The Trial of Jane Kent,
Jane Kent was a woman who was 60 years old. She was indicted for witchcraft, using “Diabolic Arts” and bewitching and killing a man’s daughter and also for bewitching his wife.
The evidence that was offered was that she first bewitched his “swine”, after she had bargained with him for two pigs. When he refused to give them to her without receiving money first, he noticed that his daughter fell into a strange condition that made her swell all over her body, made her become discolored, and die. Next he says that his wife became bewitched. He claims to have went to Dr. Hainks who advised him to take a quart of his wife’s water, put some of the her nails in it along with some of her hair, and then to boil them. He did this and then he swore that he heard the prisoner’s voice at his door, and that she “screamed out as if she were murdered,” and that the next day she “appeared to be much swelled and bloated.” Other evidence offered was that a woman searched Kent’s sores and markings and found and unusual holes behind her ears. A coachman also swore other evidence that upon his refusing to carry her and her goods, she overthrew his coach.
The defense (Kent herself) said that she lived honestly, was a great pains-taker, and that she went to Church. They found her not Guilty.
This allegation suggests that people believed that witches and witchcraft were real. It shows that they believed that people had the power to bewitch and kill others and that they were afraid.
The trail, the historical survey by Ankarloo and Clarke, and Scaife’s True Ghost Story relate to progressive Enlightenment themes. Puritans migrated to New England in order to establish their own religious order but this gets out of hand. We find out that “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” (A&C). People were manipulating the laws of religion for the petty use of enacting social revenge or damaging one’s reputation. These accusations of witchcraft were “delusions were in short, the malady of weak minds. Those believing themselves bewitched or possessed were victims of their own naiveté.” (A&C) All these accusations of witchcraft brought about a distain for superstition. Superstition “has often become a part of [man’s] religion, shaped his habits and governed his life.” (Scaife) He claims that superstition is a hindrance “to mental development.” And that “it dominates the life of a savage to whom nature presents, as he thinks, one continual display of supernatural effects.” (Scaife)