Witch burning. Illustration from a mid 19th century book. Photo Credit: Mullica
I’m doing some research for the book I’m writing. The research is on witches and witchcraft and the book I’m studying (in addition to others) is called The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen. It’s a Norton Edition written in the late 80’s and filled with many great chapters. The one I’m currently stuck on is called Handmaidens of the Devil, describing religion’s role in the witch hunts. Religious rituals and symbols strictly guided gender roles, as they do today. Then, as now in fundamentalist Christian sects, women weren’t supposed to dissent or speak up against church leaders. For them to vary away from the norm in their gender roles was to call themselves into suspicion. If they varied from the norm and challenged the beliefs of God, they were suspect to being called a witch. However, certain factors had to be in place–typically the woman was unmarried, usually older and sometimes extremely poor or extremely wealthy.
If you can pick up a copy of this book, or something similar, I highly recommend it.