history-lists-witch-trials-E

From Menzies-Lyth’s perspective, one would assume that many of those accused of witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem most likely threatened the Puritans’ social defense structure, and were therefore easy targets for the projection of impulses. Social defense structures institutionalize primitive defenses, such as splitting and projective identification. Puritan defenses were institutionalized in religious beliefs. Splitting, for example, is evident in the Puritan belief in a war waged between Satan and God. The external battle between God (all good) and Satan (all bad) may have manifested an internal psychic split endured by the Puritans in a desperate attempt to keep the good object untainted by dangerous impulses. Puritans who did not completely conform were viewed as bad and rejected by the community. Conformity required members to attend church regularly, interpret the bible literally, and demonstrate an extensive knowledge of catechism. Many who were accused of witch craft failed to conform to these standards. They may have threatened the social defense structure, eliciting impulses the Puritans sought to repress. John Proctor, for example, was convicted partially on the grounds that he did not attend church regularly. He also expressed skepticism about the whole idea of witchcraft and was consequently viewed as questioning the scriptures, a grave crime. Goody Osborne’s conviction rested largely on the fact that she did not know the ten-commandments.

These behaviors were unsettling because they questioned the dangerous, repressive mentality on which the Puritan society was based.

Those accused of being witches elicited feelings linked with freedom, diversity, sexuality and hostility, feelings the Puritans were at great pains to suppress.

Advertisements