About eight years ago, I visited Salem, Massachusetts, and went to about half of the historical museums about the witch trials. Rev Cotton Mather was in Salem at the time of the Witch trials and was mentioned at many of the museums frequently. The witch trials’ was their fight against Atheism. Some people had stopped believing in God. Mather supposedly use to dig up the graves of the alleged witches they hung to conduct experiments on the heads of the bodies if I recall. This all is just here say. Mather developed a reputation of his own.
mezzotint portrait of Cotton Mather (Feb. 12, 1663 – Feb. 13, 1728), American Puritan clergyman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cotton Mather went to Harvard in 1675 at age 12, and graduated at age 15. He was preoccupied with many things including women, slaves, witches, and possessions.
Cotton took after his father, Increase Mather. Being a Reverend, and of high moral standing, words that were mentioned such as witchcraft or Satan were considered blaspheme. They might as well as suffered at the wrath of God. Cotton Mather and other Ministers created rules of evidence and a procedure by which to judge those regarded as witches. They would hold court and everyone from town would come. Mather was not in Fairfield for witch trials because he happen to in Salem, but the rules created were made it appear almost like he was there.
The room was noisy as testimony had finished and the testimony was delivered. The room shook.
The gavel hit the table with a bang.
All quiet in the court,” said the judge, in this case Richard Cromwell. “What evidence have you brought before the court?”
A teenage girl with long black hair came before the court, dressed in a colonial dress and cap, and presented her evidence. Her evidence would be nothing more than a dream she had had. That would be enough if she had a high enough social standing in the community.
Some of the witch trials resulted from quarrels over courtships; others were because of bad behavior and drunkenness. The people were on lectured on behavior in church, for those who attended. After all, they were Puritans.
They worried about what one person was doing and became fearful and scared. Because that person did not believe as they did, and they could not change the person’s behavior or belief they saw only one alternative.
The Witch Panic of Fairfield took place in 1692 about the same time as the Salem Witch Panic.
There were some executions and some that escaped in Connecticut.
To bad the same can’t be said for Salem.
Have we changed that much from the people of 1692?
Tomlinson, R.G. Witchcraft Trials. Hartford: The Bond Press, 1978.
Taylor, John M. The Witchcraft Delusion 1647-1697. Williamstown: Corner House Publishers 1974.