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‘The Body of the People’
The Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton and Increase Mather, 1692

With letters by William Stroughton and trial briefs by Deodat Lawson. These men write in the style of the time ad give an important view of the world as it was then perceived and functioning, which were not always the same thing. The layout of the book is like so:

Pages 2-74 sets the supernatural stage of late 17th Century Congregationalist New England

Pages 75-121 recount a number of witchcraft cases and other supernatural stories.

Pages 122-37 are The Devil Discovered by Increase Mather, the father of his intellectually inferior son, who wrote Wonders and lacked his elder’s command of ancient sources.

Pages 138-90 are a collection of witchcraft accounts gathered by Deodat Lawson

Overall, this remarkable record places the reader within the insane mind of the time. The Congregationalists, though some of them were excellent intellects and many tried to live goodly and simply, were abysmally ignorant folk who believed in hags flying through the sky, talking monkeys with rooster feet cursing people and otherwise fell prey to a rampant European hysteria peculiar to Protestants living thoroughly denatures lives while coming into contact with heathen people such as Native Americans, African slaves, the mysteries of the rival catholic church and resurgent paganism in Europe and America.

After a thorough reading I am convinced that the Salem witch trials, which culminated in hundreds of people jammed into religious prisons reflected the following:

-Severe PTSD episodes from the still ongoing Indian wars which raged apocalyptically in 1676, were ongoing at the time of the hysteria, and would not end until over a century later.

-A psychological contagion brought by ship and book from the Old Countries, where religious wars had waged from 1618 through to the present time, from Hungary to Ireland, involving, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants and the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of so-called and sometimes actual, witches.

-Friendly contact with Native Americans of various racial stocks practicing a religions not dissimilar to Nordic paganism [with Sweden and Finland real and imaginary hotbeds of witchcraft at this time.]

-Slavery induced psychopathy, particularly among white men and black women held in a system of bondage in which daily beatings were normal and, in New England, many such bondmen and bondwomen were released as free, poor, embittered adults.

-The functional worship of money and commerce, with most of the charges of witchcraft involving employment and contractual relationships between the accused and accuser.

As I complete the 13th Tribe and Paleface, for the Plantation America project, and since both of these projects favor the northern Plantations from Pennsylvania [German and Dutch Congregationalist territory] The Wonders of the Invisible World, that madly textured, 75-page guide to the moral and metaphysical subtext of New England life, will serve as an inspiration of days when English-Speaking man’s world was absolutely explainable and understandable in all ways, for there was no doubt that God was a wrathful punisher of imperfect Christians, that The Avenging Angel of the Lord stalked forest and village with his deathly hand smiting heathens and that The Devil—appearing usually in the form of “a small Black Man,” ruled the vast primeval forests within sight of most Christian habitations, which were mere candles in a dark world of deviltry and that those forests were stalked by his painted, heathen children, their witches calling down dreads and dooms in their powwows and their savage warriors hunting for the unwary Christian.

Tolkien could scarcely have imagined such a bizarre setting.

Such was the America of Cotton and Increase Mather, William Stroughton and Deodat Lawson, a demon-haunted wilderness lit by a few flickering candles, “In these Goings Down of the Sun.” For all of his puritan piety, Increase Mather could not shake the ancient Celtic notions of his forefathers who had looked west into the vast ocean knowing that beyond lay the resting place of their souls, if not their bones. The knowledge that these lands had not yet been “brought to God” rendered their tenuous settlement a severe test of the human psyche. Or as his deluded son wrote:

“Wo! For the Devil is come down in great wrath, having but a short time.”

Into Wicked Company

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