Mary Woodrow Sibley taught Tituba about “witch cakes” and was removed from church membership until she confessed in 1692.
Mary and her husbad, Samuel, were neighbors of Reverend Samuel Parris. The reverend’s daughter Betty and her cousin Abigail Williams had been acting unusually. Rev. Parris and his wife tried to treat the girls’ ailments through prayer and the local physician William Griggs thought the girls may be afflicted by Witchcraft.
The Parris’ slaves Tituba and John were taught by Mary Woodrow Sibley how to make a cake (“witchcake”) from rye flour and the girls’ urine. Once baked, the cake was to be fed to a dog then then dog was to be watched to see if it acted strangely. At the time, it was believed that if one had witchcraft in the body, it would also be in their urine. If the dog which ate the witchcake acted oddly after eating the urine laced cake, it was a sign to the people of that time that the person was bewitched. This method to suss out alleged witchcraft was a well known 17th century practice in England.
Despite the well known practice and use of making and using witchcakes, Rev. Parris thought any kind of magic was evil magic and opened the village to the Devil. Mary Woodrow Sibley was removed from church membership until she confessed that she had made a mistake in advising Tituba and her husband John and the congregation approved her confession on March 11, 1692.
One cake recipe shared, one-hundred and forty people accused of witchcraft, and the villagers and townsfolks end up hanging nineteen and pressing one to death and others died in jail. It wasn’t until accusations were brought against people with more power and influence including Mass Bay Colony’s Governor’s wife that the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved in 1693
What can we learn from Mary Woodrow Sibley’s witchcakes and the subsequent actions of the villagers and townfolks?
- Those of lesser power, resources, and authority suffered the most. The victims of 1692 Salem Witch hunts and trials should have been treated as equally as all their contemporaries.
- Most in charge at the higher level turned a blind-eye until it affected them.
- The danger of mass hysteria.
These are happening now in terms of bigotry stirred up by leaders, raising taxes unequally, attacking the environment, economic disparity, gender inequality, etc.; society hasn’t learned the lessons of the past.