Topic: The “Salem” Witch Trials
Hist 220
Fall 2010
By: Brittany Black


How did witch hunts and witchcraft contribute to the Salem Witch Trials? Who was affected? How and why did they get targeted?


Brief History of Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials occurred in the summer of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Many men and women were accused of conducting witchcraft. These individuals were viewed as witches, according to the people of Salem, Massachusetts. Nineteen people were accused of these allegations of conducting witchcraft. Many of them were put to death by hanging, while others died due to sufferings of being mistreated due to the trials. All of these main factors brought about many different concerns with the people during this time period. Would these allegations ever end? How long would this last? Will things ever be change?

Argument
Witch hunts and witchcraft primarily happened periodical throughout history. I will argue that the influence on witch hunts was not the only main tool that contributed to the social and psychology affects on the people being accused, during the Salem Witch Trials. The influence of witchcraft through sources of imagination of fears combined with the witch hunts affected the accused individuals socially and psychology during the Salem Witch Trials.

Supportive Argument
Witch hunts and witchcraft were viewed as a substantial movement for cultural change. Through the actions and motives, effects, demonology, witch findings, and the decline of witch hunts and witchcraft brought change to society. How did witch hunts and witchcraft contribute to the Salem Witch Trials? According to Schoeneman, he states, “witch hunts have imporative aspects, since a group’s perception and methods of dealing witchcraft may be derived from a higher authority or an outside group” ( Schoeneman 535). When referring back to the Salem Witch Trials this statement provides evidences for a particular group and/ or gender that was being targeted. The individuals whom were being primarily targeted during these trials were women. I wonder how and why did they get targeted? The three women whom were targets for producing witchcraft all had similar characteristics. They were all of low social standings and had bad reputations; which made them easy suspects for conducting witchcraft. In contrast, I believe that witch hunts were not the only tool that contributed to the destruction of the Salem Witch Trials. According to Edward Bever, he states “fear of witchcraft and belief in magic reflects the fact that any strong negative emotion provoked by another person's attitude or actions can cause, or contribute to, physical disorder” (Bever 158). This statement supports evidence of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials due to the fact that many people viewed it as an evil and devilish act. The puritans (people) during this time period believed that witchcraft was considered a sin and a crime because the witches could call on the devil. These actions of witchcraft presented by witches contributed to the social and psychology affects on people. Socially the people feared what might happen if others found out that they might be a witch placing special powers on others. Psychology this affected the people being accused. For some of the accused this caused them to suffer from turmoil and depression; which later contributed to them dying. Although, some of the witch hunts and witchcrafts incidents presented in the Salem Witch Trials occurred so long ago, they still exist in many different forms in today’s society.

Article Analysis


Thomas J. Schoeneman. The Witch Hunt as a Culture Change Phenomenon.


Focus:
This article primarily focuses on the history of witch hunts as a sociocultural change in relation to powers on witchcraft. Thomas J. Schoeneman argues about the social dynamics of witchcraft beliefs and accusations and how they must be examined in the context of culture change.


Description of key Elements that contributed to Witch Hunts
Results of Culture Change
Actions and Motives
  • Actions such as witchcraft accusations viewed as conservative. Motives contributed to the power of groups who used witchcraft.
  • The actions and motives caused self-preservation of power structures.
Effects of Witch Hunts
  • Witch hunts reduce stress and distortion.
  • Witch hunts brought strains in a culture. In addition, caused witch hunts to arise.
Demonology
  • Defined as a negatively ideology built around real or imagined groups that are held to be responsible for cultural disorganization and misfortune.
  • Groups were singled out as targets for demonology (Jews, Isolated subcultures, and witches were not targets) Therefore, these groups did not necessarily affect the culture.
Witch Findings
  • Witch findings correlated with witch hunts. This movement resulted from further contribution to cultural distortion.
  • The witch findings attempted to purge society.
Decline
  • Had long-range effects that increased disorganizations and change associated with witch hunts.
  • The decline had immediate cultural advantages; provided a outlet of discomfort for relationships



Implication:
Witch hunts and witchcraft were viewed as a substantial movement for cultural change. Through the actions and motives, effects, demonology, witch findings, and decline the evidence presented within the article shows results of culture change on many levels. I believe that the key elements that contributed to witch hunts brought culture change.


Edward , Bever. Witchcraft Fears and Psychosocial features in disease

Focus:
This article primarily focuses on the belief in witches and how the social causes of the stress of witchcraft caused people to become fearful and develop psychology problems. Edward Bever argues how fear of witchcraft and belief in magic reflects the fact that any strong negative emotion provoked by another person's attitude or actions can cause, or contribute to, physical disorder.


Roles of Witches
Results of their actions( witchcraft)
Social Status
  • The status of the witches is not central to the image or process
  • They are generally members of the same community
  • Always grow out of some personal antipathy
Suspicions
  • Build a series of minor conflicts between the people and the witches
  • A specific incident triggers an accusation.
Description of Witchcraft
  • The witch figure is viewed as an evil figure that betrays the bonds and values of the community.
  • Includes a hostile person practicing sorcery and engaging in depraved activity that is withdrawn from the community.
Psychology Factors
  • Witches wanted to caused the individuals to become stress, fearful, and depressed.
  • These actions caused psychology triggers within the mind and body.

Implication:
Although many cultures and the people viewed witches as ugly old hags, there was more to the makeup of the witches. The people who believe in witches had a different interpretation of the behaviors and attitudes of witches. I found that the social status of the witches play an important role in the process of defining a witch.

Sources


The Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1661-1662. Author(s): Brian P. Levack
Source: The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 90-108 Published by: The University of Chicago Press

The European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries: A Sociologist's Perspective Author(s): Nachman Ben-Yehuda. Source: The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Jul., 1980), pp. 1-31. Published by: The University of Chicago Press

The Witch Hunt as a Culture Change Phenomenon. Author(s): Thomas J. Schoeneman Source: Ethos, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Winter, 1975), pp. 529-554 .Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association

From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages. Author(s): Michael D. Bailey . Source: Speculum, Vol. 76, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 960-990. Published by: Medieval Academy of America.

Witchcraft Fears and Psychosocial Factors in Disease. Author(s): Edward Bever. Source: Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Spring, 2000), pp. 573-590. Publisher(s): The MIT Press

Salem Witchcraft: The Events and Causes of the Salem Witch Trials. Viewed on 12/4/2010. <http://www.salemwitchtrials.com/salemwitchcraft.html>