Witchcraft or Insanity

Witchcraft and notions of sorcery were very prevalent themes back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Witchcraft was a vessel used by priests and authority figures to control and scare the people of the country. In Elizabeth Gulliver’s case, she fortunately was not brought up on trials of witchcraft and heresy fortunately, but she very well could have been. A man by the name of William Clark aimed and fired at Elizabeth Gulliver believing her to be a witch and harboring other witches. Clark had been complaining about loud noises prior to this and noises of sorcery and witchcraft and so confronted miss Gulliver first but she had told him she had been making no noises and she only lives with her daughter. A week after Clark attempted to kill miss Gulliver for being a supposed witch, luckily, there were eye witness accounts to come to miss Gulliver’s defense. Mr. Clark had apparently been suffering from spirits since his parents passed away, and so from the evidence and is incoherent testaments and ramblings was declared legally insane,  and no one was found guilty.

This story I felt relates well to how people felt about witchcraft and the like. A man was able to shoot at a woman he believed to be a witch but then is found not guilty because of the very notion of witches is a viable excuse for getting out of attempted murder. In Ankaroo’s analysis he says “Witchcraft delusions were, in short, the malady of weak minds. Those believing themselves bewitched or possessed were victim of their own naivete.” This was one of the good points made as the man Mr. Clark had a weak mind, and had indulged in the notion of sorcery after his parents died to cope with the loss and took it out on an innocent woman. So witchcraft was ultimately a magnificent vessel in which for people to use to manipulate their circumstance to work in their favor, and also a clever scapegoat.

Scaife also perfectly wraps up this time period when he says “superstition generally decreases in proportion to mental development.” In Clark’s case, he used superstition as a means to deal with his parents passing instead of facing the apparent reality. When superstition is involved it generally diminishes the mental health of a person, especially when someone is so lost and obsessed with the concept. It sort of detracts one from seeing the sort of concrete facts and evidence that would be necessary for rational thought and leaves a person with baseless opinions and, Clark’s case, downright insanity. So in short, superstition was merely a means to control people who were not perceptive enough or logically minded enough to understand the world around them.


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