The Hysteria Of Salem Witchcraft Essay

1216 words - 5 pages

The Hysteria of Salem Witchcraft

Although there has been a long history of witchcraft, the main concentration is
from the periods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the British North American
colonies alone there were over 100 witchcraft trials alone, were 40 percent of the accused
were executed. Now two professors, Carol F. Karlsen of history and Kai T. Erikson of
sociology, examine the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria to see if it was caused by a fear of
women and give two entirely different interpretations.

The first professor, Carol F. Karlsen, agreed that the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria
was caused by a fear of women. She agrees that the belief in the Puritian culture, that
women were evil, existed because they were seen as a potential threat to the order of the
society. That is why women were generally seen as witches.

When witchcraft was initially seen, it was uncertain of wether or not it would
benefit the New England society, because of the fast changing conditions of the early
settlement. By the late 1640’s, New Englanders believed that a witchcraft belief system as
integral to their society. The Puritian rituals, myths, and symbols from then on were seen
perpetuated to the belief that women were a danger to their society. This idea of women
connected directly to witchcraft was only reinforced by the newer post-Reformation ideas
about women.

Puritanism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in England caused
much controversy over the nature of women and their roles in society. Puritian and
Catholic witch-hunters both believed that women were, “evil, whorish, deceitful,
extravagant, angry, vengeful, and, of course, insubordinate and proud.” Women “are
altogether a lumpe of pride,” one author said in 1690-”A masse of pride, even altogether
made of pride, and nothing else but pride.” One of the many reasons that women were
being seen in this way was from the increasing independence, impudence, masculine dress,
and masculine ways. It was all seen through the women’s new ways of forwardness and

A good example was with Adam and Eve being punished for the sin of pride,
rebelling against the order of creation, but Eve was seen as rebelling both as part of man
and as man’s other. This is how Eve was seen as the fall of man. “Yet looking upon her as
made for the man, and by the Creators law owing a subordination to him, so she may also
be looked upon as instrumental.” as said by Willard. Willard means that Eve should have
encouraged Adam to obey God since she was created to serve man, but she didn’t. This
caused her to be seen as a mischief and for the cause of the downfall of man. For the
actions of Eve God placed a special curse on the female race, “Unto the woman he said, I
will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth
children: and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” It was seen

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