Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2010


The Salem witch trials of 1692 comprise a moment in history that most Americans would rather forget. They offered a snapshot of a narrow-minded Puritanical society, terrified by its own superstitions and fears. Among the first three women to be put on trial was Tituba, a slave of mysterious origins — perhaps an African practitioner of voodoo, though most probably a Native American seized somewhere in the Caribbean. According to some accounts, she confessed to her crimes in order to avoid being beaten further by her master, the Rev. Samuel Parris, and revealed in supposed testimony that she had signed pacts with the devil, flown in the air on a stick and had visions of portentous creatures like cats and wolves. It was said that her alien presence had compelled other women to fall under Satan's spell. Yet, unlike many others rounded up by the Salem witch hunts, Tituba was not hanged or crushed to death by weight of stones. She passed some time in prison before being released and disappearing from historical record — a vanishing that has only heightened her legend.