The trials take place in Salem Village, which is mainly a farming community. Times are hard and everything is forbidden. A sea captain after returning from a long voyage kissed his wife waiting on the docks for him. He was immediately chaperoned to the town square to be punished for kissing his wife on a Sunday. Ironically, this law is still on the books in Massachusetts.
The people in this town were particularly contentious suing one another often turning each other in for breaking the law. Even celebrating Christmas was against the law. Spies tried to catch people in the act of celebration, which might be anything as small as baking a holiday cake or singing. Their punishment was cutting off their ears to show they had sinned, and then they were ostracized from the community. This was a hard punishment because surrounding colonies based on similar religious charters would not welcome them.
Even though they came to America to have freedom of religion, they discovered their religion compromised their personal freedom. The religious laws they saddled upon the colony forbade anytime of merriment, play, festivals color, or even individuality.
How bad were the residents of Salem Village? Two different ministers came to shepherd the flock and left almost immediately realizing there was little hope working with the quarrelsome group. Reverend Burroughs made the mistake of telling the congregation what he thought of them before heading to Maine.
Eckhart Tolle commented in his groundbreaking book, A New Earth that whatever reason we give for a fight is not the reason at all. Often the reason is so deep, or base, that the person refuses to acknowledge it.
It begs the question what was going on with the Salem residents. Why did they turn into a town of mean girls gone psycho? Life was hard at that time, especially for the farmers. They were resentful of the merchants who were doing much better. They may have been desperate to blame someone for their troubles.
In the movie, the girls engaged in fortune telling to determine their husband. This wasn’t entirely true because many women engaged in this forbidden practice and some of them were married. It was a guilty pleasure that most knew was against their beliefs. When word reached the men of the town, they were horrified. The finger pointing started. If the woman had shown some backbone and fessed up, it might have ended there.
The Puritans demonstrated they had no issues with flogging a woman, cutting off her hair and ears and throwing her into the wilderness to survive. Good chance that image was prominent in the girls’ minds as they accused the less popular citizens. With an animalistic cunning, they went for the ones who didn’t have community support. It was bullying on steroids.
People’s lives hung on the word of teenage girls who swore that a person’s spirit afflicted them. Of course, they were the only one who saw such a thing. It was a perfect storm of illogical thinking, perverted religion, and fear. The judges believed the teens were telling the truth. Later, when one of the girls felt the need to confess she suffered no punishment for her part of the killing frenzy. This is amazing considering you lost your ears for baking a cake on Christmas.
Psychologists, sociologists, even historians, blame it on a combination of mimicry, misapplied religious doctrine and lack of power among the female population. Over in Europe, witch-hunts were still in play. The Puritans mimicked the very people they’d condemned and left to break association with proving that they were no different. Women at that time had very little power or say in their own life. The small bit of autonomy they might have had in the old world religious law stripped from them.
The girls wanted to rebel, demonstrated by the fortunetelling. They probably initially acted out of fear, but soon discovered they had power over the fates of the townspeople. It was a lie that took on a savage life of its own. Perhaps, they became drunk with power.
Why do people feel the need to hate and condemn others? This scenario repeats endlessly with different religions, religions, even countries. I remember as a child we used to fear Russians until we were told not to fear them anymore. Racism became a prominent issue after shelving Russians as the enemy. We now have several possible enemies to choose from to become the new big evil. Change also makes people fearful. Fear often makes us into bullies.
It is something to consider whenever you fear someone or feel hatred towards someone. Discover if you can figure out the reason. If you face your fear, you can find logical ways to deal with what scares you. Too bad, no one ever explained that to the Puritans.
What is your opinion on what motivated the Puritan girls? I've include two full lengths videos from d