Do any witches live in Salem? | Massachusett's Occult History | Vault Notes

Updated: 3 days ago

By: Brittany "Pagan" Adkins


As we approach the middle of October, we begin our study of Salem, Mass. a town that most Americans feel that they understand. The truth of the witchcraft practiced here often takes a back seat. Today, we want to shine a light on the epicenter of the event. In this episode, we'll be talking about devil worship, Satanism and Witchcraft practiced in Salem.


Listen along with the episode here!


Basics on the event


The event took place for only nine months starting in early 1692. By the fall, somewhere between 144 and 185 witches and wizards had been named. Nineteen men and women had hanged. [2]


Shoutout to Aaron Manke's series Unobscured - They use fantastic firsthand sources and have a historian on their staff that is a generation-old Salem resident that lives near the trial location even to this day.


In that episode, they discussed the difference between old and new Salem, which we will touch on next week. They also noticed the same thing we did in our research: the story you are told in school does not often match the facts.


This is a case of why religion should be separate from the law.


The law of this colony gave them more latitude over the creation of the laws. The king took their charter away (shortly before the trials). People would have been feeling uneasy because they don't have firm laws now. They were creating these laws with their fears so things like capital crimes for witchcraft becoming the norm.


Regarding the telephone game issue.


Governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Fipps, realized that the PR from the trials would be bad, so they hired a minister to write a book in defense of the trials. The governor only wants the book out there, so he outlaws the press. Letters go missing and people's letters have disappeared, so claims Manke.


What magic did they actually practice?


Tituba cared for the Parris children, and Parris’ daughter and niece were among the first girls who began showing strange symptoms in 1692. The girls had been playing a fortune-telling game that involved dropping an egg white into a glass of water. Supposedly, the form the egg white took in the water could help predict whom the girls would marry and show the shapes of their future lives. After the girls saw a coffin in one of the glasses, they began barking like dogs, babbling, and crying hysterically. [1]


Tituba and Her Magic


Tituba more than likely was a practitioner of Obeah. Obeah's history is similar to that of Voodoo in Haiti and Santeria in Latin America. Enslaved Africans brought spiritual practices to the Caribbean that included folk healing and a belief in magic for good and for evil.

She belonged to Samuel Parris, the minister in whose household the witchcraft erupted; his daughter and niece were the first to convulse [2]


She was officially charged with having practiced witchcraft on four Salem girls between January and March, though we do not know precisely why Tituba was accused [2]


Though she apparently had nothing to do with the girls’ attempts at fortune telling (a grave sin in the Puritan religion), Tituba tried to help them. She baked a “witchcake” from rye meal and urine and fed it to the girls.


The witchcake would have been classified as a fetish in the practice of Obeah. Fetishes are inanimate objects that are supposed to have special powers and are carried or consumed for protection or are intended to be revered. They are often made of parts of the human body or parts of an animal body, objects of clothing, and dirt, with hair being a particularly powerful material for a fetish. Fetishes and other protection materials are used to ward off duppies, or the shadows of men and women who are left behind. Duppies are not the soul of a person, which passes into the afterlife but are instead the shadow that can inhabit specific locations.


Parris, who had already begun praying and fasting in an attempt to cure the girls of what he saw as possession, became incensed when he heard Tituba had fed them the cake. He beat her in an attempt to get her to confess that witchcraft was the reason behind the girls’ increasingly odd behavior. [1]


Tituba’s testimony was bizarre and deeply disturbing to the people of Salem. She had seen “two rats, a red rat, and a black rat,” she told the magistrates. “They said serve me.” Tituba confessed to pinching the girls and told the court that she had signed a “devil’s book.” [1]

Since so little is known about Tituba, her story is easy to fictionalize. In the years after the trials, she became popular in literature and lore. But in reality, she seems to have been a marginal figure whose low societal status put her in the perfect position to be accused of witchcraft in a town searching for answers. [1]


The question went to Tituba with a different spin. “The devil came to me,” she revealed, “and bid me serve him.”


Who was it, demanded Hathorne, who tortured the poor girls? “The devil, for all I know,” Tituba rejoined before she began describing him, to a hushed room. She introduced a full, malevolent cast, their animal accomplices, and various superpowers. A sort of satanic Scheherazade, she was masterful and gloriously persuasive. Only the day before, a tall, white-haired man in a dark serge coat had appeared. He traveled from Boston with his accomplices. He ordered Tituba to hurt the children. He would kill her if she did not. Had the man appeared to her in any other guise? asked Hathorne. Here Tituba made clear that she must have been the life of the corn-pounding, pea-shelling Parris kitchen. She submitted a vivid, lurid, and harebrained report. More than anyone else, she propelled America’s infamous witch hunt forward, supplying its imagery and determining its shape.


She had seen a hog, a great black dog, a red cat, a black cat, a yellow bird, and a hairy creature that walked on two legs. Another animal had turned up too. She did not know what it was called and found it difficult to describe, but it had “wings and two legs and a head like a woman.” A canary accompanied her visitor. If she served the black-coated man, she could have the bird. She implicated her two fellow suspects: One had appeared only the night before, with her cat, while the Parris family was at prayer. She had attempted to bargain with Tituba, stopping her ears so that Tituba could not hear the Scripture. She remained deaf for some time afterward. The creature she claimed to have so much trouble describing (and which she described vividly) was, she explained, Hathorne’s other suspect, in disguise.


Defining witchcraft from the Malleus Maleficarum


This is the point in history where "witchcraft constituted an independent antireligion". The witch lost her powerful position vis-a-vis the deities; the ability to force the deities to comply with her wishes was replaced by a total subordination to the devil. In short, "[t]he witch became Satan's puppet." This conception of witches was "part of a conception of magic that is termed by scholars as 'Satanism' or 'diabolism'". In this conception, a witch was a member of "a malevolent society presided over by Satan himself and dedicated to the infliction of malevolent acts of sorcery (maleficia) on others."


According to Mackay, this concept of sorcery is characterized by the conviction that those guilty engage in six activities:

  • A pact entered into with the Devil (and concomitant apostasy from Christianity)

  • Sexual relations with the Devil

  • Aerial flight for the purpose of attending

  • An assembly presided over by Satan himself (at which initiates entered into the pact, and incest and promiscuous sex were engaged in by the attendees)

  • The practice of maleficent magic

  • The slaughter of babies

These tenants are where we get the negative connotation for "devil worship" in modern times, especially during the satanic panic.


Though modern Satanism is much more about seeking truth and knowledge to better one's life and being kind to other people especially children and animals.


There Are Seven Fundamental Tenets of Satanism


I

One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.


II

The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.


III

One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.


IV

The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own.


V

Beliefs should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs.


VI

People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one's best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.


VII

Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.[4]


Conclusion


We still do not understand everything about Salem and we probably never will due to lost written accounts or accounts that were never actually documented. We will never know if the trials and witchcraft of Salem were actually the elaborate acts of children seeking attention or if the “devil” was plaguing the village. However, Salem showed a light on how a singular mindset can spread fear and distrust.



Links:

Unraveling Mysteries of Tituba

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unraveling-mysteries-tituba-salem-witch-trials-180956960/

An Invitation to Satan: Puritan Culture and the Salem Witch Trials

https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=madrush

Obeah and Myal

http://www.people.vcu.edu/~wchan/poco/624/harris_south/Obeah%20and%20Myal.htm

Why a new generation is turning to Satanism

https://www.huckmag.com/art-and-culture/new-generation-church-of-satan/

The Mallus Maleficarum

http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/downloads/MalleusAcrobat.pdf

Sources:

[1] https://www.history.com/news/salem-witch-trials-first-accused-woman-slave

[2] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/unraveling-mysteries-tituba-salem-witch-trials-180956960/

[3] The Truth Behind the Salem Witch Trials https://open.spotify.com/episode/4FeUuMtimXBMqm20JuZlRx?si=JB8ui1OUTPSn30VndW68Sg

[4] The Seven Fundamental Tenets of Satanism

https://thesatanictemple.com/blogs/the-satanic-temple-tenets/there-are-seven-fundamental-tenets

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