Relations between the Great Awakening and Witches

Putting both of the readings for Tuesday into one argument, I would say that the witch hunts of the late seventeenth century and the religious Great Awakening go hand in hand. I realize there is somewhat of a debate going on and I would like to make my voice heard. I agree with Romangone who says that the two events were definitely connected. They claim that pastors and religious leaders were using the witch trials to try and scare people into becoming more religious and I think that this has some correct aspects to it. I believe that the witch trials did deepen the peoples belief in the church, but that that was not the pastors’ and religious leaders’ intent. The reason for the sudden witch hunts and trials is up for debate, but whether it was ergot, PTSD, or social warfare, the result of the trials and hunts is undisputed. Throughout the accusations a general fear emerged that these witches were worshiping Satan and that was bringing the Devil closer to Salem. I believe that this led the people of Massachusetts to seek out God in any way possible and they turned to both their old local churches or the traveling evangelicals. The evangelical preachers took full advantage of the fear that had been placed in Massachusetts and they used this fear to convert more and more people to their belief.

Taylor describes the Great Awakening as a “dramatic and sweeping set of religious revivals” (339) and in the mid eighteenth century they were present in many places, especially the northeast. America was the land of religious freedom and protestants of all faiths found a home somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard. Even Catholics had a place in Maryland even thought the majority of the people were Protestants. In the late 17th century, it seemed as though virtually each colony had its own church. The Church of England was the official church of the Virginia Colony, the Puritan Church belonged to Massachusetts and many other New England Colonies, and the Dutch Reformed Church was present in New Netherland. However, the creation and Royal claiming of new colonies between 1690 and 1720 brought more Anglicans over from England and the Church of England grew to be present in more colonies. The Great Awakening was present all over British North America, but was most present in New England who recognized the Congregationalist Church. This was because of the prevalence of churches in that region, Taylor says of New Englanders: “few inhabitants lived more than six miles from a meetinghouse.” (340) The sheer amount of churches and the fact that there were so many educated men from Harvard and Yale to make up the Clergy made New England sure to be the center for the Great Awakening.

The Great Awakening of the 17th century was a time when people restored faith in God and the church became of paramount importance in the colonies. The Salem Witch Trials was by no means the main cause, but I find it undeniable that fear of the presence of the Devil played a significant role in the religious revival of the 1700s.