The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

By Carol F. Karlsen | Go to book overview

FIVE
Handmaidens
of the Lord

THERE is A curious paradox that students of New England witchcraft encounter. The characteristics of the New England witch—demographic, economic, religious, and sexual—emerge from patterns found in accusations and in the life histories of the accused; they are not visible in the content of individual accusations or in the ministerial literature. No colonist ever explicitly said why he or she saw witches as women, or particularly as older women. No one explained why some older women were suspect while others were not, why certain sins were signs of witchcraft when committed by women but not when committed by men, or why specific behaviors associated with women aroused witchcraft fears while specific behaviors associated with men did not. Indeed, New Englanders did not openly discuss most of their widely shared assumptions about women-as-witches.

This cultural silence becomes even more puzzling when we consider that many of these assumptions had once been quite openly talked about in the European witchcraft tradition. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries especially, defenders of the Christian faith spelled out in elaborate

-153-

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The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Devil in the Shape of a Woman - Witchcraft in Colonial New England *
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • One New England's Witchcraft Beliefs 1
  • Two the Demographic Basis of Witchcraft 46
  • Three the Economic Basis of Witchcraft 77
  • Four Handmaidens of the Devil 117
  • Five Handmaidens of the Lord 153
  • Six New England's Well-Ordered Society 182
  • Seven Brands Plucked Out of the Burning 222
  • Epilogue 253
  • Afterword to the Norton Paperback Edition 259
  • Appendix 267
  • Notes 273
  • Index 353
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