I am in the midst of writing a historical fiction novel in which I am striving for accuracy. Luckily for me I love history and research
At any rate, my current work in progress (WIP) is titled Fall From Grace. It is a story of an accused witch’s survival during the Salem Witch Hangings.
The more I learn about the Puritan’s and their daily life, the more I realize how much the history books in school left out.
Normally when we think of the Puritan’s we think of all black clothes, highly religious, and down to earth. Not to mention reserved and dour. In my research (thank you Google), they were so much more than that. The Puritans took their religious beliefs from the Geneva bible which was written in 1658.
Let’s start with clothing and jewelry. Yes, jewelry was seen as adornments that weren’t to be worn for fear of you forgetting your place before God. Their clothing on the other matter was a whole different matter. Very rarely was black worn. As colorful as their clothing was it was simple in design so as not to forget one’s station in life. The Puritan’s wore every color they could derive from natural dyes. It being that cloth was expensive they would mend their clothes until the couldn’t any longer.
Those natural dyes were boiled down wood, berries, grasses, and vegetables. Woad was used for blue dye and madder root for red bases. Weld was used to produced the color yellow.
The colors in their wardrobe had meaning. Servants wore all blue which denoted servitude and heavenly grace. Black and brown stood for humility. Orange and red represented courage while yellow and green meant renewal.
Among the many laws that the Puritans had were sumptuary laws. These laws forbade poorer people to dress like ladies and gentlemen of means.
The reason that they puritans didn’t have grand celebratory feasts was that they believed that everyday was reason for a feast. History may have recorded the Puritans as a somber group, but their food was anything but. They tended to eat three meals a day.
They were a highly religious group of people who felt that one shouldn’t dress above their station in life less it lead to corruption of the immortal soul. Attendance at Church was mandatory twice a week. Anything less and you risked being excommunicated or worse – accusations of witchcraft were known to happen to those who abstained from attendance. For the Puritans their soul was the most important part of their lives. They believed that there were two groups of people, the Chosen and the Unchosen. It was the job of the Chosen to lead the others to God’s Grace.
Amongst the many reasons that the Puritans left England was that they didn’t agree with the Anglican/Catholic stances in the church. The Puritans felt that the earthly church was to decadent and heavy handed, they also despised Rome as it was the embodiment of the ecclesiastical church and therefore far too rich and bold for their tastes.
The church in England felt that the Puritans were to harsh in their thoughts and manners. The Church even had insults for the Puritans. One of these insults was the term “round-head”. They were called this due to the fact that the Puritan males shaved their heads bald. They shaved as a way to keep head lice under control.
Upon arrival in the “new world” the Puritans wished to found a “shining city on the hill” – a city that would be admired by all. While the Puritans wished to outlaw drinking it was realized that they couldn’t. This was due to the fact that the tavern was essential to their survival in this new land. In fact the first building to be raised in any new city was the tavern. On colder days when the church wouldn’t warm up enough the tavern often substituted as a place of worship.
On a side note all legal business was handled in the tavern until the capitol building of a city was built. After the capitol building went into use it was acceptable to put a jury summons on the door of the tavern for jury duty. It was thought that since everyone went to the tavern they would see the summons and appear.
Another side note is that Puritans tended to accept their fate if they went to jail and most often would not try to escape.
Though drinking was legal, drinking in excess was illegal and frowned upon. Alcohol and the tavern were considered a necessary evil. Then as now, the more money you had the more you can get away with.
Many researchers feel that the Witch Trials were used as a form of retribution on those who had too much money or were too far removed from the daily life of the church – the tavern owners. This is, in part, born out by the fact that one of the first accused witches was Sarah Bishop who owned “The Ship” tavern. Of the many side notes in this article, I should mention that the songs sang in the taverns were as raunchy as anything we could come up with today. *insert full body blush*
A member of her husband’s family married into the powerful Putnam family and felt that she was owed some of the profits of her late brother’s business. The Putnam family was a prominent member of the Puritan Church and was a main accuser in the Trials.
Another reason for the Trials was that the Pastor in Salem, Samuel Parris, was persecuting those that had voted against his becoming the leader of their church and were therefore not paying their portion of his salary.
Other researchers believe that what started the accusations was ergot of rye. Ergot is known to cause hallucinations and body contortions that the original accusers were noted as having.
These accusations also occurred in a particularly cold winter which is, historically, when most accusations of witch craft and trials happened. These trials were more than likely the darkest period in Puritan history.
When it came to education the Puritans were truly a society to marvel at. If a village had more than eighty residents they were to establish a school that was funded by the taxes collected. Both sexes were taught to read – primarily so they could read from the bible or help in the house hold, but at least they were all literate. This puts them ahead of many other societies at the time.
They were also the ones to print the first bible in the New World. The first was actually written in Algonquin by John Eliot. After taking the time to learn the language in hopes of converting the Natives, Mr. Eliot realized that certain words did not exist in the Algonquin language. This can be seen in the passages regarding the birth of Christ.
Though their clothes were bland and they were a reserved bunch of people one thing about them that was neither, was food. Much of what they ate would be on par with some of today’s top chefs. Food was prepared in the European or African styles and was enjoyed by all.
Meals were served three times a day with breakfast usually being stew and bread, lunch being a left over with some type of fruit and dinner was usually bread and cheese. All of this was accompanied with either cider or beer.
To get an idea of the type of foods they ate, the first “Thanksgiving” consisted of eel, mussels, lobster and other assorted meats. Squash, potatoes, corn, asparagus and other greens were also on the menu. And lest I forget the sweet aspect of nature strawberries, blackberries, and sweet grapes were also to be had. This type of meal would have been eaten on any day of the week as the Puritans didn’t need a particular reason to hold a feast since being alive was celebration enough.
On a side note I should mention something about lobster. It was considered cruel and inhumane to feed it to a prisoner – there are records of a jailer asking that it not be sent to the prisoners for this reason. This was because at the time lobster was piled up to two feet high on the beeches and could be picked up easily. When they did cook the lobster it was already dead. Therefor when it came out of the pot it was disgusting. The only reason they ate it at all is because it was so plentiful a food source. That is a massive change from what lobster is considered today.
Their beliefs on marriage came as the largest surprise to me. Puritans did not believed in arranged marriage. Men tended to marry by the age of twenty-six and women at twenty-three. A marriage was based on love. There were courtship rules and men would often by small gifts for the family of the girl he was courting. A woman was free to turn down an offer of courtship.
Obviously sex was reserved for marriage but it was not frowned upon. Puritans believed that sex was an act of love and a healthy part of a marriage.
Women were expected to be obedient and be able to be a help to the husband in his daily life. Women were expected to be what they are by nature, a help mate.
While frowned upon, a divorce was granted in certain circumstances. Those circumstances were abuse and neglect. A man convicted of either was often fined, imprisoned, or executed. Women were also allowed a divorce if a man proved impotent. In this last way, the views of Puritans seem extremely modern.
While children were a blessing, they were also essential to keeping a colony afloat. Aside from life older children were also able to contribute to the work force – a thought that makes many modern minds shudder.
All of this research leads me to wonder how far removed we are from the beliefs of our ancestors. In one way, I would say not very. In another, drastically so. If the only way to understand the modern world is through religion than maybe we should ask ourselves why we still believe that an institution has more sway over our lifestyles than we as humans do. I personally don’t believe that an institution of any sort should dictate what I, or you, can do. I do believe that we should all respect one another. But my beliefs are not what I am questioning; and that doesn’t make me different from anyone else.
In conclusion I would say that in one form or another the Puritan beliefs still exist to this day, what we see in reference to them is up to us. They have different names, but as a whole are generally classified as the Religious Right. They are often considered old-fashioned in their views and beliefs but they aren’t necessarily wrong. Just different and in my personal opinion, close minded.
After fixing my computer I have been on something of a roll with my writing. Between writing an honest to goodness ghost story and working on Fall From Grace, I haven’t been short of ideas.The question I have for you all though, is will Grace stoutly stand against those that would do her harm.
Without further ado, I give you Fall From Grace – Chapter 7.
Cold, wet stone dug into Grace’s back as she let out a nauseous moan. Her stomach churned as the scent of stale urine and rank feces permeated her nose. Every muscle screamed in stiff agony as her senses slowly returned. She tried to raise a cold hand to her face only to find that her hands were restrained next to her head. Her butt was numb and water came halfway up her hips as she languished in the dark puddle on the ground. She squinted as she tried to look up, only to find that her head could not rise more than half an inch. On one side of her Grace felt the rough stone cutting into cold skin; and the other a warm presence.
“Careful Miss Grace. The priest didn’t like what you told them and had you locked in the pillory,” Tituba thickly whispered. The swelling Grace had last seen was gone, though she was still covered with fading bruises.
“To be punished for avowing innocence is a crime frowned upon by God,” Grace whispered hoarsely through cracked lips.
“I fear our captors have little belief in innocence; and I don’t think they have the respect for God they should,” Tituba replied.
“Where are the others?”
“Mrs. Good and Mrs. Osbourne have been taken to the interrogators over at Ingersoll’s Tavern. That was early this morning, Miss. It’s nearing supper time now, I’ve not heard a souls whisper in hours so I’m not thinking supper’s gonna be arriving anytime soon.
“More have been accused since they questioned you,” Tituba fearfully blurted out.
“At least half a dozen in the last four days, Miss Grace. The affliction’s spreading and they say other children are doing the accusing now.”
“None in the community would dare turn their backs to God,” Grace insisted from her bowed position. The silence of the empty cell echoed around her voice.
“That’s not the rumors that are going around Miss Grace. People are saying it’s been awfully cold of late and that God was sending the cold as a way to punish sinners; rumor has it even the pastor thinks God is punishing him,” Tituba plaintively whispered.
“Hush now Tituba. There are always those who wish to call trouble upon others. As for our current situation we can only hope that mortal man can see what God clearly knows,” Grace tiredly informed as her chin hit the board.
“What if that’s not enough,” Tituba worried.
The only answer that Tituba received were the watery breaths that escaped Grace’s now bruised and sleeping form.
Grace jumped awake as a sharp sting struck her foot and thunder rumbled outside. The pillory didn’t allow her to raise her head as another sting raced through her foot. The sturdy leather shoes on her feet were not enough to numb yet another sting.
A flash of lightning silhouetted the narrow legs of a man in dark breeches his white stockings gave the man a supernatural appearance in the eery light. This time the sharp snap of a whip accompanied the sting on her feet. A quick glance around told Grace she was alone in the cell.
“Ow,” Grace whimpered as another lash struck her feet.
“Who else signed the Devil’s Book,” the male voice harshly snarled.
Though she could not raise her head Grace refused to sit there in shame. She may have been forced into the pillory, but the reason behind it was no fault of hers. She squared her shoulders as best she could before answering with a bowed head, “I, nor anyone else, have signed NO book.”
The darkened figure seemed to erupt in rage as he swung the whip once more. This time the leather cut into the soles of her sturdy shoes. Grace flinched in her seat and knocked her head against the pillory as fresh pain racked her foot.
A rolling crack of thunder covered Grace’s whimpers of pain.
“Name your conspirators,” he commanded.
A tear fell down Grace’s mud caked face as she gasped for air. As she was about to respond her mud encrusted face turned as pale as the moon. With no other warning, she spewed the bile in her stomach all over her urine soaked skirt.
As the bile was dripping from her mouth Grace spat, “The only crime being committed here is the disgrace that you are showing to women.”
“You lost any protections that your sex demands when you signed the Devil’s Book,” the man coldly informed.
“I signed no such book,” Grace stubbornly insisted.
Even though it was dark in the cell Grace could tell the man was shaking in rage. “Your protestations of innocence will do you no good. The children have seen you,” the man snarled as he cracked his whip once more.
This time, the man didn’t give Grace a chance to claim innocence. He continued to snap his whip delivering lancing sting after cutting lash to the bottom of her feet. Grace’s wails of pain were drowned in the downpour of rain outside her cell.
As you know my current WIP – which I am planning to have out by Oct. 31st at the latest – features Grace Bacon. The back drop for this book is the horror of the Salem witch trials. The men and women who were charged with these crimes were victims of class warfare.
Some one else wanted what they had and chose to use a serious medical that many suffered from to persecute these men and women.
While I would like to think that men and women of the modern era would not go on a witch hunt in the name of religion I also know that mass hysteria can happen at any time.
Also, in this chapter I have brought in the Geneva Bible which is the one that the Puritans would have used in the seventeenth century. By attempting to study this bible I have gained several insights on the ways that time and people have changed.
So Please be conscious of what you say and how you act, for you never know when something will change.
Without further ado I give you Chapter 5 of Fall From Grace.
p.s. Don’t forget to tell me what you think!
The sun had set long ago and Grace laid her head upon her hands. The fire pit at the end of the hall had died hours before, leaving cool embers to emit what little warmth they had left. The moon sporadically peaked through the clouds above; giving infrequent illumination to the cell. Supper would be soon and the four of them had huddled together for warmth. Grace held the bible that Abraham had given her earlier next to her chest as she prayed silently.
Her hazy breath surrounded her face in the dark cell. The clothes she wore were muddy; loose threads frayed at the seams of her skirt. Her once bright skirt was now stained with mud as urine began to reek in the cell. Mice began to scurry on the floor as the ladies settled into an odd form of comfort.
Their jailers refused to let them out to relieve even the most basic of human needs.
Sitting on the ice encrusted, mud floor in the midst of three other women, Grace let out a sigh as her stomach grumbled. Dinner should have been served when the sun had set. Apparently there would be no dinner today.
“Perhaps it’s for the best that they forgot to serve dinner. Whether they stretch our necks or dismiss the charges there is no way the doormen will let us leave here without paying our due,” Mrs. Good dourly informed.
“Very true, Mrs. Good. They will charge us for use of our shackles and the meals we eat. Though I don’t think they forgot to feed us,” Grace grimly replied.
“Forget not our lodging as well, child,” Mrs. Good sourly reminded.
“Hmm,” Grace answered in quite reply. “Mrs. Good, what is it you are always muttering when you walk away from someone?”
Mrs. Good snorted sharply before responding, “A prayer for patience. Some of those I beg food and work from are less humble than they should be. Why? Are you so lost in God that you leave your fate to the villainous man he created?”
“Peace, Mrs. Good. Twas only a question asked in friendship, no offense was meant,” Grace beseeched.
“Besides,” Grace continued primly, “Tis a known fact that God helps those who help themselves. Could I entreat you to take the Prayer of the Lord with me?”
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” was the sour, defeated reply.
Quietly the two began, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.”
When Mrs. Good and Grace finished their prayer, Tituba and Mrs. Osbourne whispered in unison, “Amen.” Both voices were broken, one from illness and the other from abuse.
Grace raised her head and quietly apologized, “Ladies forgive me. I had not meant to disturb your rest.”
“Worry not m’girl,” Mrs. Osbourne assured, “A prayer is sometimes the only recourse we have.”
An inelegant snort escaped from Mrs. Good. Grace shook her head as she listened to the two elderly women butt heads once again. As the women spoke harshly to one another Grace looked over and whispered, “How are you feeling Tituba?”
“A bit sore Miss Grace. What are we to do now,” she asked plaintively.
“Had I a direct ear to God, Tituba, I would know. Barring that unlikely happening, all we can do is to pray that He knows what is best for us,” Grace murmured as tears welled up in her eyes.
“Miss Grace, I’m scared,” Tituba whispered.
Grace trembled where she sat as salty tears began to fall. Wincing from the weight of something so small Grace sobbed, “We all are.”
As you know my current project is Fall From Grace. The synopsis of this work in progress (WIP) is:
In a community where God’s path is the single, most important part of your life, witchcraft is the foulest sin imaginable.
On the eve of her betrothal, Grace Bacon stands accused of this horrendous crime. Will she be able to withstand the harsh conditions that the Salem Jail and Dungeon contain? Will anyone believe that she didn’t commit the dreadful acts she stands accused? Will she be able to hold onto to her faith?
Without further ado I give you chapter 4 of Fall From Grace. As always feel free to tell me what you think of the current book I am working on!
The sun was shining through the narrow windows of the jail providing thin slits of illumination to the prisoners. The four women sat on the muddy floor. Grace was between Mrs. Good and Mrs. Osbourne while Tituba sat on the end.
Tituba’s dark head was resting on the stone wall as hinges creaked. The grating sound roused the four from their restless thoughts. Bumping into each other they rose. As they stood in a row Mrs. Osbourne rested a cold and trembling hand on Grace’s back.
“Remember, Miss Bacon, mortal man and his laws are still judged by God,” Mrs. Osbourne soothingly whispered.
A dimple fleetingly appeared on Grace’s face as she nodded confirmation to Mrs. Osbourne. “And a man who cares little for God will never find favor in his hallowed halls,” Grace whispered back.
“If you two will quit your yammering prayers we have a more severe problem. I don’t think these men care what God would want. Tis more like they would rather partake in earthly pleasures,” Mrs. Good snapped.
“Intoning the Will of God allows us to keep our necks from getting stretched,” Mrs. Osbourne shot back snarkily.
Grace took a deep breath and implored, “Ladies, have some dignity if you please. We will face our accusers with the grace God gave us at birth,” she finished sternly.
A light clapping could be heard from the approaching figures before a male voice complimented, “Well done, Grace.”
A worn book was secured under one arm.
A grin bloomed on Graces face as she exclaimed, “Abraham! What are you doing here?”
“Trying to see you,” Abraham answered as he approached the cell. When Abraham stepped close to the cell his eyes flared in anger as his hands reached through the doors. He gently reached for Grace’s face only to have her flinch.
“Who would dare,” Abraham quietly thundered.
Grace shuddered at the anger in Abraham’s voice. “Worry not Abraham. Bruises fade with God’s grace,” Grace comforted.
“No Grace. Do not give forgiveness for those that would dare harm a woman. They are the ones that have no grace,” Abraham instructed. Abraham took a deep breath to control his rage before continuing, “Father told me you were charged with witchcraft. With your faith, I cannot believe such a thing possible,” Abraham insisted.
Grace shook her head and whispered, “I have not done this Abraham, my soul has always belonged to God. ‘Tis a mistake made of Miss Betty and Miss Abigail.”
“How do children come into this,” Abraham asked in confusion.
Grace looked to Tituba only to see the woman swaying on her feet. “Mrs. Good. She is going to fall,” Grace quietly exclaimed. Unfortunately, the warning was too late. Before Mrs. Good could steady Tituba, the bruised woman fell backwards.
As Tituba fell the arms of the other women flailed out in a desperate attempt to keep themselves upright. As they toppled the women landed one on top of the other.
Tituba’s pained moans were heard from the bottom of the pile. The women carefully and quickly pulled apart. Upon seeing this Abraham practically shouted, “Together!”
“Tis alright, Abraham. Anger will not serve us here. At least we are still alive,” Grace reasoned.
“This is inhumane. One man should not be chained to another; ‘tis not God’s will,” Abraham ardently insisted.
“There is not much to be done for it Abraham. Man writes the rules at the moment. We can only trust that God has chosen the right man for the times,” Grace patiently explained.
“How are you accepting of this degradation?”
“I know I am innocent,” Grace simply replied.
Abraham shook his head as he looked down at his sister. “I know that as well. Sadly, that does not explain the situation.”
“As I said earlier, Miss Betty and Miss Abigail have a part in this. As you know they have been frightfully ill of late. At any rate, a pastor from the village came to take a look at them.
“The girls were asked who caused them such an illness and they claimed bewitchment by Tituba.
“She apparently tried to tell Reverend Parris that I would vouch her godliness and I ended up here,” Grace quickly explained.
“Showing a kindness is what ended you up here,” Abraham asked incredulously.
Grace nodded her head as a tear escaped her eyes. “I’ll try speaking with Father again. He adamantly refuses to discuss the matter. I found out through Nazareth what happened. It’s throughout the entire Towne what happened.
“I’m afraid that Mr. Millson has informed Father that a Courtship is now out of the question,” Abraham regrettably informed his sister.
“Abraham, I swear this to you. I am not guilty of witchcraft,” Grace insisted as tears leaked from her eyes.
“I know little sister,” Abraham whispered as he grabbed the book from under his arm. He leaned into the cell to better reach his sister. The book bridged the gap between the two for a short moment.
“I know you well Grace. May you find some comfort in these pages while I attempt to convince Father that his only daughter would never turn from God,” Abraham assured.
Grace took the book handed to her and smiled as she read the cover – Holy Bible. Grace’s trembling hand reached out to accept the gift from her brother. “I believe you sister, of that have no doubt.
“Until then stay strong for us all.”
“Abraham, this means more to me than you could know.”
“No Grace. The love I have for you mirrors the love God has for all his children. If I can help you in anyway, I will. Hope sends her love as well,” Abraham informed.
Grace bowed her head from where she sat. Just knowing that someone believed her was enough to give Grace the strength to see this through.