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Salem witch trials were conducted from February 1692 to May 1693. The purpose of these trials was to execute men and women if found guilty of witchcraft. In their article, William Black and Susan Balee have explored different beliefs that led to the accusation of witches. In this paper I am arguing that beliefs regarding Satan were used in Salem to account for different emerging problems and also as a means of controlling the society by creating fear among the people.
                  Puritans considered themselves as the chosen ones who are brought to this world to liberate people from the satanic trap. The Puritans` notion of Satan is significant to the understanding of what happened in Salem in seventeenth century.  Puritans firmly believed in Satan and devils, which contributed a lot to the trials and execution of those found guilty. Hence Puritan was conservative and relatively a new sect of Protestantism at that time, it indicates that Puritans were more likely to see any arising problem through the lens of religion. This is obvious from the fact that priests attributed the emergence of calamities and witches to the increasing number of sins in the community. Witches were seen as partners of Satan who were sent by god as a punishment, because they believed that one can not get the satanic power without the will of god.

Explanation for the attribution of witches and calamities to a satanic force can be sought in the fact that often people explain their calamities and problems according to popular prevalent beliefs of the time. In the case of Salem two reasons are important to be taken into account: first, satanic beliefs were created in order to account for the different emerging problems in Salem; second, satanic beliefs were used in order to create fear among the people and to bring them back to religion.

To elaborate on the first point, prior to the emergence of witches, Salem faced many other catastrophes which included flood, drought, wars, and different diseases which badly affected the locals. These natural and manmade catastrophes were believed to be happened because of satanic trap. The confession of some people that they had been witches for a long time, for instance, a man claimed to be witch for twenty years, provided an ample proof for the people to believe that the earlier calamities, too, were caused by them. This causal relationship made it more likely for the people to believe in Satan or devils` plot against them.

Furthermore, the beliefs surrounding Satan were also used to generate a fear among the people about deviance from the religion. The exaggerated fear of a Satan helped to bring people back to religious realm. Clergymen pronounced that Satan is conspiring against Christianity and that Satan was making people deviate from form Christianity. One can say that priests created the fear of Satan for the purpose of controlling the society. This is evident from the fact that those who confessed would often be set free, which shows that confession was conforming to the created beliefs of priest about Satan plot against Christianity.

To sum up briefly, the beliefs of Satan were used for a dual-purpose. On the one hand they were used to account for the emerging problems while on the other hand they were used for creating fear among the people and to bring them back to a religious life. The beliefs about Satan were so imbedded that later on those who apologized for accusing others pronounced that Satan made them to accuse the innocent people.   

Written By: Masood Khan

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