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WITCH TRIALS
Page 5

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ELIZABETH KNAPP, age 16 years
Part 2

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Continued from Elizabeth Knapp Part 1

A few days later, Willard said, the Devil in Elizabeth Knapp took over
completely. The Devil made his presence known, Willard continued,
"by drawing her tongue out of her mouth most frightfully to an
extraordinary length and greatness, and [making] many amazing
postures of her body." He then began to speak "vocally in her,"
railing at her father and another person, "calling them rogues,
charging them for folly in going to hear a black rogue who told them
nothing but a parcel of lies and deceived them, and many like
expressions." Once Willard himself entered the scene, Satan turned
his rage on him directly, calling him "a great rogue," then "a great
black rogue," and telling Willard that he told the people "a company
of lies." Amazed and apparently visibly shaken, Willard fought back,
challenging the Devil to prove his charges and calling him "a liar
and a deceiver." Then the Devil denied he was Satan, saying he was
"a pretty black boy" and Knapp his "pretty girl", adding that he had
no love for Willard. When Willard retorted that he, "through God's
grace," hated him as well, the Devil answered with "you had better
love me." Once other people in the room also began to converse with
the Devil, Willard tried to put a stop to the discourse and pray,
but the Devil afterwards resumed his heckling of his godly adversary,
even claiming that he "was stronger than God."

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Two days later, Knapp confessed that the Devil "entered into her the
second night after her first taking, that when she was going to bed
he entered in [as she conceived] at her mouth, and had been in her
ever since." She also said that "if there were ever a devil in the
world there was one in her." After the aid of an "assembly of
ministers" was precluded by inclement weather, the Devil continued
occasionally to speak within her, but within a few weeks he was
"physically" goneĐapparently for good. She continued "for the most
part speechless," feeling "as if a string was tied about the roots
of her tongue and reached down into her vitals and pulled her
tongue downĐand then most when she strove to speak." Her fits
became less intense, although she was observed "always to fall
into fits when any strangers go to visit herĐand the more go,
the more violent are her fits."

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By the beginning of the third month of her possession, Knapp had
again disowned having signed the covenant, had denied knowing
whether or how the Devil entered her, and had reaffirmed that the
cause of her fits was her discontent and that she was still
tempted to murder. When Willard brought his lengthy account to
a close, she was still possessed. She acknowledged that the Devil
yet had "power of her body" but expressed a fervent hope that "he
should not of her soul."

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In his final remarks, Willard cast Knapp's behavior in terms of
the Puritan view of possession. Although reluctant to pass
authoritative judgment on what he had witnessed for the
preceding two and a half months, he clearly believed that Knapp's
"distemper" was both real and diabolical and that the Devil was
actually present within her. To support his belief, he pointed
out that the enormous strength of Knapp's fits was "beyond the
force of dissiumulation": that the healthiness of her body when
she was not having convulsions argued against any "natural"
explanation; and that when "the voice spoke" within her, her
mouth and vocal chords did not move and her throat was
swelled to the size of a fist. As further evidence that Satan
spoke through her, he told his readers that Knapp had never
expressed such hostility to him. On the contrary, both before
and after "being thus taken" she had always been "observed to
speak respectfully concerning [him]." He also noted that the
words uttered to him were aspersions Knapp said the Devil had
suggested to her during his temptation of her, and that Knapp
"had freely acknowledged that the Devil was wont to appear to
her in the house of God, and divert her mind, and charge her
she should not give ear to what that black-coated rogue spoke."

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Willard and other Puritans knew this to be typical of Satan's
behavior. Because Knapp was still ostensibly possessed, Willard
could not finally say whether or not she had become a witch.
Either way, like Knapp, he had not given up completely. "Charity
would hope the best," he said, "love would fear the worst, but
thus much is clear: she is an object of pity, and I desire that
all that hear of her would compassionate her forlorn state. She
is (I question not) a subject of hope, and therefore all means
ought to be used for her recovery." Witch or not, however, Knapp
was not simply an innocent victim. Her dissatisfaction had brought
the Devil to her, and that moral ultimately had to be communicated.
"She is a monument of divine severity," Willard concluded, "and
the Lord grant that all that see or hear may fear and tremble."

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From the Puritan perspective, Elizabeth Knapp's possession was
the result of her ambivalence about the kind of woman she wanted
to be. Had she been willing to rest satisfied with her lack of
financial resources, with her work as a servant, and with her
limited horizons, she would not have become possessed. The sin
that brought the Devil to her was discontent with her condition,
ith her place in the divinely planned social order. It was the
same sin that defined other, older women as witches and therefore,
not surprisingly, the one that led Knapp at times to see herself
as a witch. But for Puritans, possession was not itself witchcraft,
only the potential for witchcraft. Ministers could prevent the
onset of witchcraft by helping the possessed adjust to their place
in society. In Knapp's case the Devil was able to take advantage
of her discontent by attracting her with the things she most desired
and leading her to commit (or to the brink of committing) other sins
identified with witches, but he was not able to win her completely.

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None of the other descriptions of New England possession are as
revealing as Willard's account of the Elizabeth Knapp struggle,
but they do disclose the parallels between Knapp's experience and
the possession of other young women. Other possessed females and
their ministers obviously shared with Knapp and Willard the belief
that witches and the Devil focused their appeals on women's
discontents and that in their fits the possessed were tempted
to become witches. Yet Knapp was exceptional in acknowledging
her discontents openly. Only occasionally did possessed females
reveal the specific temptations laid before them. Most often,
they portrayed themselves simply as hapless victims, referring
vaguely to how they were tempted with "fine things," "comforts,"
or "the world." In other ways, however, either the possessed
themselves or other colonists alluded to female dissatisfations.

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When not possessed Knapp was in every way respectful of the man
who was both her minister and master. When the demons were in
her, however, she expressed an intense hostility toward him.
She railed at him and called him a liar. She castigated her
father and others for listening to him. She challenged his
authority in the community and his power over her. Among those
she wanted to kill were Willard and his children. Elizabeth
Knapp was a young woman who had accepted the Puritan explanation
for her troubles, who deeply appreciated Willard's concern for
her plight and his dedication to freeing her from the demons that
held her in their power. But she had cause to resent him. He was
a young, well-off, Harvard-educated minister whose life was full
of promise; she was a young woman with little schooling and little
prospect of anything but service to others, whether as a servant,
daughter, or wife. He spent most of his time reading, writing,
and traveling; she had never been taught to write, seldom left
Groton, and spent her time sweeping his house, caring for his
children, carrying in his wood, keeping his fires burning, all
so he could continue to work in peace and comfort. These were
the surface resentments and Knapp found ways to talk about these
openly, even as she agreed that they were signs of her deplorable
sinfulness.

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But the intensity of her fits and the violence of her response to
Willard spoke of a deeper resentment that was so fundamentally a
part of her being that she could not acknowledge it, even to herself.
Only when taken over by the Prince of Evil could she express the
full force of her feelings, her desire for the independence and
power embodied in the symbol of the witch and her rage at the man
who taught her that independence and power with the ultimate female
evils. When possessed, she could assert the witch within, she could
rebel against the many restrictions placed upon her, she could dismiss
the kind man in the black robe who himself symbolized her longed-for
independence and power and tell him what a rogue she thought he was.
For the moment, she could be as powerful as he. Other possessed
females indicated a similar ambivalence toward both their ministers
and their faith and struggled as vigorously to assert what their
culture deemed unacceptable in women. Despite Willard's fears, Knapp
never became a witch; she married Samuel Scripture and lived out her
life as befitted a good Puritan wife and mother. So successfully did
she obliterate her discontent and internalize her culture's model of
virtuous womanhood that she almost completely disappears from the
public records after 1673.

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Thank you Sam Behling, for sharing the data for several of these women with us.
Sam's website is at: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~sam/knapp/elizabeth.html

this information is taken from:
number 3 in the second volume of the "Mather Papers" now at the Boston Public Library.
It is written in a very small, cramped hand, and contained in four pages of manuscript,
which is extremely difficult to read. It has been printed in the Collections of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, volume viii., fourth series, pages 555-570


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a crystal ball with an open book inside.

E MAIL ME


PAGE 1
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(PERKINS)
BRADBURY
PAGE 2
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
BRADBURY
Part 2
PAGE 3
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
PAGE 4
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
Part 2
PAGE 6
WITCHTRIALS
SUSANNAH
(NORTH)
MARTIN
PAGE 7
WITCHTRIALS
REBECCA
(TOWNE)
NURSE
PAGE 8
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(BLISS)
PARSONS
Part1
PAGE 9
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
PARSONS
Part 2
PAGE 10
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
SR. & JR.
Part 1
PAGE 11
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
Part 2
PAGE 12
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(TOWNE)
ESTEY
PAGE 13
WITCHTRIALS
INFANT DAUGHTER
DEWOLF
PAGE 14
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
(TOWNE)
CLOYCE
Part 1
PAGE 15
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
CLOYCE
Part 2
PAGE 16
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
(HUTCHINS)
HART
PAGE 17
WITCHTRIALS
ANNE
PUTNAM
PAGE 18
WITCHTRIALS
EARLY
CT
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