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The Superstitions of Witchcraft by Howard Williams

Cotton Mather drew up an Apology in the form of a treatise


that you are in some trouble

of mind, and if you will be ruled by me you shall want for nothing in this world." Whereupon he endeavoured to clap his hands upon it, but he could feel no substance; and it jumped out of window again, but immediately came in by the porch (though the doors were shut) and said, "You had better take my counsel." He then struck at it with a stick, and struck only the ground and broke the stick. The arm with which he struck was presently disabled, and it vanished away. He presently went out at the back door, and spied this Bishop in her orchard going towards her house, but he had no power to set one foot forward to her; whereupon, returning into the house, he was immediately accosted by the monster he had seen before, which goblin was now going to fly at him; whereat he cried out, "The whole armour of God be between me and you!" so it sprung back and flew over the apple-tree, shaking many apples off the tree in its flying over. At its leap, it flung dirt with its feet against the stomach of the man, whereupon he was then struck dumb, and so continued for three days together.' Another witness declared in court; that, 'being in bed on the Lord's day, at night he heard a scrambling at the window; whereat he then saw Susanna Martin come in and jump down upon the floor. She took hold of this deponent's foot, and, drawing his body into a heap, she lay upon him nearly two hours, in all which time he could neither speak nor stir. At length, when he could begin to move, he laid hold on her
hand, and, pulling it up to his mouth, he bit some of her fingers, as he judged into the bone; whereupon she went from the chamber down stairs out at the door,' &c.

[158] 'Rara avis in terris.' A mongrel and anomalous species like the German _Meerkatzen_--monkey-cats.

On July 19 five women, and on August 19, six persons, were sent to the gallows, among whom was Mr. George Burroughs, minister, who had provoked his judges by questioning the very existence of witchcraft. At the last moments he so favourably impressed the assembled spectators by an eloquent address, that Dr. Mather, who was present, found it necessary to prevent the progress of a reactionary feeling by asserting that the criminal was no regularly ordained minister, and the devil has often been transformed into an angel of light. So transparently iniquitous and absurd had their mode of procedure become, that one of the subordinates in the service of the authorities, whose office it was to arrest the accused, refused to perform any longer his hateful office, and being himself denounced as an accomplice, he sought safety in flight. He was captured and executed as a recusant and wizard. Eight sorcerers suffered the extreme penalty of the law on September 22. Giles Gory, a few days before, indignantly refusing to plead, was 'pressed to death,' an accustomed mode of punishing obstinate prisoners; and in the course of this torture, it is said, when the tongue of the victim was forced from his mouth in the agony of pain, the presiding sheriff forced it back with his cane with much _sang froid_. At this stage in the proceedings, the magistrates considered that a justificatory memoir ought to be published for the destruction of twenty persons of both sexes, and, at the express desire of the governor, Cotton Mather drew up an Apology in the form of a treatise, 'More Wonders of the Invisible World,' in which the Salem, executions are justified by the precedent of similar and notorious instances in the mother-country, as well as by the universally accepted doctrines of various eminent authors of all ages and countries. Increase Mather, Principal of Harvard College, was also directed to solve the question whether the devil could sometimes assume the shape of a saint to effect his particular design. The reverend author resolved it affirmatively in a learned treatise, which he called (a seeming plagiarism) 'Cases of Conscience concerning Witchcraft and Evil Spirits personating Men,' an undertaking prompted by an unforeseen and disagreeable circumstance. The wife of a minister, one of the most active promoters of the prosecution, was involved in the indiscriminate charges of the informers, who were beginning to aim at more exalted prey. The minister, alarmed at the unexpected result of his own agitation, was now convinced of the falseness of the whole proceeding. It was a fortunate occurrence. From that time the executions ceased.[159]


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