|The girl, destined to be known as Tituba, was kidnapped from her South American
home, shipped to the English colony of Barbados. She was captured as a slave from
Barbados and purchased by Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem, Massachusetts.
During the 1670s, Tituba lived on the Caribbean island; her nights were spent with
Africans and her days with Europeans. Here she was introduced to African religious
beliefs, became acquainted with European culture, and began to master the English
In 1679, Tituba was sold to Samuel Parris, a man who was to play an important role in
the Salem witch trials. In 1680, the Arawak Indian slave girl, now between 12 and 17
years of age, stood on the rocking deck of a ship and watched the steeples of Boston
rise in the distance. By 1692, she had married, given birth, and become acquainted
with Puritan theology.
When Tituba, in early March 1692, confessed to witchcraft, she confirmed the
community's worst fears that practicing witches did inhabit their village and most
importantly, it provided the legal evidence needed to purge the community of its
witches. Tituba confessed that an evil power in the form of the Devil lived among
Trying to save her own life, Tituba’s testimony was skillfully crafted to satisfy her
audience; incorporating her knowledge of Arawak, African, and Puritan cultures. Her
performance had the additional ramification of widening the search beyond the
traditional targets of the Massachusetts witch hunts. Her testimony justified not only
the arrest of wealthy citizens of Salem, but also of prominent Puritans throughout
Massachusetts and Maine.
This new dimension to the witch hunts, attacking residents from outside the local
community, is directly attributable to Tituba's incorporation of Arawak Indian
beliefs into her confession. The most feared of all evil forces in the Arawak world
were the kenaimas. These beings were compelled to commit evil acts; although they
were "real people," they had monstrous features, the ability to metamorphose into
animal form, and were associated with foreign tribes. Hence, Tituba's claim that a
Bostonian led the witches' coven was influenced by her Arawak Indian heritage.
Tituba was quickly tried and hung for witchcraft on March 1, 1692. She had
confessed to influencing 4 girls in the practice of witchcraft, but her role in causing
the symptoms of being afflicted by witchcraft displayed by the girls was not true.
Below: The House Where the Salem Witchcraft Accusations