The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

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The Rich History Behind the Witches of Salem

Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash

Halloween. A traditional holiday that many families take part in year by year, on October 31st. Halloween originally dates back to an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st. The day marked the end of summer and the beginning of the cold, harsh winter. This time of year was commonly associated with
human death.

The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the line between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31st, the Celts celebrated Samhain when they believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth.

In order to commemorate the tradition, the druids built gigantic sacred bonfires to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts would clothe themselves in costumes and perform ritualistic activities near the fire. Anybody who committed a crime or used their weapons during the holiday was immediately cursed with a death sentence.

The story of how Samhain became Halloween is simple. In the eighth century, a man called Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor the saints. Following closely, All Saints Day came to incorporate some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween.

A major part of Halloween is dressing up in spooky costumes, such as witches. Though many people dress up in pointy hats, witchy dresses, and wart-plastered faces, not many know the true origins of witchcraft. The real history is dark, twisted, and sometimes, even deadly.

Witches are known as people who practice the art of witchcraft, using spells, and calling on old, retired spirits for help.

Most thought of them as the devil’s foot soldiers, however many witches were simply natural healers, or so-called “Wise Women ”.

The violence and hysteria towards witches mainly began in Europe during the mid-1400s when many who were accused of being a witch confessed, often under torture or a variety of wicked acts.

Within the century, witch hunts became very common. Most of the accused were executed by hanging or burning at the stake.

Betwixt the years 1500 and 1660 up to 80,000 suspected witches were put to execution in Europe. At least 80% of them were women thought to be in alliance with satan.

In 1486, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, two very well-respected men in Germany, published a book known as “Malleus Maleficarum.” The book was essentially a guide to identify, hunt, and interrogate witches. Malleus Maleficarum sold more copies than any book except the bible for over 100 years. The book labeled witchcraft as heresy and quickly became Catholics’ and Protestants’ way to flush out witches living among them, and so the Salem witch trials began.

The Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, just after a group of young girls in Salem, Massachusetts claimed to have been possessed by the devil himself and accused several female persons of witchery.

A special court convened in Salem to hear the cases; The first being Bridget Bishop, who was hanged the following June. Over the next couple of months, eighteen others tread on the heels of Bishop to Gallows Hill. Meanwhile, over the next few months, 150 men, women, and children were accused.

The entire reason the Salem witch trials began was simple: people’s belief that the supernatural, specifically the devil, gives certain beings (witches) the power to hurt others as long as they remain loyal to him. The trials were mainly fueled by the community’s suspicion of and resentment towards their neighbors along with a fear of outsiders.

In 1682, 9-year-old Betty Paris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams began throwing tantrums including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming. The girl’s local doctor diagnosed Betty and Abigail with bewitchment. Following closely after, many other young girls began to have the same or very similar symptoms.

As hysteria spread through the community and beyond, off into the rest of Massachusetts, many others were accused, and most of the accused were unfortunately put to death. In 1692, many innocent people were brutally killed just because people thought they were evil. Throughout our history, there have been plenty of fun, happy, spooky, and demonic movies made about witches, but the truth is, they’re only just scraping the surface of witch history. As previously stated, the true history of witchcraft is much darker, much more twisted, and much more deadly.

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About the Contributor
Lorelai Atwell
Lorelai Atwell, Journalist
Lorelai is a freshman in her first year of writing for the Ridge Review. She loves reading, watching movies, and hanging out with friends. She loves to write about pretty much everything, but books and theater are her favorites. Lorelai has dedicated the last four years of her life to writing and acting. She was born and raised in Arizona. Lorelai's favorite thing to do is listen to music, and her favorite song is Iris by The GooGoo Dolls. She's passionate and always up to try new things.

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