In the winter of 1692 the village of Salem was rocked by an avalanche of accusations of witchcraft. The mayhem would leave 24 people dead and more than 100 others accused and imprisoned. The confessions of one woman became the basis to believe that the Devil himself (in various forms) was lurking about in Salem.
A Little Bit of Bad Behavior Goes A Long Way
The story begins with two young girls: Betty Parris and Abigail Williams. Betty was the daughter of a Rev. Samuel Parris and Abigail was his orphaned niece. One day Betty and Abigail along with a few other girls and Rev. Parris’ slave woman, Tituba, decided to play some innocent fortune telling games.
Not long after playing the games, Betty and Abigail began exhibiting strange behaviors and having angry fits. Rev. Parris took them to the local doctor for help, but the doctor couldn’t explain the behaviors. The other girls that had played the games also began to exhibit those same strange behaviors – also with no explanation.
The Village of Salem came to the conclusion that the girls had been bewitched. The girls were quick to start naming names of “the witches” that did this to them. The first 3 people accused of witchcraft were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba. All three women were poor, lower class citizens of Salem.
In court Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne maintained their innocence, but Tituba gave an in depth confession. Beaten until she confessed, Tituba claimed that the Devil himself came to her and asked her to sign her soul over to him. As she looked over the Devil’s book, Tituba noticed that Sarah Good’s and Sarah Osborne’s signatures were already there. Among a few other animals, Tituba said that she was being stalked by a black cat and a red cat that spoke to her and threatened to hurt her if she didn’t serve them by hurting the children. Tituba was jailed but was never executed.
Really? Talking Demon Cats?
It has been a long held belief that witches have cats as their familiars. Familiars are a witch’s companion that aids them in their magic. Some traditions state that the cat is the actual source of the witch’s power and can do the witch’s bidding. Other traditions say that the witches can take the form of a cat. Cats have also been said to be the link between a witch and the Devil.
How It All Ended
Not long after she confessed, Tituba recanted her story. Eventually Betty, Abigail and the other girls came clean and said the whole thing was made up. Law makers in Salem had to scramble to save the innocent from the gallows. Reforms to the justice system in Salem would continue for years to come.