Brands Plucked Out
of the Burning
PURITAN BELIEFS WERE articulated primarily by men, and most accusations of witchcraft were lodged by men. Thus our search for the ideological and socio-economic origins of witchcraft has focused on men. Yet women themselves harbored witchcraft beliefs and were present among the ranks of accusers. Most New England women in fact seem to have shared with their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons a pervasive fear of the witches in their midst and to have supported the efforts of their ministers and magistrates to purge God's "city upon a hill" of its female evildoers. Since witches were usually women, women's own adherence to those beliefs remains puzzling.
Besides accused witches, only two other groups of females left any substantive evidence of their feelings about witchcraft or their stake in prosecutions. Both groups were composed of accusers. Those in one group, like most male accusers, described themselves as targets of witches' malicious attacks on their own or their families' health and prosperity. Those in the other group described themselves as possessed by witches, as special victims of witches' frustrated attempts to augment their own