The Devil’s Juggles: Witchcraft Accusations in 17th-Century New England
by Michael Thurston
Friday, October 19th, 12:15-12:45
In their influential analysis of the Salem witch crisis, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum offer events in Northampton as a telling counter-example to the rash of witchcraft accusations in the Eastern Massachusetts Bay Colony. Where residents of Salem Town and Salem Village interpreted the visions and behavior of young women as evidence of a malevolent “invisible world”, they argue, residents of the western town understood similar phenomena as evidence of a nascent “awakening” of enthusiastic Christian faith. But was the Connecticut River Valley really free of what Cotton Mather called the Devil’s “juggles”?
This talk (newly updated from its 2016 version) will survey the appearance of witchcraft in the seventeenth-century history of Valley towns and villages, pointing out familiar patterns of accusation and interrogation. While we’ll venture as far as Bridgeport, and spend some time in Wethersfield, CT (site of the largest pre-Salem witch panic in the colonies), we’ll also focus on such close-to-home cases as that of Mary Bliss Parsons and Hadley’s “Half-Hung Mary.” And just as events in Salem were re-narrated and reinterpreted by writers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we will see that events in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, too, were transformed by later writers to serve their own purposes.
Bring your lunch, and we provide coffee, tea and cider for you as you listen to the presentations. The programs begin promptly at 12:15 with seating and beverages ready just before noon. The lectures are free and everyone is welcome to attend.