Salem witch hysteria of 1692 was one of the most tragic events in American
history. To study this event, we must consider the social, religious and
political influences of that time. The Puritans from England settled in
Massachusetts to escape religious persecution in their home land. The Puritans
had a strict moral code and their way of living was fashioned around their
was a political division between the first Minister appointed to Salem
Village in 1679, James Bayley and Samuel Parris, elected as minister in
1689. When the first accusations of witchcraft were voiced by the adolescent
girls and throughout the entire event, the ministers exploited the bizarre
behavior of the girls to bolster their waning leadership.
accusations of witchcraft and the subsequent executions were an extreme
expression of deeply felt moral divisions. The negative references to witchcraft
in the Bible and the belief that witchcraft was Satan's work created a
paralyzing fear of witchcraft which made it a natural vehicle for the hostility
of the community.
enemies and "socially undesirable" individuals were transformed into enemies
of the community and an enemy of the community was therefore a servant
of Satan. Between the years of 1690-92, several events occurred which were
the immediate causes of the hysteria. Samuel Parris had a West Indian slave
named Tituba who was steeped in magical lore.
adolescent girls became fascinated by Tituba's stories of natural magic
and island culture. Two of the girls were related to Samuel Parris while
others were children of his supporters. When the girls became "afflicted"
and subsequently named the "witches", the supporters of James Bayley took
the outrageous accusations of the hysterical girls as confirmation of what
they already suspected, that their opponents were in league with Satan.
is the beginning of the Salem witch trials hysteria of 1692.