During 1692 twenty people were executed in Salem Village on a charge of witchcraft. These trials became a history. Modern sources give different opinion about causes that led to people’s hysteria and unforgivable actions. However, most of them agree in one main event. Both Linder’s and Blumberg’s works say Salem Witchcraft Trials were provoked by strange disease and behavior of Betty Parris and her playmates of different age. Modern experts suggest girls’ condition was caused by ergot or combination of “stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis” (Linder). But in the 17th century people believed that her symptoms were the sign of Devil’s work. There was another strong basis for trials, except of religion. According to Blumberg, events were triggered by King William's War to colonists, because refugees or “displaced people created a strain on Salem's resources, [which] aggravated the existing rivalry between families with ties to the wealth of the port of Salem and those who still depended on agriculture”. Linder explored relations between Salem’s families deeper. According to him, trials were provoked by envy, class bias and mercenary motives. “Most of the accused lived to the south of, and were generally better off financially, than most of the accusers. In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches” (Linder).
Mentioned sources did not explain why women were more implicated in being witches than men. However, other articles say witchcraft was traditionally a “female crime”. People used women’s beauty, usage of folk medicine or other types of “improper” behavior as an evidence of union with Satan. There were other signs of a “potential witch”. Blumberg did not focus attention, but Linder fully described first suspect. They were foreign slave Tituba, which was suspected in witchcraft before, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn. “Good was a beggar and social misfit who lived wherever someone would house her and Osborn was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year” (Linder). This choice showed, people suspected in witchcraft foreigners or members of their community who did not visit church or showed other signs of unsocial behavior, like vagrancy or participation in other crimes. Risk of accusation also raised for people who took abjections to trials. John Proctor, a tavern owner, paid with his life for his skepticism, like Linder mentioned.
Further events showed that people used their own attitude, not facts, to accuse their neighbors. “Martha Corey, a loyal member of the Church in Salem Village, greatly concerned the community; if she could be a witch, then anyone could” (Blumberg). Person’s social class, sex, age and other features did not play serious role in trials’ results. Linder said that people used confession in witchcraft as a way to save them from the death. Pregnancy also could help. Proctor’s wife Elisabeth wasn’t executed because she carried a child.
Salem Witchcraft Trials can be described with the term of “hysteria”. It was a short (in a historical context) period of time, when representatives of one community raised unsubstantiated accusations. On of the reasons of trials was a disease that people could not explain with anything but supernatural reasons. Blumberg named ongoing frontier war like another cause, and Linder added “economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies” to this list. The last author also described the best example, why these trials were hysterical. The four-year-old girl Dorcas Good was accused of witchcraft and thrown to prison. The child also presented in the execution of her mother, who was killed because of the same accusation.
Blumberg, Jess. “A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”. Smithsonianmag.com. 23 Oct. 2007. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-the-salem-witch-trials-175162489/?no-ist=>
Linder, Douglas. “The Witchcraft Trials in Salem: A Commentary”. Law2.umkc.edu. n. d. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_ACCT.HTM>