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Cotton Mather

The belief in witches and witchcraft was widespread in 1692 New England. One of the most ardent believers was Cotton Mather, a respected Boston minister who wrote on many religious topics.
 
Mather’s 1689 book, Memorable Providences, describes a case of supposed witchcraft that had occurred in Boston the previous year. Three children had begun acting strangely after a disagreement with an Irish washerwoman, Mary Glover. After examining the children, Mather concluded that they were innocent victims of Glover’s witchcraft. The book was widely read throughout New England and was among the works in Reverend Parris’s library. Even if the young “circle girls” who began the accusations had not read the book themselves, they were likely familiar with its contents.
 
But Mather played a much more direct role in the Salem Trials. His sermons and written works fanned the flames of the witchcraft hysteria. He declared that the Devil was at work in Salem, and that witches should face the harshest punishment.
 
His steadfast belief in witchcraft was perhaps no more apparent than at the hanging of George Burroughs, a former pastor of Salem Village. Just before he was hanged, Burroughs turned to the crowd and perfectly recited the Lord’s Prayer—supposedly impossible for a witch or wizard. His dramatic prayer and claim of innocence drew tears and doubts from the spectators. Robert Calef describes Cotton Mather’s reaction is his account, More Wonders of the Invisible World (1700):
 
[A]s soon as [Burroughs] was turned off [executed], Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a Horse, addressed himself to the People, partly to declare, that he was no ordained Minister, and partly to possess the People of his guilt; saying, That the Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light; and this did somewhat appease the People, and the Executions went on.
 
When the witch hunt subsided, the judges agreed to turn over the court records to Mather. Some were friends of Mather’s and hoped his account would portray them favorably. In 1693, Mather recounted the trials in his book, Wonders of the Invisible World.


According to Mather’s 1689 account of the Boston witchcraft case, how did the children’s behavior mimic those of animals? Read an excerpt from Memorable Providences.
 
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