Salem Witch Trials: Cotton Mather

In Salem, the townsfolk had to walk on eggshells to avoid being swept up in the massive hysteria centered on witchcraft. From young girls to outspoken men, anyone was in danger of being accused of practicing evil. In this article, you will learn about a man who played an important role in the Salem Witch Trials , Cotton Mather.

Cotton Mather was an influential New England Puritan minister with significant social and political ties. He lived during a time where the belief in witches and witchcraft spread like wildfire amongst the people in 1692. Mather was one of the most passionate believers and since he was a respected Boston minister, many people listened to what he had to say or wrote. Mather also wrote on many different religious subjects.

Memorable Providences

In 1689, Mather wrote ‘Memorable Providences,’ which described a case of suspected witchcraft that had taken place in Boston the previous year. The case centered on three children that started to act in a strange manner after they argued with an Irish washerwoman named Mary Glover. Mather examined the children and afterwards, he believed that the children had been under the spell of Glover’s witchcraft. Throughout New England, the book captured the attention of many. The girls mentioned in the book were referred to as the ‘circle girls.’

Mather continued to write about witchcraft and delivered his beliefs through his sermons. He only added fuel to the fiery thoughts regarding witchcraft. His actions played an important role in the path that led to the Salem Trials. He believed that the Devil was in Salem and that witches should receive the strongest punishment for their involvement. Mass hysteria became increasingly stronger and Mather was right in the thick of it.

He held strongly to his belief in witchcraft and was unrelenting. For instance, when a former pastor of Salem Village (George Burroughs) faced accusations and the end of the noose, Mather was at the center of his demise. Just before he was hung, Burroughs faced the crowd and recited the Lord’s Prayer without a flaw. It was believed at that time that a witch or wizard could never accomplish this feat. He claimed his innocence once more and as a result, spectators began to cry and have their doubts. However, Mather spoke up and sealed Burroughs fate. He told the people that at times, the Devil has been known to transform into an Angel of Light. Burroughs was hung.
Even after the witch hunt calmed down, judges agreed to release court records to Mather. In 1693, Mather penned the book ‘Wonders of the Invisible World,’ which illustrated the Salem Witch Trials.  

Religious Bloodline

Cotton Mather was the son of a major figure during the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was a Puritan minister that had his hand in the government of the colony, the administration of Harvard College, as well as the Salem Witch Trials. Cotton’s grandfather was Richard Mather , another Puritan minister with a great deal of influence.