Erik LeeMs. CaraAP HistoryDateHow did the witchcraft trials help us understand the nature of knowledge, gender roles, and patriarchy in the colonial era? The witchcraft trials have aroused significant historical controversy. Nobody knows what exactly caused the people of the colonial era to accuse and hang hundreds of people. However, these incidents give us better insight on the social and environmental factors that may have combined to provoke a mass hysteria. The witchcraft trials would help us understand the nature of knowledge, gender roles, and patriarchy in the colonial era by providing first-hand recorded examples of these factors in the colonies. Colonists clearly had no evidence to prove that the people they accused were witches. In the article “Witchcraft in the Colonies,” two daughters of a minister were found acting strangely in the middle of the woods. As an excuse, they blamed a Native American who was also known for her practice in voodoo. Other people who were affected by various other “illnesses” all attributed to the same cause, which resulted in several imagined witches to be imprisoned and executed. This sparked a mania of claims of anything that seemed abnormal including another minister who was rumored to have had intercourse with the devil and was accused because of his uncommonly athletic and strong body. These types of accusations were founded upon no evidence and it fed the spreading fire of doubt and suspicion. Those who confessed were set free while the ones who didn’t were hanged. There was also some evidence that during the time of the witch trials, rye plants were growing which had a fungus that would cause hallucinations. Evidently, colonists had no knowledge whether or not witches existed, but they still chose to believe as a result of the mass paranoia and superstition. Gender roles were important in the colonial era. People believed that evil spirits took on the form of friendless old women. First-hand evidence shows that usually, it was a group or an individual girl who would blame her behavior on other helpless, but suspicious figures such as old people who had no friends. At first, women were targeted, but the fear then spread to even men and people of all social statuses. ¬†As tensions arose, men began to preach and teach about the evils of witchcraft which further consolidated the widespread fear of witches. Patriarchy was extremely prevalent in the colonial times. Girls did not really have their future set out for them and they relied on the reputation and social class of their husbands to be able to survive. Every girl’s fate rested on whether or not a girl’s husband was a merchant, artisan, or farmer. By lashing out and in effect seizing command of the whole town, the girls were able to give their lives certainty. The witchcraft trials show us that the everyday stress New England was undergoing was a result of the upheavals in its religious life, social organization, and economic system. The girls afforded the townspeople a way to vent their frustrations by using the accused witches as a scapegoat.In conclusion, the witchcraft trials sheds light on the nature of knowledge, gender roles, and patriarchy of the colonial era. Historians each create their own theories on what caused the trials in the first place whether or not it was a result of hallucinations, general lack of knowledge, or a superstition. First-hand records show many different angles of the same event, which helps show the various effects and how the hysteria slowly died out over time.