Fact: During the Salem Witch Trials, more than 200 individuals were unjustly accused of being a witch.
Abstract: The history of witchcraft stems back to the first century of measured time. Witchcraft was seen as harmless back then. On the contrary, those who practiced witchcraft were said to be able to cure the ill or bring people good luck. These views changed in a religious context in the later half of the second century. Witches were accused of being possessed by the Devil and said to practice evil deeds and inflict harm upon others. Hundreds of individuals, mostly women, were accused of practicing witchcraft. Many were executed by hanging or publicly burning at the stake. Those who weren’t, dubbed to be unjustly accused still felt a backlash from society and lived with threats and violence their entire life.
Gallows Hill witch hanging: Salem, Massachusetts.
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Centuries have passed since the world’s fascination and fear of witchcraft. Facts about witchcraft can be derived from the deep history of the world. The word itself – witchcraft – derives from “Wicca,” meaning “the wise one.” What is known today as witchcraft carries a lot of mixed meaning and feelings amongst people. Ever since humankind could be traced back to its supposed roots, the concept of magic has been around. However, in the beginning of these times witchcraft was seen as good luck and protection against diseases. Those who practiced it were openly accepted as practitioners of good magic.
History of Witchcraft
It was not long after the turn of the first century that witches began to wear a bad name. Religious practices claimed that their practice goes against their beliefs. Priests and members of the Christian society considered these individuals anti-Christians and charged them with heresy. Their acts were considered to be interactions with the Devil. Although nobody had seen it in person, it was claimed that witched would fly, turn into various animals, and become invisible in order to spy on people with mal-intent.
Read about an instance of a witch trial in Salem in John Musick’s book The Witch of Salem. Other popular books about the Salem Witch Trials can be found here.
Salem Witch Trials
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692-1693 made it a mission to try and execute perceived witches. According to the American Law Library, in the first year of the trials in Massachusetts more than 150 individuals were accused of witchcraft. To be exact, 154 prosecutions took place, 19 were executed – 13 women and 6 men. In addition, four died in prison and one man faced death by being crushed under rocks. Not all the trials occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, but the majority of them did. 42 out of 154 of the 1692 prosecutions were in Salem. Since this city seemed to have the highest concentration of accusations, the widespread prosecutions of witches are now known as the Salem Witch Trials.
The National Geographic Channel spoke of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, specifically about 19 instances of victims who were convicted and executed. You can find it here.
Many of those accused in the trials happened to be those who didn’t fit into the social society or attend church as they were expected. A prime example of this was two of the very first to be accused of witchcraft, a woman named Tituba and a one named Sarah Osborn. The former was a beggar and did not seem to make “moral” decisions as specified by the church. The latter, Sarah Osborn, did not attend church in over a year. This was enough for many at that time to consider these two women witches. In today’s reality, we can see that these accusations were unjust. Two hundred individuals is quite a high number for those who were unjustly accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials.
There exists an entire extensive website dedicated to witchcraft. If you find this interesting please visit www.witchcraft.com.au
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