Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

By John Putnam Demos | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is the end of a very long inquiry. The book itself spans a good six years in the writing; the inquiry goes back two decades. My first term-paper, as a beginning graduate student in 1960, was about witchcraft, and, in a sense, I have lived with witchcraft ever since. I have loved this project, and hated it, by turns. I have frequently forsaken it for other interests, and just as frequently been “reconciled.” Like an old and tested companion, it has become almost a part of me.

Witchcraft is, of course, an old, old chestnut of historical interest and study; but that was not my motive in setting out. (Indeed, the “popularity” of the subject felt to me then, and still feels, faintly like an embarrassment.) Two factors, separate but overlapping, served to justify an effort of restudy. One was an overemphasis in previous writings on a few sensational episodes—with the Salem trials of 1692–93 making the single most obvious case in point. Witchcraft, I could see at the outset, belonged to the regular business of life in premodern times; or at least it belonged to the belief system, the value structure, the predominant psychology of those times. To explore its everyday presence and meaning, and thus to right the balance of research, seemed a worthy scholarly objective.

But there was a second, and deeper, objective, to which terms like “system” and “structure” directly referred. My coming of age, professionally speaking, coincided with a general growth of interest in “interdisciplinary history.” Efforts of intellectual bridge-building—demographic history, historical sociology, psychohistory—marked a new fashion in research. And such bridges seemed especially apposite to witchcraft. More than most “old” subjects, this one might yield new forms of understand-

-xi-

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Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface to the Updated Edition vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Contents xvii
  • Introduction 3
  • One - Biography 17
  • 1 - "A Desolate Condition" 19
  • 2 - "Peace with No Man" 36
  • 3 - Witches- A Collective Portrait 57
  • Two - Psychology 95
  • 4 - "A Diabolical Distemper’ 97
  • 5 - "Let Me Do What I Could" 132
  • 6 - Accusers, Victims, Bystanders- The Innerlife Dimension 153
  • Three - Sociology 211
  • 7 - "The Mini of Our Town" 213
  • 8 - "Hard Thoughts and Jealousies" 246
  • 9 - Communities- The Social Matrix of Witchcraft 275
  • Four - History 313
  • 10 - "From Generation to Generation" 315
  • 11 - "Hearts against Hearts" 340
  • 12 - Communities- Witchcraft over Time 368
  • Appendix - List of Known Witchcraft Cases in Seventeenth-Century New England 401
  • Notes 411
  • Subject Index 533
  • Name Index 537
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