The Salem Journal: The People

Witches' Remise

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Tituba: The Woman Caught in the Storm

By Miles L-G

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Tituba was a innocent and well-intentioned woman caught in the eye of a storm; a storm known as the Salem Witch Trials; a storm made of superstition, distrust, and fear. Tituba was born in an Arawak village in South America in 1674. She was captured and taken to Barbados where she was sold into slavery. Between the ages of 12 and 17, she served at the Parris household and worked for Reverend Samuel Parris. In 1680, Tituba and another slave named John accompanied the Parris household when they moved to Boston and later John and Tituba were married. Tituba only had one child, a daughter named Violet. John and Tituba married the same year that the Parris household moved to Salem in 1690.

The events in Tituba's life are highly influenced by the puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts, a place where any unusual behaviors would be quickly noticed and amplified throughout the small community especially someone like Tituba who had a vivid imagination and still lived by old Arawak customs. Tituba was one of the most different people of that community, because she was not from Salem and was not used to life in Salem and she had no one she knew who she could talk to about how to act right. She had no idea that her stories would be interpreted as witchcraft, she had no idea that stories that stories that she could tell to children in her homeland would be so wildly interpreted.

Reverend Samuel Parris had a daughter named Elizabeth (nicknamed Betty) who had a cousin named Abigail Williams. Tituba was very popular with the children in Salem; kids would come from all over to hear her stories. Tituba taught them to bark like dogs and meow like cats as a fun game that she would tell to children in her homeland, but it was not a game to Samuel Parris. Samuel Parris thought they were under a spell of a witch. Meanwhile Betty and Abigail and Anne Putnam Jr. (a friend of Betty's) started having strange behavior so Tituba and John made a "witch cake," which is a slice of rye bread with Betty's urine on it and they cooked it and fed it to a dog. The dog, supposedly, is a witch's helper and would break the spell and tell the identity of the witch. In John and Tituba's homeland, behavior like this would not be a problem, rituals such as the "witch cake" would be normal, while in Salem they are dreaded and related to witchcraft.

The next Sunday, Betty and Abigail said silly things in church such as "there is a yellow bird on the ministers head," which was said by a friend of Betty's named Anne Putnam Jr. The people in church thought that no one would interrupt a good church service but the Devil, so when Betty and Abigail said that Tituba, Sarah Good (a town beggar), and Sarah Osborne (an old Puritan settler) were bewitching them everyone believed it. Tituba denied the accusation but Reverend Samuel Parris beat her "confession" out of her. She confessed she was in league with the devil (see excerpts from the Examination of Tituba, below).

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She spoke of a tall man who asked her to sign in blood a contract from the Devil, to "hurt the children." Tituba also spoke of a black dog that came to her and, 'serve me" but Tituba said, "I am afraid" (see excerpts from Examination of Tituba above). And she confessed that she rode on a broomstick so she was thrown in prison. Soon after, Sarah Osborne died from being tortured soon after. Tituba was not a witch, nor did she want to or believe she was one, but after being harassed and beat she just made up whatever she could so that she would not be beat anymore, even though that included saying she was a witch.

A while later Betty and Abigail accused Reverend Hale's wife of being a witch. Reverend Hale's wife was one of the most beloved people in all of Salem and that's when the people of Salem figured out they were being lied to. Reverend Parris refused to pay the jail fees to let Tituba out of prison so an anonymous person paid the fees and then bought her. Judge Samuel Sewall later apologized for sentencing so many to death and Anne Putnam Jr. apologized, too. Nothing is known about Tituba" life with her new master from that point on. Tituba died in 1693.

From the information brought together, there is nothing that tells that John and Tituba aren"t just good people with good intentions who ended up caught in a storm of fear and distrust. Puritan warfare with neighboring Indians had already started its own storm but when Tituba came and Puritans already acquainted natives with demons and witchcraft the storm swallowed Tituba and built off of her but however, unlike most, Tituba escaped the storm.

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