The Witch Hunt


Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than two hundred people in colonial-era Salem, Massachusettes were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft, and 19 of them were executed. More than three centuries later, the Salem witch trials remain one of the most disconcerting and harrowing events in American history and an example of a society was controlled by a perplexingly, enigmatic nature of evil.

Why did Salem’s citizens turn on their own neighbours, and fantasize that they had become minions of Satan and committed crimes that never occurred? Why was Salem’s populace so willing to believe the worst, and why did people not say a word against the colonial officials’ use of breathtakingly cruel methods of torture to extract confessions from the accused?

Fear and religious fervour undoubtedly played a role in the colonists’ fanaticism. As Elisabeth Reis, author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in New England explains, the New England Puritans had a “very real dread of the devil,” which they saw as continually waiting to enmesh them and lead them to eternal damnation. Other theories hold that the witch trials were a reaction to stresses that the colonial society was experiencing. In 1689, English rulers William and Mary started a war with France in the American colonies. Known as ‘King William’s War’ to colonists, it ravaged regions of upstate New York, Nova Scotia and Quebec, sending refugees into the county of Essex and, specifically, Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Salem Village is present-day Danvers, Massachusetts; colonial Salem Town became what’s now Salem.) The displaced people created a strain on Salem’s resources. This aggravated the existing rivalry between families with ties to the wealth of the port of Salem and those who still depended on agriculture. Controversy also brewed over Reverend Samuel Parris, who became Salem Village’s first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked because of his rigid ways and greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work of the Devil. But regardless of the cause, the Salem Witch trials provide unsettling historical proof that it doesn’t necessarily require a Hitler, Osama bin Laden or Charles Manson to perpetrate horrifying evil. To the contrary, they suggest that unexceptional, seemingly rational and moral people are capable of committing or supporting cruel injustices as well.

In January of 1692, Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having “fits” and the local doctor blamed the supernatural. Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris’ Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman. Two of them claimed innocence while the other one confessed of being a witch. All three women were put in jail. With the seed of paranoia planted, a stream of accusations followed for the next few months. Dozens of people from Salem and Massachusetts were brought in for questioning. Eventually, William Phipps, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, created a special court to hear witchcraft cases. Its five judges—three of whom were friends of Mather—used methods that today would seem bizarre, such as compelling a defendant to touch one of the supposed victims, to see whether it stopped the demonic symptoms. They also accepted as evidence gossip, rumours and tall tales—such as one man’s claim that he had witnessed a suspect transform herself into a cat. The trials were so clearly rigged and based upon concocted evidence that even Mather felt compelled to complain. “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned,” he wrote in a letter to the governor. Eventually, after Phipps’ own wife was accused of witchcraft, he apparently conceded the farcical nature of the proceedings, and in May 1693, he pardoned all those who had been imprisoned on witchcraft charges. But the damage had been done: 19 were hanged on Gallows Hill, a 71-year-old man was pressed to death with heavy stones, several people died in jail and nearly 200 people had been accused of practicing “the Devil’s magic.”

In the 20th century, artists and scientists continued to be fascinated by the Salem witch trials. Arthur Miller resurrected the tale with his 1953 play “The Crucible” using the trials as an allegory for McCarthyism paranoia in the 1950s. Numerous theories have been devised to explain or understand the strange behaviour that occurred in Salem. One of the most concrete studies, published in Science in 1976 by psychologist Linda Caporal, blamed the abnormal habits of the accused on the fungus ergot, which can be found in rye, wheat and other cereal grasses. Toxicologists say that eating ergot-contaminated foods can lead to muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions and hallucinations. Also, the fungus thrives in warm and damp climates—not too unlike the swampy meadows in Salem Village, where rye was the staple grain during the spring and summer months.

What is very frightening about the Salem witch trials is how it highlighted the dark side of human nature which has depicted itself in history again and again like in the form of the anti-communist witch hunt in 1950. They also show how seemingly rational, moral people can be induced to support wrongs or even perform them, if they fail to contemplate the nature of their deeds–a notion that philosopher Hanna Arendt called “the banality of evil.”

This suggests that no matter how much we have advanced, there’s always a chance that the horror of the Salem witch trials may repeat itself.

Sania Kanchan
AS Level, VIBGYOR High, Goregaon

Be Happy! Be Strong!


World Mental Health Day was marked on 10 October 2018. Despite the advancements in many spheres in our country, Mental Health is still stigmatised on a collective level. We need to relook into this very seriously and embrace a positive understanding of how we all can take care of ourselves and not fall prey to depression and other mental illnesses. It is the need of the hour.

Being mentally sound and strong and healthy does not always require therapy or counselling. Sometimes it is the small things that can bring about great relief.

Here are a few easy but vital tips:

Sleep well – it is one of the most crucial aspects for mental peace and well being. Sleeping and waking at the right time should be our priority.
Eat well – regular meal times and a balanced diet are so important.
Drink enough water – drinking the requisite amount of water according to your height and weight is a must. Stay hydrated, stay cool.
Exercise – even a short walk is enough. Or swimming, or aerobics, or going to the gym.
Connect Face to Face, not online – spending time with the people you love, your family and friends, brings about a sense of happiness and wellness. This support system can be a life saver!
Make time for your hobby – creative expression is a great way to uplift one’s mood. It connects you to yourself.

Above all, practise mindfulness in all aspects of your life; it is the quintessential way to self fulfillment.



Codependency is characterised by emotional dependencies in a relationship, to an extent that the giving is one-sided and so excessive that it hurts the giver. Codependency begins early with parents passing it unknowingly, despite best intentions.


  1. By being a super parent! You believe you know the best for your child and so it is you who will decide all aspects of your child’s life – right from planning her food to choice of friends, when to eat and what to wear, which hobby to choose and which colours look good. As they grow older they are likely to seek out relationships in which someone else has all the power and control.
  2. By going out of your way, sacrificing all your needs and desires, to ensure all your child’s needsand demands are met. You spend lunchtime fussing over your child’s food and stay hungry yourself, you go to buy that new toy by cancelling your doctor’s visit, you stop watching your favourite serial to ensure your child gets to see his. In life they will either seek relationships to dominate and control or grow to be “Mr. Pleaser” constantly needing others to approve of them.
  3. Be always there to solve problems for your child. You rush to scold the next-door neighbour who pushed your girl or pick a fight with the teacher who did not grade your child well or reach out to help even before your baby can try. This sends your child the message that they are not competent or responsible enough to figure out how to solve their problems and that someone else needs to do it for them. They will always seek relationships in life where another person will tell them what to do.

Codependents are usually nice individuals who are very stressed from carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They are perceptive of others but not at all perceptive of themselves. Thus the challenge! Codependency usually gets disguised under the pretext of love and the virtue of sacrifice, and most often confused with Interdependency. However, unlike codependent families, where one person makes all the sacrifices even at the cost of their own happiness and dignity, interdependent families go out of their way for each. A member’s sacrifices are always respected and reciprocated in an interdependent family.

Therapy with codependents involves teaching self-care skills, and most importantly, convincing them that they are not selfish or in danger for choosing to take care of themselves. If you are codependent it is time to rise and love yourself. For your children will learn from what you do and not what you tell them.

Oindrila Purohit
Parent of Daanya Purohit
VIBGYOR High, Goregaon