The Colors of Witchcraft: Ideas of Race in the Puritan Theory of Witchcraft
This thesis explores what role “ideas of race” played in how the Puritans saw the new land of America and how they imagined the witchcraft of these people in this New World would need to be exterminated. During this time of racial divide and hypersensitivity to witches, the primary authority on people of color, and sometimes inquisitor, was a man named Cotton Mather. Mather is remembered as a man who believed that rooting out the unholy arts and persecuting the sin of witchcraft was paramount to having a healthy, Godly society. Modern society tends to look at the Puritans, and men like Cotton Mather, as being superstitious and antiquated with their thinking. However, this thesis will also illustrate that irrational anxieties about the racial other are common and, indeed, that twenty-first century man still has a tendency to generalize societies and take drastic actions in a very similar way to the Puritans. Many would contend the eugenics programs of recent history tried to accomplish the same overall goals as those of Mather. The goals of this thesis will be accomplished by primarily focusing on the Puritans’ belief that Satan would use those who were not Puritan, the ‘others’, to get a toehold within a good Caucasian Puritan society, thereby allowing the Puritans to validate, in their minds, the abuse and dehumanizing of, the racially other, people groups around them. The data to support these claims was assimilated from archival sources, including actual court minutes that were penned by the magistrates and Clergymen of seventeenth-century New England. Western science of the day assumed that the white race was the pinnacle of man and that the other 5/6 of humanity was degenerate. For this reason the Puritans justified the concept of Manifest Destiny, which caused many Native Americans to be driven from their lands or disposed of. Many believe this way of thinking to be an issue of antiquity; however this thesis will challenge that ideology by presenting the enduring legacy of not facing those racial fears, which led to some of the claims of scientists in the eugenics movements of the twentieth century that those deemed genetically unfit needed to be eradicated to have a healthy society
witches, witchcraft, Salem, tituba, cotton mather, race, puritan, Indian relations, Honors College
Pomeroy, F. (2016). The colors of witchcraft: Ideas of race in the Puritan theory of witchcraft (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.