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Puritans And Witches

– Natural Enemies Essay, Research Paper When the Puritans moved to the New World they created a new society based upon perfect adherence to the strict and intolerant Puritan philosophy. However, the moral center of their universe could not hold because the people themselves although normally English, were blends of their European ancestries and the folk culture of generations before them.

– Natural Enemies Essay, Research Paper

When the Puritans moved to the New World they created a new society based upon perfect adherence to the strict and intolerant Puritan philosophy. However, the moral center of their universe could not hold because the people themselves although normally English, were blends of their European ancestries and the folk culture of generations before them. Puritan philosophy was rooted in the search for spiritual perfection. Witchcraft was viewed by Puritans as evidence of the man’s spiritual weakness. Therefore, Puritan philosophy, as later reflected in The Crucible, was the natural enemy of witchcraft.A Puritan’s first responsibility was to serve God. The Bible was a Puritan’s road map toward that duty. While Puritans respected authority, they did not revere tradition or ritual. Their churches were plain and unadorned. Prayer and listening to sermons were constant companions to the righteous Puritan. The family was a homage to God. A man’s gift to God was a happy, prayerful family centered within the church. A Puritan considered it a kindness to his neighbor to keep an eye on the neighbor’s behavior and to guide him when guidance was deemed necessary. Corruption in the community could easily spread into the church, and the good Puritan was ever-vigilant against scandal in either place. A personal scandal was a community matter, and a church concern as well. Sin was a heavy burden to the Puritans. No method existed in their faith for ridding oneself of sin. And because they believed that God could pluck them away from life and cast them into hell at any given time, sin and atonement were foremost in a Puritan’s mind. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, atonement was a real puzzle for the Puritans. There was no hope for man other than perfect obedience to God’s laws. Yet any clear-thinking Puritan knew in his heart that he was not a perfect person. So, then, how to atone? Good deeds were looked upon with suspicion by the clergy and other citizens. Quiet, desperate prayer seemed the only hope for one’s soul. A wrathful God and man’s shaky grip on salvation were most often the themes of sermons in Puritan worship services. Indeed, the Devil was on the mind of the Puritans as much as was God. Life in the New World was a harsh challenge with overwhelming obstacles rising up against them every day. Long, bitterly cold winters, rock-filled farmland, disease, and political unrest made it seem that the Puritans were engaged in a battle of epic proportions. No wonder they felt close to the Day of Reckoning; the day when sin’s price and piety’s reward would be paid. The Puritan legal system was Bible-based in theory, but it was unfair and biased toward the prosecution in practice. Wealthier and highly regarded citizens were sometimes given special considerations when they were accused of wrongdoing. They were sometimes placed on house arrest, which gave them time to escape to the colony of New York. Poorer Puritans would spend long periods of time in jail, waiting for trial. Their property would be seized, leaving their families destitute. Puritan prosecutors were almost without restriction as to what they could say to an accused person. Their practice allowed them to interrupt witnesses, redirect questions, badger, and even hit a witness. Spectral evidence was considered fair practice in Puritan courts. The Crucible makes use of this fact to build dramatic tension in the courtroom. When Abigail says that she saw the accused talking to the Devil, her statement was accepted as fact. Ministers were consultants to the courts, and were often !called upon to interpret respons es to accisations of witchcraft.Witchcraft evolved in many parts of the world at different times and in different ways. But essentially, witchcraft served its developers as a system of explanation for the ways of nature and as a scheme by which man could gain control over his life. The Northern European belief in witches was a holdover from a pre-Christian time when cause-and-effect reasoning was not at its best. Two events which occurred in the same timeframe were often misconstrued to have a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, if a farmer cut wheat on the full moon, and the wheat went bad, the farmer might blame the moon phase for the molding of the wheat; or he might blame his neighbor’s jealous spirit for cursing the wheat. Superstition is the basis of witchcraft. The freedom of witches is best summed up in their saying, ” An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt.” (Army, 232) That freedom afforded a witch the opportunity to live life without binding rules about sin. Witchcraft bases much of its belief system on the oneness of man with the world. Many of its rituals place great emphasis on the place man holds on the planet. This, according to the pagan tradition, would mean that man was just another species in Nature’s spectrum. And witches would view man not necessarily as the most important species. This is definitely at odds with Puritan philosophy which would place man just below God, but clearly as master over the world God made. As much as Puritans would wish to distance themselves from the pre-Christian European beliefs, their own abhorrence of witchcraft is proof that they themselves were strong believers in witchcraft. Much of the information the Puritans had about witchcraft came from a book published in 1490. Malleus Maleficarum (translated to “The Hammer of Witches”), by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, and it was used by members of the court in the prosecution of witches during the 17th century. These authors described witches who could fly on broomsticks, change into animals, and kill or wither a person at a glance. These witches were Satan-worshipers, said the book. And thus, the Christian church in all its various denominations felt justified in ferreting out and murdering those suspected of being witches. The Puritans brought these fears and superstitions with them from the Old World. As Arthur Miller writes in the early explanation of The Crucible, the Puritans felt that they were the! only light for God in the New W orld. If they let down their guard for one moment, the Devil would rush in and crush them out of existence. The existence of witches in the New World made perfect sense to the Puritans. They were natural enemies and were naturally pitted against each other.The Puritans looked everywhere for the source of their problems. Witchcraft made a likely opponent. But the Puritan authorities might have looked closer to home for real culprits. The Puritans were the greatest antagonists of Witchcraft in the New World. The Old Testament says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18) And armed with this authority alone, 19 witches were hanged by the Puritans in Salem in 1692.BibliographyArmy, U.S.. US Army Chaplain’s Handbook. Alabama: USAF Chaplain’s Institute, 1990 231-236 Kittredge, George Lyman. “Witchcraft and the Puritans.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of the Crucible. The president and fellows of Harvard College.Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1929. 20-23Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: The Viking Press, 1952

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