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The Salem Witch Trials

Updated on July 1, 2014

What is a “Witch Trial”?

So for starters, I will explain exactly what a “Witch Trial” entails. A Witch's Trial was just as you would think a regular trial would go: the accused would stand up in a court room and the accuser would present some form of proof that the accused was not only a witch, but that she made some kind of deal with the devil or worshiped him in some way. Although not all people who were deemed a Witch were actually killed, many were, and the saddest part was that most of them weren't even Witches let alone devil worshiping ones.

Torturing Witches

Forms of Trial

Although there are many ways to tell if a person is a Witch that weren't even recorded to begin with, I will list and explain as many as I can here:

1) The Drowning Test: This test was a pretty dumb one in my book, but let’s see if you agree. In this test, the accused would be tied at the hands and feet, usually with heavy rocks to weigh them down, and they would be thrown into some deep body of water. If the person would float back to the top, then that meant they were a witch and so they would be taken out and killed in some other, brutal manner. However, if the person were to sink and die then that meant they were human, but the damage is done. All in a day’s work weeding out those horrible witches.

2) The Dunk Test: This one is probably the most well-known test, because it is portrayed quite often on TV. The accused would be dunked under water, sometimes until they were almost out of breath, and tortured until they finally either admitted to being a Witch or they just died. This Is another pretty stupid test, because If you torture someone enough they will eventually tell you what you want to hear anyway, just to make the agony end.

3) The Boulder Test: Okay, this one might be the absolute worst test they used. The accused would be tied to a boulder or held on the ground while a huge boulder would be lowered onto them slowly. The rock would then be lifted multiple times to allow the accused to speak. Then, the worst part was that they continuously lowered the rock every time the accused denied being a witch until they were crushed to death, and if they admitted to being a Witch, they still just crushed them with a rock -- kind of a no win situation.

4) Witch's Teat: Ever hear the expression “Colder than a Witches teat”? Well, here’s where it came from. A teat refers to a mole or wart on the accused Witches skin (of course those sorts of things were a sign that a person is a witch). Someone would take a pin and poke the teat to see if it would bleed or hurt. If it didn't, then that meant the person was cold and uncaring like a Witch. Thing is, sometimes the “pointy object” wasn't so pointy, but instead a thin, blunt object that would do little to puncture anything, but instead just pushed it around a lot.

5) The “Magic Touch” Test: This test was simple, though stupid... A person who suffered from fits or seizures, or some other kind of chronic illness, and was thought to be cursed by a Witch, would be brought in and touched by the accused. If they were healed, that meant the person was not only a Witch, but she was the one that cursed that person to begin with.

6) Prayer Test: The accused would be asked to recite a prayer, probably the “Our Father,” but always some kind of Christian prayer, and if they stutter or make a mistake then that means they are a devil worshiping witch. I just want to point out the fact that, although I am now Wiccan, I used to be Catholic and got great grades in Theology and learned all of the prayers, yet often still made some kind of mistake when reciting them, especially if I was under pressure, as did many other people I know, including priests. So if this was all the proof they needed, then just about anyone would have been killed.

7) Items and Artifacts: I know most people think it’s stupid, mostly because it is, but in the 15th and 16th century, the people actually thought that a Witch would have a flying broomstick or a talking cat, as well as other things. The accused would be subject to search and if anything that was deemed a magical tool or item was found in their home, that was proof enough that they’re a witch.

8) Strip Searching: This is another one of the most weirdest tactics where I’m concerned. The people back then believed that a Witch who made a deal with the devil would have some kind of “Familiar,” which was a pet that sucked on the Witches life force in order to give it to the devil. The accused Witch would be stripped of her clothing in front of a large group of people, sometimes including their children and grandchildren and many men. If a “third nipple” or some kind of bite marks were found, that meant she was a Witch. I find this especially strange, because aside from that being embarrassing for anyone to endure, the majority of the people accused were old, decrepit women.

9) Voodoo Cake: In this test, a bunch of people who are potential Witches who were thought to have cursed a person or people would be gathered together to wait. A cake would be made out of the urine of the cursed person or people, and some rye meal. The cake would then be fed to dogs and as they ate it, if one of the people gets hurt and cries out then they were the Witch that cursed the person. The cake acted as a sort of Voodoo doll in a sense, because it was believed that when a Witch cursed a person, some of their energy would be passed to that person in the form of a curse and would come out of them in the form of urine. I find it funny that they used Voodoo, which was believed to be black magic, to find out if someone used black magic.

10) Visions/Premonitions: This is more along the lines of how a Witch would come to trial. Some people would claim they had a dream or a vision of a specific person doing the work of the devil. If any such report were to be made, then the accused person would be brought in and tried. The same would go if a person said they saw it in person as opposed to supernaturally, but sometimes that is all it took to get a person thrown under a rock or into a river.

Eyewitness Testimony

Source

Why Witches were Tried

The simplified reason why witches were tried was because of fear and the lack of reason, add to that the fact that people had a vivid imagination, and you have an evil witch. Allow me to explain in further depth what I mean. You see, in the 15th century, there was very little science being used to prove things. The Bubonic Plague, for example, was thought to be a curse by God until science came along and explained that it was just some tiny little things called Bacteria. Because of this lack of reason, whenever someone had gotten sick or hurt in some way, they needed something to blame it on, and since the idea of the devil was ever present, that was the first cause for everything bad. Now, let’s say one of those people were to argue with me today and two days later that person has laryngitis. Well, logically speaking, he strained his voice so much by yelling at me that he lost it for a while, but to him it happened because I put a curse on him to steal his voice away.

A black cat often associated with Witches.
A black cat often associated with Witches.

Where It All Began

The Salem Witch trials were actually not only held in Salem. In fact, the preliminary hearings took place in quite a few places in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The areas included what was at the time called Salem Village and is now called Danvers, as well as Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover. The most infamous of these trials were conducted in the year 1692 by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Salem Town.

A markerSalem Massachusetts -
Salem, MA, USA
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Where the Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692.

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