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The Devil In The Shape Of A Woman. Speaks Of Examples Of Women In America Being Executed As Witches.

1833 words - 7 pages

American history has few subjects as interesting as witchcraft, because it confronts us with many Ideas about women. It confronts us with fears about women, the place of women in society, and with women themselves. Also, it confronts us with violence against women and how the problems of society were often blamed on women. Even though some men were executed as during periods of witch hunting, witches were generally thought of as women and most who died in the name of witchcraft were women. In the United States, witchcraft took place among too educated of people to dismiss it as mere 'superstition.' (P.10)The first person that was executed, as a witch, in America was Margaret Jones, in 1648. Jones was a midwife and lay healer, who was accused of several different practices. Minister John Hale, who witnessed Jones's hanging in Boston when he was a boy, later said that she 'was suspected partly because that after some angry words passing between her and her Neighbors, some mischief befell such neighbors in their Creatures, or the like: [and] partly because some things supposed to be bewitched, or have a Charm upon them, being burned, she came to the fire and seemed concerned.' (P.20) Hale included neither of these charges in his list of the evidence presented against Jones, but suggested that the crimes had to do with her medical practice. She was accused of having a 'malignant touch,' Hale noted, and her medicines were said to have 'extraordinary violent effects.' When people refused to take her medical advice, he added, 'their diseases and hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons.'(P.21) Hale also mentioned that Jones was believed to possess psychic powers: 'some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she could tell of ... she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of.'(P.20) John Hale pointed out that several of Jones's neighbors tried to get her to confess and repent. One of them, he said, 'prayed her to consider if God did not bring this punishment upon her for some other crime, and asked, if she had not been guilty of stealing many years ago.' (P.22)Jones admitted the theft, but she refused to accept it as a reason for her conviction as a witch. Hale's writings, on the other hand, showed that stealing, and other crimes such as fornication and infanticide, were regularly associated with witchcraft, by both the clergy and the larger population . . . ' (p. 22)This first account, in Karlsens' study, brings to the surface some of the community's views of witchcraft. Most of the society of the time believed in witches, and those who did not were usually suspected of being one. Additionally, colonists had two differing views of witches. Some believed that witches were simply criminals that worked in supernatural ways that were threats to their neighbors. But more interesting, was the view of the clergy, and specifically the Puritan church....

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