Jane Kent: Kid Killer, Pig Enchanter, or Unlucky Lady

The trial I have chosen to analyze is that of Jane Kent. In 1682 60-year-old Jane Kent was accused by of witchcraft by a man who was “selling” her swine. After the man refused to give Jane 2 pigs, (because she would not pay for them in advance), the man claimed that the pigs were bewitched. He then claimed that his 5-year-old daughter became ill under the enchantment of Jane. Her body became swollen, discolored, and then she died. The girl’s mother then fell ill. Under the instruction of a “doctor,” the husband took some of his wife’s hair and nails, boiled them down, and claims to have heard the scream of Jane Kent, “as if she were murdered.” The day after this “potion concoction” occurred, Jane was said to have been swollen and bloated.  A woman that searched Kent swore to have seen a teat on her back and strange holes behind her ears, and a Coach-man swore that Kent overthrew his coach. In defense, Jane Kent provided evidence that she had “lived honestly, and was a great pains-taker, and that she went to Church” (Jane Kent). Despite the many claims against her, the jury found Kent not guilty.

These allegations against  Kent suggest that people believed witches were able to manipulate nature using witchcraft. The beginning of “A True Ghost Story” states that, “Few things have influenced and controlled the destiny of man so largely as superstition.” Superstitions surrounding witchcraft were especially prominent in New England, when the Puritans migrated there to establish religious order. The need to make this establishment got out of hand when Puritans began using their “beliefs” to persecute innocent people. In Kent’s case, religion may have just saved her life. In her defense she is explained as a regular churchgoer. The fact that this evidence was relevant to the case shows how religion was used as a basis for persecution and justification of superstition. In “Witchcraft and Magic” it is written that “Protestants took delight in exposing false miracles as Popish impostures, pagan leftovers or vulgar errors; but they affirmed true supernatural manifestations.” The Puritan’s “delight” in disproving pagan miracles, but using their own superstitious beliefs to justify the persecution of people was hypocrisy that brought about disdain for religious-based superstition. Personally, I was surprised to see that Jane was not found guilty by the jury. Having read about people who were burned at the stake for much less caused me to believe that Jane would also be found guilty. Either the Enlightenment ideas of thinking for oneself and using logic and reason played a part in the jury’s decision, or they thought Jane’s church-going habits were enough to prove her innocent.

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