Despite its reputation for a certain rationality, Protestantism has long credited the existence of demons and witches. Faith in an invisible world becomes all the more consistent when a community is going through economic, political or social difficulties. Such was the case in 17th-century New England, around Boston, during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Saducismus triumphatus (12)

This work accredits the existence and power of witchcraft. Written by the English philosopher Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680), it strongly influenced the reverend Cotton Mather and the perception of the Salem Witch Trials which ended with the execution of 20 people in 1692. The title can be translated as “The Triumph over the Sadducees”. The Sadducees were a sect of Judaism at the time of Jesus. Denying the immortality of the soul, they embodied skepticism in the eyes of Glanvill.
Josef Glanvill, Saducismus Triumphatus, or Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions, 1681, Congregational Library, Boston. Facsimile.

Wonders of the Invisible World (13)

This work written by the reverend Cotton Mather in 1693 claims that the first Puritan communities in New England were under siege by Satan. In 1692, 20 people were executed on suspicion of having relations with the devil, as a consequence of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, an episode of collective hysteria triggered by young girls following divination sessions. Cotton’s work is part of this lack of discernment, also fuelled by the precarious situation of the settlers.

Wonders of the Invisible World, 1693, on loan from the Congregational Library, Boston.