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“Putting the Pieces Together

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1 “Putting the Pieces Together
“Putting the Pieces Together... The Puzzle of Salem” “If ever there were witches, men and women in covenant with the Devil, here are multitudes in New England.” - Rev. Samuel Parris, Based upon an article by Eric Miller,

2 Salem Witch Trials of 1692 141 people were put on trial for witchcraft and 20 were executed. How could these barbaric acts happen less than one hundred years before the revolution of our “civilized” country? Medieval witchcraft beliefs, Sexism, Witchcraft laws A mysterious illness of fits and unconsciousness These four puzzle pieces fit together to answer this question.

3 1) Medieval Witchcraft Beliefs
A belief in witchcraft germinated during the medieval time period. People were largely uneducated and lived in a hostile, cold, dark, and primitive environment. Hardship, mysterious diseases, and unexpected deaths were commonplace. To cope with these miseries, a scapegoat was created: Witches!

4 Witches were blamed for misfortunes like:
the spoiling of cheese the family cow drying up the deaths of people, especially the unexpected death of babies Witches supposedly made a contract with the Devil. The Devil would then work through them and their “familiars” (evil spirits in the form of an animal).

5 The belief in witches was very real, and horrifically, thousands of Europeans were accused of being witches and executed during the time span from the Middle Ages through the 1700’s. The Puritans carried their belief in witchcraft with them to the “New World,” and this belief is the first piece of the puzzle!

6 Puzzle Piece One What year did the Salem witch trials take place, and how many people were put to death? What is one of the “puzzle pieces” that explain the cause of the Salem witch trials? What is one act of misfortunes witches were blamed for?

7 Puzzle Piece 2: Sexism In New England, the majority of those convicted of witchcraft were female. Most were elderly and of "humble" social status. Many were widowed or married.

8 Widows The Puritan social order was very biased toward males, who made all decisions and “ruled the household.” However, many widowed women in Salem owned property, and this upset the Puritan social order, making these women targets of witchcraft accusations.

9 Married Women Married women were sometimes accused of witchcraft to harm the husband, to destroy his reputation and social status. For example, during a neighborly feud over property boundaries, one neighbor may accuse the other’s wife of being a witch in order to harm his neighbor and ultimately seize his the disputed property. The women were easy prey, as they had no defense but their word. And because their social status was low, their words of defense were seldom trusted over the words of an accusing man.

10 Puzzle Piece 2: Sexism What aspect of Puritan social order made women easy targets for witch accusations? Why were widows witchcraft targets? Why were married women sometimes targeted?

11 Puzzle Piece 3: Witchcraft Laws
While witchcraft was both a traditional concept and a theological concept, it was also a legal concept. In other words, actual laws made it illegal to be a witch! During the 1500s-1700s, several statutes were created, repealed, and recreated that outlawed witchcraft.

12 The first statute against witchcraft was implemented in 1542.
It was called an "Act agaynst Conjuracions Inchantments and Witchcraftes." In 1604, a new and more brutal act against witchcraft was passed and remained in force until 1736. If found guilty under the 1604 statute, the sentence was death! Being a witch was against the law, as illegal as speeding or robbing a bank is today. Therefore, if someone accused you of being a witch, you could be arrested and even executed. Imagine the paranoia this would have caused!

13 Puzzle Piece 3 What is the third piece of the Salem Witch Trials puzzle? During what year was the first legal statute against witchcraft created? What was the severe punishment for being a witch according to the statute of 1604? Explain how these witchcraft laws created paranoia among Puritan townspeople.

14 Puzzle Piece 4: Mysterious Illness
As the Spring went on, more people became afflicted with this strange illness. What was happening to them? Were they possessed as the townspeople thought? NO!

15 Two Theories It is undisputable that some of the victims were afflicted with an illness, but the cause(s) of this illness are still unresolved. There are two major theories: Mass Psychosis brought on by the trauma of “seeing” the image in the crystal ball and/or being caught participating in fortune-telling, and then intensified by the stress caused from the witch accusations. (Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations.)

16 Example: In 1787, a group of millworkers in England suddenly fell ill when they were told (incorrectly!) that they had been poisoned by tainted cotton.

17 Ok, but it couldn’t happen to me, could it?
First, you see someone nearby suddenly fall ill. You feel anxiety that maybe you will “get” whatever he’s got! Your anxiety makes you feel dizzy and nauseous. With increased anxiety, you begin to hyperventilate (breathe too quickly and deeply. Guess what? Hyperventilating causes numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, and lips, dizziness, headache, chest pain, slurred speech, and sometimes fainting. You pass out! Your friend looks at you and…you get the idea.

18 Mysterious Illness Theory Number 1 (Continued)
The world of Salem was a world in which the powers of demons were rarely questioned. It may be that the girls truly thought that they had seen or were being attacked by evil spirits, and this mental belief began to cause physical symptoms. --Anthropologists have observed similar possession behavior in many primitive (superstitious) cultures.

19 Illness Theory #2 2) The “witches” were suffering from Ergotism
Ergotism is a disorder which comes from eating contaminated rye bread, a bread which was prevalent in Salem Ergot poisoning causes muscle spasms and vomiting. Ergot also contains some elements of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, which can cause delusions and vivid hallucinations.

20 Last Question List the four puzzle pieces that complete the Salem Witch Trial Puzzle.

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