Superstitions & Attitudes

The Scarlet Letter; Salem 1640


Superstition is a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. Everyone has superstitions, or has heard of them. "Don't open an umbrella inside" or "Knock on wood". Superstitions are ideas that people have brought about because they don't understand why superstitious or supernatural things happen. Fear of the unknown per-say. Most superstitions imply that if you don't say or do them, then you'll have bad luck. Opening an umbrella inside is bad luck, or walking under a latter. Some of the main superstitions that are still used today originated in the era of Puritans and Salem in 1640.


The Puritans believed that forests were the home of the Devil. The forests were mysterious and unknown, so they assumed it to be pure evil. The same superstition was applied to witches. A witch was defined as one who was allied with the Devil and therefore evil. In those dark times, many people were ill with epilepsy, and were denounced as witches because of the seizures they suffered. The Puritans considered it signs that the Devil had possessed the individual, and that they had to be destroyed. Major undeniable paranoia possessed this era. But all witches were not deemed witches because of an illness. There was in fact witch craft practiced during this time. Spells, and hex's and potions. The whole hullabaloo. Salem is not make believe, or an old urban legend. Witchcraft was real, and the Puritans had the right to fear it. The saying "God Bless You" came from the belief that when people sneezed, the devil would attempt to jump into their body. By quickly saying God bless you, people could help others from becoming possesed.

Other superstitions during the Scarlet Letter era:

Carrying rabbit’s foot would bring people good luck, because there was a superstition that witches sometimes took the form of rabbits.

It was bad luck for an unmarried girl to sit on a table, because then she would never get married.

Cats were watched because their behavior predicted luck, either good or bad. They were also taken along on ships, to get rid of mice and also so that they could warn the crew of inclement weather.

It was bad luck to be buried to the north side of a church.

To pour gravy out of a spoon backwards/backhanded was unlucky because it predicted that a quarrel would brake out.


Puritans believed that to become saved, they would have to prove they were worthy while on earth. To prosper, be faithful, and to lead a successful life. They wanted to “purify” the Catholic Church with the Anglican Church, and remove themselves from non-Puritans. Over time, the term puritan meant a strictness in morals or religious matters. Puritans have also been known for having reform attitudes. The prohibition and temperance movements are often called puritan movements. Puritans represent pure, moral attitudes and value modern movements for rapid social change, requiring discipline and hard work.

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