Colonial Literature – Puritan Beginnings – Mather, Williams, & Rowlandson
The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the
Lately Excuted in
And of several remarkable Curiosities therein Occurring.
- Observations upon the Nature, the Number, and the Operations of the Devils.
- A short Narrative of a late outrage committed by a knot of Witches in Swede-Land, very much resembling, and so far explaining, that under which New-England has laboured.
- Some Councels directing a due Improvement of the Terrible things lately done by the unusual and amazing Range of Evil-Spirits in New-England.
- A brief Discourse upon those Temptations which are the more ordinary Devices of Satan.
By COTTON MATHER.
Published by the Special Command of his EXCELLENCY the Govenour of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England.
Printed first, at Bostun in New-England; and Reprinted at London, for John Dunton, at the Raven in the Poultry. 1693.
THE AUTHOR’S DEFENCE.
is, as I remember, the Learned Scribonius, who reports, That one of his Acquaintance, devoutly making his Prayers on the behalf of a Person molested by Evil Spirits, received from those Evil Spirits an horrible Blow over the Face: And I may my self expect not few or small Buffetings from Evil Spirits, for the Endeavours wherewith I am now going to encounter them. I am far from insensible, that at this extraordinary Time of the Devils coming down in great Wrath upon us, there are too many Tongues and Hearts thereby set on fire of Hell; that the various Opinions about the Witchcrafts which of later time have troubled us, are maintained by some with so much cloudy Fury, as if they could never be sufficiently stated, unless written in the Liquor wherewith Witches use to write their Covenants; and that he who becomes an Author at such a time, had need be fenced with Iron, and the Staff of a Spear. The unaccountable Frowardness, Asperity, Untreatableness, and Inconsistency of many Persons, every Day gives a visible Exposition of that passage, An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul; and Illustration of that Story, There met him two possessed with Devils, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. To send abroad a Book, among such Readers, were a very unadvised thing, if a Man had not such Reasons to give, as I can bring, for such an Undertaking. Briefly, I hope it cannot be said, They are all so: No, I hope the Body of this People, are yet in such a Temper, as to be capable of applying their Thoughts, to make a Right Use of the stupendous and prodigious Things that are happening among us: And because I was concern’d, when I saw that no abler Hand emitted any Essays to engage the Minds of this People, in such holy, pious, fruitful Improvements, as God would have to be made of his amazing Dispensations now upon us. Therefore it is, that One of the Least among the Children of New-England, has here done, what is done. None, but the Father, who sees in secret, knows the Heart-breaking Exercises, wherewith I have composed what is now going to be exposed, lest I should in any one thing miss of doing my designed Service for his Glory, and for his People; but I am now somewhat comfortably assured of his favourable acceptance; and, I will not fear; what can a Satan do unto me!
Having performed something of what God required, in labouring to suit his Words unto his Works, at this Day among us, and therewithal handled a Theme that has been sometimes counted not unworthy the Pen, even of a King, it will easily be perceived, that some subordinate Ends have been considered in these Endeavours.
I have indeed set myself to countermine the whole PLOT of the Devil, against New-England, in every Branch of it, as far as one of my darkness, can comprehend such a Work of Darkness. I may add, that I have herein also aimed at the Information and Satisfaction of Good Men in another Country, a thousand Leagues off, where I have, it may be, more, or however, more considerable Friends, than in my own: And I do what I can to have that Country, now, as well as always, in the best Terms with my own. But while I am doing these things, I have been driven a little to do something likewise for myself; I mean, by taking off the false Reports, and hard Censures about my Opinion in these Matters, the Parter’s Portions which my pursuit of Peace has procured me among the Keen. My hitherto unvaried Thoughts are here published; and I believe, they will be owned by most of the Ministers of God in these Colonies; nor can amends be well made me, for the wrong done me, by other sorts of Representations.
In fine: For the Dogmatical part of my Discourse, I want no Defence; for the Historical part of it, I have a Very Great One; the Lieutenant-Governour of New-Englandhaving perused it, has done me the Honour of giving me a Shield, under the Umbrage whereof I now dare to walk abroad.
The New-Englanders are a People of God settled in those, which were once the Devil’s Territories; and it may easily be supposed that the Devil was exceedingly disturbed, when he perceived such a People here accomplishing the Promise of old made unto our Blessed Jesus, That He should have the Utmost parts of the Earth for his Possession. There was not a greater Uproar among the Ephesians, when the Gospel was first brought among them, than there was among, The Powers of the Air(after whom those Ephesians walked) when first the Silver Trumpets of the Gospel here made the Joyful Sound. The Devil thus Irritated, immediately try’d all sorts of Methods to overturn this poor Plantation: and so much of the Church, as was Fled into this Wilderness, immediately found, The Serpent cast out of his Mouth a Flood for the carrying of it away. I believe, that never were more Satanical Devices used for the Unsetling of any People under the Sun, than what have been Employ’d for the Extirpation of the Vine which God has here Planted, Casting out the Heathen, and preparing a Room before it, and causing it to take deep Root, and fill the Land, so that it sent its Boughs unto the Atlantic Sea Eastward, and its Branches unto the Connecticut River Westward, and the Hills were covered with the shadow thereof.But, All those Attempts of Hell, have hitherto been Abortive, many an Ebenezer has been Erected unto the Praise of God, by his Poor People here; and, Having obtained Help from God, we continue to this Day. Wherefore the Devil is now making one Attempt more upon us; an Attempt more Difficult, more Surprizing, more snarl’d with unintelligible Circumstances than any that we have hitherto Encountred; an Attempt so Critical, that if we get well through, we shall soon Enjoy HalcyonDays with all the Vultures of Hell Trodden under our Feet. He has wanted his Incarnate Legions to Persecute us, as the People of God have in the other Hemisphere been Persecuted: he has therefore drawn forth his more Spiritual ones to make an Attacque upon us. We have been advised by some Credible Christians yet alive, that a Malefactor, accused of Witchcraft as well as Murder, and Executed in this place more than Forty Years ago, did then give Notice of, An Horrible Plot against the Country by Witchcraft, and a Foundation of Witchcraft then laid, which if it were not seasonally discovered, would probably Blow up, and pull down all the Churches in the Country. And we have now with Horror seen the Discovery of such a Witchcraft! An Army of Devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is theCenter, and after a sort, the First-born of our English Settlements: and the Houses of the Good People there are fill’d with the doleful Shrieks of their Children and Servants, Tormented by Invisible Hands, with Tortures altogether preternatural. After the Mischiefs there Endeavoured, and since in part Conquered, the terrible Plague, of Evil Angels, hath made its Progress into some other places, where other Persons have been in like manner Diabolically handled. These our poor Afflicted Neighbours, quickly after they become Infected and Infested with these Dæmons, arrive to a Capacity of Discerning those which they conceive the Shapes of their Troublers; and notwithstanding the Great and Just Suspicion, that the Dæmons might Impose the Shapes of Innocent Persons in their Spectral Exhibitions upon the Sufferers, (which may perhaps prove no small part of the Witch-Plot in the issue) yet many of the Persons thus Represented, being Examined, several of them have been Convicted of a very Damnable Witchcraft: yea, more than One Twenty have Confessed, that they have Signed unto a Book, which the Devil show’d them, and Engaged in his Hellish Design of Bewitching, and Ruining our Land. We know not, at least I know not, how far the Delusions of Satan may be Interwoven into some Circumstances of the Confessions; but one would think, all the Rules of Understanding Humane Affairs are at an end, if after so many most Voluntary Harmonious Confessions, made by Intelligent Persons of all Ages, in sundry Towns, at several Times, we must not Believe the main strokes wherein those Confessions all agree: especially when we have a thousand preternatural Things every day before our eyes, wherein the Confessors do acknowledge their Concernment, and give Demonstration of their being so Concerned. If the Devils now can strike the minds of men with any Poisons of so fine a Composition and Operation, that Scores of Innocent People shall Unite, in Confessions of a Crime, which we see actually committed, it is a thing prodigious, beyond the Wonders of the former Ages, and it threatens no less than a sort of a Dissolution upon the World. Now, by these Confessions ’tis Agreed, That the Devil has made a dreadful Knot of Witches in the Country, and by the help of Witches has dreadfully increased that Knot: That these Witches have driven a Trade of Commissioning their Confederate Spirits, to do all sorts of Mischiefs to the Neighbours, whereupon there have ensued such Mischievous consequences upon the Bodies and Estates of the Neighbourhood, as could not otherwise be accounted for: yea, That at prodigious Witch-Meetings, the Wretches have proceeded so far, as to Concert and Consult the Methods of Rooting out the Christian Religion from this Country, and setting up instead of it, perhaps a more gross Diabolesm, than ever the World saw before. And yet it will be a thing little short of Miracle, if in so spread a Business as this, the Devil should not get in some of his Juggles, to confound the Discovery of all the rest.
. . . .
THE TRIAL OF MARTHA CARRIER, AT THE
COURT OF OYER AND TERMINER, HELD BY ADJOURNMENT
AT SALEM, AUGUST 2. 1692.
Martha Carrier was Indicted for the bewitching certain Persons, according to the Form usual in such Cases, pleading Not Guilty, to her Indictment; there were first brought in a considerable number of the bewitched Persons; who not only made the Court sensible of an horrid Witchcraft committed upon them, but also deposed, That it was Martha Carrier, or her Shape, that grievously tormented them, by Biting, Pricking, Pinching and Choaking of them. It was further deposed, That while this Carrier was on her Examination, before the Magistrates, the Poor People were so tortured that every one expected their Death upon the very spot, but that upon the binding of Carrier they were eased. Moreover the Look of Carrier then laid the Afflicted People for dead; and her Touch, if her Eye at the same time were off them, raised them again: Which Things were also now seen upon her Tryal. And it was testified, That upon the mention of some having their Necks twisted almost round, by the Shape of this Carrier, she replyed, Its no matter though their Necks had been twisted quite off.
2. Before the Trial of this Prisoner, several of her own Children had frankly and fully confessed, not only that they were Witches themselves, but that this their Mother had made them so. This Confession they made with great Shews of Repentance, and with much Demonstration of Truth. They related Place, Time, Occasion; they gave an account of Journeys, Meetings and Mischiefs by them performed, and were very credible in what they said. Nevertheless, this Evidence was not produced against the Prisoner at the Bar, inasmuch as there was other Evidence enough to proceed upon.
3. Benjamin Abbot gave his Testimony, That last March was a twelvemonth, this Carrier was very angry with him, upon laying out some Land, near her Husband’s: Her Expressions in this Anger, were, That she would stick as close to Abbot as the Bark stuck to the Tree; and that he should repent of it afore seven Years came to an End, so as Doctor Prescot should never cure him. These Words were heard by others besides Abbot himself; who also heard her say, She would hold his Nose as close to the Grindstone as ever it was held since his Name was Abbot. Presently after this, he was taken with a Swelling in his Foot, and then with a Pain in his Side, and exceedingly tormented. It bred into a Sore, which was launced by Doctor Prescot, and several Gallons of Corruption ran out of it. For six Weeks it continued very bad, and then another Sore bred in the Groin, which was also lanced by Doctor Prescot. Another Sore then bred in his Groin, which was likewise cut, and put him to very great Misery: He was brought unto Death’s Door, and so remained until Carrier was taken, and carried away by the Constable, from which very Day he began to mend, and so grew better every Day, and is well ever since.
Sarah Abbot also, his Wife, testified, That her Husband was not only all this while Afflicted in his Body, but also that strange extraordinary and unaccountable Calamities befel his Cattel; their Death being such as they could guess at no Natural Reason for.
4. Allin Toothaker testify’d, That Richard, the son of Martha Carrier, having some difference with him, pull’d him down by the Hair of the Head. When he Rose again, he was going to strike at Richard Carrier; but fell down flat on his Back to the ground, and had not power to stir hand or foot, until he told Carrier he yielded; and then he saw the shape of Martha Carrier, go off his breast.
This Toothaker, had Received a wound in the Wars; and he now testify’d, that Martha Carrier told him, He should never be Cured. Just afore the Apprehending of Carrier, he could thrust a knitting Needle into his wound, four inches deep; but presently after her being siezed, he was throughly healed.
He further testify’d, that when Carrier and he sometimes were at variance, she would clap her hands at him, and say, He should get nothing by it; whereupon he several times lost his Cattle, by strange Deaths, whereof no natural causes could be given
5. John Roggeralso testifyed, That upon the threatning words of this malicious Carrier, his Cattle would be strangely bewitched; as was more particularly then described.
6. Samuel Preston testify’d, that about two years ago, having some difference with Martha Carrier, he lost a Cow in a strange Preternatural unusual manner; and about a month after this, the said Carrier, having again some difference with him, she told him; He had lately lost a Cow, and it should not be long before he lost another; which accordingly came to pass; for he had a thriving and well-kept Cow, which without any known cause quickly fell down and dy’d.
7. Phebe Chandler testify’d, that about a Fortnight before the apprehension of Martha Carrier, on a Lords-day, while the Psalm was singing in the Church, this Carrier then took her by the shoulder and shaking her, asked her, where she lived: she made her no Answer, although as Carrier, who lived next door to her Fathers House, could not in reason but know who she was. Quickly after this, as she was at several times crossing the Fields, she heard a voice, that she took to be Martha Carriers, and it seem’d as if it was over her head. The voice told her, she should within two or three days be poisoned. Accordingly, within such a little time, one half of her right hand, became greatly swollen, and very painful; as also part of her Face; whereof she can give no account how it came. It continued very bad for some dayes; and several times since, she has had a great pain in her breast; and been so siezed on her leggs, that she has hardly been able to go. She added, that lately, going well to the House of God, Richard, the son of Martha Carrier, look’d very earnestly upon her, and immediately her hand, which had formerly been poisoned, as is abovesaid, began to pain her greatly, and she had a strange Burning at her stomach; but was then struck deaf, so that she could not hear any of the prayer, or singing, till the two or three last words of the Psalm.
8. One Foster, who confessed her own share in the Witchcraft for which the Prisoner stood indicted, affirm’d, that she had seen the prisoner at some of their Witch-meetings, and that it was this Carrier, who perswaded her to be a Witch. She confessed, that the Devil carry’d them on a pole, to a Witch-meeting; but the pole broke, and she hanging about Carriers neck, they both fell down, and she then received an hurt by the Fall, whereof she was not at this very time recovered.
9. One Lacy, who likewise confessed her share in this Witchcraft, now testify’d, that she and the prisoner were once Bodily present at a Witch-meetingin Salem Village; and that she knew the prisoner to be a Witch, and to have been at a Diabolical sacrament, and that the prisoner was the undoing of her, and her Children, by enticing them into the snare of the Devil.
10. Another Lacy, who also confessed her share in this Witchcraft, now testify’d, that the prisoner was at the Witch-meeting, in Salem Village, where they had Bread and Wine Administred unto them.
11. In the time of this prisoners Trial, one Susanna Sheldon, in open Court had her hands Unaccountably ty’d together with a Wheel-band, so fast that without cutting, it could not be loosed: It was done by a Spectre; and the Sufferer affirm’d, it was the Prisoners.
Memorandum. This Rampant Hag, Martha Carrier, was the person, of whom the Confessions of the Witches, and of her own Children among the rest, agreed, That the Devil had promised her, she should be Queen of Heb.
The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tyals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England, to which is added a Farther Account of the Tryals of the New England Witches, Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, circa 1683. Public Domain.