How the Mathers Affected Salem

As we all know, the witch trials occuring in Salem Village are a problem for everyone. But could the famous Boston father-son duo of writers and preachers, Increase and Cotton Mather, possibly have affected Salem- and even be to blame for the widespread fear of witches?

Memorable Providences: A Cause of Fear?

Back in 1689, which was three years ago, the son in the duo, Cotton Mather, published the bestselling book Memorable Providences. In his book, Cotton tells of children who are afflicted by witchcraft and have terrifying fits. The most shocking part? He claims to have seen it all unfold with his own eyes! In the book, he warns children to be careful of the spiritual world- or join Satan and his evil army of angels. It is possible that the people of Salem were terrified by this book, and scarred with a newfound fear of witches and the spiritual world, combined with the strong Puritan beliefs fearing demonic activity, leading to the paranoia that eventually caused the witch trials. Take Mercy Lewis, for example. She accused Martha Cory and Elizabeth Proctor of bewitching her, claiming that she was being pricked, blinded, choked and more because of their evil spirits. However, an unnamed family member of Lewis has reported to us, saying something different. “Ever since she got her hands on that blasted book by Cotton Mather, she’s been worrying that something bad was going to happen to her, that she would be attacked by spirits or cursed by witches.” the family member claims. “Now I think she’s finally lost it!” This implies that perhaps Lewis was simply overreacting because she had gotten ideas from Memorable Providences.

The Mather's Leadership Position

The Mathers have also actively affected the witch trials in Salem by providing law and legal advice in their letters to Salem authorities, such as when Cotton sent magistrate John Richards the letter “Return of the Several Ministers”. This letter warned against using spectral evidence in court. “Satan can make himself look like any innocent person”, he says. Cotton also reportedly prayed with the accused John Proctor for the forgiveness of Proctor’s sins, and has claimed that the late Reverend George Burroughs, the Salem reverend who many claimed to be a minister of the Devil, was guilty. Also, at this time, many people are petitioning Increase Mather (who is known to be much more liberal than his son and has tried to contradict the witch trials while supporting the ministers) to advise Reverend Parris to step down from his position in the church.


Conclusion

The Mathers are famous for their Puritan beliefs, frightening writing and firm advice given to law authorities in Salem regarding the horrible witch trials. The question is, though, were the the ones that started the trials by writing literature that sparked a fear of witches into the hearts of our citizens? Some say they had nothing to do with the trials, that the victims were rightfully afraid that they were being bewitched. Others say yes, the Mathers’ literature inspired a fear in people that was quite unnecessary. One anonymous commenter even insists that the Mathers are insane! And if Increase is going to try and put an end to the madness once and for all, will he succeed, contrary to his sons ways that seem to encourage the trials? One thing is for sure, their laws given to Salem authorities affected how the trials turned out, and if the certain commenter was right, and the Mathers are insane, then Salem has had injustices committed in the horrible Salem Witch Trials.