Wendilyn Emrys, B.A.
Archæomythologist, Artist, Historian & Researcher 

Articles

Oimelg, Briget's Eve or Imbolc

 


  Oimelg, Brigit's Eve, or Imbolc
©1994 by Wendilyn Emrys, B.A.

We can trace Brigit's Eve back to Irish Keltic Tradition, and even into the pre-Keltic period, where it was called Oimelg or Oimelc or "sheep's milk." Oimelg is the time when the ewes are milked at the beginning of Spring. It is associated directly with the birth of the new lambs and indirectly with the rebirth of the agricultural world as a whole. It is specifically analogous with the life cycle of sheep. A female lamb born in late January or early February, or in Oimelg time, will reach maturity and first enter into estrus from seven to eight months later. If she is then impregnated she will give birth by the next late January or early February in Oimelg time. The gestation period of sheep takes from 144 to 151 days. Later the term Oimelg or Oimelc was transformed into Imbolc or Imbolic. With the coming of Christianity it was also called St. Brigit's Eve or St. Bride's Eve, when that saint took over the functions of the earlier Goddess Brigit (a.k.a. Brigit "breet"; Brid "bre-eed"; Brid; Brigid; Brighid).

Brigit's name comes from the root word brig and means "power, strength, vigour, force, efficiency, substance, essence and meaning" [Dames page 247]. It is also associated with the words for "Power", "Renown" or "Fiery Arrow of Power = Breo-Saighead". Brigit is called "The Poetess". As with many pre-Keltic Goddesses Brigit may have originally been a Goddess of Water, Streams, Rivers and Wells. Her name is given to several rivers; the Brighid in Ireland, the Braint in Wales and the Brent in England (she may therefore be comparable to the Goddess Brigantia or the "Exalted One" in England and Wales). Brigit is a Goddess of the Perpetual Flame of the Hearth and Home. Brigit is a Virgin (Unmarried) Goddess, although in later times she was said to be the Daughter of the Daghda, the wife of Bress, and the mother of Ruadan. Brigit is now seen as a multi-functional and multivalent Goddess of Fire, Smithcraft, Fertility, the Arts, Martial Arts, Healing, Water, Poetry, Inspiration, Learning and Prophecy. She is associated with snakes and mounds. Brigit is especially beloved in the province of Leinster in Eire/Ireland where her sacred well and perpetual flame in Kildare are still revered and where by at least 1100 C.E. she was remade into St. Brigid the virgin nun. St. Brigid and her nuns tended a perpetual flame. "At the time of Brigid twenty nuns here served a master as would a soldier, she herself being the twentieth...When indeed every night through succession they cared for the fire...on the twentieth night the last nun...said 'Brigid, I have cared for your fire'...and thus, the fire having been left...it was found again unextinguished." Geraldus Cambrensis, De Igne A Brigida Sua Nocte Servato, 1146 to 1220 CE.

In Ulster they say that the bullaun/bullauns, horizontal boulders or rocks with artificial or natural basins, are sacred to Brigit. These are large smooth stones with a hole in the middle of them in which there is another stone. They are rather like lingum and yoni stones. The bullaun/bullauns are sought out by childless women, are thought to bring about a successful childbirth, to render men fertile, and to cure sick children and cattle. The bullaun/bullauns were involved in the rites of Beltane and Lammas in Ulster.

St. Brigit's Eve

Saint Brigit was said to be "a woman born in a druid's house a Tocharmaine in AD 453...At sunrise on the first day of spring, her birthday, February 1st the quarter day, a column of fire rose from her infant head...In Ardagh 'a fiery column flamed out of her head up to the ridge of the church', while her own religious house at Kildare revolved around a fire, which was kept alight continuously" [Dames, pages 247-248]

Michael Dames describes a traditional celebration of St. Brigit's Eve in Co. Mayo, Eire/Ireland:

"The greatest occasion in the traditional domestic year was, arguably, the festival of Brigit's birth, on February 1st, the Imbolc or Oimelg quarterday, and the start of spring...On St. Brigit's Eve it was customary to limewash the house inside. 'A good big fire was put down and the animals were bedded on clean straw. The whole interior had an air of cosiness and comfort ready to receive Brigit into the house.' In Co. Mayo the man of the house procured a garment to use as a mantle, or Brat Bride (the clothing of the infant goddess). The article chosen was the one which would be in greatest use by the member of the house whose occupation was the most dangerous...The man took it to the yard, drew a long sheaf of straw from the stack, and wrapped the garment around the straw to give it a rough outline of a human body. Then carrying it as if it were a child, he set it down outside the back door, and went into the house. So placed, this straw child also evokes the birth of St. Brigit. Her Life states that she was born neither within the house nor without. Her pregnant mother, visiting a queen, had 'put one of her two footsteps over the threshold of the house, the other foot [still] being outside...Then she brought forth her daughter, even St. Brigid.' The door is implicitly equated with the vulva of the saint-goddess's mother. In Co. Mayo folk ritual, the straw child who was refused entry at the back door represented Brigit of the completed wither quarter. Consequently that door (which usually faced north) remained shut at Imbolc, the start of spring. Instead, when the preparation for supper were complete, the man rose to say that he must fetch Brigit through the front or south door to share the feast. Going outside again, he knelt, and cried to the family: "Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brigit in!" Inside, they responded, She is welcome!" The formula was repeated twice more, and while the people within continued to chant 'she is welcome', the man brought 'Brigit' around to the front door and entered with her, whereupon all cried: 'Mush! Se beatha agus a slainte' - 'How wonderful! She is welcome, and seeing that, a toast.' The straw baby Brigit was then laid respectfully against a table leg, or, if need be, placed on a sick cow's back to effect a cure." [Dames, pages 252-253]

In the Hebrides they chant the following on St. Brigit's Eve:

"May Brigit give blessing
To the house that is here...
Brigit, the fair and tender,
Her hue like the cotton grass.
Rich-tressed maiden,
Of ringlets of gold;
Both crest and frame,
Both stone and beam;
Both clay and wattle;
Both summit and foundation;
Both window and timber;
Both foot and head;
Both man and woman;
Both wife and children;
Both young and old;
Both maiden and youth." [Dames page 253]

St. Brigit's Cross and Ribin

In some places a large, nearly three-meter ring, of plaited straw was made on which three or four straw crosses, St. Brigit's Cross, were attached. This was carried around the village. It was called the Cris, Crois Bride, or St. Brigit's Belt. It was taken to each house where the family would put it over their heads and down to the floor before carefully stepping out of the circle. It would seem that this was to bless them for the next year. It was based on a story where St. Brigit used her miraculous belt to cure the sick. St. Brigit also had a hair ribbon that is called the Ribin, or Ribe Bride. A silk ribbon would be left outside on Bride's Eve and was then used as a cure for headaches. This may also be associated with the word 'ribeann', which O'Donovan defines as 'a royal hill on which royal parleys were held.' [see Dames pages 253-254]

In both traditions one can see how Sacred Time is re-created and how people still sanctify their homes and families to Brigit.

In the Scottish Highlands the concept of the Goddess Brigit in her chthonic, or underworld, form still survives. There on St. Bride's Day (the day after St. Brigit's Eve) they say:

"Early on Brid's morn The serpent shall come from the hole; I will not molest the serpent, Nor will the serpent molest me.." or "This is the Day of Bride. The queen will come from the mound; I will not touch the queen, Nor will the queen touch me." [20th century hymns to Bride.] [Dexter page 165]

Brigit, or Bride as she is known in Scotland, is analogous with a female snake which is called a "queen." This "queen" is beneficial figure. In this way Brigit is associated with the ancient mounds or sidhes, which are the entrances to the underworld. In this form we see a definite pre-Keltic and Neolithic survival of Brigit as a Snake and Water Goddess.

Candlemas

As we have seen the a pre-Keltic Goddess survived as Brigit in Keltic times, and she has continued to thrive within the confines of Christianity as St. Brigit or St. Bride. Now what became Imbolc was later associated with the Christian holy day of Candlemas. We know that the Goddess Brigit is associated with Water and Fire. As such it would be easy to associate her feast of Imbolc with other so-called fire festivals such as the Roman Lupercalia, and the above mentioned Candlemas. However, this association may be deceptive.

"A few contemporary 'witches' have asserted that behind the festival of the Purification lay a pre-Christian celebration of the recovery of 'the Goddess' from giving birth to the 'new year's Sun God'. There is absolutely no evidence for this last idea...but the relationship between Imbolc and Candlemas is more subtle and deserves extended discussion. The Purification had to be celebrated by Christians because it commemorated one of the most important episodes in the early life of Jesus, his presentation at the Temple and his recognition as the Messiah by Simeon and Anna. Once Christmas was fixed upon 25 December, the Purification had to occur upon 2 February, being the time appointed for this ceremony, according to Hebrew law, after a birth. Its especial association with candle, evident during the course of the early Middle Ages, was suggested by Simeon's words, read out at the service, that the child would be 'a light to lighten the Gentiles'. All this was determined by churchmen sitting in councils around the Mediterranean and representing lands very far from the Gaelic area in which Imbolc was known. Nor is there any evidence that ceremonies involving fire were employed in the Gaelic feast,...So Imbolc and Candlemas were separate in their origins and observation. But in some Gaelic or semi-Gaelic districts, notably northern Scotland, the great Christian feast came to replace that of St. Brighid in the popular imagination as the quarter day which marked the beginning of Spring." [Hutton, pages 286-287]

I would like to add that there is a lot of overlay with the Christian mythos. St. Brigit is seen by some as a midwife to Mary. (Oy, a nice Irish girl like her in the Levant, can we say sunburn, bubbie.) The Candlemas confusion may stem from this connection. One must also remember that the Irish Church was pivotal in the early conversion of portions of Scotland, England and Wales. As such they would have brought over their worship of Brigit and the Imbolc celebration. When the Roman Church forced a syncretism of the two, Candlemas may very well have been forced to the forefront, being a recognized Roman Catholic holiday while Imbolc continued to be the holiday celebrated by the folk. As such it is easy for the two, once entirely separate mythos and holidays, to become enmeshed. Especially, since they fell during the same time period. However, their functions are entirely separate. Imbolc, and it's predecessor Oimelg, is an agricultural festival dedicated to the Irish Goddess and the later Saint Brigit. Candlemas, is dedicated to Mary and the recognition of Christ as Messiah, no matter how the Gaels tried to tack Brigit into the mix as a midwife. Brigit, is a Fire Goddess of the Hearth and Smithy, not candles or lamps. I for one will stick to Oimelg and the sweet birth of the gentle lambs and the autochthonic and parthenogenetic rebirth of nature.

Sources for this paper were:

Mythic Ireland by Michael Dames; Thames and Hudson Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10110; 1992.

The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles by Ronald Hutton; Basil Blackwell, Inc., 3 Cambridge Center, Cambridge Massachusetts 02142; 1991.

Whence the Goddesses: A Source Book by Miriam Robbins Dexter; Pergamon Press, Inc., Maxwell House, Fairview Park, Elmsford, New YOrk 10523; 1990.

 

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Lupercalia

 


  Lupercalia
©1994 by Wendilyn Emrys, B.A.

The Lupercalia was a Roman holiday that was held from the 14th to the 15th of February, and is the predecessor of St. Valentine's Day. Now we know that many of our modern holidays have roots in the Pagan Past. The Catholic Church reworked many of them to their own purposes. St. Valentine, and there may have been two of them, was a Bishop of Terni who was martyred circa 270 - 273 C.E. The Bishops of Rome, who wanted to get rid of the licentiousness of the Lupercalia started to celebrate the 14th of February in the name of St. Valentine.

So what exactly is a Lupercalia? Well, it was a festival held in honour of the God Faunus whose name comes from favere or "to favour", in his form of Lupercus. As Lupercus he was a generous spirit who aided the growth of crops and herds. He also kept wolves away from livestock, hence the name Lupercus.

During the Lupercalia two groups of young men, called the Luperci, made up from the better families of Rome were chosen to participate in the main ritual. They met in a grotto or cave on the Palatine Hill. There they sacrificed goats and a dog. The leaders of each group were then bedaubed with the sacrificial blood on their foreheads. This blood was wiped away with a bit of wool dipped in milk. Perhaps, this represented wildness being tamed by nurturance. While the blood was wiped off they were supposed to laugh out loud. Then they held a raucous feast and got exceptionally drunk. Next they took the bloody goatskins, and fashioned whips and loincloths from them. Wearing only the loincloths and brandishing the whips they set out. First, they ran a few circuits around the Palatine Hill to sanctify it. The two groups then proceeded to run a sacred race into the city. There they would whip anyone in their way. It was considered lucky to be whipped and thought to enhance conception. The Lupercalia was one of the most famous of all the Roman Festivals. It drew vast crowds and it was an honour to be a member of the Luperci. After the race there would be feasts and parties throughout the city.

Over time St. Valentine's day switched from being a day of fun and fertility to one celebrating true love. Ruth Hutchinson and Ruth Adams state that "...young people drew names from urns to determine their true love..." at the Lupercalia. Another folkloric belief was "...that the first young man a maiden saw on February 14 was her true love." In England it was thought that "...five bay leaves pinned to the pillow..." one at each corner and one in the middle "...guaranteed dreams of one's sweetheart. Names written on paper, wrapped in clay and dropped in water would sink -- except the name of one's true love, which would rise to the surface."

From this wild and woolly, pardon the pun, beginning has arisen our celebration of St. Valentine's Day. I am sure that the goats and the dog are happy that we have switched to offerings of candy, flowers, and cards.

Sources for this article were:

Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Florence Dupont, Trans. by Christopher Woodall, Blackwell Pubs., Oxford England, 1989.

Every Day's A Holiday by Ruth Hutchison and Ruth Adams, Harper, New York, N.Y., 1951.

The Romans and Their Gods in the Age of Augustus by R.M. Ogilvie, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1969.

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  A Preliminary Examination of the People of the Salem Witchcraze
and "The Crucible"

by Wendilyn Emrys, B.A.
September 1, 1994

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction:
Chronology (all dates are in the year 1692)
Conspiracy?
Who were the real people of Salem?

The Accused:

John Proctor (a.k.a. Procter)
Elizabeth (Bassett) Proctor (a.k.a. Procter)
Giles Corey (a.k.a. Cory)
Sarah (Solart) Good
Rebecca (Towne) Nurse
Tituba (a.k.a. "Tituba Indian") the Rev. Samuel Parris' slave

The Accusers:

Abigail Williams
Elizabeth "Betty" Parris
Reverend Samuel Parris
Thomas Putnam, Jr.
Mrs. Ann (Carr) Putnam
Ann Putnam Jr. (a.k.a. Anna)
Susanna Walcott
Mercy Lewis
Mary Warren
Reverend John Hale
Ezekiel Cheever
Marshal Herrick
Judge Hawthorne (a.k.a. Hathorne)
Deputy Governor Danforth

Psychological Fears
What was going on in the Girls' minds?

Bibliography

 


Update & Note, July 2001: Recently there was a program on popular television that proposed a "new" theory that the Salem Witchcraze was primarily caused by Ergot [Claviceps purpurea] poisoning.  First off, this is not a "new" theory, to my knowledge such speculation has been around for many years.  In fact, it is clearly stated on pages 417-418 of  "Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health" by Walter H. Lewis & Memory P.F. Elvin-Lewis [1977], along with other books long before now.

While Ergot poisoning does have some of the symptoms that the accusing girls reported, it is a rather pat explanation for all of the activity that occurred during this particular eruption of Witchcraze hysteria in Salem Village.  I am quite ready to believe that Tituba might have boiled up some Ergot containing drink for the girls and that they had alkaloid Ergotamine and Ergonovine reactions to it, initially.  However, it does not explain their continued performances during the trials and for the long term.  The following are the questions that will have to be answered before I could comfortably accept that a simple case of mass Ergot poisoning was the primary causation of the Salem Witchcraze:

1.  Ergotism is nearly always accompanied by cases of gangrene in the extremities.  Are there any mentions of gangrene occurring in Salem Village at that time?

2.  Farmers  have been aware of Ergot and its illness causing ability for eons, why  would they not make some note of it?  In Europe it was finally noted in 1676 C.E. what the real cause of Ergotism was, and steps were taken to control the spread of it.  However, descriptions of the menace date back to Assyrian records, circa 600 B.C.E.  [see: "Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use" by Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann, 1979, pages 102-105].  Common people were quite aware of  Ergot, considering there were numerous words describing it in most European languages.  Specific descriptive terms imply some form of knowledge and identification of the menace.  "Ergot" itself is the French word for the "spur of a cock".

3.  Wise-women and Folk-healers were well aware of Ergot's uses and abuses, why is there no note of it in the court records?  Although, that could be because they were accusing all of the Wise-woman as witches.

4.  Ergot is a fungal growth and would give off airborne spores, would it not then infest other areas near Salem Village?  If so, are there any records of nearby infestations?

5.  Salem Village must have exported some of it's grain, did this grain then sicken those persons who bought and consumed it?

6.  Ergot occurs on many types of grain and wild grasses.  It would most probably not be restricted to the rye crops of a limited area, and thus should occur in a wider area and affect more people.  Is this reflected in the records?

Certainly, Ergot can cause spontaneous abortion in pregnant females.  Wise-woman, Folk-healers and Midwives, have used it for just this purpose for eons.  However, poor diet, age, over-exercise, stress, disease or simple genetics can cause the same thing to happen.  Infant and child mortality  were extremely high at this time.  Before we can accept a blanket explanation of Ergot poisoning as the primary causation of the Salem Witchcraze, other causes and other evidence need to be thoroughly examined.

There was evidence of faked testimony and the planting of evidence occurring in the trials, if the girls had a bad reaction to an Ergot containing potion given to them by Tituba (the equivalent of taking hallucinogenic mushrooms or LSD nowadays for recreation, and having a "bad trip") they might have used those symptoms to report "witchy" goings on.  However, I still highly doubt that they, or the adults who egged them on, were totally without malice and interest in the outcome of the trials.  Or what they might gain from striking down their political, mercantile, and familial foes.  Even if an initial occurrence of Ergotism is proven, that would not exempt them from culpability in this writer's eyes.  These people were aware of Ergotism, and what it did, there would have been some record and/or specific recognition of it, somewhere.

I would suggest that anyone interested in Ergot poisoning and its possible relation to the Salem    Witchcraze consult the following books:

"Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health" by Walter H. Lewis & Memory P.F. Elvin-Lewis, John Wiley & Sons, New York, Chichester, Brisbane, Toronto, Singapore, 1977.  ISBN 0-471-86134-0

"Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use" by Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann, Alfred van der Marck Editions, New York, 1979.  ISBN 0-912383-37-2.

"The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries" by R. Gordon Wasson, Carl A. P. Ruck, and Albert Hofmann. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1978.  ISBN 0-15-625279-1.

 


Introduction:

Arthur Miller's play The Crucible is an interesting study of the Salem Witch Trials.  Albeit not historically accurate for the most part,  it does examine the human heart and mind.  They were the weapons put to deadly use in the year 1692.   What follows is an analysis of the real people and events behind the characters, some of the evidence available, and some possible psychological interpretations.

"The Devil in Massachusetts, for instance was consciously written in the shadow of the Nazi holocaust, while Arthur Miller's 1953 play about Salem witchcraft, The Crucible, was of course a parable about McCarthyism" [page xi, Salem Possessed: the Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum; Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1974]  What could a new interpretation of The Crucible hope to reflect, the rapid upsurge of the violent so-called religious right and bigotry in our time?  We have seen the poignant hopes of the 1960's sour into disinterest.  Are the times in which we find ourselves so different from 1692?  As they were entering into a new understanding of their world; so too are we entering into a new understanding of our world.  We have seen an author of Rushdie's status forced into hiding because of religious fanaticism.  We have seen physicians murdered outside abortion clinics in the name of "God".  We have seen candidates lobby not for the coming together of diverse elements, but, rather on the separation of the pious from the impious.  We are no longer in the intellectual and dogmatic battleground of McCarthyism.  We are now stepping into a potentially deadlier battleground.  A battleground where there could be a war over religious and personal freedoms.

Chronology (all dates are in the year 1692):

One day, in February of 1692,  the Rev. Samuel Parris noticed his daughter and niece acting very strangely.  They were adopting strange postures and running around in a distracted manner.
'Parris first called in a local physician, one William Griggs.  But Griggs was at a loss to understand the behavior of nine-year-old Betty Parris or her eleven-year old cousin, Abigail Williams, and warned Parris that he suspected the 'Evil Hand' or, in more technical parlance, malefic witchcraft.  If this were indeed the case, the problem was not medical at all, but legal.  Those who suffered from witchcraft, after all, were the victims of a crime, not a disease.'  Within a month of the advent of the girls odd behavior seven others, aged from twelve to nineteen, also showed similar symptoms of bewitchment. "On February 29, 1692, warrants went out for the arrest of three Village women whom the girls, under the pressure of intense adult questioning, had finally named as their tormentors: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba herself"  Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, members of the provincial legislature who lived in Salem Town - five miles away - came to Salem Village to exam the accused witches.  All three women were sent to Boston jail to await further trial and on May 10th Sarah Osborne died of natural causes. [pages 2-3, Salem Possessed]

March 21 - a fourth woman was arrested, Martha Cory of Salem Village.  During her examination by Hathorne and Corwin, the girls, sitting at the front of the room, "cried out in 'extreme agony'; when she wrung her hands they screamed that they were being pinched; when she bit her lips, they declared that they could feel teeth biting their own flesh.  In the general hubbub, a Village woman named Bethshaa Pope flung first her muff and then her shoe at Martha, striking her on the head." [page 5, Salem Possessed]

Wednesday, March 23 - they added an adult, Mrs. Ann Putnam, to the ranks of the accusers.  She had exhibited similar fits and had visions of spectral persons, especially one Rebecca Nurse, attacking her. [page 4, Salem Possessed]

March 24 - the four year old daughter of Sarah Good, Dorcas, was sent to Boston Prison in irons as an accused witch.  They kept her in irons for the whole nine months of her imprisonment.  Her father later said that this experience scarred her for life.  That there was no disciplining her.
Also on March 24 - Rebecca Nurse was examined and the cries and convolutions of the girls reached their maximum fury.  People were amazed at the noise they made. [page 5, Salem Possessed]

April 11 - there are so many persons accused and detained that the Magistrates move the trials to Salem Town.  The Proctors are accused and examined.

April 21 - Thomas Putnam, Jr., whose wife Ann and daughter Ann were among those suffering attacks, wrote to the judges.  He informed them that Abigail Williams had accused the former minister of Salem Village--George Burroughs, who now lived in Maine--as being the central wizard in a grand conspiracy of witchcraft.

May 27 - the new Governor of the colony, Sir William Phips, constituted a special Court of Oyer and Terminer to hear the growing number of witchcraft cases.  It was made up of six members of his advisory council and headed by his lieutenant governor--William Stoughton.  It included John Richards, Wait Winthrop, Bartholomew Gedney, Samuel Sewall, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and Peter Sergeant.

June 2 - at the first trial, Bridget Bishop--who had been imprisioned since April 18th--was judged guilty and sentenced to death.  She was hung on June 10.

June 29 - the Court sat for a second time and sentenced five more women to death.  Rebecca Nurse had been acquitted, but Stoughton had sent the jury back for a guilty verdict.  Which he received.

June 30 - Sarah Good & Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village, Susanna Martin of Amesbury, Elizabeth How of Ipswich, and Sarah Wildes of Topsfield were tried and found guilty.

July 19 - Sarah Good & Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village, Susanna Martin of Amesbury, Elizabeth How of Ipswich, and Sarah Wildes of Topsfield were hung.  Sarah Good's answer to the Rev. Nicholas Noyes' demand that she confess was, "I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink."

August 5 - there were six more trials and six more guilty verdicts:  Mr. George Burroughs minister of Wells, Maine, John Proctor and Elizabeth Procter of Salem Village, John Willard of Salem Village, George Jacobs, Sr., of Salem Town, and Martha Carryer [Carrier] of Andover.  Elizabeth Proctor's death sentence was reprieved because she was pregnant.

August 19 - Mr. George Burroughs minister of Wells, Maine, John Proctor of Salem Village, John Willard of Salem Village, George Jacobs, Sr., of Salem Town, and Martha Carryer [Carrier] of Andover were executed.

September 9 - Six more were tried and found guilty: Martha Cory of Salem Village, Mary Easty of Topsfield, Alice Parker and Ann Pudeater of Salem Town, Dorcas Hoar of Beverly and Mary Bradbury of Salisbury.

September 17 - the Court met for the last time.  Nine more were tried and condemned: Margaret Scot of Rowley, Goodwife Willmet Redd (or Reed ) of Marblehead, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker of Andover, Abigail Faulkner of Andover (who pleaded pregnancy), Rebecca Eames of Boxford, Mary Lacy and Ann Foster of Andover, and Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield.  Five confessed and were reprieved.  Giles Cory refused to allow them to try him so he was pressed, with heavy stones in a type of torture known as peine forte et dure, to get him to agree to be tried by a jury.  He refused and was crushed to death.  It took two days for him to die.

September 22 - Martha Cory, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeater, Margaret Scot, Goodwife Willmet Redd (or Reed), Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker were executed.

What finally stopped the trials, and executions, was an organized move by the principal ministers of Massachusetts.  There had been opposition to the trials all along.  People had come forward, putting themselves at grave risk, with evidence that the girls were faking.  After Bridget Bishop's execution one of the judges, Nathan Saltonstall, had resigned, but even he was later accused of witchcraft.  Cotton Mather had publicly supported the trials but had urged caution.  His esteemed father, Increase Mather, had later come out in opposition to the Trials.  On October 3rd in a sermon, Increase had said "It were better that ten suspected witches should escape, than that one innocent person should be condemned."  The ministers were coming out, albeit too late, against the practice central to the trials.  The use of "spectral evidence".  They stated that the evidence should be "as clear as in any other crimes of a capital nature."  Another issue that the ministers brought up was the fact that the accused had no legal counsel.  There is no evidence of attorneys acting on the behalf of the accused in any of the cases tried in 1692.

Conspiracy?

The following is a quick rundown of the political situation in Salem Village at the time of the Trials:
You had two families engaged in a type of political and economic battle--lets call them the Capulets and Montagues of Salem Village.  One family, that descended of John Putnam (Thomas, Sr.; Nathaniel who married Elizabeth Hutchinson; John who married Rebecca Prince; and three unmarried daughters), became the accusers.  They  were stolid farmer types.  By the time of the trials, their holdings--through giving patrimonies to their sons--had dwindled considerably.  They were landlocked.  Many of the accusers were allied with the Putnam family.  Thomas Putnam, Jr., his wife, Ann; his twelve-year-old daughter Ann, Jr.; and Mercy Lewis their servant girl, were central characters among the accusers.  Thomas' brother Edward, their brother-in-law Jonathan Walcott, and Walcott's daughter Mary who lived with Thomas Putnam, were also numbered among the accusers.

The family of John Porter (Joseph, who married Anne Hathorne; Israel, who married Elizabeth Hathorne; Mary who married Thomas Gardner; Sarah who married Daniel Andrew) had started out with holdings similar to the Putnams.  However, they had diversified with mercantile holdings and marriages with people of Salem Town and were doing very well.  It is their supporters, and relatives, who ended up being the accused.

The essence of the disagreement seems to have arisen when old Thomas Putnam, Sr. remarried after the death of his first wife, Ann Holyoke by whom he had two sons--Thomas Jr. and Edward, and six daughters--Ann, Sarah, Mary, Deliverance, Elizabeth, and Prudence.  He married his second wife, Mary Veren, in 1666.  During his life Old Thomas gave land holdings to his various sons as they came of age.  With Mary he had a son, Joseph, late in life and when old Thomas died he left what was remaining of his estate to Joseph and Mary.  This Thomas Jr. contested the will but lost the case.  To add insult to injury, Joseph, aged twenty, married Elizabeth Porter (daughter of Isreal and Elizabeth Porter), aged sixteen, in 1690 and allied himself, and the bulk of the Putnam wealth to the Porter faction.

The two families divided much of the power and control of Salem Village.  The Putnam's methods seemed to be more extrovert and bullying, while the Porter's seemed to act more behind the scenes and not come out in the open until a fait accompli.  Until right before the outbreak of the girl's fits the Putnam's had control of the Village Committee and as such got rid of the last minister George Burroughs and brought in Samuel Parris.  There was some question as to the legality of their bringing him in and in their giving him the minister's house and land around it.  There had been a motion, circa 1681,  among the people of Salem Village, that the minister's house and land (made up of land donated by the people of Salem Village) would never be given to any minister, but would stay in perpetuity the property of the village.  The Putnam headed committee may have illegally voided this agreement and gave over the papers to Parris at a meeting on October 10, 1689.  This rankled the Porter faction and just before the Witch Trials the Porter faction ousted the Putnam's from the Village Committee and took over on October 16, 1691.  Chosen for this committee were: Joseph Porter, Joseph Hutchinson, Joseph Putnam, Daniel Andrew (who was later accused of witchcraft with his brother-in-law George Jacobs, Jr., but escaped), and Francis Nurse (whose wife was accused of witchcraft and executed).  During this time Parris did not receive his pay, which he complained about, and the now Anti-Parris Village Committee began an investigation into the legality of the land transfer to Parris.  Perhaps, in true Porter fashion, through inactivity and no funds they hoped to drive Parris away.  The Putnam faction sued in court and won Parris' back pay, but there was no one on the Committee who would collect it.  In this atmosphere of frustration and bitter verbal and legal battles the Witch Trials arose.  The Putnams and Parris had spent years in court trying to get the better of the Porters.  "But the trials came.  Unable to relieve their frustration politically, the members of the Pro-Parris faction unconsciously fell back on a different and more archaic strategy:  They treated those who threatened them not as a political opposition but as an aggregate of morally defective individuals." [page 109, Salem Possessed]

Is it beyond suspicion that presented with a quick and permanent way of disposing of their foes that the Putnams would take it?  I think not.  I do not even buy the "unconscious" part of the equation which many historians use to explain it away.  These were crafty and hardy folk.  I think that most of the principal players were aware, at some level, of what they were doing.  When one looks at the pattern of who was accused and in what order, it seems to me to have been, a very well thought out plan of extermination.  Prior to 1692 New England juries refused to rely specifically on spectral evidence "They were not satisfied that a specter doing mischief in her likeness, should be imputed to her person, as a ground of guilt.'  The best measure of judicial restraint can be found in the proportion of accused who subsequently were convicted and executed.  In the years prior to the Salem Village episode...Between 1663 an 1692, courts convicted only four suspects and executed only one." [page 11, The Salem Witch Crisis by Larry Gragg; Praeger Publishers; New York; 1992]

What then caused them to change the procedure in Salem?  There seems to be the taint of actual and deliberate conspiracy.  Whether the girls were partially innocent or not does not seem to be the point.  Even if some had been physically abused at the start, they later seem to have enjoyed being the center of attention and to have gone along with the adults in the subterfuge.

"A full month, maybe more, elapsed between the time the girls began to exhibit strange behavior and the point at which the first accusations of witchcraft were made; and in the haze of those first uncertain weeks, it is possible to discern the shadows of what might have been."  "Why then, during 1692, were the girls so consistently treated as innocent victims?  Why were they not, at the very least, chastised for behavior which itself verged on witchcraft?  Clearly the decisive factor was the interpretation which adults--adults who had the power to make their interpretation stick--chose to place on events whose intrinsic meaning was, to begin with, dangerously ambiguous.  The adults, indeed, determined not only the direction the witchcraft accusations would take; it was they, it seems, who first concluded that witchcraft was even in the picture at all." [page 23, Salem Possessed]

The adults began plying the girls with leading questions..."Who is it who afflicts you?" and so on.  Tituba was reportedly beaten by Parris until she gave up the names of her illusory witchy compatriots.  The girls first behaviors seem more hysterical or even getting away with what they could than actual sickness.  The adults used these odd behaviors to settle old scores within the village.  At first the girls pointed their fingers at the outcasts of the community, maybe they, the adults, were testing the waters to see if the plan would work.  Tituba was a West Indian slave and at Parris' mercy, Sarah Good was a homeless women who went around begging and "mumbling" at those who turned her away, and Sarah Osborne was a sick bedridden old woman.  So sick that she died in jail.

By March they began accusing members of the Village Church, and next they began to accuse persons who did not even live in Salem Village.  Phillip English, a wealthy shipowner; George Burroughs, who had an estate in England; Hezekiah Usher, a wealthy merchant; the widow of Jacob Sheafe--another wealthy merchant; the wife of Rev. John Hale (but this was squashed because the Rev. Hale had helped start the trials); Captain John Alden, Nathaniel Saltonstall--who had quit the court; and the wife of the Governor, Lady Phips.  Now many of these individuals were only accused, and not charged, but it seems that some motive lay behind the accusations.  These girls did not know all the persons whom they charged.  In fact, when John Alden was brought before them they could not identify him.  A man behind one of the girls whispered in her ear and she then identified him.  When asked what the man had told her she admitted that he had pointed out Alden, but the identification and accusation stood.

Perhaps by this time those running the trials got into the act.  Sheriff George Corwin, a relation of Jonathan Corwin perhaps?, began illegally seizing the property of the accused and condemned.  "Though seizures of property for witchcraft accusations and convictions were illegal, several families in 1692 found sheriffs or their deputies at their doors, proclaiming that 'in their majesty's name' their property 'was forfeited to the King.'  In the cases of Elizabeth Cary, Edward and Sarah Bishop, and Philip English, the seizures followed their escape from custody.  After authorities jailed his wife, Nathaniel Cary, a Charlestown shipbuilder, contrived her escape, first to Rhode Island and then to New York.  Cary left some personal property with a friend, but the sheriff pursuing the couple seized the goods.  Following Edward and Sarah Bishop's escape from jail, Essex County Sheriff George Corwin, on October 7th, proceeded to their farm and told the couple's son, Samuel, that his parents 'having been committed for witchcraft and felony, have made their escape; and their goods and chattels were forfeited unto their majesties.'...Sheriff Corwin's biggest haul came from Salem merchant Philip English.  When he and his wife fled to New York, English posted a £4000 security bond in Boston to protect his property.  Undeterred, Corwin seized English's property...Altogether, English calculated the value of the goods at £1183.  Despite statutes that prohibited forfeiture of property for witchcraft convictions, Corwin did not act illegally in these cases.  English law permitted seizure of the property of individuals fleeing from justice...While Corwin's actions in the Bishop and English cases had judicial sanction, he brazenly violated the law in other seizures.  Seven families--those of William Barker, Dorcas Hoar, George Jacobs, Sr., Samuel Wardwell, John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Mary Parker--either had property seized or were threatened with the action...He usually proceeded right after the conviction or execution of the accused.  No matter when he acted, Corwin did so illegally.  Moreover, in dealing with the families of the convicted, he displayed a shocking callousness...After the execution of George Jacobs, Sr., the sheriff and his deputies made a clean sweep of the dead man's house...they even took the widow Jacob's wedding ring...After the juries found John and Elizabeth Proctor guilty, Corwin went to their home and took everything..." [pages 128-129, The Salem Witch Crisis]

Who did all of this wealth go to?  Surely not to Corwin alone.  It is most probably true that the judges and others got their cut, and that Corwin was acting on the orders of Stoughton.  Extortion and the acquisition of wealth must have been on the minds of the judges as more people of status and wealth stood accused.  If they fled their property was legally forfeit.  If they were tried, convicted and executed, then their families could be extorted and frightened into giving up their wealth.  After all, if you protested too loudly you might find yourself among the accused.

Another interesting fact is that most of the accused came from the eastern, close to Salem Town, portion of the Village while the accusers came from the west side.  "There were fourteen accused witches who lived within the bounds of Salem Village.  Twelve of these fourteen lived in the eastern section of the Village.  There were thirty-two adult Villagers who testified against these accused witches.  Only two of these lived in that eastern section.  The other thirty lived on the western side.

In other words, the alleged witches and those who accused them resided on opposite sides of the Village.  There were twenty-nine Villagers who publicly showed their skepticism about the trials or came to the defense of one or more of the accused witches.  Twenty-four of these lived in the eastern part of the Village--the same side on which the witches lived--and only two of them in the west.  Those who defended the witches were generally their neighbors, often their immediate neighbors.  Those who accused them were not. [page 35, Salem Possessed]

One may also wish to consider the physical threats that the people of New England felt subject to immediately prior to 1692.  There had been a series of natural disasters between the years 1660 and 1690.  They suffered a series of misfortunes biblical in their ferocity.  There were floods, fires, and plagues.  Add to that King Philip's War in 1675 and the constant fear of Native American attacks you have people who could believe themselves at risk from all sides.

Boyer and Nissenbaum theorize that the accusers may have wanted the accused to confess and that the psychological phenomenon of "projection" was in force.  They state that "In 1692, if we are correct, this familiar ritual [public confession] would have taken on a particular resonance for the accusers and on-lookers, since the confession they had drawn form the mouths of the accused was surely one that on some level they themselves longed to make.  By first projecting upon others the unacknowledged impulses which lay within themselves, and then absolving those they had accused, the accusers could bring such impulses into the open, gain at least temporary mastery over them, and thereby affirm their commitment to social values in which they very much wanted to believe.  It is surely not coincidence that not one of the confessing witches was hanged." [page 215, Salem Possessed]

However, I see this as a simplistic argument.  The evidence shows that the judges fully intended on executing the confessed witches after the rest of the trials.  Also by the time that the ministerial uproar led by Increase Mather threatened the Court there was a sense of political hazard in the air.  The one person who could disband the Court was Governor William Phips, Phip's own wife stood accused and by association Phips was in danger.  There was a moment where the Lieutenant Governor could have tried to take over the government.  Phips even hints at this crisis of government in a letter to the Earl of Nottingham dated February 21, 1693.  Phips states that when he arrived he found:
"the prisons full of people committed upon suspicion of witchcraft...The number of these complaints increasing every day, by advice of the Lieut. Govr. and the Council I gave a Commission of Oyer and Terminer to try the suspected witches...and I depended upon the Court for a right method of proceeding in cases of witchcraft...At that time I went to command the army at the eastern part of the Province...I continued there for some time but when I returned I found people much dissatisfied at the proceedings of the Court, for about twenty persons were condemned and executed of which number some were thought by many persons to be innocent.  The Court still proceeded in the same method of trying them, which was by the evidence of the afflicted persons who...made oath that the prisoner at the bar did afflict them and that they saw their shape or specter come from their bodies...But at length I found that the Devil did take upon him the shape of Innocent persons and some were accused of whose innocency I was well assured...The Deputy Govr., notwithstanding, persisted vigorously in the same method...until I put an end to the Court and stopped the proceedings...When I put an end to the Court there were at least fifty persons in prison...most of them having only specter evidence against them...I caused some of them to be let out upon bail...I permitted a special Superior Court to be held at Salem in the County of Essex on the third day of January, the Lieut. Govr. being Chief Judge.  Their method of proceeding being altered, all that were brought to trial, to the number of fifty two, were cleared saving [except] three, and I was informed by the King's Attorney General that some of the cleared and the condemned were under the same circumstances or that there was the same reason to clear the three condemned as the rest according to his Judgment.  The Deputy Govr. signed a Warrant for their speedy execution and also of five others who were condemned at the former Court of Oyer and Terminer, but considering how the matter had been managed I sent a reprieve whereby the execution was stopped...The Lieut. Gov. upon this occasion was enraged and filled with passionate anger and refused to sit upon the bench in a Superior Court then held at Charlestown, and indeed hath from the beginning hurried on these matters with great precipitancy and by his warrant hath caused the estates, goods and chattels of the executed to be seized and disposed of without my knowledge or consent..." [pages 120-122, Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1972.]

It seems that Phips had his hands full with both his Deputy (Mr. Danforth) and Lieutenant (Mr. Stoughton) Governors.  They seem to have acted against his will and in actual opposition to his orders, until he forced the issue.  It is possible to presume that they were getting something a little more tangible, than the rooting out of the Devil, from the trials.
 

Who were the real people of Salem?

The Accused:

John Proctor (a.k.a. Procter)
Age - 60
In 1666 John Proctor requested a license to operate a tavern in his house on the Ipswich Road outside of Salem Village.  He stated that his house was located "in the common roadway, which occasioneth several travelers to call in for some refreshment as they pass along...I do therefore earnestly request you that you would be pleased to grant me liberty to set up a house of entertainment to sell beer, cider [and] liquors." [from the Essex County Court Records]  The court approved his request but only so long as he sold to strangers.  Thereby, making Proctor's home a gathering place for "outsiders."  Other tavern keepers were also accused, Bridget Bishop for one.  Joshua Rea, Jr. another tavern keeper opposed the trials and signed a petition to save Rebecca Nurse.

In 1692 Proctor was sixty years old.  From the time he had moved to Salem Village in 1666 he had prospered.  He had opened the above mentioned tavern, which his wife and daughter later ran.  He had leased one of the largest farms in the area "Groton" near the border of Salem Town and Salem Village.  He had also inherited large tracts of land in the town of Ipswich.  His connection with Israel Porter is strengthened by the fact that he named Israel one of the executors of his will.  He was popular in Ipswich where the minister, John Wise, and thirty-two other men signed a petition on his behalf when he was imprisioned for witchcraft.  However, for all his wealth he was never referred to by the honorific "Mr." he was always referred to as "Goodman" in the trial records.  He had wealth, but he did not have inviolable status.

Proctor had thought that the fits of the afflicted were put on from the beginning.  Samuel Sibley in his testimony from the trials stated:

The morning after the examination of Goody Nurse, Sam Sibley met John Proctor about Mr. Phillips's.  He called to said Sibley as he was going to said Phillips's and asked how the folks did at the village.  He answered he heard they were very bad last night, but he had heard noting this morning.  Proctor replied he was going to fetch home his jade.  He left her there last night, and had rather given 40c than let her come up.  Said Sibley asked why he talked so.  Proctor replied, if they were let alon, then we should all be devils and witches quickly.  They should rather be had to the whipping post.  But he would fetch his jade home and thrust the Devil out of her, and more to the like purpose, crying, hang them, hang them.  And also added that when she was first taken with fits he kept her close to the wheel and threatened to thrash her, and then she had no more fits till the next day [after] he was gone forth, and then she must have her fits again, forsooth, & c.
Proctor owns he meant Mary Warren.
[Testimony of Samuel Sibley from pages 92-93, Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1972.]

Proctor maintained his low opinion of the afflicted through the day of his wife's examination.  Several overheard him say that 'if Mr. Parris would let him have his Indian he the said Proctor would soon drive the Devil out of him'  Proctor's stern opposition did not prevent the afflicted from turning on him [it probably provoked them - my italics].  When Ann Putnam and Abigail Williams claimed that he was a wizard, most of the remaining afflicted "had grievous fits."  When Thomas Danforth asked Proctor to explain the scene in front of him, the formerly tough-talking farmer offered a lame response: "I know not, I am innocent."  His claim of innocence, as in many previous examinations, triggered a reaction among the afflicted.  Samuel Parris described the scene, which obviously convinced Danforth, who interjected a comment.

Abigail Williams cried out, there is Goodman Proctor going to Mrs. Pope, and immediately, said Pope fell into a fit.  You see the Devil will deceive you; the children could see what you was going to do before the woman was hurt.  I would advise you to repentance, for the Devil is bringing you out.  Abigail Williams cried out again, there is Goodman Proctor going to hurt Goody Bibber, and immediately Goody Bibber fell into a fit.  There was the like of Mary Walcott, and divers others.
One of Proctor's accusers, Joseph Bayley the son-in-law of John Putnam, stated that he had felt invisible blows when he rode within sight of Proctor's house.  "The 'hideous clamors and screechings' prompted one man who had not participated in any of the previous examinations to offer testimony.  Benjamin Gould told the magistrates that four nights before 'he had seen Goodman Corey and his wife, Proctor and his wife, Goody Cloyce, Goody Nurse, and Goody Griggs in his chamber.'  The testimony offered, the sufferings of the afflicted, and the response of the accused to their questions convinced the magistrates that there was sufficient evidence to hold the Proctors and Sarah Cloyce for trial." [page 81, The Salem Witch Crisis]

John Proctor, while imprisoned, was an eye-witness to the torture of other prisoners, as well as the torture of his son, William.  A letter he wrote while in prison went as follows:
 

Salem-Prison, July 23, 1692

Mr. [Increase] Mather, Mr. Allen,
Mr. Moody, Mr. Willard, and
Mr. Bailey.

Reverend Gentlemen.

The innocency of our Case with the Enmity of our Accusers and our Judges, and Jury, whom nothing but our Innocent Blood will serve their turn, having Condemned us already before our Trials, being so much incensed and engaged against us by the Devil, makes us bold to Beg and Implore your Favourable Assistance of this our Humble Petition to his Excellency, That if it be possible our Innocent Blood may be spared, which undoubtedly otherwise will be shed, if the Lord doth not mercifully step in.  The Magistrates, Ministers, Jewries [juries], and all the People in general, being so much inraged and incensed against us by the Delusion of the Devil, which we can term no other, by reason we know in our own Consciences, we are all Innocent Persons.  Here are five Person who have lately confessed themselves to be Witches, and do accuse some of us; of being along with them at a Sacrament, since we were committed into close Prison, which we know to be Lies.  Two of the 5 are ([Martha] Carrier's Sons) Young-men, who would not confess any thing till they tyed them Neck and Heels till the Blood was ready to come out of their Noses, and 'tis credibly believed and reported this was the occasion of making them confess that they never did, by reason they said one had been a Witch a Month, and another five Weeks, and that their Mother had made them so, who has be confined here this nine Weeks.  My son William Procter, when he was examin'd, because he would not confess that he was Guilty, when he was Innocent, they tyed him Neck and Heels till the Blood gushed out at his Nose, and would have kept him so 24 Hours, if one more Merciful than the rest, had not taken pity on him, and caused him to be unbound.  There actions are very like the Popish Cruelties.  They have already undone us in our Estates, and that will not serve their turns, without our Innocent Bloods.

 If it cannot be granted that we have our Trials at Boston, we humbly beg that you would endeavour to have these Magistrates changed, and other in their rooms, begging also and beseeching you would be pleased to be here, if not all, some of you at our Trials, hoping thereby you may be the means of saving the shedding our Innocent Bloods, desiring your

Prayers to the Lord in our behalf, we rest your Poor Afflicted Servants,
John Procter, etc.

[Letter of John Proctor from pages 106 - 107, Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1972.]

Proctor submitted this appeal to the five clergyman.  Eventually, too late for Proctor, these same clergymen came out against the trials.  He was hung on August 19, 1692.  It was noted that "He pleaded very hard at Execution, for a little respite of time, saying that he was not fit to Die; but it was not granted." [page 107, Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England]

It must also be noted that John Proctor's children, Benjamin, William, and Sarah were also accused of witchcraft.  Along with Elizabeth Proctor they seem to have escaped execution.  It is indicative as to his economic status that when reparations were made to the families of those executed the Proctor family received £150.  The next highest amount paid out was £79.
 

Elizabeth (Bassett) Proctor (a.k.a. Procter)
Age - Probably in her mid to late 30's.
Elizabeth was the third wife of John Proctor.  In 1692 she had been married to him for eighteen years, one might estimate her age at middle thirties, and was pregnant with her seventeenth child.  She seems, therefore, to have been a strong woman.  She ran the tavern and brooked no bull.  Elizabeth was known to have had a few confrontations with people who did not pay up.  Apart from sitting near Rebecca Nurse at church there was no recent taint of witchcraft about her.  Although her grandmother Ann Burt had been suspected of witchcraft in the town of Lynn many years earlier.
However, someone had it out for her.:

When they first heard of her accusation, several villagers clearly had difficulty believing that Elizabeth Proctor could be a witch.  The day after Parris's witchcraft sermon [March 28th], villagers gathered in Ingersoll's tavern, and the conversation inevitably turned to the growing witchcraft crisis.  When William Rayment said, "I heard that Goody Proctor was to be examined tomorrow," Hanna Ingersoll refused to believe the rumor "for she heard nothing of it."  Picking up on the conversation, some afflicted in the tavern "cried out there Goody Proctor there Goody Proctor and old witch I'll have her hang."  Again, Ingersoll challenged the charge.  When she "sharply reproved" the girls, they seemed "to make a jest of it."  Proctor's standing in the community gave the afflicted pause in their accusations.  When immediately and directly challenged, they tried to explain their statements away as a jest, or as one allegedly put it: "She did it for sport; they must have some sport."  The following day, John Houghton and Samuel Barton witnessed similar uncertainty when they visited the home of Thomas Putnam.  Putnam's wife, Ann, Daughter, Ann, and their nineteen-year-old servant Mercy Lewis had all suffered fits.  Barton and Houghton may have dropped by out of curiosity although they said that they were there "helping to tend the afflicted folks."  Even with this prompting, Lewis was unsure: "She did not cry out of Goody Proctor nor nobody she said she did say there she is but did not tell them who."  When the Putnams persisted that she had named Proctor in one of her fits, Lewis replied that "if she did it was when she was out of her head." [page 77, The Salem Witch Crisis]

These two incidents are very telling.  They show the callousness of the girls towards their victims, and in my view, show a malicious and deliberate intent to harm.  These accounts also show that the Putnams were actively pursuing a program of elimination.  They tried to press the case with Mercy Lewis, who as a servant was at their mercy [no pun intended], but even she was afraid of the economic and personal status that the Proctors held.

By the examination day, April 11, the afflicted had changed their tunes, and Danforth had changed his style of interrogation.  Where before he had grilled the accused, now he directly asked questions of the afflicted.  John Indian (Parris' servant), Abigail Williams, and Mary Walcott supplied evidence that not only were Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce guilty of afflicting them but that they were also guilty of recruiting more witches.  Here is where they turned on their fellow, Mercy Warren.  "Abigail Williams charged that Proctor 'saith she hath made her maid [Warren] set her hand to the Devil's Book." [page 79, The Salem Witch Crisis]

The most unbelievable part of the evidence was that the evil specters of the accused would go around and boast of their plans, conquests and evil deeds.  Were these crafty Puritan merchants and farmers so blinded that they could not see through the ludicrous nature of this argument.  Did they really believe that the spirits of the accused would give evidence against themselves?  The afflicted and some of the clergy came up with an acceptable answer, the Devil had turned on his followers and was showing them up.  Still unbelievable to a rational mind.

Elizabeth continued to declare her innocence.  Danforth pointing out the sufferings of the afflicted wanted to know what she thought was the reason, she replied, "I take God in heaven to be my witness, that I know nothing of it, no more than the child unborn."  Abigail Williams continued to accuse her of recruiting Mary Warren for the Devil.  Elizabeth replied to her, "Dear child, it is not so.  There is another judgment, dear child."  Abigail's response was to fall into another of her dramatic fits.  Mary Walcott backed off a bit when Danforth questioned her directly if Elizabeth had ever harmed her.  She stated, "I never saw her so as to be hurt by her."  However, Ann Putnam and Abigail Williams came forward looking as if they would strike Elizabeth.  As Abigail's hand touched Elizabeth's hood she cried out that she had been burned and went into another fit.

The final nail in Elizabeth's coffin was when, as a final measure, they asked her to recite the Lord's prayer, which no true witch was thought to be able to do.  Elizabeth misspoke twice, understandable under the intense pressure, when she said "Deliver us from all evil." instead of "Deliver us from evil." and "Hollowed be thy name." instead of "Hallowed be thy name."  The judges took these innocent mistakes as a confirmation that she was a witch.  The afflicted now turned their ire on John Proctor.
Another of the accused, Mary (Bassett) DeRich  wife of Michael DeRich, may have been Elizabeth's sister or cousin.
 

Giles Corey (a.k.a. Cory)
Age - 72
Although Giles Corey suffered the most tortuous of deaths, by pressing, during the Salem Witch Trials he was no innocent.  In 1692 he was seventy-two years old and had a terrible reputation.  He had been charged in the past of petty theft, and in 1675 he was thought to have beaten one of his servants, Jacob Goodale, to death with a large stick.  He was charged with abuse, but because Goodale could not remember anything regarding the attack, Corey evaded murder charges.  John Proctor had accused Corey of both theft and arson in the past.  Here was a violent and contentious man.

He was examined on April 19 and it seemed that for once he was afraid and he admitted to thoughts of suicide.  He was moved to Boston on May 13.  However, by the time of his trial on September 17 his old personality traits had returned and he refused the Court's right to try him.  He plead not guilty and refused to "put himself on the country."  This prevented the Court from putting him in front of a jury.  They sentenced him to peine forte et dure, to be pressed with weights until he confessed.  Sheriff Corwin complied and had large weights placed on him.  After two days of this torture he died at about noon on September 19.  It is related that "In pressing, his Tongue being prest out of his Mouth, the Sheriff with his Cane forced it in again, when he was dying.  He was the first in New-England, that was ever prest to Death." [page 108, Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1972.]
 

Sarah (Solart) Good
Age - 38?
Sarah's life had been a hard one, as was her death.  She had started out the daughter of John Solart a prosperous innkeeper in Wenham.  He committed suicide in 1672 and left an estate of £500.  However, Sarah's mother remarried and kept the estate from her children.  The children sued in the General Court in 1682 but there was little left.  Sarah had married an indentured servant, Daniel Poole, who died and left her with his debts.  She then married William Good, but had to sell the small amount of land which she had inherited to pay off debts from her first husband.  They were soon without a home and living on the charity of those in Salem Village.  Apparently Sarah had a vicious tongue and would lash out at those who refused to help her and even at those who did help her.  Samuel and Mary Abbey had taken the Good's in, but after a few months turned them out because of Sarah having "so turbulent a spirit, spiteful, and maliciously bent,".  Even her husband, at her trial said that he was "afraid that she either was a witch, or would be one very quickly...I may say with tears that she is an enemy to all good."  So he probably saw an easy out of the marriage...get your wife executed.  Perhaps it was because her fortunes had fallen so precipitously that Sarah was such a nasty piece of work, and that was why she "grumbled" when she had to take charity to survive.

She did not do well under examination and eventually declared Sarah Osborne was a witch.  Her four, or six year-old daughter, Dorcas sealed her fate by testifying that her mother had three familiars in the form of three birds--one yellow, one black--that hurt children.  As an example of the blatant falsification of testimony the following occurred "during Sarah Good's trial on June 30, one of the afflicted claimed that Good's specter stabbed her with a knife, and those close by noted 'a piece of the blade of a knife.'  However, a young man attending the trial 'produced a haft and part of the blade, which the court having viewed and compared, saw it to be the same.'  In response to the judge's inquiries, the man explained that the previous day he had broken the knife and had 'cast away the upper part, this afflicted person being then present.'  In the face of this obvious fabrication, the judges surprisingly only bid the young woman 'not to tell lies." [page 164, The Salem Witch Crisis by Larry Gragg; Praeger Publishers; New York; 1992]  However, they did nothing to protect the accused from such lies.  Sarah Good was found guilty.  In the face of such false evidence and malice, how could any reasonable person find her guilty, unless they had determined it from the start.
She was hung July 19, 1692
 

Rebecca (Towne) Nurse
Age - 52? She was probably born circa 1640
Rebecca, or "Goody" Nurse was an outsider who came from the nearby town of Topsfield.  She was the daughter of William Towne who left a small estate to eight children.  She married Francis Nurse who started out as a traymaker in Salem Town, but who through land speculation and hard work bought a fertile 300-acre farm near the border of Salem Town and Salem Village.  They had eight sons and sons-in-law who settled around their farm.  They were doing very well financially and Francis Nurse was a member of the Anti-Parris faction.

Rebecca Nurse was the first person directly associated with the Porter faction to be accused.  She was the only person Israel Porter came out in support of.  He organinzed a petition to save her.  Rebecca was also at risk because years before her mother had been accused, but never tried, of witchcraft.  Because of this Rebecca's two sisters were also later among the accused.  Ann Putnam, Sr. led the accusations against Nurse which were exceptional in there ferocity and personal maliciousness.

During her incarcertation prior to trial, Rebecca had undergone a physical exam at 10:00 in the morning on June 2, where the women chosen to examine her said that they had found a type of "witch's teat", or piece of flesh that was not normal and which did not feel pain, between her vagina and anus.  It was thought that witches nursed their familiars through these "teats".  However, upon re-examination at 4:00 in the afternoon the same women found no such object, only a bit of dry flesh.  As such they retracted their statement that they had found a "teat".  Her trial was set to begin on June 30.  On June 28 she requested another exam, there is no record that the judges allowed it.
Over forty people came forward to vouch for her and signed Israel Porter's petition in her support.  Initially the jury found her not guilty.  At the verdict the afflicted had massive fits, and the judges sent the jury back to deliberate yet again.  At one point the jury foreman came forward to ask a question of Rebecca but she did not reply, she was horribly deaf and does not seem to have heard his question.  The jury took this to be a sign of guilt.  They came back a second time with a guilty verdict.  Rebecca's family persuaded Phips to grant a reprieve, but the afflicted again set up a hue and cry, and some other men of Salem (the Putnams perhaps?) persuaded Phips to rescind the order.  The church of Salem Village then excommunicated her prior to her execution.
 

Tituba (a.k.a. "Tituba Indian")
The Rev. Samuel Parris' slave
Age - Unknown
Tituba at first stated that her former mistress in Barbados had been a witch "and had taught her some means to be used for the discovery of a witch and for the prevention of being bewitched."  However, she refused to admit that she was a witch.  At some point there is evidence that Parris beat her until she confessed and gave up names of her supposed sister witches.

She gave the judges what they needed.  She stated that the Devil appeared to her as, always in these trials, a black man who told her he "would kill the children" and if she would not serve him he would kill her too.  He also appeared to her in the form of a black dog and a black hog.  She said that Sarah Good had a familiar in the form of a yellow bird that took suck from between her forefinger and middle finger of her right hand.  A detail not missed by the girls and repeated ad nauseam in their later accusations against others.
 

The Accusers:

Abigail Williams
Age - 12
Lived in the household of her uncle the Rev. Samuel Parris.  She stated that Satan "tempted her by the offer of fine things."  Along with her cousin Betty Parris and Ann Putnam, Jr. was one of the first persons manifesting odd behavior.  She testified against:

Sarah Buckley of Salem Village
Mary Easty of Salem Village
Sarah Good of Salem Village
George Jacobs, Senior of Salem Town
Susanna Martin of Amesbury
Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village
Sarah Osborne of Salem Village
Elizabeth Proctor of Salem Village
John Proctor of Salem Village
 

Elizabeth "Betty" Parris
Age - 9
Elizabeth "Betty" Parris, reported that Satan had promised to take her to "a Golden City" if she became his slave.  Her name was included on the early arrest warrants and accusations.  It seems that her father sent her away to stay with friends after Tituba's examination, which had greatly affected and frightened her.
 

Reverend Samuel Parris
Age - 39
At the time of the trials Parris was not yet a widower.  His wife Elizabeth was still alive.  She did not die until July of 1696.  She does not appear to have taken part in the accusations.  Reading the records of the Salem Village Church one is struck by a sense of self importance and hubris in the Rev. Parris.  He seems to have set himself, very seriously, above his flock.  He believed that they should, in all matters, defer to him.  He saw any argument with his decisions as a personal affront.  Parris was an elitist.  When he took over the Salem Village Church the common policy among the New England churches was to allow children to receive the sacrament of baptism even if their parents were not full members of the Church.  Parris talked his congregation into restricting baptism only to those who were children of the "elect" or full members of the Church.  He was forced to modify his practice, but he succeeded in restricting baptism to children who had one parent among the "elect", were educated, free from open vices, and not over twelve years of age.  He even had to fight for this concession among his flock.

Therefore, with the occurrences in Salem Village which brought about the bad feelings against him, he was more than ready I think, to attack his enemies.  Even if it were from behind a mask of piety.  He was driven to be a success, because up until then he had not been a success.  He lashed out against those who were successful and who he viewed, rightly so, as his opponents.
At one point he even deliberately fanned the flames of the crisis.  He gave a sermon on March 27, before the first trial on June 2, where he argued that witches could be found even among the "elect" and the members of the church.  He thereby made everyone vulnerable to the accusation of witchcraft.  He opened the floodgates of  the accusatory orgy to come.  Rebecca Nurse's sister walked out of this sermon, within a few days she stood accused.  Later, he tried to excuse himself and apologize but it was too little and too late.  Even in his apology there seemed to be a self-righteousness that those who had lost family members could not endure.  He testified against:

Martha Corey of Salem Village
Susanna Martin of Amesbury
Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village
John Procter of Salem Village
Tituba, his slave
John Willard of Salem Village
 

Thomas Putnam, Jr.
Age - 40
Husband to Ann (Carr) Putnam, Sr. and father of Ann, Jr.  Head of the Pro-Parris and Putnam faction in Salem Village.  The most likely person behind the accusations, and the probable mastermind, along with his wife.  He had the most to gain from the trials and had long looked for a way to get even with his brother Joseph for going over to the Porter and Anti-Parris faction.  He testified against:

Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village
John Proctor of Salem Village
John Willard of Salem Village
 

Mrs. Ann (Carr) Putnam
Age - 30
Wife of Thomas Putnam, Jr., they were married in 1678 and had four sons and one daughter, Ann or "Anna" who was born in 1679.  Ann, Jr. was one of the afflicted girls and was twelve or thirteen in 1692.  In the play she is shown as a women with but one living child.  The reality is quite different.  She bore four sons and six daughters.  All of her sons and five of her daughters reached maturity.  Her husband's loss of status and wealth to the Porter faction may be what drove her to participate in the accusations and to possibly orchestrate them.  It was she who began the serious and hysterically vicious accusations against Rebecca Nurse.  She testified against:

Martha Corey of Salem Village
Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village
John Willard of Salem Village
 

Ann Putnam Jr. (a.k.a. Anna)
Age - 12 or 13
Eldest child of Thomas Putnam, Jr. and Ann (Carr) Putnam, Sr.  One of the original afflicted girls.  She testified against:

Mary Bradbury of Salisbury
Sarah Buckley of Salem Village
George Burroughs of Wells, Maine
Giles Corey of Salem Village
Mary Easty of Salem Village
Abigail Faulkner of Andover
Dorcas Good of Salem Village
Sarah Good of Salem Village
Elizabeth Hart of Lynn
Dorcas Hoar of Beverly
Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield
George Jacobs, Sr. of Salem Town
Mary Lacey of Andover
Susanna Martin of Amesbury
Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village
Sarah Osborne of Salem Village
Elizabeth Proctor of Salem Village
John Proctor of Salem Village
Ann Pudeator of Salem Town
Wilmet Redd (or Reed) of Marblehead
Tituba
Job Tookey of Beverly
 

Susanna Walcott
Age - 17
Most probably the "Mary" Walcott of the court records.  She was of the household of Thomas Putnam, Jr., and of the Putnam Clan.  She testified against:

Mary Bradbury of Salisbury
Sarah Buckley of Salem Village
Giles Corey of Salem Village
Mary Easty of Salem Village
Faulkner of Andover
George Jacobs, Sr. of Salem Town
Mary Lacey of Andover
Elizabeth Proctor of Salem Village
John Proctor of Salem Village
Ann Pudeator of Salem Town
Wilmet Redd (or Reed) of Marblehead
Job Tookey of Beverly
Jerson Toothaker
Samuel Wardwell of Andover
 

Mercy Lewis
Age -  17?
Servant to Thomas Putnam, Jr.  She stated that Satan had appeared to her and offered her "gold and many fine things"  Later, she said, Satan appeared in the form of the former minister George Burroughs and offered her the kingdoms of the earth for her soul.  She testified against:

Sarah Buckley of Salem Village
George Burroughs of Wells, Maine
Giles Corey of Salem Village
Dorcas Good of Salem Village
Abigail Hobbs of Topsfield
George Jacobs, Sr. of Salem Town
Mary Lacey of Andover
Susanna Martin of Amesbury
Sarah Osborne of Salem Village
Elizabeth Proctor of Salem Village
John Willard of Salem Village
 

Mary Warren
Age -  20
Was at first one of the afflicted, but later was accused herself.  She was a servant of the Proctor's.  She testified against:

Mary Bradbury of Salisbury
Sarah Buckley of Salem Village
Giles Corey of Salem Village
Mary Easty of Salem Village
Faulkner of Andover
George Jacobs, Sr. of Salem Town
Mary Lacey of Andover
Elizabeth Proctor of Salem Village
John Proctor of Salem Village
Ann Pudeator of Salem Town
Wilmet Redd or Reed of Marblehead
Job Tookey of Beverly
Jerson Toothaker
Samuel Wardwell of Andover
 

Reverend John Hale
Age - 56
Was a graduate of Harvard College and the Pastor of the town of Beverly since 1665.  When he was twelve he had gone to Boston to meet with Margaret Jones, a convicted witch who was to be executed.  They asked her to confess and repent.  She would not, but she impressed Hale with her claims of innocence.  This early experience made him somewhat more cautious than others and even more likely to believe in a convicted witches innocence.  In October 1692 someone accused his wife of witchcraft and where Hale had been rather forward in the prosecution of the supposed witches he now came to believe that spectral evidence was not enough to convict on.  He then began to argue against the trials.
 

Ezekiel Cheever
Age - 37
At some point a clerk during the examinations, although Parris also was a clerk during some of the proceedings.  He characterized the responses of the accused in a negative manner which made the most innocent answers seem guilty.  He described Sarah Good's manner as "her answers were in a very wicked, spiteful manner reflecting and retorting against the authority with base and abusive words and many lies."  A primary example of the victors writing history.  He testified against:

George Burroughs of Wells
Maine Martha Corey of Salem Village
Tituba
 

Marshal Herrick
Age - Unknown
Actually George Herrick, Marshall of Essex
He testified against Sarah Good of Salem Village
 

Judge Hawthorne (a.k.a. Hathorne)
Age - Unknown
From the beginning he questioned the accused with the presumption that they were guilty.  His questions, especially when directed at those like Sarah Good, showed that he believed them to be in league with the devil and tormenting the afflicted.
 

Deputy Governor Danforth
Age - Unknown
Again a judge who presumed that those before him were guilty.  Possibly in  league with the Corwins, Stoughton and Herrick in seizing and extorting money and property from the accused.
 

Psychological Fears

What was going on in the Girls' minds?

"It began in obscurity, with cautious experiments in fortune telling.  Books on the subject had 'stolen' into the land; and all over New England, late in 1691, young people were being 'led away with little sorceries.'  Fearful of the future, they began to cast spells and to practice 'conjuration with sieves and keys, and peas, and nails and horseshoes.'.. in the community of Salem Village, it was mainly young girls who met in small informal gatherings to discuss the future.  Their concern came to focus on that point where curiosity about future love merged with curiosity about future status: the nature of their own marriage, 'what trade their sweethearts should be of.'  One of the girls devised a primitive crystal ball--the white of an egg suspended in a glass--and received a chilling answer: in the glass there floated 'a specter in the likeness of a coffin.'  What had begun as fearful curiosity was turning to sharp panic.  The magic they had tried to harness was beginning, instead, to ride them: visibly, dramatically, ominously...By February 1692 it was the grownups who began to try to put into words what was happening to their children: 'odd postures, ' 'foolish, ridiculous speeches,' 'distempers,' 'fits.' [Testimony of Sarah Cole of Lynn; pages 1-2, Salem Possessed]

Did they really believe that they were bewitched, or was it a ploy to get out of punishment.  Depending on the girl it could be either or both.  It would seem that Betty Parris may have really thought she was bewitched in some manner.  However, one must look at the belief systems in place at the time and the reality of the girl's lives.  The little bit of divination that was going on and old charms must have seemed, at first, harmless to the girls.  As indeed such practices seemed harmless to countless of their predecessors.  Yet, with the Rev. Parris drumming damnation into their heads they most probably were feeling deeply guilty in their subconscious.  Consider the fears of life at the time.  There were strong  psychological pressures entering into the girl's lives.  One deeply disturbing factor was the idea that soon they would be choosing husbands and marrying.  In an age of high infant and maternal mortality this in itself could be both an exciting and a horrifying prospect.  Each of the girls would have had the experience, or heard, of someone that they knew giving birth to a dead or sickly infant, and then possibly the mother dying herself of blood loss or septicemia.  They were said to have utilized the practice of scrying with an egg white in a bowl.  Again, the possibility of hallucinatory images that could have inundated their minds is myriad.  This seems to have been part of the problem in Salem.  When their fears, along with their guilty consciences, rose to the fore it seems that they suffered--at least initially from some form of hysteria.  Or were they playing at it from the beginning, pulling the adults legs, and seeing how far they could take it?  The question remaining is, did they start accusations all on their own to assuage their guilt?  Or were they prompted from the beginning due to the plotting of their elders?

Some scholars have suggested projection as the process which occurred.  The accusers felt guilty for something so they projected that guilt on the accused.

"A recent historian of sixteenth and seventeenth century witchcraft in Essex County, England, Alan Macfarlane, has concluded that some such process may have been what triggered many of the accusations there.  Macfarlane notes how frequently the accused witch was a person whose neighbors had earlier denied him or her some requested favor or service, and he suggests that it was the accusers' sense of guilt over their own failures of neighborliness which underlay the accusations.  He further hypothesizes that such outbreaks tended to occur (given a prevailing belief in witchcraft) when the evolution form a communal to an individualistic ethic reached a critical stage in a given locality.  (Developments in the weaving industry had brought such a change early to this region of England.)  before the critical stage was reached, the peasant ethic of mutual interdependence remained strong: after it had been passed, erstwhile neighbors found themselves "far enough apart, so to speak, to be able to hate each other without repercussions on the mystical plane." [page 212, Salem Possessed]

Projection, guilt, hysteria, or actual belief in witches may all be rational answers as to the cause of the Salem Witchcraze.  However, with the contemporary evidence of stage managed wounds and other deliberate deceptions, it seems to have been a set-up from the start.  The accusations were rote, seemed well planned and orchestrated.  There seems, in at least in most of the cases, to have been a conspiracy going on.  When one looks at the evidence, the letters, the confiscations, etc., I believe that there was a deliberate and vengeful conspiracy that took advantage of a lucky manifestation of the girls' initial hysteria.  One need look no farther than humankind's natural tendency to persecute those who they deem as "outsiders" or "enemies", or to fear what they do not understand.
 

Bibliography

Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Possessed: the Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1974

Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen., eds. Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1972.

Gragg, Larry,  The Salem Witch Crisis. New York: Praeger, 1992.

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