Witchcraft and Dark Magic in Colonial America

The power of the “Indian Curse” – whether in New England or in Virginia, as in the case of the equally famous Curse of Chief Cornstalk – was considered an irrefutable truth by the colonists because of their belief in the Native Americans as diabolical servants of Satan. This belief was strengthened early on by the Indian Massacre of 1622 in Virginia when, on the morning of 22 March 1622, the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, Opchanacanough (l. 1554-1646) launched a surprise attack on the settlements, killing 347 people. Prior to the attack, the natives had appeared friendly (purposefully so, on Opchanacanough’s orders, to lower the colonists’ defenses), and this, to the colonists, was proof that no native could be trusted and all posed a potential threat.

The belief in natives wielding supernatural powers continued, however, as they became more marginalized, and it was understood that they had grounds for holding a grudge. Other minorities were equally apt to be suspect though, whether African slaves – who were thought to be able to cast spells through their own associations with Satan – or Catholics whose religious beliefs were considered diabolic by the majority of Protestants.

Witchcraft, thought to be practiced by all three of these groups, was understood as an intimate relationship between a person or people with Satan himself, God’s adversary, who continually plotted against those whom the Bible claimed God had made in his own image. Although the Salem Witch Trials are easily the most famous expression of the fear and hysteria generated by a belief in witchcraft, marginalized people – most often women – were charged, convicted, and hanged or otherwise dispatched in colonies from Massachusetts down to Florida.

Source: World History Encyclopedia Online, ancient.eu

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