Witchcraft

Jane Dodson’s crime was listed as both a Royal and Religious offense as being tried as witch on July 12th 1683. It was said that “she used divers Hellish Arts and Inchantations to destroy divers Persons” and it listed someone who she inflicted her witchcraft upon specifically was a Mary Palmer. She was also accused of murdering another person. There was no evidence to support that she actually committed these crimes. It could not be proved how she killed the person or what the motive was. Jane Dodson was acquitted of the crimes she was accused of based on the lack of evidence.

As Ankarloo and Clark said during this time “Protestants took delight in exposing false miracles as Popish impostures, pagan leftovers or vulgar errors; but they affirmed true supernatural manifestations, this corroborating the Gospel” (197). This can be seen as true when looking at the case of Jane Dodson. There was no evidence to support her crimes yet they continued on trying to convict her as a witch. By using witchcraft to explain certain things, the Protestants could justify themselves and their belief in God. Because if there is a God, there has to be an opposing, devilish force that tests their faith because “it was [this] false theology that had inflated the role of the Devil” (200).

Scafie cited that “Few things have influenced and controlled the destiny of man so largely as superstition” (42). He goes on to show the evolution of where these supernatural ideas came from and then “When an animated revival of learning started in the 16th century, the pall of superstition and magic began to lift itself from the semi-civilized sphere” (46).  It was said by Scafie that the Middle Ages was “the darkest period of the world’s history, when Christianity went into lethargy and the light of learning waned, superstition gained complete control over the human mind” (46). The development of witches and all of the supernatural theology took over the minds of the mass and shaped this fear of the unexplained, even though these occurrences could be explained in a logical way. The minds of the people were just clouded by believing so strongly that this was the work of devil like spirits.

When Jane Dodson was accused of her crime, the hysteria was too strong for people to acknowledge that this notion of witchcraft was illogical in nature. People wanted so strongly to have something to back up their faith in God by trying to give these “events” a cause made by the Devil. I put events in quotations because none of these cases we read about were actual incidents caused by witchcraft. There was no evidence to support that Jane Dodson actually used witchcraft to inflict harm upon Mary Palmer or kill the unnamed individual. Luckily she was one of the lucky few who was able to be acquitted of her accused crimes. There were many people who were not as lucky. Usually there was false testimonies given that convicted individuals of crimes of witchcraft and lots of false, or even no evidence that still managed to convict an innocent person of these “devilish” crimes. The Puritans got out of hand in establishing their own religious order in New England by over justifying their belief in God by trying to show so strongly how the Devil was ever present in their lives, testing them. Jane Dodson’s case is a perfect example of this supernatural hysteria. It’s interesting to see how this belief in witchcraft occurred even when new ways of thinking in an enlightened manner were developing. But to them, witchcraft was “enlightening” in nature because it was explaining things in a different way.

Sources:

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t16830712-7&div=t16830712-7&terms=witchcraft#highlight

https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/witchcraftmagiceurope1819.pdf

https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/scaife-true-ghost-story.pdf

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2 thoughts on “Witchcraft

  1. I like the last paragraph. I also find it interesting that the Puritans used the existence of evil to justify the existence of God, even though there was no evidence that this evil, witchcraft, actually existed. Your post met the requirements for the assignment. Good Job!

    Grade: S

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