Witchcraft: A Traditional & Modern Social Context Analysis

Essay by Roderic976A+, August 2005

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"See! See! The Devil is here in Salem Village. His familiars--the dogs, the cats--work for this [witch], pinching and harassing your children (Lasky 70)." It was about 300 years ago that spoken words such as those defined a capital crime in early American history. Witchcraft as we know it today was once shrouded in mystery. If it had any power so long ago, then fear and uncertainty were the sources. The industrialized, scientific age would argue that such beliefs should not exist in today's world. On the contrary, the intrigue and social dynamic that surrounds it allows it to thrive among the intellectual community in Western society. However, the best way to explain the witchcraft phenomena is not through spells and magic, but through social and psychological aspects that develop the craft, practice, and belief.

Thus, traveling back to the winter of 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, a small group of girls began to have a set of described "fits".

Before laying out the framework of the events that followed, it is important to outline the social dynamic of Salem Village at the time. The village was founded by Puritans from England seeking religious freedom from the Anglican Church in the New World. The very name Puritan meant that they intended to purify the Church and that meant holding the Bible in very high esteem to its exact words. This set the tone for not just religious, but also government affairs (Priest).

Environmentally, Salem experienced harsh winters that brought much hardship, such as illness and death. Native inhabitants were also a factor in the death count. Angered that the new settlers unjustly claimed the land and caused harm to their people, they retaliated and attacked villagers in their homes. As if the illness, cold, and struggle to survive were not...