On February 27 1692, 17-year-old Elizabeth Hubbart returned home terrified. She claimed that while walking through Salem Village she was stalked by a large wolf she believed was either a witch in disguise or was sent by a witch. Elizabeth was the maidservant of Dr. William Griggs, her guardian and great-uncle.
A few days before, Dr. Griggs had been called to the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, whose daughter Elizabeth (Betty) and niece Abigail had been exhibiting strange behaviour: they would throw things, scream wildly when hearing the Lord’s prayer, make weird sounds at odd moments, and bend themselves into contorted positions. Reverend Parris had hoped prayer would cure their odd behaviour, but his efforts were ineffective. Unable to find anything physically wrong with them, Dr. Griggs declared "Evil Hand" was the cause. This diagnosis was the first trigger in a series of events that led to accusations of witchcraft to over two hundred of resident of Salem Village (now Danvers), Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover in the Colony of Massachusetts. 19 of them were found guilty and executed, and 5 more died while in jail, turning it into the deadliest witch hunt in North America.
Two others girls in Salem Village, 12 year old Ann Putnam Jr. (her mother would also start having fits later on) and Mary Walcott, had begun to show similar signs of affliction.
Trying to hide the situation affecting his family, Reverend Parris took Abigail from their home and placed her in the care of Stephen Sewall in Salem, where she would eventually recover. That same day, he left Betty in the care of his neighbour Mary Sibley while he attended a religious sermon, hoping to seek answers about his daughter's afflictions. Mary instructs John Indian, the husband of Tituba (both slaves of Reverend Parris brought from Barbados) to make a "witch cake" to uncover the names of the witches. It was believed at the time that, if a cake or biscuit made with rye flour and the urine of an afflicted person was fed to a dog, and the dog showed the same symptoms, the presence of witchcraft was proven.
On February 29, 1692, the girls accuse three women of witchcraft: Tituba, Sarah Good (a local homeless mother), and Sarah Osborne (a woman married to an indentured servant), of witchcraft. Arrest warrants are issued for them. The next day, Judges John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examine the accused women at the Salem Village Meetinghouse.
Not much is known about Tituba’s life before and after the Salem trials. She is referred to in book being as black or mixed race, but the actual court documents from the trial refer to her as an “Indian woman, servant.” It is believed that she was born in an Arawak Village in South America, where she was captured during her childhood and taken to Barbados as a slave. She was later purchased in Barbados by Samuel Parris when she was still a teenager and brought to Boston in 1680. Samuel Parris moved to Salem in November of 1689 after he was appointed minister of the Village.
During the examination, Tituba confesses to being a witch and shares with the court that there are many other witches in town. Mayhem broke out in the court room and life in Salem Village would never be the same again...
[To be continued....]
Luminato 2019 presents Obeah Opera on June 13 - 22, 2019 at the Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto, Canada.
Listen to a Luminato curated Spotify playlist featuring audio tracks by different artists, inspired by the Salem Witch Trials.