Primary Source

Examination of Sarah Carrier [Legal Document]

Annotation

Sarah Carrier: aged 7

Thomas and Martha Carrier lived in Andover, MA, a town near Salem caught up in the turmoil of the Salem Witch Trials. Martha Carrier was accused of witchcraft and hung (one week after her children were examined by the Court) for her "crimes." The Carrier's had four children, two of whom, Sarah and Thomas, were also accused of witchcraft.

Sarah's testimony contains several interesting details. For example, she relates that her mother brought her a book and commanded her to obedience, "baptizing" her (along with other children) to her service. She was given a spear to work her maleficia on others ("She said her mother baptized her, and her mother said when she baptized her, thou are mine for ever and ever and amen.”). This longest of the four testimonies, has several significant elements. First, the social dynamics of the Salem experience—all of these children note that they were "made" witches by their mothers (both of whom were accused themselves). Second, the source sheds light on the nature of Salem families and the relationships between children and parents. Third, Sarah's testimony (and those of the other children) also reflects a developed understanding of Puritan religious elements. Unpacking the source allows for a rich discussion of the agency of these (and other) Puritan children.

Source

Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, "Sarah Carrier", The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692, edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=BoySal1.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/oldsalem&tag=public&part=22&division=div1 (accessed September 1, 2009).

Primary Source Text

Examination of Sarah Carrier

The Examination of Sarah Carrier Taken before Dudly Broad- steat Sarah Carrier being accused of witchcraft Confeseth as fol- loweth that she hath been a witch Ever Since She was Six years Old that her Moth'r brought a red book to her and She touched it that her Moth'r Baptiz'd her in Andrew fostters pauster the day before She went to prison & that her Moth'r promised her she should not be hanged that her Mother taught her how to afflicte persons by pinching them or Setting on them that She began to afflict Sarah Phelps last Satterdy & that Betty Johnson was w'th her that her Moth'r gave her a Spear last Night & that She pricked Sarah Phelps & Ann Puttnam w'th it.

(On side of paper) Sarah Carrier


Examination of Sarah Carrier

Aug. the 11th, 1696. [1692]

It was asked Sarah Carrier by the Magistrates or Justices John Hawthorne Esq; and others: How long hast thou been a witch? A. Ever since I was six years old. Q. How old are you now? A. Near eight years old, brother Richard says, I shall be eight years old in November next. Q. Who made you a witch? A. My mother, she made me set my hand to a book. Q. How did you set your hand to it? A. I touched it with my fingers and the book was red, the paper of it was white. She said she never had seen the black man; the place where she did it was in Andrew Foster's pasture and Elizabeth John- son junr. was there. Being asked who was there beside, she answered her Aunt Toothaker and her cousin. Being asked when it was, she said, when she was baptized. Q. What did they promise to give you? A. A black dog. Q. Did the dog ever come to you? A. No. Q. But you said you saw a cat once. What did that say to you? A. It said it would tear me in pieces if I would not set my hand to the book. She said her mother baptized her, and the devil or black man was not there, as she saw, and her mother said when she baptized her, thou are mine for ever and ever and amen. Q. How did you afflict folks? A. I pinched them, and she said she had no puppets, but she went to them that she afflicted. Being asked whether she went in her body or her spirit, she said in her spirit. She said her mother carried her thither to afflict. Q. How did your mother carry you when she was in prison? A. She came like a black cat. Q. How did you know that it was your mother? A. The cat told me so that she was my mother. She said she afflicted Phelp's child last saturday, and Elizabeth Johnson joined with her to do it. She had a wooden spear, about as long as her finger, of Elizabeth Johnson, and she had it of the devil. She would not own that she had ever been at the witch meeting at the village. This is the substance.

Attest. Simon Willard.

How to Cite This Source

"Examination of Sarah Carrier [Legal Document]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #282, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/282 (accessed October 31, 2014). Annotated by Tom Rushford