel anyone had reason for the bewitching. The pamphlet continues:
These symptoms were considered characteristic of either hysteria or possession. Nevertheless, the frightful convulsions, the inability to see, hear or feel, and the children's sudden extreme behavior (along with the doctors' opinions) swayed the diagnosis towards witchcraft. This began a dangerous and bizarre antagonism between the powerful Throckmorton family, driven by the children's affliction, and the Samuel family, helpless yet defiant.
On February 13, 1590, the first test took place at the Throckmorton manor. In front of several members of the Throckmorton family, Alice Samuel, her daughter Agnes, and a Cicely Tyson underwent the scratch test from Jane Throckmorton. According to the folk wisdom of the time, scratching a witch reputedly alleviated the bewitched person's afflictions. This action also confirmed the witch's guilt. Jane refused to scratch Cicely (who was never mentioned again) and Agnes. Alice's presence, however, drove the child into a violent frenzy, and , presently the child s scratched with such vehemency that her nails brake into spills with the force and ernest desire that she had to revenge. Master Whittle, a friend of the Throckmortons, attempted to restrain the nine-year-old:
Throughout November, the children continued their afflictions. Speaking through the girls, the demons said they, waxed weary of Mother Samuel [and that] now ere long they would bring their Dame either to confession or confusion. The children decided upon an unconventional course of action. They convinced their parents that they felt well enough to live with Alice present (as she could not feed or communicate with her imps). Alice Samuel was forced to live at the Throckmorton's home in a type of quasi-legal house arrest. This extraordinary situation of the afflicted requiring the company of the accused witch occurred at no other trial we will examine.
The children's power over the situation became absolute. They told Alice Samuel that they shall not be well in any place except in her house, or she be brought to continue with them; and besides that, they shall have more troublesome fits than ever they had For the next three weeks, into December, the children had very many most grievous and troublesome fits; insomuch that when night came, there was never a one of them able to go to their beds alone, their legs were so full of pain and sores, besides many other griefs they had in their bodies
Robert Throckmorton realized Alice would have to live in his household. He offered John Samuel ten pounds to hire the best servant in Huntingdonshire in return for letting Alice reside at the Throckmorton manor. Samuel refused and for one day, Robert had the children live at the Samuel's small residence. John Samuel threatened to freeze and starve the children, but finally relented:
The confrontational situation had continued for three years before Alice moved in, with the children usually afflicted and Alice essentially held responsible. The stress must have been considerable. And yet the Throckmortons had yet to seek recourse to the law. Even the new living arrangements, however, proved unsatisfactory for the children. They now said Alice was feeding the imps (which only they could see) when no was looking. Their fits returned, even in Alice's presence. The adults were now fully manipulated by the whims, sufferings and imagination of their children.
Though the girls exhibited several frightening physical ailments (convulsions, great strength, etc.), they also demonstrated what could be considered childish willfulness and behavior. Refusals to listen to prayers and readings from the Bible, and stubbornness over eating habits, are actions today that may be considered childhood rebellion. One of the sisters, Elizabeth ate only if taken to a nearby picturesque pond. Elizabeth, delighteth in play; she will pick out some one body to play with her at cards, and but one only, not hearing, seeing or speaking to any other
However, there is no way to tell if this situation was a desire for attention or not. The element of feigning possession for sport also occurred at Salem. This behavior puzzled adults then as well as now. It could also be one of the reasons the Throckmorton parents spent three years investigating the cause of their children's afflictions. Skepticism concerning genuine bewitchment is characteristic of many trials.
For almost the remainder of 1592, Alice Samuel lived at the Throckmorton's in an increasingly nerve-wracking situation. Robert Throckmorton came to believe Alice could predict when the fits would occur. With the children present, and though she was very loath to foretell anything, Robert pressured her into revealing, One of them shall have three
fits (naming the child) such and such for the manner (namely, easy fits, appointing the time for their beginnings and endings); the other shall have two in like sort (the time appointed by her); and the third shall have none but be well all the day. As she had stated, the children suffered accordingly. Not surprisingly, this made Alice appear even guiltier.
Finally, the emotional stress became too much. Alice Samuel broke down and confessed on December 24, 1592 at the Throckmortons and again at church the following day. Upon hearing this, her husband and daughter forced her to retract her confession. This withdrawal angered and embarrassed Throckmorton, who took the Samuels to court. All three Samuels became suspects, which corresponded to the contemporary common belief that witchcraft ran in families. This period of adult recriminations, confessions and retractions and dramatic fits and outbursts from the children lasted until April, 1593.
The presence of specters was another feature shared by both the events at Salem and Warboys. Unlike the fear that specters produced from the girls at Salem, Joan Throckmorton spoke with her spirits as she would imaginary friends. Named Blue, Pluck, Catch, and three Smacks (who were cousins), and supposedly sent by Mrs. Samuel, they were said to control Joan's fits. On February 10th, 1593, Doctor Dorington, the rector of Warboys and Robert Throckmorton's brother in law, noticed this conversation. Apparently talking to herself, since no one else could see the spirits, she would says things such as, What doest thou say that I shall now have my fits when I shall both hear, see and know everybody? That is a new trick indeed!
On April 4, 1593, the trial took place at nearby Huntingdon. According to the pamphlet, at least five hundred people viewed the proceedings and the afflictions. The children vividly continued their fits until each Samuel stated, with slight variation, As I am a witch and did consent to the death of the Lady Cromwell, so I charge the devil to suffer Mistress Jane to come out of her fit at this present. Though John Samuel refused at first to affirm this, Judge Fenner threatened him with immediate execution. Agnes Samuel, the daughter, bravely accepted her fate. Upon hearing the Samuels' oaths, the children immediately became well. With their admission of guilt, Judge Fenner ordered them hanged on April 6th.
The significance of the Warboys case lies in the malicious creativity of the girls, the influence of the trial and the pamphlet, and its deadly outcome. The popularity of the pamphlet and the infamy of the Warboys witches inspired other cases (most notably the Gunters in 1608 - described in the following chapter). The physician and author John Cotta (described in Chapter 5), normally skeptical concerning cases of possession, believed the Warboys witches to be guilty. The historian George Kittredge calls the Warboys case the most momentous witch-trial that had ever occurred in England, partially because it demonstrably produced a deep and lasting impression on the class that made laws. He makes a strong case that the Warboys trial influenced the passage of the Witchcraft Bill of 1604.
Many symptoms similar to those the Throckmorton girls suffered afflicted other young females throughout the next century. Only a small percentage of these fell under the rubric of possession. As the historian Moira Tatem illustrates Warboys by quoting Sir Walter Scott's view of the trial, their opinions could be accurate for nearly any of the cases we will be examining:
The credulity and beliefs of parents, doctors, clergy, and magistrates would continue to be tested. Eventually, Salem would be the finale of the hangings of accused witches, based on the disturbing testimony of afflicted young girls.
Edward Jorden & the Mary Glover Case
Though the Warboys trial affected a few highly placed members of English society and may have contributed to the Witchcraft Act of 1604, the next case surpassed it in notoriety and influence. Widely known and discussed throughout London, the Mary Glover/Elizabeth Jackson case occurred in 1602. Powerful members of the English religious and political community, as well as several members of the Royal College of Physicians, opposed one another in court. Whether Elizabeth Jackson could bewitch Mary Glover became an affair of national interest. As Michael McDonald comments, Glover's spectacular fits, her accusations of witchcraft against an old woman called Elizabeth Jackson, the dramatic trial and conviction of the `witch' and Glover's eventual dispossession by a group of Puritan preachers had captured the attention of London's leading citizens, enraged the church hierarchy and alarmed the government.
Fortunately for historians, their quarrels and opinions survived in three pamphlets, all published within a year of the trial. Two of these, Dr. Steven Bradwell's Mary Glovers Late Woeful Case and John Swan's A True and Brief Report of Mary Glovers Vexation, argued that Mary Glover was bewitched. The author of the third, Dr. Edward Jorden, contended that the symptoms Mary suffered were due to suffocation of the mother (a disease similar to hysteria). The judge disagreed, convicted Jackson, and humiliated Jorden. Six months after the trial, Jorden published A Briefe Discourse of a Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother. Though Jorden did not discuss the case specifically, he expanded upon the defense he had used.
Observed for centuries, the symptoms of suffocation of the mother included choking (with frightful throat swellings), convulsions, regularly timed fits, paralysis, and unnatural vocalizations. Theories based on a wandering womb orientation had been around for a thousand years (see Chapter 4). In the Epistle Dedicatorie of his book, Jorden described how medically explainable the symptoms were, in contrast to the supernatural:
According to Steven Bradwell, a member of the College of Physicians, it began in April 1602, when fourteen-year-old Mary Glover gossiped about her unsavory neighbor, the elderly Elizabeth Jackson (a beggar and reputed witch). The enraged Jackson shrieked horrifying curses at Glover, who left quite shaken. During the early modern period, curses were considered dangerous, especially from an alleged witch. Their angry mumblings threatened forthcoming maleficium. Not only did the person cursed often believe it might work, but the witch could have as well.
Within days, Mary began to experience several symptoms, including dumbness and blindness, throat constriction, intense fasting, frequent abdominal distortions, apparent unconsciousness, spasms, and convulsions. Mary's parents, well connected in the community, believed it at first to be a medical condition. Thomas Moundeford, President of the College of Physicians seven times, examined Mary and originally diagnosed it as an unidentified, but natural, disease. Jackson, however, boasted to several people about the illness she had brought upon the girl, saying, I thanck my God he hath heard my prayer, and stopped the mouth and tyed the tongue of one of myne enemies.
Elizabeth Jackson bragged in the household of William Glover, a relation of Mary's and a city alderman. For the next several months, family and friends staged several experiments and confrontations between Mary and Elizabeth at several residences. Like the Salem and Warboys trials, these well-attended meetings became spectacles. As Michael Macdonald writes, The house was jammed with people: pious Puritans awestruck by the evident power of Satan, more skeptical observers wanting to see for themselves whether Glover's illness was natural or supernatural and the merely curious. Experiments designed to illicit a physical response included hot pins applied to Mary's cheeks and burning paper to her hands. Mary's insensitivity confirmed affliction caused by the supernatural. A further experiment disguised Elizabeth's identity. Despite this, Mary's fits ensued. Stephen Bradwell, described Mary's symptoms in Mary Glovers Late Woeful Case:
These experiments led to a trial on December 1st, 1602. Certainly, some of these symptoms appeared naturally; others were associated with bewitchment. Other symptoms, such as the vocalized hang her, appear intentionally malicious. More experiments occurred at the trial to determine whether Mary was dissembling. A repeat of the burning test helped authenticate her possession. The experiments concerning the ability to quote scripture reappeared at Salem.
Lines misspoken from the Lord's Prayer drove Mary into convulsions. Naturally, this implied Jackson's guilt. Not only had Jackson bewitched Mary, but also these convulsions dramatically demonstrated her witchery for the courtroom. Bradwell describes the striking confrontation, along with the medical perplexities involved:
Weirus (Weyer) and the witches of Warboys appear earlier in this paper. The theories of Galen and Hippocrates are briefly described in the following chapter. These two sentences demonstrate how significant and firmly rooted this trial is in the literature of possession and the medical explanations for it.
Even with Jackson disguised and Mary blindfolded, once again, fits ensued only if Jackson was present. Though this evidence convinced others, including Bradwell and Judge Anderson, that Glover was bewitched, Jorden testified that it was suffocation of the mother.
Unlike the other trials we will examine, this one contained strong political and religious ramifications. In the other trials, everyone involved belonged to the same religion; only some were more active than others were. This one involves strained relationships between Catholics, Puritans, and Anglicans. The powerful Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, objected to anything suggestive of Catholicism, such as exorcism. Puritans and Catholics viewed this case, among others, as a way to validate their beliefs. Mary's grandfather, executed during the Marian persecutions, provided a martyred backdrop. This religious and political quandary is far too involved for examination in this study, but suffice it to say, the trial meant more than diagnosing a fourteen-year-old's afflictions.
The doctors were deadlocked. Some thought Mary to be faking; others thought she was ill, still others believed her to be bewitched. From the bewitchment position, there could be no doubt of the illness' supernatural symptoms. In a moment reminiscent of The Exorcist, Bradwell relates:
During a rebuke to Jorden's diagnosis of Passio Hysterica (another name for suffocation of the mother), Judge Anderson stated: Divines, Phisitions, I know they are learned and wise, but to say this is naturall, and tell me neither the cause, nor the Cure of it, I care not for your Judgement: geve me a naturall reason, and a naturall remedy, or a rash for your physic.
Judge Anderson detested witchcraft and in his jury summation stated, This land is full of witches I have hanged five or six and twenty of them; there is no man here can speak more of them than myself This woman hath that property; she is full of cursing, she threatens and prophesies and still it takes effect; she must of necessity be a prophet or a witch. The jury agreed with the judge, and Jackson received the maximum sentence for a first time conviction of witchcraft under the 1563 Witchcraft Act, one year in jail and four stands at the pillory.
Though Elizabeth Jackson lost in court, it is quite possible she never served her sentence. Due to the religio-political ramifications of the trial, very powerful supporters came to her defense. Bishop Richard Bancroft commissioned several pamphlets, including Jorden's Brief Discourse, to buttress Anglican doctrines. In December 1602, Mary Glover was finally cured, during an all-day session of fasting and prayer, as ministers battled the devil in Mary. At the dramatic conclusion, she supposedly cried out with the same words her grandfather used when executed, he is come, he is come the comforter is come, O Lord thou hast delivered me. The malevolent spirit left her. Mary had symbolically gone from possessed to saintly.
Four years later, Jorden, summoned by James I, examined Anne Gunter (who alleged three female neighbors bewitched her). James had become far more skeptical concerning witches since his days in Scotland. He took pride in detecting fraudulent cases of witchcraft. Many of her symptoms were the same as the Glover case, although Gunter also vomited pins. Through a series of tests, some used earlier on Glover, Jorden concluded she was faking. Anne even met James, who offered her an indemnity if she confessed. Gunter admitted to being coached and using the Warboys pamphlet for ideas concerning possession. She confessed her father had put her up to the dangerous ruse. She herself believed she was suffering from the mother. Anne apparently married and her father received a lengthy jail sentence.
Though Jorden's book is a significant contribution in the battle against superstition, providing a reasonable, natural account for illnesses such as Glover's, the diagnosis itself floundered upon flawed anatomical theory. The concept of a wandering womb became unviable once the dissection of female cadavers became acceptable. The arrangement of muscles and organs negated any possibility of a wandering womb. Nor did many people read A Brief Discourse; in fact, Michael MacDonald calls Jorden, one of the most celebrated obscure physicians in medical history.
Jorden was a man of his times who argued against superstition and for rational, scientific explanations. Though several symptoms Jorden had to diagnose in these trials bear a resemblance to those suffered at Salem, and although Judge Anderson was an uncompromising witch hater, the verdict itself demonstrates a certain rationality and even moderation. It was possible Elizabeth Jackson served no time and mended her ways. No hysteria occurred, no attempt force a confession or implicate others took place. Reputations and households were not irredeemably ruined. Moreover, no executions followed a conviction based on the testimony of children.
The meaning and importance of this case becomes evident by comparing it with Salem. Occurring eighty years before, in London, the capital and epicenter of the British Empire, it was politicized, significant and discussed. The prevailing opinions of the King and his court influenced, but
did not control, the outcome. Some of the tests used, and many of the
symptoms Mary suffered, reappear at Salem. If we look for an increasing progression of enlightened thinking traversing though the seventeenth century, this trial reveals the error. At the very beginning of the century, a convicted witch suffered a relatively minor punishment for afflicting a child. At the end of the century, nineteen people hanged because of similar symptoms, similar beliefs, and a similar judicial system.
Medical Beliefs Concerning Hysteria and Witchcraft
At this point in the paper, it would be appropriate to discuss some of the medical theories that appear applicable to these young girls. In each case of possession we examine, a physician performed an examination. The vast majority of possible possession cases did not advance past a doctor's examination. Physicians usually found natural causes responsible for the symptoms. Doctors' opinions, however, varied greatly, especially as the century progressed.
By profiling four doctors at separate points throughout the century, we get a sense of each physician's understanding of possession. These physicians were not personally involved in witch trials. Reading their opinions provides us the opportunity to delve into a world medically and spiritually far different from our own. In our post-Freudian world, it is impossible to categorize the afflicted from a purely psychological perspective. Our inability to physically examine them leaves us with the written opinions of contemporary doctors. Nor can we truly understand the deeply religious environment that could foster such distinctive symptoms. We can establish, however, a tenuous advancement in medical theory from the supernatural to the natural, from the superstitious to the scientific, throughout the century.
Carol Karlsen describes the main symptoms of the possessed girls in New England as, strange fits, with violent, contorted body movements; prolonged trances and paralyzed limbs; difficulty in eating, breathing, seeing, hearing, and speaking; sensations of being beaten, pricked with pins, strangled or stabbed; grotesque screams and pitiful weeping, punctuated by a strange but equally unsettling calm between convulsions, when little if anything was remembered and nothing seemed amiss. These ailments are also symptomatic of the afflicted girls in England.
In the period we will be examining, not only did the specific symptoms vary case-by-case, but also the type of diagnosis varied with the type of practitioner. Apothecaries, white witches, cunning folk, surgeons, university-trained physicians, and clergy, as well as family and friends, treated illnesses. People went to whomever they trusted, whom they could afford, or who had a reputation for healing. Many thought illnesses were a punishment from God. The examination of urine, consciences, and horoscopes constituted diagnosis. The treatment could be equally as diverse.
The practice and theory of medicine progressed exponentially over the seventeenth century. This evolution, however, was uneven, chaotic, and
inchoate. The Renaissance rediscovery of classical medicine, with its emphasis on the four humors and based on the works of Galen and Hippocrates, slowly gave way to more modern theory. The iatrochemical and astrological theories of Paracelsus gained and lost popularity. Historian Leland Estes theorizes this muddled situation actually promoted witch-hunts, as the rise of the craze could be traced to the revolution in medical thinking that marched beside it so closely and that the medical revolution might very well have provided both its intellectual form and its emotional impetus. Simply put, according to Estes, as medicine gradually became more modern, the lack of a predominant and credible medical doctrine to diagnose illness made a witchcraft accusation more plausible.
Religion and medicine deeply intertwined in the causes and cures of illness. Both doctors and clergy were interested in the wellness of the soul. Treatment for disorders such as madness, epilepsy, and hysteria were applied as if a third person or a deity was involved.
A case in point would be Jorden's diagnosis of Mary Glover. Half of the physicians testifying, along with the judge, believed Mary was bewitched. Jorden and Dr. John Argent, eight times President of the College of Physicians, did not. A third person (a witch) was involved. Jorden believed, however, he found a rational, medical explanation for the disease. Based on a flawed theory of female anatomy, the premise of "suffocation of the mother" died out by the end of the century, especially after the work of Drs. Willis and Sydenham. Jorden states the choking sensation is caused by the rising of the Mother wherby it is sometimes drawn upwards or sidewards above his natural seate, compressing the neighbour parts This wandering womb concept existed for centuries. Many of the accusers in the trials we will examine experienced several symptoms of the mother, also called passio hysterica and suffocatio, a reasonable diagnosis for the time.
Even Shakespeare was aware of the disease. Though there is some disagreement as to the lines' intent, Shakespeare had King Lear (1608) state:
Thy elements below.
Doctors from Hippocrates to Freud and beyond employed the nebulous term of hysteria, with causes and cures altering with each author. In England and Colonial America during the period we are examining, a condition with some of the symptoms of hysteria could be considered caused by witchcraft. Doctors wrote pamphlets on how to distinguish natural from supernatural causes. They also argued against non-physicians as healers, such as the clergy. Their emphasis was on disseminating medical knowledge, not theological interpretations of what a troubled person's disease meant.
John Cotta (1575? -1650?)
With the publications of A Short Discoverie of the Unobserved
Dangers of Several Sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisers of Physicke in England (1612) and The Triall of Witchcraft, showing the true Methode of the Discovery with a Confutation of Erroneous Ways (1616), the respected physician John Cotta attempted to warn the public about abuses and misunderstandings about witchcraft. He believed physicians should be the ones diagnosing witchcraft and possession. Cotta believed the touch test (used extensively at several trials, including Salem) to be a charade. Increase Mather quoted this opinion in his Cases of Conscience. Cotta stated:
Cotta examples from his own cases to press for natural causes of illness. In 1608, he treated the daughter of a nearby gentleman. She regularly had a vehement shaking and violent casting forward of her head, ending with a loud and shrill inarticulate sound of these two syllables `ipha, ipha'. Cotta decided it was a type of falling sickness, probably epilepsy or some other convulsive, but natural, disease. After a brief recovery, she
became much worse. He writes:
After this description, Cotta realized a diagnosis of witchcraft was feasible in this case. Personally, however, he believed his own experience, coupled with that of previous writers, treated such symptoms as natural. He then describes symptoms that give the appearance of witchcraft:
The significant idea to remember is that Cotta is trying to categorize witchcraft as an unlikely instrument of illness. Although Cotta firmly believes in witchcraft and the Devil, by using the diagnostic test outlined above, he decides upon natural causes in case after case. Strangely enough, more than one woman voluntarily confessed to bewitching the gentlewoman.
Even though they were dying for sorcery, he, like Weyer before him, came
to the uncommon conclusion that they deceived themselves. Unlike Weyer, Cotta states, "I grant the voluntary and uncompelled, or duly and truly evicted confession of a witch, to be sufficient condemnation of her self, and therefore justly has the law laid their blood upon their own heads, but their confession I cannot conceive sufficient eviction of the witchcraft itself... If the doctors and magistrates at Salem had Cotta's extraordinary and medically based skepticism, the conclusions could have been drastically different. The people swearing to their innocence would have a much better chance of survival than those that confessed.
Edward Drage (1637? -1669)
In 1665, Edward Drage wrote about an interesting case where mental illness appears to be involved. Mary Hall's peculiar symptoms appear to be a mixture of hysteria and possession. The excerpt is from: Daimonomageia: A Small Treatise of Sicknesses and Diseases From Witchcraft and Supernatural Causes, Never before, at least in this comprised Order, and general Manner, was he like published. Being useful to others besides Physicians.
In the end, Willis emphasized skepticism towards the supernatural. He wrote, Grant this I say, yet all kinds of Convulsions which appear prodigious, as being besides the common course of this Disease, ought not presently to be imputed to enchantments of Witches, or tricks of the Devil, for often, though appearing strange, they proceed from meer natural causes, and stand in need of no other Exorcisms for a Cure, than Remedies which are wont to be prescribed against Convulsive affects
Thomas Sydenham (1624-89)
Perhaps the finest clinician of his time, Thomas Sydenham's reputation acclaims him as the English Hippocrates. He relied upon personal diagnosis and bedside manner, without much faith in experimental theories. Like Willis, he examined hysteria, though he reasoned the cause of the disease as principally psychological. Sydenham published his influential work on hysteria, Epistolary Dissertation, in 1682. He believed it was more widespread than previously thought:
His works are free of all mention of witchcraft. Sydenham, like Thomas Browne in his Religio Medici (religion of the physician), relates his personal religious views in his short, unpublished manuscript Theologia Rationalis. He describes his views on God, called the Supream Artificer and Supream Being, as well as his opinions on evil. He ends with, Altho' yet mankind from the weakness and imperfection incident to the Low condition wherein, in the Order of Intellectual Beings he stands, is apt to be led aside into one of the two extreams of Atheism or Superstition, and consequently is liable to mistakes both in his principles and practices. Unlike Browne's Religio Medici, he does not mention Satan or witchcraft.
Throughout the seventeenth century, medical theory slowly became more rational, more scientific, less willing to consider the supernatural. This enlightened atmosphere helped to end the witch trials. In England, the last execution for witchcraft occurred in 1684. The convoluted line from Doctor Barrow's diagnosis of witchcraft in the Warboys case in 1589 to the death of Sydenham in 1689 demonstrates this advancement. Though an inherent time lag existed in disseminating medical theory to the colonies, many of these theories crossed over by the time of the Salem witch trials.
Sydenham's works, somewhat known in New England, were indirectly associated with witchcraft in Massachusetts. Reverend Thomas Thatcher, of Boston's Old South Church, wrote the first medical treatise published in America (outside of Mexico), in 1677. Entitled A brief Rule to Guide the Common People of New England how to Order Themselves and theirs in the Small Pocks or Measels, it was essentially an extract of Sydenham's work. Early in his career, Thatcher, the minister-physician of Weymouth, acting in his ministerial capacity, wrote a powerful letter of defense in 1654 for one of his parishioners, Welthean Richards, that appeared to discourage others from putting her on trial for witchcraft. He was also the second husband of the wealthy Margaret Thatcher, who figured prominently in the Salem trials. Along with Increase Mather, Thatcher was a fellow licenser of one of the first printing presses in Boston. Samuel Willard, of the Elizabeth Knapp possession case (see chapter 7), assisted and succeeded Thatcher at Old South Church. Cotton Mather had the writings of Drs. Thomas Sydenham, Thomas Willis and Thomas Browne in his library, which may have been in his possession during the Goodwin children and Salem episodes. The works of Thomas Willis resided in the libraries of several preacher-physicians who had passed away before Salem.
Doctors were, of course, present at Salem. Several, including Dr. Griggs, initially examined the girls and eventually diagnosed a supernatural cause for the their afflictions. Wait Winthrop, a well-known physician, and Bartholemew Gedney, an apothecary, were two of the seven judges. If any of these physicians had possessed the clinical astuteness, skepticism concerning the supernatural, and medical insight of Willis and Sydenham, Salem could have turned out much differently.
The Trial at Bury St. Edmunds
The intellectual stature of the participants in the 1662 trial at Bury St. Edmunds generates special interest and significance. Sir Matthew Hale, a future Chief Justice of the King's Bench, presided. Sir Thomas Browne, a famous essayist and physician, testified. Sir John Keeling, one of the three serjeants (a post secondary to the judge) and a possible coadjudicator with Hale at the trial, dissented in the decision. Keeling became Chief Justice of the King's Bench three years after the trial. Hale succeeded him in May 1671. Like the Glover case earlier, and Salem afterwards, highly educated professionals debated witchcraft's culpability in the afflictions of young girls.
Several of the features of this trial bear a remarkable resemblance to the Salem trials, which it no doubt affected. The crisis originated with Deborah (aged 9) and Elizabeth (aged 11) Pacy, the same ages of Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, respectively. Their sufferings themselves are identical in many ways, to the girls at Salem. As at Salem, the afflictions spread to other girls, along with accusations of being terrorized by the witches' apparitions. As both trials progressed, adults added testimony about previous confrontations with the accused. The dénouement remained the same- hangings.
These excerpts are from sixty page pamphlet entitled: A Tryal of Witches, at the Assizes held at Bury St. Edmonds for the County of Suffolk; on the Tenth day of March 1664 (though it actually occurred in 1662). Published in London in 1682, supposedly by an unnamed spectator, it influenced important opinions at Salem. In 1693, when Cotton Mather published his Wonders of the Invisible World, he enclosed a chapter entitled A Modern Instance of Witches: Discovered and Condemned in a Trial Before That Celebrated Judge, Sir Mathew Hale. Mather begins, It may cast some Light upon the Dark things now in America, if we just give a glance upon the like things happening in Europe. We may see the Witchcrafts here most exactly resemble the Witchcrafts there; He states the trial was much considered by the Judges of New England. For the next nine pages, Mather summarized A Tryal of Witches.
Like many witchcraft trials, this one began with a confrontation between a reasonably successful member of the community denying a
request from a poorer one. Samuel Pacy, a merchant of Lowestoft, deposed that on October 10 of the previous year (1661), he quarreled with the widow Amy Denny:
Amy Duny came to this Deponents House to buy some Herrings, but being denyed she went away discontented, and presently returned again, and was denyed, and likwise the third time and was denyed as at first; and at her last going away, she went away grumbling; but what she said was not perfectly understood. But at the very same instant of time, the said Child was taken with most violent fits, feeling most extream pain in her Stomach, like the pricking of Pins, and Shreeking out in a most dreadful manner like unto a Whelp, and not like unto a sensible Creature.
This continued for three weeks. Pacy asked a neighbor, Dr. Feavor, for his opinion. Feavor, however, could not diagnose the cause of the affliction. Deborah Pacy, in her fits would cry out of Amy Duny as the cause of her Malady, and that she did affright her with Apparitions of her Person. Samuel Pacy had Amy Duny put in the stocks on October 28th. This did not end the bewitchment however, as, That within two days after speaking of the said words being the Thirtieth of October, the is younger eldest Daughter Elizabeth, fell into extream fits, insomuch, that they could not open her Mouth to give her breath, to preserve her Life without the help of a Tap which they were enforced to use
For the next two months, the children suffered other symptoms. They became lame and sore throughout their bodies. They lost their sense of speech, sight, and hearing, sometimes for days. Hearing the words Lord, Jesus and Christ brought about fits. They also believed Rose Cullender (another reputed witch), and Amy Denny, would appear before them, holding their Fists at them, threatning, That if they related either what they saw or heard, that they would Torment them Ten times more than ever they did before. The sisters also coughed up pins, and one time a Two-penny Nail with a very broad head, which Pins (amounting to Forty or more) together with the Two-penny Nail were produced in Court, with the affirmation of the said Deponent, that he was present when the said Nail was Vomited up, and also most of the Pins. Allotriophagy, the vomiting of extraordinary objects, provided a possible proof of possession.
Like the Throckmorton's at Warboys seventy years earlier and less than forty miles away, the sisters relocated to relatives in hopes of a cure. This occurred seven weeks after the initial possession, on November 30th, 1661. Their aunt, Margaret Arnold, originally believed the children to be faking. All pins were taken from the children's clothes, yet, notwithstanding all this care and circumspection of hers, the Children afterwards raised at several times at least Thirty Pins in her presence, and had most fierce and violent Fitts upon them. Bees and flies allegedly forced pins and nails into the girls' mouths. Margaret Arnold's opinion converted to a supernatural cause for the afflictions.
The children continued their fits and hallucinations at their aunt's house. An ominous event occurred when, the Younger daughter being recovered out of her Fitts, declared, That Amy Duny had been with her and that she tempted her to Drown her self; and to cut her Throat, or otherwise to Destroy her self. Here we see signs of severe stress and possible mental illness, as children stated they believed spectral images were directing them to commit suicide. Bees forced nails into their mouths, spectral images were striking and threatening them, pins and nails were vomited, and the fits were unrelenting. The Pacy's decided to take the women to court.
The trial began on March 10th, 1662. By this time, the afflictions had spread to three other girls, Ann Durrant (a maid - probably between the
ages of 16-21), Jane Bocking (14 years old) and Susan Chandler (18 years old). Deborah Pacy and Jane Bocking did not attend the trial, being too ill. Though Elizabeth, Ann, and Susan did not testify (family members spoke for them), they did affect the courtroom atmosphere. The three arrived:
In a deposition strikingly similar to that Samuel Pacy, Edmund Durrant described the afflictions of his daughter, Ann:
Though this impressed many, at least one skeptical, but unnamed, person challenged the girls' claims. Lord Cornwallis, Sir Edmund Bacon, and Serjeant Keeling tested a blindfolded Elizabeth Pacy touching Amy Denny and another woman. When Elizabeth reacted the same to both women, the Gentlemen returned, openly protesting, that they did believe the whole transaction of this business was a meer Imposture. Samuel Pacy replied, That possibly the Maid might be deceived by a suspicion that the Witch touched her when she did not.
Evidence to the contrary, this reasoning convinced the jury, which took half an hour to convict both women. The following morning, the children and parents visited Hale. The children appeared cured, And Mr. Pacy did Affirm, that within less than half an hour after the Witches were Convictd, they were all of them Restored, and slept well that Night, feeling no pain; only Susan Chandler felt a pain like pricking of Pins in her Stomach. Denny and Cullender were urged to confess, but would not. The two hanged on March 17, 1662.
Hale and Brown continued to prosper after this event. Neither man mentioned the trial in writings or letters. Hale died on December 25, 1676. Browne followed him on October 19, 1682. On the 200th anniversary of Browne's death, protests occurred objecting to a monument to be built in his honor. Some, such as respected Dr. Connolly Norman, believed Denny and Cullender also deserved the monument. Norman wrote that Denny's and Cullender's monument would provide interesting evidences of Sir Thomas's repute.
The Sir Thomas Browne statue in Norwich
In one of his greatest works, Religio Medici (1643), Browne wrote:
The trial damaged Hale's reputation as well. A deeply religious man, Hale's impartial summarization of the case to the jury could only solidify the guilty verdict. Sir Matthew Hale and Sir Thomas Browne are examples of highly intelligent people, at the apex of their respected professions, who sincerely believed in witchcraft. They were men of their times, called upon to act with reason and justice. In England, however, the ability to prosecute and execute witches was drawing to a close. For a variety of reasons, primarily judicial and intellectual, having poor, elderly, and outcast women hanged on the testimony of children was becoming problematical. As the belief in witches slowly died out, the ability to prosecute them died out even quicker.
Another consequence of this trial was its influence upon the events at Salem. Cotton Mather, like Browne in his testimony (see above), believed that the Devil could stir up and excite humors. Children and females were particularly susceptible. Describing the afflictions of Mercy Short, which followed the Salem trials, Cotton Mather wrote Another Brand Pluckt Out of the Burning. Emulating Browne's testimony, Cotton Mather wrote:
New England Possessions before Salem
English colonists arriving in America predictably brought over their fundamental beliefs and traditions concerning witchcraft. They codified their new laws based upon biblical and English precedents, specifically Parliament's 1604 statute. The colonists at Plymouth made witchcraft a capital crime in their Laws of the Colony of 1636. One clause in the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts (1641, repealed 1684) included the biblical injunction, If any man or woman be a Witch, (that is, hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit) they shall be put to death. By 1672, similar statutes were written into law in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1647), New Haven Colony (1656), Connecticut (1672).
Between 1647 and1663, the New England colonists executed at least fifteen people for witchcraft. The earliest execution occurred in Connecticut on May 26,1647, when Alse Young was hanged. All we know about the event is the name, date, and crime. The first instance in which accusations expanded into a witch-hunt in colonial America began in Hartford, Connecticut in 1662. Here the authorities ordered the execution of at least three, possibly four individuals, based on the accusations of a possessed individual and the testimony of a confessed witch. We will only be looking at the first case, which was in response to the possession.
Hartford, like Salem before the executions, had experienced a crisis within its religious community, though it is uncertain whether the conflicts influenced the trials. In 1659, members of the Hartford Church and nearby Wethersfield Church broke away from the their respective churches to found their own house of worship in Hadley, Massachusetts. Reverend John Whiting, who leaves us the only contemporary description of Ann Cole's possession, was ordained pastor of the original Hartford Church in 1660. The events at Hartford began two years later, with the possession of Ann Cole, whom Increase Mather called a person of real Piety and Integrity. Unlike most demoniacs, who tended to be young and single, Anne was a married woman with children (though her exact age is unknown). In the first half of 1662, Ann suffered violent convulsions and began speaking in an unnatural voice.
Though the clergy had always been involved with possession cases in England, they became even more central in Puritan New England. Two other Hartford ministers, Samuel Stone, Joseph Haynes, and Reverend Samuel Hooker of nearby Farmingham, witnessed Cole's strange behavior and later participated in the Greensmith's examination and trial. They also had a special day of prayer for her. Notable by its absence, Reverend Whiting does not mention any doctor examining Ann Cole. Her physical symptoms appeared to warrant one, and Hartford was large enough for George II to name it as the capital of Connecticut that same year (1662).
Whiting recounts how, with the devil making use of her lips Ann spoke about a company of familiars of the evil one (who) were contriving how to carry on their mischievous designs against some and especially against her (and) that they would afflict her body, spoil her name, hinder her marriage, etc According to Whiting, though she could not speak Dutch, while possessed she spoke with a Dutch accent of the hardships a Dutch neighbor was experiencing. The ministers considered this impossible, very awful and amazing. At an unspecified later date, the sight of Ann's powerful fits caused two unnamed women to also fall into fits in the public worship of God, presumably a church.
The identification of an elderly and unpopular woman as a witch fit the community's expectations in regard to the probable cause of Anne's possession. Blaming witchcraft for afflictions such as these occurred in every similar recorded case in seventeen-century New England. According to Whiting, Ann Cole accused Rebecca Greensmith of being responsible for her afflictions, a neighbor whom Whiting considered a lewd, ignorant, considerably aged woman. Whiting relates no other personal information about Greensmith, who already was in jail accused of practicing witchcraft. When questioned by Reverend Haynes, Greensmith confessed to witchcraft. She stated that the Devil had first come to her as a deer or fawn, and that witches, transformed into a variety of animals, had meetings near her house. She claimed not to have made a covenant with the Devil, though she admitted to having sexual relations with him. She also accused her husband Nathaniel of witchcraft, along with several neighborhood women. Nathaniel Greensmith denied the accusations to the end.
Whiting's account and the indictment against the Greensmiths are all the information that has survived concerning the possession of Ann Cole. Cole had accused only Rebecca Greensmith of witchcraft. We need not describe the subsequent assorted charges against Goodwives Seager, Sanford, Varlet, Ayres, and others, as the evidence is fragmentary, does not concern possession, and is beyond the scope of this paper. We know the accusations spread. We know Ayres and Varlet fled to New York, and the Greensmiths hanged for witchcraft in January 1663, along with a Mary Barnes of Farmingham. No evidence survives detailing Barnes or her crimes. We know at least two people that hanged because of the accusations of an afflicted individual and the confession of an accused witch.
We can see several characteristics of English witchcraft beliefs in this early colonial American case. According to prevalent opinions, witches held meetings, could transform themselves into animals, and had the power to possess people. Another similarity is that Ann Cole suffered the violent convulsions typical of possession cases. According to several witnesses, she spoke in a malicious manner with an unnatural voice, purporting to be that of the Devil's familiars. A further similarity is that Cole identified the witch responsible her affliction. Finally, after the hangings of the Greensmiths and Mary Barnes, Ann Cole recovered.
In a letter to Increase Mather twenty years later (December 4, 1682), Whiting describes the possession. Mather was collecting stories about the supernatural for publication and Whiting donated this remarkable (Whiting's term). Mather summarized the Cole story in his Remarkable Providences, published in 1684.
After 1663, as in England, it became difficult in the colonies to obtain a conviction for witchcraft. In fact, the next execution for witchcraft in New England did not occur until 1688.
Reverend Willard and Elizabeth Knapp
The next possession case that resembles later events at Salem involved Reverend Samuel Willard and his sixteen-year-old servant girl, Elizabeth Knapp. It lasted for nearly three months, from October 30, 1671 to January 15, 1672. Because it occurred in Willard's parsonage in Groton, Massachusetts, Willard was able to treat the experience as a type of case study of possible demonic possession. He exhibited a no-nonsense suspicion towards Knapp's behavior as well as a quality of mercy tragically missing from the magistrates at Salem. At that time, he was one of the few people in Massachusetts who had experience dealing with afflictions shown so dramatically at Salem, and he forcibly condemned the proceedings. In 1671, however, he was simply a young minister with a serious dilemma in his household.
While the possession was still going on, Willard enclosed a short manuscript entitled A Brief Account of a Strange and Unusual Providence of God Befallen to Elizabeth Knapp of Groton in a letter to Increase Mather This is the main source for the afflictions of Elizabeth Knapp. In 1684, along with a summary of Ann Cole's afflictions, Mather published a summary of Willard's experience in his Remarkable Providences.
According to Willard, Knapp's behavior began to change at the end of October 1671. She laughed, shrieked and cried at inappropriate times, and made ...many foolish and apish gestures. On November 5, a doctor prescribed medicine for the affliction. When this did not work, the diagnosis turned to the supernatural. Throughout November, ministers came from surrounding towns to fast and pray together in the Willard household in an attempt to cure Elizabeth.
On December 17, Elizabeth's behavior became extreme. Willard described how the devil appeared to be completely in control of her. She drew, her tongue out of her mouth most frightfully to an extraordinary length and greatness, contorted her body, and insulted her father and a neighbor as rogues. Speaking without moving her lips, as well as projecting a voice with her mouth closed, she railed against both Rev. Willard and God. Elizabeth barked like a dog, bleated like a sheep and threatened to murder both her family and Willard's. She also threatened suicide. She blamed several pious neighbors for bewitching her. Willard, however, refused to countenance the accusations and Knapp withdrew her allegations
Willard concluded his Brief Account by stating his intent to suspend my own judgment, and willingly leave it to the censure of those that are more learned, aged, and judicious to decide whether Knapp was truly possessed or not. He reiterated certain actions that appeared to prove that Knapp was supernaturally afflicted. Willard prudently realized he could not decide whether she was possessed or not. In the conclusion to his Brief Account, he demonstrated mercy when he wrote, charity would hope the best, love would fear the worst, but thus much is clear she is an object of pity, and I desire that all that hear of her would compassionate her forlorn
state. She is (I question not) a subject of hope, and therefore all means ought to be used for her recovery.
With no other evidence and since no one was charged, we can assume Knapp recovered. She married Samuel Scripture in 1674. She bore him six children in a marriage that lasted at least twenty-five years. Other than that, her name disappeared from the record books as she settled down to a quieter life. Willard later became a compassionate influence at the Salem proceedings, attempting to ameliorate the Court of Oyer and Terminer's uncompromising stances.
What is significant about these events is that Knapp framed her symptoms in a religiously determined way. The ministers and other spectators easily understood this as a possible case of possession, as compared to say, madness. Historians John Demos, Chadwick Hansen and Carol Karlsen, among others, have all attempted to describe the Knapp case from a psychological perspective. Knapp appears deeply unhappy with her station or experiences in life. Her father had been prosecuted for drunkenness and adultery. Elizabeth worked as a servant in other families' homes from an early, unspecified, age, even though she was an only child. The future prospects of a servant girl, especially in comparison to the respected Willard, were bleak.
Some of these themes and the same ministers who attended the Knapp exhibition will reappear at Salem. Some of the accusers (Mary Warren, Sarah Churchill and Elizabeth Hubbard) were young servant girls in much the same situation as Knapp. Willard's first-hand experience with Elizabeth Knapp gave him insights and a skepticism regarding the girls' symptoms the other spectators lacked. Willard was even cried out upon by Abigail Williams, one of the main accusers at Salem. The magistrates firmly told her she was mistaken, and Williams dropped the accusation. It is an interesting example of how the judges at Salem could influence the accusations.
Willard, willing to go outside the law to condemn the proceedings, published a small pamphlet, Some Miscellany Observations On Our Present Debates Respecting Witchcrafts, in the fall of 1692, which criticized the trials. At the time, Governor Phips had banned publishing works on witchcraft in Massachusetts. Willard used a pseudonym and falsely indicated Philadelphia instead of Boston as the city where it was published. Willard also possibly helped some of his parishioners to escape from jail. In both the Knapp case and the Salem trials, Willard wrote and preached to the community to examine itself and not simply blame witchcraft for the girls' afflictions. Though his views eventually helped end the trials, for many at Salem it was too late.
The Goodwin Children
We know about the possession of the Goodwin children mainly from Reverend Cotton Mather, Increase's son. In 1689, he published Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions. Like his father's Remarkable Providences published five years earlier, it was a collection of stories that promoted the belief that the Devil was in this world and described what had to be done, with God's grace, to defeat him. These popular works influenced opinions throughout the Bay Colony.
The first of Mather's examples of providences involves the children of Boston mason John Goodwin, who began suffering unexplainable and terrifying afflictions in the mid-summer of 1688. In contrast to the Elizabeth
Knapp case, people believed the Goodwin children when they accused their neighbor, the poor and elderly widow Glover of witchcraft. On November 16, 1688, Glover hanged on Boston Common.
An invisible horse, along with a company of unseen demons, appeared to Martha. She rode the horse and spoke with the demons. Like the Throckmorton girls at Warboys, the demons informed her about her fits. Mather relates:
About November 27, 1692 (one of the few dates Mather mentioned), two weeks after the hanging of Glover, several ministers, including Reverend Willard, gathered at the Goodwin's home for a day of prayer. Though the children were as afflicted as ever, Mather states this event broke the power of the enemy.
The Glover case clearly affected opinions at Salem four years later. In New England witchcraft cases, possession itself rarely played a prominent part. The last execution for possession-related witchcraft, other than the widow Glover, occurred at Hartford thirty years before Salem. It would appear possession cases, until that of the Goodwin children, were vanishing. Other than the three cases mentioned, Mather includes a few others in his Memorable Providences, two of which occurred in Connecticut, one involving an unnamed boy in Tocutt (probably between 1644-1677) and another with an unnamed girl in Norwich (1684 or slightly earlier). Nothing came of these. The dramatic possession of the Goodwin children, however, and the publication of these events (along with other providences) by a highly respected member of the Puritan clergy, helped create an environment that made the Salem witch trials possible.
A common misperception of the Salem witch persecutions in 1692 was that they were caused by hysterical young girls and an intolerant Puritan ministry. In this scenario, the zealous and power-hungry clergy promoted fear to maintain their fading power. Young female accusers, flush with their newly found power and influence, drove the debacle. Superstitious and frightened townspeople turned against one another to combat an external evil, only to realize later their own culpability.
This interpretation underwent drastic revisions over the years, as historians presented numerous theories to account for the tragedy at Salem. Medical explanations include ergot poisoning, hysteria or encephalitis. Other approaches suggest that social and economic rivalry between neighbors caused the accusations. The theory that members of the community actually practiced witchcraft, which produced psychosomatic disorders, found support. The most fruitful explanation is a multi-casual approach, as no single theory can account for the bizarre and alarming behavior of a few young girls and the subsequent violent reaction of the community.
As we shall see, the perplexing behavior of the afflicted girls at Salem resembled previous symptoms suffered by other victims, from the Throckmorton girls at Warboys to the Goodwin children in Boston. The convulsions, trances, and sacrilegious language bewildered and worried the pious parents throughout the century. Unlike the earlier cases, however, the hysteria at Salem spread beyond siblings into the community at large. This
disastrous development added to the fear already present in Salem, allowing the accusations to proliferate.
The essential background details of the case are well known. In the winter of 1691-2, the nine-year-old daughter of the Salem's Reverend Samuel Parris, Betty, began acting strangely. She screamed or babbled senselessly, refused to do her chores and experienced trances. Her eleven-year-old sister Abigail also began to act oddly. They barked and howled, ran around the room and hid under furniture. When their father prayed with them, the girls experienced violent convulsions. On one occasion, Betty threw a Bible across the room and on another; Abigail threw burning wood from the fireplace. By late March, neighbors Ann Putnam Jr., Elizabeth Hubbard, Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott, all between the ages of twelve and nineteen, also became afflicted.
Parris hoped that the girls' strange behavior had natural causes. Ministers from nearby towns gathered to pray and fast at his parsonage. A doctor, sometimes identified as Dr. Griggs, could not find any natural causes for their behavior. Not being able to find any medical explanations for their afflictions, he diagnosed the children as being under the evil hand. By attributing the troubles to the supernatural, the doctor absolved himself from any inept or incorrect diagnosis. This was consistent with both religious and medical thinking of the time. Yet the afflictions spread beyond the Parris household. Within a month, by March 1692, over a dozen girls became bewitched. Gossip and fear rapidly spread throughout the community.
In some respects, Salem shared characteristics with previous trials we have examined. The first people accused were women on the periphery of society. The responses of the parents and neighbors were analogous to earlier trials. They prayed, fasted, and consulted doctors. They did not consider witchcraft responsible at first, nor did they take the law into their own hands. As described in the previous chapter, laws were on the books that covered the crime of witchcraft. The community trusted the magistrates would identify and punish those responsible for the afflictions.
As Massachusetts had been a theocracy until 1684, when its charter was revoked, the Puritan clergy still played an influential role at Salem. Though Increase Mather was in London negotiating a new charter for the colony, his son Cotton was closely involved from the beginning. So were Reverends Samuel Willard, Deodat Lawson, and John Hale. They helped the community form perceptions about witchcraft. The magistrates considered the clergy an authority on witchcraft (though they did not always accept the ministers' views). The ministers could influence, exploit, or dampen volatile circumstances. Their writings give us a window towards partial understanding of their troubled world.
As the afflictions spread throughout February, the girls found themselves compelled to identify the witch or witches responsible. They named Tituba (the Parris' slave), Sarah Osburn (a sickly old woman with a dubious reputation), and Sarah Good (an ungrateful and antagonistic beggar). Preliminary investigations began under magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin on March 1st, 1692. Though both were experienced and well respected in the community, neither man had a legal education. They relied instead on the Biblical admonition Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live and their own personal views concerning witchcraft. They could imprison people to await trial, but could not sentence. This would have to wait until the new charter arrived from London.
The girls acted together to produce a truly terrifying courtroom environment, both at the preliminary hearings (March - May) and at the Court of Oyer and Terminer (June - October). On March 1st, 1692, Sarah Good became the first of the accused to be subjected to the girls' malicious testimony. After Good vigorously denied her complicity in the bewitchment, Judge Hathorne enlisted assistance from the girls. Ezekiel Cheever writes that Hathorne, desired the children, all of them, to look upon her and see if this were the person that had hurt them, and so they all did look upon her and said this was one of the persons that did torment them. As Hathorne and Corwin described in their summary, once the children faced Good, they became, dredfully tortred & tormented for a short space of tyme, and ye affliction and torters being over they charged sd Sarah Good againe. Yt she had then soe tortered them Althow she was personally then kept at a Considerable distance from them.
The girls reacted to the next two defendants, Sarah Osborn and Tituba, with the same hysterical behavior. Another witness at the proceedings, the Reverend John Hale, of nearby Beverly, elaborates about the symptoms in his A Modest Enquiry (1702):
Hale's citing of the Goodwin children's afflictions illustrates how the recent trial and execution were on people's minds. With the afflicted girls convulsing in front of the accused and the magistrates, Hawthorne and Corwin decided to allow a wide assortment of evidence. Finding a witch's teat was allowed (any skin abnormality, such as a scar or a birthmark, which could be considered the site where the witch's familiar suckled), along with the touch test (affliction could be cured by touching the accused witch). Other tests included reciting passages from the Bible (real witches were believed to be unable to do so) and accepting testimony about misfortunes occurring after arguments with the accused (though it may have transpired decades earlier). Spectral evidence, centered on the belief that witches could send out their spectres to afflict people, became the most controversial evidence accepted. All these tests and procedures were used before in previous trials concerning possession, though they were rapidly losing favor among English jurists. The last execution for witchcraft in England occurred six years before Salem.
Hathorne and Corwin believed God would not allow the Devil to implicate pious people, and determined all the tests to be valid. This fateful decision legitimized the accusers, who had no physical evidence to present. The accusers cooperated as a team; no one thought to separate them to check the consistency and reliability of their stories. The Reverend Deodat Lawson, a former minister of Salem Village, wrote the earliest account of trials in his A Brief and True Narrative (1692). Describing their collaboration, he wrote:
These dramatic courtroom scenes naturally created an advantageous atmosphere for the plaintiffs. This behavior struck a chord with the spectators. As historian Peter Charles Hoffer wrote, at the pretrial hearings, the girls' performance convinced in part because the roles they performed were so familiar that the audience could already visualize what it could not see, and in part because the girls had so polished their lines and their pantomime that they conveyed, even to skeptics, the existence of the invisible world.
The next examination occurred on March 21, 1692. Martha Corey, a member of the Parris' church, belittled the accusers' behavior. The girls, sitting together in the front, replayed their fits, shrieking that Corey was biting, pinching, and strangling them. They also alleged Corey kept a yellow bird as a familiar. According to Reverend Lawson's account, Corey said,
The painful marks visible on the children and their mimicking of Corey's actions convinced Hathorne and Corwin to imprison her for a later trial. Three days later, Rebecca Nurse, also a member of the church and widely respected, faced the same stressful atmosphere. All alone, ill and hard of hearing, in a crowded and noisy courtroom, Rebecca confronted her accusers. As Hathorne questioned her, the girls continued their fits, as well as mimicked Nurse's gestures. Reverend Lawson wrote that Nurse's movements:
Reverend Parris had difficulty taking notes due to the commotion. He ends his transcript with This is a true account of the sume of her examination but by reason of great noyses by the afflicted & many speakers, many things are pretermitted. The noise and chaos of the courtroom made communication difficult. Confusion on the part of the accused or
misunderstandings became a proof of guilt. Nurse was committed to prison to await her trial. The accusations spread and by May, 1692, scores of people were imprisoned for suspicion of witchcraft from these preliminary examinations. The judicial system was in a state of flux, for at the time Massachusetts had no charter. No trial could begin until the charter arrived.
Reverend Increase Mather, pastor of North Church, Boston, and one of the most respected men in the colony, returned from London on May 14, 1692, bringing with him both a new charter and a new royal governor, Sir William Phips. Phips, who made a name for himself as a military commander and a finder of sunken treasure, had been born in what is now known as Maine. Neither man knew of the panic enveloping Massachusetts.
The men Phips chose for this new Court were prominent citizens; in fact, they were all men of the Governor's Council. The chief Judge was William Stoughton, an astute politician who became acting governor in August and September when Phips went to Maine with the army. In 1694, Stoughton succeeded Phips as governor of the colony. For the time being, Hathorne and Corwin found themselves discharged.
The Court of Oyer and Terminer convened on June 2, 1692. The initial defendant was Bridget Bishop, who already had a reputation for witchcraft. At her trial, the girls again fell into fits, stating that the Bishop's spectre had bitten, pinched and choked them. The girls fell down when Bishop looked at them, and revived when she touched them. Workers had found dolls and pins in the walls of her home, a sign of witchcraft. Other spectral evidence, along with assorted rumors and Bishop's questionable reputation, doomed her.
Once one person hanged, it made it easier to convict others, even though they enjoyed better reputations. The Court of Oyer and Terminer not only managed a one hundred percent conviction rate, but also only executing those that upheld their innocence. The belief in witchcraft was so strong, and the accusations so convincing, that nineteen people were hanged and one man was crushed to death because of it. Several others died in prison. The accusations moved beyond Salem, sowing the seeds of discord to the surrounding communities, especially Andover.
By early October, with the jails overflowing and the accusations continuing to come in, Phips called an end to the Court of Oyer and Terminer. He set up a new Superior Court of Judicature to retry the jailed. Though Stoughton remained in charge, spectral evidence became inadmissible. By abandoning this significant part of the accusations, the indictments collapsed. Only three out of fifty six people indicted were convicted. Phips subsequently pardoned them. The worst episode of witch-hunting in American history was over.
Even today, there is no agreement concerning the girls' afflictions. Since Edward Jorden wrote about the subject ninety years before Salem, an increasing number of physicians evaluated possession cases as having a mental or neurological basis. This assessment, minimizing the role of the supernatural, continued to grow throughout the seventeenth century. In all probability, Doctors Willis and Sydenham, writing in the 1660's to 1680's, would not have agreed with the doctors' diagnosis of the Betty Parris and Abigail Williams. Gradually, the symptoms such as the ones experienced by the girls at Salem were diagnosed to have natural causes, be it suffocation of the mother, fraud, madness, or mental illness.
When compared to previous cases, the judges' approach towards testimony at Salem appears to differ from the way previous justices had evaluated their evidence. This mixture of religious zeal, self-assurance, gullibility, and no formal legal training aided the proliferation of accusations and eased the way to executions. For instance, the concept of spectres, with its enormous impact as evidence, could be seen as the hallucinations of a
troubled mind. The touch test also was subject to interpretation or fraud. Eighty years before Salem, John Cotta cautioned against the dangers of accepting such evidence. Increase Mather took the same view in Illustrious Providences (1684). The Return of Several Ministers Consulted, written two weeks after the hanging of Bridget Bishop on June 15, 1692, as advice for Phips from the area's ministers and signed by both Mathers, specifically argued against the use of spectral evidence. Instead, the Court took the hysterical accusations and formulaic depositions as gospel truth.
While spectral evidence and afflicted children played an important part in the Warboys case (1593), it took nearly four years and much experimentation to finally execute a three-member family. Mother Samuel, who easily fit the stereotype of a witch, had confessed, and her husband and daughter confessed after intimidation. The witch-hunt did not spread. The girls became well immediately after the hangings.
During Jorden's case (1602), the controversy surrounding Mary Glover's fits created a cause celèbre. Several members of the Royal Academy of Physicians testified against one another in court. The judge, though exceedingly biased against witches and proud of it even for the time period, could not get more than a one-year sentence for Elizabeth Jackson (which may not even have been served). Though a pamphlet war ensued, there were no more accusations.
At Bury St. Edmunds (1662), the renowned justice Lord Hale found the evidence convincing enough to send two stereotypical witches to their deaths. Here, spectral evidence combined with other proofs (witches teats, bewitching cattle) and malevolent gossip from years before to produce a guilty verdict. Yet, strong disagreement occurred between Hale and Sir John Keeling (a subordinate judge at the trial), who did not believe spectral evidence could prove guilt. Reservations such as Keeling's could have played a significant part in Salem trials, as Cotton Mather even cited them in his Wonders of the Invisible World:
Keeling's perceptive argument did not win the day at Bury St. Edmunds nor was it discussed at Salem. As described in Chapter Six, both Keeling and Hale later become Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Therefore, their legally educated disagreements over spectral evidence differed greatly from those that occurred at Salem - where the judges were politicians and merchants, not trained jurists. It is interesting to note that like Warboys, the finale at St. Bury conformed well to beliefs about executing a witch, That within less than half an hour after the Witches were convicted, they were all of them Restored
In Cotton Mather's earlier experience with the Goodwin children, the widow Glover confessed to witchcraft. Not only did she have many of the traits of a stereotypical witch, she demonstrated her technique in front of the magistrates. This case must have proved problematical to Mather, as the afflicted did not get better after the woman's execution. Though Glover supposedly gave him the names of other witches, he kept them to himself. Unlike Salem, the accusations from a confessed witch did not hold much value. The magistrates used a certain amount of restraint, as several doctors examined Glover to assess if she was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
With the exception of Salem, these trials demonstrate a tendency by the magistrates to moderate the damage and look with a critical eye to the testimony and afflictions of the possessed. Until the execution of the widow Glover in 1688, the last cases involving possessed children sending people to their deaths ended in 1662 on both sides of the Atlantic (in England at Bury St. Edmunds and New England at Hartford).
As this paper illustrates, the symptoms suffered at Salem were not so out of the ordinary (see appendix), nor was the initial response of the community, looking to doctors and ministers for cures, unusual. Salem was not alone in occurring during times of economic, social, political or religious difficulties. It was only when the afflictions spread beyond the Parris household, and accusations mushroomed with no effective way to contain it, that the scene was set for a tragedy.
Barbara Rosen, Witchcraft in England:1558-1618 (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1969, 1991), 32-33.
Sandar L. Gilman, Helen King, Roy Porter, G.S. Rousseau, Elaine Showalter, Hysteria Beyond Freud, Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 1993), 98-99.
Nicholas P. Spanos, Multiple Identities and False Memories (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1996), 157.
Midelfort, A History of Madness in Sixteenth Century Germany (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1999), 68.
Ilza Veith, Hysteria: The History of a Disease (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1965). 1
Gilman, et. al. 3-90
Dana Becker, Through the Looking Glass: Women and Borderline Personality Disorder (Westview Press, 1997), 5.
G.S. Rousseau A Strange Pathology in Gilman, et al. Hysteria Beyond Freud, 98.
Kohl and Midelfort, ed. 163-70.
Kohl and Midelfort,ed., xxiv-xxv. Clark, 198.
George E. Ehrlich, Doctors Afield Johanne Weyer and the Witches New England Journal of Medicine, 263 (1960), 245; Jerome M. Schneck, A History of Psychiatry (Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1960), 41.
Monter, Ritual, Myth and Magic, (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1983), 87-8
Brian Levack, The Witch-hunt in Early Modern Europe (New York:& London: Garland Publishing, 1987), 155.
Robin Briggs, Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft (New York: Viking, 1996), 215.
James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, PA.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 210.
Nicholas Spanos, 162-3.
Joseph Klaits, Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 1985) 125.
Elaine Breslaw, Witches of the Atlantic World, 6., Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 465-68.
Ronald C. Sawyer, 'Strangely handled in all her lyms' in Journal of Social History 22 (Spring, 1989), 461.
Levack, The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 67-8; Thomas, Decline, 458-60.
Alan Macfarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study (Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 1970), 158-9; Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1973, orig. 1584), 30; Keith Thomas, The Relevance Of Social Anthropology to the Historical Study of English Witchcraft in Elaine E. Breslaw, Witches of the Atlantic World, 65-71.
J.A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750 (London & New York: Longman, 1984), 78-9.
Alan C. Kors, Witchcraft in Europe 1100 - 1700, 232-35; Guilby, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, 54-6
Robin Briggs, Witches and Neighbors, 235.
Thomas, Decline, 548; Guilby. 286-7.
Thomas, Decline, 161.
Gaskill, Devil in the Shape of a Man: Witchcraft, Conflict and Belief in Jacobean England in Historical Research: The Bulletin of Historical Research, 142-71; Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England, 54-58.
Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England, 54-58.
Thomas Relevance in Breslaw, 62.
Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities in Early Modern England, 65-66.
Christine Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief, (New York, NY.: Basil Blackwell, 1984), 9-10.
Thomas, Decline, 451 and 457. Gaskill, Witchcraft and Power in Early Modern England: the case of Margaret Moore in Kermode and Walker, Women, Crime and the Courts. 125; Guiley, 160.
Thomas, Decline, 444.
Macfarlane, 140., Ronald Holmes, Witchcraft in British History, 136.
Thomas, Decline, 444.
J.A. Sharpe, The Devil in East Anglia in Barry, Hester & Roberts, Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, 250-251.
Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities, 80-88.
Holmes, 224., Gaskill, Crime and Mentalities, 82, 84.
Thomas, Decline, 452.
D.P. Walker, Unclean Spirits: Possession and exorcism in France and England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1981), 50.
Ian Argall, Warboys Parish Page, http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/HUN/Warboys/ March 16, 2001.
Moira Tatem, The Witches of Warboys (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridgeshire Libraries Publications, 1993), 16-17.
Tatem, 17, 74.
Barbara Rosen, ed., The most strange and admirable discoverie of the three Witches of Warboys in Witchcraft in England 1558-1618. (Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1969, 1991). 229, 240f.
Rosen, 242-3; Tatem, 17.
Tatem, 34; Rosen, 252.
Rosen, 282-3; Tatem, 16.
George Lyman Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929). 306-313.
Michael MacDonald, Witchcraft and Hysteria in Elizabethan London: Edward Jorden and the Mary Glover Case (London & New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991), x.
Edward Jorden, A Briefe Discourse of a Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother (London: John Windet, 1603).
Jorden in MacDonald, 4-5.
MacDonald, xi., Stuart Clark, Thinking With Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 280-282.
Thomas, Decline, 523-4.
Stephen Bradwell, Mary Glovers Late Woeful Case (no publisher, 1603) in MacDonald, 17-19.
Bradwell in MacDonald, 23-24.
Bradwell in MacDonald, 111.
Bradwell in MacDonald, 114.
Jorden in MacDonald, 29.
Barbara Rosen, Witchcraft in England, 314
John Swan, A True and Briefe Report of Mary Glovers Vexation (no publisher, 1603) in MacDonald, 47.
Sharpe, The Bewitching of Anne Gunter (New York: Routledge, 2000). xi-xii.
Sharpe, 135, 164.
Sharpe, 194, 204-5,
Thomas, Decline, 489-90.
Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, 1987), 232.
Ronald C. Sawyer, Strangely Handled in All Her Lyms, 471.
Norman Gevitz, 'The Devil Hath Laughed at the Physicians': Witchcraft and Medical Practice in Seventeenth-Century New England in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 55 (January 2000), 10.
Leland L. Estes, Origins of the European Witch Craze in Journal of Social History 17 (Winter 1983) 279.
French, Roger and Wear, Andrew, The Medical Revolution of the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 3-4.
French and Wear, 2-3.
Michael MacDonald, Witchcraft and Hysteria in Elizabethan London: Edward Jorden and the Mary Glover Case (London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 19991), xiv.
Edward Jorden, A Briefe Discourse of A Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother,(London: John Windet, 1603) in MacDonald, 5-6.
Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays (New York and London: Routledge, 1992), 300f.
Shakespeare, King Lear 2.4.56-58.
Increase Mather, Cases of Conscience in The Wonders of the Invisible World (London: John Russell Smith, 1862), 257-8.
John Cotta, The Triall of Witchcraft (London: Samuel Rand, 1616; Amsterdam and New York: Da Capo Press, 1968), 121.
Cotta, A Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers of several sorts of Ignorant and inconsiderate practisers of Physicke in England (London: William Jones and Richard Boyle, 1612; New York: Da Capo Press, 1972), 62.
Cotta, Practisers, 60-1.
Cotta, Practisers, 66-67.
Cotta, Ignorant Practisers, 69-70.
Edward Drage, Daimonomageia: A Small Treatise of Sicknesses and Diseases from Witchcraft, and Supernatural Causes (London: J. Dover, 1665), 32.
Cotta, Triall, 104-06.
Thomas Willis, The London Practice of Physick (London: Thomas Baffet, 1685; New York: The Classics of Medicine Library, 1992), 297.
Ilza Veith, Hysteria: The History of a Disease (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 132-33.; Willis, 297-8.
N. Koutouvidis and S.G. Marketos, The contribution of Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) to the evolution of psychiatry, History of Psychiatry vi (1995), 517.
Willis, 299-302. Sander L. Gilman, et. al. 140.
Jerome M. Schneck, A History of Psychiatry (Springfield, IL.: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1960), 53.
Kenneth Dewhurst, Dr.Thomas Sydenham(1624-1689): His Life and Original Writings (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1966), 46.; N. Koutouvidis and S.G. Marketos, The contribution of Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) to the evolution of psychiatry, History of Psychiatry vi (1995), 517.
Dewhurst, 46.; Ilza Veith, Hysteria: The History of a Disease (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1965), 140.
Patricia A. Watson, The Angelical Conjunction: The Preacher-Physicians of Colonial New England (Knoxville, The University of Tennessee Press, 1991), 42, 82.
Michael G. Hall, The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather 1639-1723 (Middletown, CT.: Wesleyan University Press, 1988), 135.
Otho T. Beall, Jr. and Richard H. Shryock, Cotton Mather: First Significant Figure in American Medicine (Baltimore, MD.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1954), 61.
Gilbert Geis and Ivan Bunn, A Trial of Witches: A seventeenth-century witchcraft prosecution (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 78-80.
Geis and Bunn, 135.
Geis and Bunn, 7-8.
Geis and Bunn, 7, Rosemary Ellen Guiley The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft 2nd edition (New York, N.Y.: Checkmark Books, 1999), 40; Rossell Hope Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1959), 66.
Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World, (London: John Russell Smith, 1862, 1693), 111.
Geis and Bunn, 216
Geis and Bunn, 217.
Geis and Bunn, 217.
Geis and Bunn, 218.
Geis and Bunn, 218.
Geis and Bunn, 219.
Geis and Bunn, 219.
Geis and Bunn, 220?
Geis and Bunn, 70-72.
Geis and Bunn, 213.
Geis and Bunn, 220.
Geis and Bunn, 221-2.
Geis and Bunn, 215-6.
Geis and Bunn, 82-3.
Geis and Bunn, 223-4.
Geis and Bunn, 224.
Geis and Bunn, 224.
Geis and Bunn, 227.
Geis and Bunn, 228.
Geis and Bunn, 165.
Geis and Bunn, 195, 199.
Geis and Bunn, 202-3.
Geis and Bunn, 203.
Sir Thomas Browne, This Special Edition of Religio Medici (Birmingham, Alabama: The Classics of Medicine Library, 1981), 78-9.
Geis and Bunn, 4-5.
Geis and Bunn, 156.
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 570-583.
Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman :Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, 1998) 233.
James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, PA.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 226.
David D. Hall, ed. Witch-hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 11.
Frederick C. Drake, Witchcraft in the American Colonies, 1647-62, American Quarterly 20 (Winter, 1968): 711.
Sanford J. Fox, Science and Justice: The Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials (Baltimore, MD.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), 36-7. Richard Godbeer, The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 153.
Hall, Appendix, 315-6.
John Demos, Entertaining Satan (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 341.
Mary Jeanne Anderson Jones, Congregational Commonwealth: Connecticut, 1636-1662 (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1968), 152-3.; Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in Shape of a Woman (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, 1987), 26.
Increase Mather, Remarkable Providences: An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences (Boston: 1684) in George Lincoln Burr, ed., Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases: 1648-1706 (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1914, 1970), 18.
Whiting in Hall, 149.
Whiting in Hall, 149.
Whiting in Hall, 149.
Darren Oldridge, The Devil in Early Modern England (Gloucestershire, Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited, 2000), 142.
Richard Weisman, Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in 17th-Century Massachusetts (Amherst, MA.: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1984), 66.
Whiting in Hall, 149-150.
Whiting in Hall, 147; Karlsen, 25.
Whiting in Hall, 150-1.
Increase Mather in Burr, 18f.
Whiting in Hall, 151.
Willard in Hall, 197-8.
Willard in Hall, 198.
Willard in Hall, 208.
Willard in Hall, 199. and 204-5.
Willard in Hall, 210.
Willard in Hall, 211-12.
Demos, 114.; Peter Charles Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1997), 119.
Demos, 117-23.; Chadwick Hansen, Witchcraft at Salem (New York: George Braziller, 1969), 15-18.; Karlsen, 244-7.
Karlsen, 244-47; Demos, 128.
Demos, 120-1., 127.
Bernard Rosenthal, Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 93.
Hall, 197-8, Mark A. Peterson, `Ordinary' Preaching and the Interpretation of the Salem Witchcraft Crisis by the Boston Clergy, Essex Institute Historical Collection 129 (1993): 99-100.
Karlsen, 7; Goodbeer, 41-2.
Thomas, Decline, 523-4
Cotton Mather in Burr, 100-101.
Cotton Mather in Burr, 99.
Cotton Mather in Hall, 268.
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