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Witchcraft: Yesterday And Today Essay

2186 words - 9 pages

Everyone knows about the Salem Witch Trials, but what about the Lancashire Witches, or even ones happening today? All throughout history, people have been put in jail and hanged for being accused of witchcraft. The reasons for why people are accused are almost the same for each trial; bad luck in love or crops, death, illnesses, suspicion, even someone that is of a different race or is different in the slightest way is enough to get people worldwide turn to witchcraft as the answer.
The infamous Salem Witch Trials took place from 1692-1693 in Salem Village, present day Danvers, Massachusetts. The people were your average God-fearing puritans. They held the belief that Satan and demons were present and the cause of misfortune. This made for the perfect breeding ground for superstitions and hysteria that we read of today.
In January of 1692, young girls started having fits of screaming; they would throw objects, and twist themselves into abnormal positions. The local doctor couldn’t find any physical sickness, so he diagnosed them as bewitched. This led to more “victims” and three women being accused, women who would regularly miss church or beggars.
Guilt or innocence was decided based on a few different types of evidence. Spectral evidence was when a victim claimed to see the spirit of the witch. Effluvia, confessions, or the presence of dolls, ointments, astrology books, or books about palm reading were also used. A mole or blemish on an accused witch’s body would be called a “witch’s teat” and would be taken into consideration when a verdict was reached.
The reason for being accused in the Salem Witch Trials “was the outgrowth of conflicts between the rising mercantile class and the people who were tied to a land-based economy” (Campbell). In other words, farmers were accused so merchants could become more rich and powerful.
Twenty people were found guilty of witchcraft. Nineteen were hanged and “about noon, at Salem, Giles Corey was [pressed] to death for standing Mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after the other, by the Court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance: but all in vain” (Sewall).
In 1612, a young illegitimate beggar named Jennet Device gave evidence in a trial that led to 10 people being hanged, including her whole family. The Pendle witch trial in Lancashire was England’s biggest peace-time witch trial. Lancashire, at the time, was known for its trouble makers.
Jennet’s mother, Alizon was begging in the streets when she and her familiar spirit, in the shape of a dog, supposedly put a curse on a man who wouldn’t give her any pins. He suffered a fit that would now be described as a stroke, but when the man’s son told the magistrate, it was believed to be witchcraft.
After confessing and accusing, Alizon’s family and the family they were feuding with were imprisoned. When the family held a party on Good Friday, “when all "good citizens" should have been in church” (Cronin), a local...

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