The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches
The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches

The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches

Shaina Lucas - November 4, 2018

The Unfortunate Scapegoats of the Black Death Were Mainly Heretics, Jews and Witches
Witch trials featured many witnesses who claimed to have seen dealings with the Devil himself. Wikimedia.

The Black Death Set Up the Salem Witch Trials

The most memorable witch hunt of human history begins sixty-two years after the end of the Germany Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials actually started in 1691, but no one came to trial until 1692. These witch trials in Salem are complex, and still, not all is known about why this happened. Salem during this time was split between Salem Town and Salem Village. They both were strict of the Puritan faith, which was serving community and God. Salem was a community-oriented society and heavily relied on religious Christian beliefs. This was a community where politics and church went hand in hand. The Trials had a significant influence on Puritan ministers and their position and power. The role of witchcraft was a religious view in Puritan society. The ministers of Salem during the Trials (Samuel Parris and Nicholas Noyes) sought to control the witch craze from a spiritual and judicial perspective. The people of Salem during this time looked towards their ministers in spiritual help and it was common during the time that the clergy played a dual role in both the church and politics. Certain legal situations like the Witch Trials gave them the judicial power and services. Being able to have the combination of the two helped solidify and increase ministers’ position in society. The uneasy environment helped fuel the animosity between Salem Town and Salem Village.

It was believed in the Puritan faith that the soul was predestined to either go to Heaven or Hell and that could only be changed by doing good deeds, work hard, active in the community, and attend church on a regular basis as well as a strong faith in God. This is called “predestination” which is present in many other faiths other than Christianity. The problems that led to the witch hunts in Salem were the problems of self-government with political, economic and church issues. Salem Village relied on Salem Town for help with government and religious services. Salem Town grew as a cosmopolitan city while Salem Village was slow to change and separated themselves from Salem Town. Most of the accused during this period were the East Salem Villagers.

The prosecuting and finger pointing was done by West Salem Villagers. The main accusers were young women, about 75 percent. One of these women was Parris’ niece. Also, 75 percent of the witnesses at the various trials were men. Of the male and female witnesses, 74 percent of men and 80 percent of women were married. The statistics support the theory of maintaining status quo and abolish aberrant behavior. After the entire witchcraft episode, eighteen men and women were hanged for the practice of witchcraft. One man, Giles Corey was pressed to death instead of hanged. Of all nineteen men and women prosecuted not one was an actual practitioner of witchcraft. If a person prosecuted to be a witch was actually a witchcraft practitioner that said persons would not have died since magickal forces would have been at work. A witch could simply erase the minds of the villagers or kill them and their deaths are deemed by natural causes. But of course, if a witch were to do these spells they must always remember the Witches’ Creed and Rule of Three.

This Rede every witch must follow, and a witch will be cursed and die if they break the Rede. It would take a very powerful witch, a Champion of the Gods to ignore this Rede and perform Black Magick without dire consequences.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Bever, Edward. “Witchcraft Prosecutions and the Decline of Magic.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 40, no. 2 (Fall 2009): 263-293.

Halsall, Paul. “The Black Death and the Jews 1348-1349 CE.” Jewish History Sourcebook (July 1998):1-5.

Herzig, Tamar. “Bridging North and South: Inquisitorial Networks and Witchcraft Theory on the Eve of Reformation.” Journal of Early Modern History 12, no. 5 (2008): 361-382.

Horrox, Rosemary. “Human Agency.” In The Black Death 1994 ed., 207-226. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.

King, Ernest W, and Franklin G Mixon, Jr. “Religiosity and the political economy of the Salem witch trials.” Social Science Journal 47, no. 3 (September 2010): 678-688.

Pavlac, Brian A. “A Witch Hunt: Germany 1628.” The WITCH HUNTS (A.D. 1400-1800). Last modified January 13, 2011.

Rees, William. “The Black Death in England and Wales, as exhibited in Manorial Documents.” Section of the History of Medicine (February 1923): 27-45. Academic Search Premier.