WHEN ANDOVER'S ABIGAIL FAULKNER petitioned the Massachusetts authorities in 1703 to remove the stigma of witchcraft from her name, she spoke to the continuing anguish of living with a witch's reputation. Other women in the early eighteenth century no doubt shared her concerns and her plight, since at least some accusations and extralegal reprisals continued long after official support for witchcraft accusations came to an end. 1 But after the Salem and Fairfield outbreaks, witchcraft beliefs and prosecutions were no longer sanctioned in the larger culture.
Ironically, much of the credit for this sudden and dramatic change of events goes to the possessed. Perhaps imperfectly understanding their culture's unspoken witchcraft assumptions, the possessed had never limited their accusations to people their society designated as likely witches. Although the evidence in no way suggests that the possessed intended to defy New England's established codes, not long into the Salem outbreak it became clear to many of New England's elite that the possessed had usurped a power they were never meant to claim. Only the considered efforts of an Increase Mather could