Essay Exam 1 - Shelby Jacquemain 3/18/11 History 197-002...

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Shelby Jacquemain 3/18/11 History 197-002 The reasons behind the Salem witch trials and the dilemma of whether witchcraft and possessions actually took place have been scrutinized many times over the years. Historians and researchers from Chadwick Hansen to Carol F. Karlsen to Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum have speculated the events and attributed many causes and reasons behind the events. Some agree on certain aspects while others differ on opinions of the details. Some arguments have proven to be very swaying, while others lack in what I consider to be convincing evidence. The conclusion within reading the assigned works is that witchcraft did take place according to the Puritans at the time’s standards, and involving the practicing of witchcraft comes the psychological and unconscious factor brought into the possessions that took place. One of the most important aspects of examining the outbreak in 1692 is determining the definition of what witchcraft truly is. Some consider it casting spells on people while others see at as simple superstition. In the introduction of Chadwick Hansen’s book, Witchcraft at Salem , he immediately gives witchcraft a concrete definition. Hansen gives witchcraft three “degrees,” each one more severe than the last. This gives each act of witchcraft a category and can determine how extreme each case truly is in regards to Puritan thinking. Hansen defined “white magic” as “charms or spells used for benevolent purposes” (Hansen pg. 4), the second degree was known as “black magic” and was “magic used maliciously” (Hansen pg. 5), and lastly was “pact” which was basically where the witch has “made a contract to serve him [the devil]” (Hansen pg. 5). This argument of what witchcraft actually is defined as proves to be useful with the
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way in which people nowadays can regard witchcraft from a Puritan’s point of view in 1692. With the definition of witchcraft supplied by Hansen, it can be inferred that witchcraft did indeed take place in Salem. In fact, there were several occurrences that involved people performing basic charms, but most of these recorded were to gain information on petty and mundane things, not to actually harm someone. For example, Hansen says, “The egg and glass is a method of divining similar to crystal gazing” (Hansen pg.30). Many younger girls used this form of “witchcraft” to see what future
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This note was uploaded on 01/04/2012 for the course HIST 197 taught by Professor Carolkarlsen during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

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Essay Exam 1 - Shelby Jacquemain 3/18/11 History 197-002...

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