The history of the planting, settlement, and progress of Salem Village, to 1692, has now been given. We know, so far as existing materials within reach enable us to know, what sort of a population occupied the place at the date of our story. Their descent, breeding, and experiences have been related. They were, at least, equal in intelligence to any of the people of their day. They were strenuous in action, trained to earnestness and zeal, accustomed to become deeply engaged in whatever interested them, and to take strong hold of the ideas and sentiments they received. It becomes necessary, therefore, in the next place, to ascertain what their ideas were in reference to witchcraft, diabolical agency, and supernaturalism generally. I shall proceed accordingly to give the condition of opinion, at that time, on the subject of demonology.
Demonology, as a general term, may be employed, for convenience, to include a whole class of ideas—which, under different names and a vast variety of conceptions, have come through all ages, and prevailed among all races of mankind—relating to the supposed agency of supernatural, invisible, and spiritual beings in terrestrial affairs. As necessarily applicable to evil spirits, particularly to the arch-enemy and supreme adversary of God and man under the name of Satan or the Devil, the term does not appear to have been used in ancient times. Professed communications with supernatural beings were not originally stamped with a diabolical character, but, like some alleged to be had in our day, were regarded as innocent, and even creditable. Men sought to hold intercourse with spirits belonging to the unseen world, as some persons do now; assuming that they were worthy of confidence, and that responses from them were valuable and desirable. This was the case under the reign of classical mythology, and of heathen superstition in general. Those individuals who were supposed to be conversant with demons were looked upon by the credulous multitude as a highly privileged class; and they arrogated the credit of being raised to a higher sphere of knowledge than the rest of mankind.