America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft After Salem by Owen Davies

By Owen Davies

The USA Bewitched is the 1st significant heritage of witchcraft in the United States - from the Salem witch trials of 1692 to the current day.

The notorious Salem trials are etched into the awareness of contemporary the USA, the human toll a reminder of the risks of intolerance and persecution. The chorus 'Remember Salem!' was once invoked often over the resultant centuries. As time handed, the pains turned a milepost measuring the gap the USA had improved from its colonial prior, its sufferers now the righteous and their persecutors the shamed. but the tale of witchcraft didn't finish because the American Enlightenment dawned - a new,
long, and chilling bankruptcy was once approximately to begin.

Witchcraft after Salem used to be not only a narrative of fire-side stories, legends, and superstitions: it persisted to be an issue of lifestyles and demise, souring the yank dream for plenty of. we all know of extra humans killed as witches among 1692 and the Fifties than have been achieved earlier than it. Witches have been a part of the tale of the decimation of the local american citizens, the event of slavery and emancipation, and the immigrant adventure; they have been embedded within the spiritual and social historical past of the rustic. Yet
the historical past of yank witchcraft among the eighteenth and the 20 th century additionally tells a much less anxious tale, one who indicates how diversified cultures interacted and formed each one other's languages and beliefs.

This is consequently even more than the story of 1 persecuted neighborhood: it opens a desirable window at the fears, prejudices, hopes, and goals of the yankee humans as their kingdom rose from colony to superpower.

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Instances of the abuse, assault, and murder of suspected witches sometimes ended up in local courts and were occasionally heard at state level. In many such cases, though, only the journalistic reports of the trials survive. Furthermore, the nature of record keeping at the time meant that the legal archives—the few that survive—rarely report the dialogues that took place during a trial. It was in the drama of the courtroom that the motives behind accusations were often laid bare in detail. It is the newspapers that provide us with such accounts.

Fortunately, newspapers often did. This allows the historian to pursue record linkage research, identifying, and then piecing together the individual histories of those involved in witchcraft cases, providing fresh clues to the origins and nature of the disputes recorded in the newspapers. Such work also confirms the general reliability of reportage, though journalists tended to be poor judges of people’s ages, sometimes adding a decade or more on the basis of careworn faces and bowed backs. Most of the people mentioned in the disputes in this book have been searched for in the censuses, trade directories, ship passenger lists, and other such sources.

Thaddeus Norris, writing on ‘Negro Superstitions’ in 1870, stated that association with the white man ‘humanized’ their ‘superstitions’. But too much contact could also be detrimental to the white man; African ‘superstition’ could be contagious. 27 In 1879 the Indianapolis Sentinel reported the case of William Padgett of Meade County, Kentucky, who murdered his wife under the delusion that she had bewitched him. The paper described Padgett as ‘an ignorant, unsophisticated Kentuckian, who was raised among the Negroes in the old slave times, and partook of their superstitions and wild vagaries.

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