What did beliefs about God and Satan have to do with the witch crazes of the seventeenth century, one of which was the Salem Witch Trials? What changed to bring about an end to witch trials all over the world?
Although called the Salem witch trials the cases referred to were in fact heard over quite a wide area in colonial Massachusetts. More than 150 people were arrested and even more accused. 19 were eventually hanged, but others died in prison, possibly as the result of torture. There were similar trials in many countries where there were similar beliefs and none where such beliefs did not exist e.g. Hungary in the17th century.
The religious context was the Puritan belief in the existence of an unseen world which was inhabited by God and his angels. The angels included Satan , a fallen angel, and his minions. They believed that these ‘witches’, both men and women and even children, were servants of the devil using supernatural powers to cause such things as crop failures and illness. The trials justified themsleves from scriptures which said witches should be put to death according to the web page ‘Examininge the Suspitions about Witchery in Connecticut’ Economically if someone died title of the land would often come to the church.
There are a number of reasosn why the trials stopped. Firstly , people generally stopped believing in the power of witches – in areas where there was no such belief the trials did not take place. Secondly tere was a fear that innocent people were being implicated. In early cases confessions were obtained under torture. When the torturing stopped so did the confessions according to Tim Lambert on his web page, The Witch Trials. Lambert also points out that torture was not used in England where few trials took place. By the mid 18th century attitudes had altered. In England for instance witchcraft laws repealed to be replaced by legislation making it illegal to pretend to cast spells. The last such trial took place in Switzerland in 1872.
Examininge the Suspitions about Witchery” in Connecticut retrieved 13th May 2009 from http://greensleeves.typepad.com/berkshires/2007/10/witch-trials-in.html
Lambert,T. The Witch Trials, retrieved 13th May 2009 from http://www.localhistories.org/witchtrials.html