Title page for ETD etd-04092009-110353

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Newman, Lindsey M.
Author's Email Address lmnewman@vt.edu
URN etd-04092009-110353
Title "Under an Ill Tongue": Witchcraft and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Virginia
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shifflett, Crandall A. Committee Chair
Shadle, Brett L. Committee Member
Stoudt, Debra L. Committee Member
  • Virginia—Religious Life and Customs
  • Virginia—Religion—Seventeenth Century
  • Virginia—Church History—Seventeenth Century
  • Church of England—Virginia—History—Seventeen
  • Witchcraft—Virginia—History—Seventeenth Cent
Date of Defense 2009-04-03
Availability unrestricted
This project analyzes the role of religion, both institutional and private, in Virginia’s dealings with witchcraft during the seventeenth century. The witch trials of New England and Europe during the 1600s have tended to overshadow those that simultaneously took place in Virginia, leaving historians to prematurely regard Virginia as an anomaly of rationality in an otherwise superstitious period of witches and demons. Virginia’s failure to prosecute those accused of witchcraft was not due to a lack of allegations, my thesis will argue, but can instead be partly attributed to the nature of the colony’s religious experience and the theology and practices of Virginia’s Anglican Church. While Virginia’s seventeenth-century inhabitants migrated to the New World with firmly entrenched English religious values, their relationship with God and their response to the supernatural world were profoundly influenced by New World experiences and peoples. To protect the social fragility of their colony, Virginia’s political and religious leaders consciously chose to prosecute offenses that they felt threatened the social cohesion of the colony, such as fornication, gossip, and slander, and dismissed those, such as witchcraft, that threatened to tear it apart.
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