University of Virginia Library



Wilhelm Adolf Scribonius, a Hessian scholar, is best known in the literature of witchcraft as the chief advocate of the water ordeal (see p. 21, above) for the detection of witches. This story is told on ff. 82-83 of his Physiologia Sagarum (Marburg, 1588 — the full title is De Sagarum Natura et Potestate, deque his recte cognoscendis et puniendis Physiologia), and in English by Baxter, Worlds of Spirits, p. 104.


As to this “plot of the Devil,” see Mather's own words (Wonders, pp. 16-19, 25, not here reprinted): “we have been advised... 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 seasonably discovered would probably Blow up, and pull down all the Churches in the Country.” “We have now with Horror,” he adds, “seen the Discovery of such a Witchcraft!” and from the confessions at Salem he learns 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 a “Diabolism.” Not even this is all: “it may be fear'd that, in the Horrible Tempest which is now upon ourselves, the design of the Devil is to sink that Happy Settlement of Government wherewith Almighty God has graciously enclined Their Majesties to favour us.”


It is of England, of course, that he speaks.


As to Lieutenant-Governor Stoughton, head of the court which had tried the witch cases, see above, p. 183 and note 2, and pp. 196-201. His “shield” means the following letter.


Doubtless the Rev. John Wilson (d. 1667), the first minister of Boston.


There now follow the miscellaneous matters described in the introduction, making up more than half of his volume.


He must at least have been present at some of the examinations (like those described by Lawson) preceding the trials; for in his Diary (I. 151), commending the judges, he adds, “and my Compassion, upon the Sight of their Difficulties, raised by my Journeyes to Salem, the chief Seat of these diabolical Vexations, caused mee yett more to do so.” From attending the trials he had excused himself (see the letter mentioned on p. 194, note 5) on the score of ill health.


From the governor; see above, p. 194, and p. 250.


See introduction.


Meaning, doubtless, Hale and Noyes. See p. 206, above.


This is the second paragraph in the reply of the ministers of Boston, June 15, 1692, to the request of the governor and Council for advice. (See p. 194, above.) It was drawn up by Cotton Mather himself.


What next follows, very cleverly ensuring a friendly attitude toward the Salem court, is an account of the English witch-trial of 1664 before Sir Matthew Hale. It is abridged from the well-known booklet (A Tryal of Witches at the Assizes held at Bury St. Edmonds, etc.) published at London in 1682, which had been a guide to the Salem judges (see p. 416, below).