A Fascinating Quote from the Salem Witch Trial

I came across this quote from the “confession” of William Barker, Sr. from the Salem Witch trial. (Forgive the poor spelling. They were more ‘creative’ than us back then.)

Satans design was to set up his own worship, abolish all the churches in the land, to fall next upon Salem and soe goe through the countrey, He sayth the devil promeised that all his people should live bravely that all persones should be equall; that their should be no day of resurection or of judgement, and neither punishment nor shame for sin.

It’s a suprisingly accurate description of modern times, isn’t it? I’m not even sure all of it sounds that bad to me. (What’s wrong with everyone being brave and equal?)

But here’s a thought for you. I assume most of you, like me, don’t believe any of these people were actual Satanists in contact with some supernatural power. So that means this William person is laying out what the good God-fearing people of that time feared the most: Becoming us!

And while you are chewing on that, consider this: doesn’t this quote mean that the 17th century people were already well aware of what a ‘modern progressive’ society might look like? Doesn’t that make it not modern? And doesn’t it sound like they were fighting against such a society on moral grounds?


9 thoughts on “A Fascinating Quote from the Salem Witch Trial

  1. I tend to be a “best of times, worst of times” kind of person. We are living in the worst of times for many reasons: lack of honesty, people abandoning the idea of natural rights, unwillingness to share, pornography, drug use, abuse, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, etc. From a 17th century perspective, the big change is that such things are accepted in “polite society.” (They have always gone on, the issue is that polite society aspired to something nobler).

    On the other hand, there are so many good things today, the technological progress, the widespread prosperity (compared to all other times in history), better medical care, people living longer, the ability to get on a plane and travel around the world, the ability to communicate, the exposure to different cultures, the widespread willingness of (some) people to give and help others when disasters hit, and of course the wonderful restoration of the Church. Personally, I believe that most people have been aware that there is a battle going on between good and evil since the beginning of time. Right now, the battle lines are drawn very starkly. But here’s something interesting to think about: even though people were probably more righteous in many ways during the 17th century, who among us would choose to live as they did in the 17th century compared to now? So, I guess we can say we are in the best of times and the worst of times.

  2. Count me incredibly grateful that we no longer live in a time and place so evil that people tortured confessions out of and then killed people they didn’t like under the excuse that they were witches.

  3. My Mayflower ancestor, John Howland, was actually on a jury for a witch trial. They found her “not guilty.”

    I think there are major dangers in the world today, just as there were back then. In watching carefully to avoid sin, we have to be careful not to become one of the sinners. Those who sought out, tortured, and then lynched “witches” in and around Salem became what they hated.

    Today, we have others that are very hateful against those they disagree with: radical Islam hates Westerners, while Westerners hate radical Islam. Homophobes hate gays, while gays hate homophobes (or what they label as such). Traditional Christians hate Mormons (especially Mitt Romney), while Mormons can also be intolerant of other groups. Nazis hunted Jews for sport.

    Perhaps the thing we can learn most about the witch trials, is that we do not have to agree with others, but there is no need to go on witch hunts.

  4. That is an interesting quote Bruce, and I think you are right. I often wonder what some of our ancestors would think of this modern world we live in. Perhaps they would be horrified beyond comprehension at the level of godlessness and sensuality we indulge in, much like Fundamentalist Muslims are today. Perhaps they would become disoriented, overwhelmed, and hopeless, a little like an Amish person leaving the flock and going on a drinking binge. Perhaps they would adjust quickly to an entirely new culture and set of values and become just like us.

    Fundamentally, witch-hunting is simply a crude attempt to explain the unexplainable: the random misfortunes and misery of life. Everyone needs explanations for their suffering. Today, our explanations turn to science, statistics, philosophies of nihilism. Although many of us also love to blame politicians, opposing political parties, Muslims, grand conspiracies, and moral degradation. It seems we all need a scapegoat. We really aren’t that different from our witch-hunting ancestors when you get down to the fundamentals.

  5. “We really aren’t that different from our witch-hunting ancestors when you get down to the fundamentals.”

    Scary. I suppose you are right, though. At least to some degree.

  6. I will not rule out that some of them were “actual Satanists in contact with some supernatural power”. Mormons believe that such things as witches actually exist.

    I know almost no real information about the Salem Witch Trials so I will refrain from engaging in a deeper critique. I find it, however, completely plausible that witchcraft was occurring at least in a culture where witch trials arose. I also find it completely plausible that innocent persons were prosecuted on false charges merely for the sake of a grudge, or whatever.

    I just find it kind of curious that you dismiss actual witchcraft out of hand. Do you dismiss it based specifically on the historical circumstances at Salem? Such dismissal presents no problems to me since I know nothing about the context around Salem at that time. Or do you dismiss it generally like witchcraft is not a real thing? I kind of get that vibe.

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