Salem Witchcraft

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Was the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria Caused by a Fear of Women? Although there has been a long history of witchcraft, the main concentration is from the periods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the British North American colonies alone there were over 100 witchcraft trials alone, were 40 percent of the accused were executed. Now two professors, Carol F. Karlsen of history and Kai T. Erikson of sociology, examine the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria to see if it was caused by a fear of women and give two entirely different interpretations. The first professor, Carol F. Karlsen, agreed that the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria was caused by a fear of women. She agrees that the belief in the Puritian culture, that women were evil, existed because they were seen as a potential threat to the order of the society. That is why women were generally seen as witches. When witchcraft was initially seen, it was uncertain of wether or not it would benefit the New England society, because of the fast changing conditions of the early settlement. By the late 1640’s, New Englanders believed that a witchcraft belief system as integral to their society. The Puritian rituals, myths, and symbols from then on were seen perpetuated to the belief that women were a danger to their society. This idea of women connected directly to witchcraft was only reinforced by the newer post-Reformation ideas about women. West 2 Puritanism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in England caused much controversy over the nature of women and their roles in society. Puritian and Catholic witch-hunters both believed that women were, “evil, whorish, deceitful, extravagant, angry, vengeful, and, of course, insubordinate and proud.” Women “are altogether a lumpe of pride,” one author said in 1690-”A masse of pride, even altogether made of pride, and nothing else but pride.” One of the many reasons that women were being seen in this way was from the increasing independence, impudence, masculine dress, and masculine ways. It was all seen through the women’s new ways of forwardness and liberties. A good example was with Adam and Eve being punished for the sin of pride, rebelling against the order of creation, but Eve was seen as rebelling both as part of man and as man’s other. This is how Eve was seen as the fall of man. “Yet looking upon her as made for the man, and by the Creators law owing a subordination to him, so she may also be looked upon as instrumental.” as said by Willard. Willard means that Eve should have encouraged Adam to obey God since she was created to serve man, but she didn’t. This caused her to be seen as a mischief and for the cause of the downfall of man. For the actions of Eve God placed a special curse on the female race, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children: and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” It was seen that part of women’s sin was the seduction of man and another was her failure to serve man. Although Willard never actually said that there was a direct connection between woman and Satan, he thought that woman was influenced by the Devil and she did what she did voluntary of her own free will. West 3 In the Puritian society, Eve was seen as the main symbol of women as evil. She was considered in many ways to be the first witch ever. The values of order and hierarchy were very important to society in the Puritian culture. And the ones that could not accept their responsibilities in the society were considered the most evil of all. The second professor, Kai T. Erikson, took an entirely different stand on the Hysteria of Witchcraft in Salem. She did not feel that it was caused by a fear of women, but by a product of the Puritian colonist’ efforts to restore a common sense of mission, which they believed had vanished after the first 60 years of their settlement. During the times of the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria, there were men from Massachusetts that were in London trying to convince William to restore the old charter or to issue a new one so that Massachusetts could have all of the advantages that it once had. At these times it was understandable that the anxiety of the settlement was very high. In the settlement it was supposed to be a land of bliss and harmony, but this was not so. The courts were making their way through the settlement and were tearing apart the ways of the people. The courts were filled with land despots and personal feuds. The spirit of brotherhood which the original settlers had, had been diffused into commercial competition, political contention, and personal bad feelings. At the time of the Salem Witchcraft era, the way of New England had become a thing of the past by the people of the Bay not being able to learn from their past or to see what to look for in the future. Massachusetts had become, in Alan Hiemert’s words, “a society no longer able to judge itself with any certainty.” West 4 Historically, as pointed out by George L. Kittrege, “there is nothing unique in the fact that Massachusetts Bay should have put people on trial for witchcraft, the whole story should have been seen not as an abnormal outbreak of fanaticism, not as an isolated tragedy, but as a mere incident, a brief and transitory episode in the biography of a terrible, but perfectly natural, superstition.” During the Civil Wars in England was when the witchcraft hysteria was the strongest. There may have been hundreds or even thousands of witches burned at the stake during these times. It was seen that ever time something rash happened it began with the burning of witches. The witchcraft hysteria was seen only as a brief moment in time in Massachusetts Bay by Erikson. She sees it as the first of the witch hysteria being born as a

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