March 6 (February 25, o.s.)

Massachusetts: Two more girls in Salem Village, Ann Putnam and Elizabeth Hubbard, begin to have fits much like the ones that have afflicted Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams for over a month. The identity of at least one of the witches afflicting the latter two has recently been ascertained by Mary Sibley, a neighbor of the Parrises, who asked their Indian slave woman, Tituba, to bake a “witch cake” out of the girls’ urine and rye flour. The cake was then fed to the dog, a traditional means of using countermagic to identify a witch. The experiment was successful, as the girls immediately began to name the witch who was afflicting them: Tituba herself. Upon learning of these events, Parris, though angry at Sibley’s use of this theologically unsound method, had to deal with the accusation of his own slave as a witch, so he convened a group of prominent men in Salem and ministers of neighboring towns to investigate the allegations. They concluded that Dr. Griggs was correct in diagnosing witchcraft, but recommended patience and prayer as the appropriate response. They also questioned Tituba, who admitted that she had learned some magical practices from “her mistress in her own country,” who “was a witch,” but insisted that she herself was not a witch. Tituba is originally from Spanish Florida and was enslaved and brought to Barbados, where she was purchased by Samuel Parris, so “her own country” is quite far away, very foreign, and totally unknown to these New England men. They do not counsel any hasty actions such as legal proceedings against her.

But now, two more girls have been afflicted, and one of them, Ann Putnam, names not only Tituba but another woman: Sarah Osborne, who has long been involved in a dispute with the Putnams over her deceased first husband’s estate. The new accusers are older than the first two girls to be afflicted, and thus considered more trustworthy. Ann Putnam, daughter of Sergeant Thomas Putnam, a prominent man in Salem Village, a church member, and a strong supporter of Samuel Parris, is twelve. Betty Hubbard, a servant girl in the household of Dr. William Griggs, and his wife’s great-niece, is seventeen, and thus of age to have her testimony accepted in court, as children under fourteen are not considered trustworthy enough to testify in capital cases. Now that there is a victim who can testify, legal proceedings against the accused witches become a real possibility.

Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on March 6 (February 25, o.s.)  
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