Unlike those earlier authors, who characterized the witchcraft crisis as the outgrowth of intra-community conflict, Mary Beth Norton observes that the crisis was a regional event that occurred in the context of a disastrous frontier war and a breakdown in provincial political authority. The afflictions that beset Deliverance Hobbs and other accusers also suggest a tie to Native American warfare: This was, Norton very usefully notes, a convenient way for Massachusetts's elite to displace blame for their own military failures, which included the destruction of several Maine settlements and failed attacks on Montreal and Quebec. It also gave the accusers, many of whom were women and teenagers, a temporary taste of power, as they became their communities' intermediaries with the invisible world.
Within a period of five months, at least persons 38 of them men were prosecuted as witches, 54 persons confessed to practicing demoniac witchcraft, 14 women and 5 men were hanged, another man was pressed to death by heavy stones, and 3 women and 1 man, along with several infants, died while in jail.
Rather than taking place in the Dark Ages, the trials were contemporaneous with the Scientific Revolution, when educated persons of Europe and America were familiar with the writings of scientists such as Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton The men who conducted the trials were the elite of colonial Massachusetts.
They were intelligent persons with reputations of stability and sobriety. Rather than being a poor backwater, seventeenth century Massachusetts had one of the most educated and prosperous populations to be found anywhere in the world.
Although the judges and prosecutors preferred to have confessions as proof of guilt, they did not seem to understand the significance of the fact that these accused who claimed innocence were usually condemned to death, while those who confessed to witchcraft were rarely prosecuted and never executed.
With the large and growing literature about the events, historians will immediately ask whether there is any good reason for yet another book. Norton, assisted by several student assistants, has conducted meticulous research in the original sources.
As a result, her book clarifies a number of factual details, especially about the accusers and confessors, and it frequently includes perceptive observations that are not available elsewhere.
The most important contribution of the book is its interpretative thesis: When Norton began work on her book, she expected to base her interpretation on a feminist reinterpretation of gender relations.
Some of the participants had fled Maine during the first war and then returned just in time for the second war, during which flourishing communities were destroyed and numerous families were wiped out.
In late January,just one week after the first instances of witchcraft symptoms in Salem village, a large force of Wabanaki Indians had attacked the town of York, Maine, killing almost fifty settlers and capturing another hundred. Such experiences, no doubt, were extremely traumatic to the participants, especially to vulnerable women and children who had no real control over their destinies.
It appears significant that the descriptions of demoniac torment often sounded similar to the descriptions of bodily tortures and suffering during the two Indian wars. Norton discovered that at least ten of the accusers and confessors and twenty-three of the accused had family or personal ties to the embattled frontier region.
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Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi. The Mawlawi rites samâ symbolise the divine love and mystical ecstasy; they aim at union with the Divine. The music and the dance are designed to induce a meditative state on the love of God. Norton's award-winning IN THE DEVIL'S SNARE offers the most important revision to date of Boyer and Nissenbaum's influential interpretation of the witch trials, SALEM POSSESSED ()/5.
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In the Devil’s Snare does indeed make a number of valuable contributions. Norton, assisted by several student assistants, has conducted meticulous research in the original sources.