“The Salem Witch Trials” were a series of trials in the English colony of Massachussetts in 1692. A group of girls/young women claimed that they had been possessed by the devil, and they accused several local women of witchcraft. Hysteria took over, and over 200 men, women and children were prosecuted, resulting in 20 executions.
These trials had a massive support in the population, but the mood turned. This process was legally closed when the colony admitted that it had been a big mistake, repealed the judgments and paid compensation to the families. The word Salem has since been associated with paranoia and injustice, just as we gave the world the international word quisling. This created an additional bitterness in the community that certainly lasted a long time.
There was probably a certain amount of theology behind this hysteria, but it had more to do with money/property and jealousy. Thomas Putman has since been pointed out as the main culprit. He testified against 43 defendants, while his daughter testified against 62. They most likely used this hysteria as a revenge against their neighbours. Handwriting Experts today believe that Thomas Putman wrote many of the documents used as evidence in the case. As if that wasn’t enough, he wrote two of the judges and thanked them for the work they had done, as well as offering them additional assistance.
Arthur Miller wrote a play based on these events. These are some clips from a film version:
I don’t know the details about any specific Norwegian witch trials, but believe these cases have a lot in common. It was often quite different motives than serving God that fueled these trials. I guess it is a collection of all the worst qualities in man, jealousy, greed, lust (I’m thinking of both sex and money/property), power etc:
My thoughts have been moving in this direction as I have written about the Child Welfare Services (CWS) in recent months. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that there are other motives than the child’s best interest that motivates employees in the CWS. I‘m not saying the whole organization is completely rotten, but I think there are some that exploit weaknesses in the system. There are people that make good money on the present system, and they don’t want that to change.
I have in recent months documented some of what goes on in the child welfare system. I have found cases where low income is used as an argument to take the kids. Then foster parents or an institution get large sums of money to do a job the parents could have done better with just a little support.
I also found a good number of cases where parents who fight for sick children are often accused of showing too much or too little care. In those cases statements from GPs, psychologists and experts in for example neurology have been ignored, while employees in child welfare didn’t hesitate in labelling parents as liars and the cause of their childrens illness. I have seen cases where employees in child welfare have written in the journal that a mother is mentally ill, without even consulting a psychologist/psychiatrist.
I have seen cases where there is a lot of violence and allegations of violence in institutions the state is responsible for (Child Welfare is divided between state and the munipalities). I wrote in a recent entry about the CWS that the County Medical Officer of Rogaland was worried about under-reporting of coercion and a lack of documentation in the child welfare center in Haugesund. He was not sure that employees understood the concept of coercion. This happenned five years after the very serious “torture case” (five underaged kids under CWS supervision tortured a 16 year old boy).
I wish we had a CWS that actually collaborated with the biological parents, but there are too many of the aforementioned issues. It reminds me of an English expression. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That means you lose no matter what you do, but one option is still a little worse than the other.
It means we have the option of leaving children in the custody of people that see them as income, or something worse.