Sunday, December 7, 2008

"American Witch" - Rob Zombie, industrial rock (2006)

This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety
This is a journey of angst, fear, guilt, anxiety

Body of a monkey and the feet of a cock,
Dragged from her home on the killing rock,
Black dog dying on the weather vain,
The Devil's in a cat and the baby's brain,

The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American,
The End - The End of The American Witch,

Alone on the hill and ready to die,
Cancer of darkness - blacken eye,
The mark of the wolf and the sign of the calf,
Angels bleed down above the raft,

We all pray for 20 innocents,
We all bow down 20 innocents,
We all hang high - 20 innocents,
We all accused - 20 innocents,

Do you want to know where their dreams come from?
Some showed the faith and some showed none.
Do you want to know where their dreams come from?
Some showed the faith and some showed none.

The song was released in 2006, but in 1692 release never came for hundreds that were accused, 19 hanged, 1 pressed to death, as many as 13 dead in prison, and 2 dogs executed as "agents". These statistics represent the unfortunate souls who found themselves in the midst of an episode of mass hysteria in Puritan Massechusetts - the Salem Witch Trials. Whether the blame lies on the Indian frontier wars, economic conditions, teen boredom, congregational difficulties, or personal jealousies, it all began with little Betty Parris, age 6. Betty was the daughter of Village minister Samuel Parris. In 1688, Samuel Parris was invited to Salem by prominant elder John Putnam.

During the exceptionally cold winter of 1692, Betty became strangely and violently ill. She writhed with fever, suffered convulsions, lashed out, and ran about indoors diving under furniture. While there are theories to suggest that her behavior was purely conscious pretend out of boredom, there are now other theories that support the plausibility of an actual illness such as "convulsive ergotism", which is an illness caused by the ingestion of "ergot", a fungus found in developing rye grains; rye was the common cereal of the time. To put it in perspective, the modern hallucinogenic drug LSD is a derivative of ergot. While there is no way of proving either theory, the symptoms caused by convulsive ergotism matched that of Betty's...and also the symptoms of many of the folk of Salem who acted strangely that year.

Talk of witchcraft began when Betty's playmates, Anne Putnam (11 yrs.) and Mercy Lewis (17 yrs.), and Mary Walcott began to exhibit the same highly unusual symptoms. Believe it or not, it was actually the town doctor who was responsible for the ignition of the hysteria that would follow, for when his treatments of the girls failed, it was he who suggested that the origin of the afflictions was supernatural in nature. The widespread belief in witches made the doctor's diagnosis all the more likely. Apparently a doctor is above error or ignorance, so who was making the girls sick?

The list of afflicted girls had grown to 7 and now included: Anne Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, and Mary Warren. The girls' behavior worsened. They would contort themselves into grotesque positions. They would often freeze in mid-motion, and they cried out and complained of biting, pinching, and stinging sensations, leading the townsfolk to believe that these sensations were being controlled by an outside source.

First, the focus turned to Minister Parris's Indian slave, Tibuta, whom he had acquired in Barbados. A neighbor, Mary Sibley, tried to help Tibuta with a form of counter magic. She instructed the slave to bake a cake of rye, mixed with the urine of the afflicted person, and feed it to a dog. Dogs were believed to be agents of witches who carried out their commands. However, Tibuta's act in carrying out this magical witch cake actually landed her in more trouble. Now it was obvious she was a practicioner. She baked her cake on February 25 and by February 29, an arrest warrant was issued for her and two other women. Betty Parris and Abigail Williams named their afflictors (as was the judicial requirement of the time) and the hunt was on. However, was was dismissed was the obvious corroboration of stories between the two girls. Abigail Williams and Mercy Lewis even began claiming to see witches flying about in the winter mist. No matter how ridiculous and "fixed" the story became, the accusations and testimonies of the girls were supported by the Putnam family.

The first three women to be tried for practicing witchcraft were: Tibuta, the Indian slave and obvious choice; Sarah Good, a beggar and homeless social misfit; and Sarah Osbourne, an old and quarrelsome woman who hadn't been to church in a year. The trial was set to take place in a local tavern, however on the date of the event, hundreds of townsfolk unexpectedly showed up. Of course, during the examination, the girls began their act contorting, screaming, crying, and carrying on before those in attendance and the magistrate. Soon, others of the village came forward with stories of cheese and milk spoiling suddenly and animals being born with deformities (signs of the presence of witches in the environment).

As was the custom, the magistrates asked the accused the same leading questions over and over again. The very nature of the questions suggested that the magistrates had already decided that the women were guilty. Strangely enough, though, the entire escapade might have ended right then and there had it not been for Tibuta. Perhaps it was out of fear or maybe it was out of sheer frustration, but she admitted being a witch. She testified that she met a tall man from Boston (Satan) who appeared as a dog or a pig and asked her to sign his book and do his work. Tibuta, though, not only ruined her own chances of release, she ruined the release of Good and Osbourne, for in her testimony, she stated clearly that these other two women, plus one more, were also witches. Her confession launched an even more expanded prosecution and the hunting of witches became even more zealous. ***Click to see Tibuta's inquisition. ***Click to see Sarah Good's inquisition.

Next would come the naming of Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey as afflictors. Now, however, it wasn't just children putting on the show. Ann Putnam's mother, Ann Putnam Sr. joined the accusers. No one was safe. The records show that even a 4 year old girl, Dorcas Good (daughter of Sarah Good) was accused of sending her specter to bite the victims. Little Dorcas was imprisoned for 8 months and watched as her mother was carried off to the gallows. The perfected performances of the "afflicted" girls continued to evolve. As it did, so did the number of accused. ***Click to see the examination of Rebecca Nurse.

Jails grew to capacity and the colony teetered on the brink of utter chaos.
Just then, Governor Phips returned from England. His first order of business was to create a new court, "the oyer and terminer" to hear witchcraft cases. Five judges were appointed to the court. The Chief Justice was gung-ho witch hunter William Stoughton. The court followed the advice of ministers (who were not legally trained) and that of a townsman named Cotton Mather, who was a popular author on witches at the time. The court instituted the "touching test". Accused witches were forced to touch their accusers in the courtroom; it was believed that the touch of the afflictor would stop the contortions of the afflicted. Of course, when touched, the young girls immediately ceased their convulsions. Another test that was implemented was the "witch's marks" test. Here, the court would strip the accused of their clothing and subject their naked bodies to scruitiny, looking for some kind of birth mark, mole, or other such markings upon which it was believed the witch's familiar would stick to. Hearsay, gossip, suppositions, and stories - all evidence that would normally be disallowed in the court - were admitted as evidence. The accused were not allowed to have any legal counsel. They were not allowed to have witnesses testify under oath on their behalf, and there was no chance of appeal. If a verdict of 'not guilty' was returned, the jury was asked (by the displeased Chief Justice) to reconvene and consider a guilty verdict (i.e. it wasn't a choice to find the accused not guilty). The court was a joke.

Soon, more and more adults of all walks of life would join the movement in accusations. If there was a long-standing struggle between families, one accused the other of being witches (such as the showdown between the Putnam and Topsfield families). Citizens who openly criticized the trials found themselves on trial. Skeptics who questioned the existence of witches wound up on trial. People who tried not to get involved and denounced the trials were accused. It didn't matter if you lived in Salem or not; village ex-minister George Burroughs, who was living in Maine at the time, was accused of forming an Indian-devil alliance during one of his failed military campaigns. He faced 30 accusers. If one refused to stand trial, he was punished by imprisonment and faced an execution of being pressed to death under stones; this was the case of 80 year old Giles Corey.

Finally, but Autumn of 1692, the bloodlust began to subside. Two figured prominently. Increase Mather, father of zealous court puppeteer Cotton Mather, published Cases of Conscience, considered "America's first tract on evidence". His dissertation persuaded the court to disallow spectral evidence (hearsay from the victim that the accused's "specter" had visited her). Highly regarded minister Samuel Willard circulated his Some Miscellany Observations, which brought forward some theological arguments concerning good and evil and how the Devil might even cause the innocent to appear guilty. These writings greatly influenced Governor Phips, who then overhauled his court. He removed the "touch tests", "witch's marks" tests, and implemented a burden of proof that we still used today - the accused may only be found guilty by a clear and convincing evidence. Eventually, Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a decree of atonement and apology.

The following is a list of those who were executed as a result of the Salem witch trials: (to read a transcript of the actual trial, click on the lighted name)

Hanged on June 10

Hanged on July 19

Sarah Good, Salem Village
Rebecca Nurse, Salem Village
Susannah Martin, Amesbury
Elizabeth How, Ipswich
Sarah Wilds, Topsfield

Hanged on August 19

George Burroughs, Wells, Maine
John Proctor, Salem Village
John Willard, Salem Village
George Jacobs, Sr., Salem Town
Martha Carrier, Andover

September 19
Giles Corey, Salem Farms, pressed to death

Hanged on September 22

Martha Corey, Salem Farms
Mary Eastey, Topsfield
Alice Parker, Salem Town
Ann Pudeater, Salem Town
Margaret Scott, Rowley
Wilmott Reed, Marblehead
Samuel Wardwell, Andover
Mary Parker, Andover

Other accused witches that were not hanged, but died in prison:

Sarah Osborne, Salem Village
Roger Toothaker, Billerica
Lyndia Dustin, Reading
Ann Foster, Andover

Thirteen others may have also died in prison, but sources conflict on the exact number.

"American Witch" - Rob Zombie, 2006.

~gathered from clear and convincing sources such as:

1 comment:

Beth in NC said...

That was interesting and incredibly sad.

Thanks for finding me!