Witches do have powers, commonly known as black magic. They can perform spells over people whom they desired to be under of it. They can manipulate people through dolls and other forms of materials and inflict some diseases that even practiced doctors cannot give specific reasons or findings. A. Where does it come from? No one knows how the witchcraft hysteria began, but it originated in the home of the Reverend Samuel parries, minister of the local church.
In early 1692, several girls from the neighborhood began to spend their afternoons in the Parris’ kitchen with a slave named Tituba, and it was not long before a mysterious sorority of girls, aged between nine and twenty, became regular visitors to the parsonage. We can only speculate about what went on behind the kitchen door, but we know that Tituba had been brought to Massachusetts from Barbados and enjoyed a reputation in the neighborhood for her skills in the magic arts.
As the girls grew closer, a remarkable change seemed to come over them: perhaps it is not true, as someone later reported, that they went out into the forest to celebrate their own version of a black mass, but it is apparent that they began to live in a state of high tension and shared secrets with one another which were hardly becoming to quiet Puritan maidens (Erikson, 1999). The girls quickly drew the concerned attention of Salem’s ministers and its doctor. Unable to understand much about their hysterical state or to deny their claim that they were possessed by the devil, the doctor pronounced the girls bewitched.
This gave the, the freedom to make accusations regarding the cause of their unfortunate condition. Tituba was the first one to be accused and jailed. She was followed by scores of others as the fear of witches swept through the community. Soon women with too many warts or annoying tics were accused, tried, and jailed for their sins. Then the executions began. In the first and worst of the waves of executions, in August and September 1692, at least twenty people were killed, including one man who was pressed to death under the piled rocks for “standing mute at his trial.
” For the sociologist, the Salem witch hunt of about 300 years ago is full of meaning in today’s world. In an award winning study, Kai T. Erikson (1999) showed that the crime of witchcraft can be understood as a sign of “social disruption and change. ” Only a half-century before the devil came to Salem, thousands of accused witches had been burned and hanged during the time when the European states were emerging from feudalism. Backwoods New England also experienced its witch craze during a time of great change.
In 1962, the orthodox Puritan way of life was ending: Puritanism was being watered down by rough wilderness ways and urbane city values. The settlements were no longer hemmed in by the wilderness, and the Indians had been pushed away. In his study of the Salem witch craze, Erikson shows that the punishment of suspected witches served as defense against the weakening of Puritan society. By casting out the “witches,” the Puritans were reaffirming their community values: strict adherence to religious devotion, fear of God, abstinence from the pleasures of secular society (drink, sex, music, dance), and the like.
The trial and punishment of the so-called witches illustrates Emile Durkheim’s earlier discovery that every society creates its own forms of deviance and in fact needs those deviance acts. The punishment of deviant acts reaffirms the commitment of a society’s members to its norms and values and thereby reinforces social solidarity. On the surface, Durkheim argued, deviant acts may seem to be harmful to group life, but in fact the punishment of those who commit such acts makes it clear to all exactly what deviations are most intolerable.