The “Burning Times”, they called it, was a tragic event for witches and non-witches. I had watched families torn apart through imprisonment, abandonment and death. A young girl whom I’ve looked after since her birth and loved like my own child accused me of bewitching her. I was accused by her father and neighbors of being a witch and consorting with the devil and dabbling in black magic. None of this was false; however the part of being a witch was not.
I have the gift of fortune telling which is a gift that was past down to me from my mother. I discovered this gift as a child in Barbados. I was in the kitchen sweeping when I was struck with a huge headache. The pounding brought me to my knees and my eyes began to tear up. Suddenly, I saw a white light. Images of my mother in a coffin, a large ship and me standing on a box with chains flashed in front of me. I was scared and began to cry out. My mother saw me huddled on the floor with me hands on my head. She’d asked me what happened and I told. That is when she explained to me the gift of sight that I had. She told me that it was a gift that was in our family for generations and she was proud that I had the sight at such an early age.
Shortly after that, my mother became ill and passed away. I lived with different relatives helping out with household work and perfecting my gift. At fifteen, I was taken from my family. Rebels from another tribe attack our village and many people died. I remember being passed from the rebels to white man. The white man then told me that I belonged to him and would be going to his home to work. His name was Reverend Samuel Parris and we got a ship headed to a place called Massachusetts.
Betty, Mr. Parris’s daughter, became very ill one day. Doctors could not determine the cause of her illness. An old doctor very well known throughout the villages said that her illness was caused by witchcraft and that a hex was placed on the child. Immediately, the eyes and fingers pointed toward me. I was brought up before a council and asked questions. I shook my head to all of there questions. I didn’t understand why I was being accused.
Back at the Parris household I was questioned by the reverend and his wife. He asked me directly if I had bewitched his daughter.
“No sir,” I replied, “I care for Betty as if she is my own.”
“YOU ARE LYING!” he shouted. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me to the back of the house. I immediately began to cry out. He grabbed the leather strap that was hanging on the wall and began to wail on my backside. He prayed while whipping me, a prayer that I was not familiar with, and told me to repent. He said that if I repent and confessed that I would be forgiven. I don’t remember how long this beating lasted. I woke up lying on the floor of the back room of the house. My back ached and there was blood on my dress, arms and hands.
I walked out to the shed that my husband and I shared. John, my husband, looked at me with a stone face. I could tell that he was angry by the twitch in his left eye. I sat down on the bed. There was basin of water next to the bed with a rag inside. John came over and began washing my back. It stung but I said nothing. John said nothing until my torso was wrapped neatly in bandages. I had lain down on the bed on my side. I knew what I had to do.
Several days later, I walked up to the reverend and told him that I had repented. “Well?” he questioned. I took a deep breath.
“I did it,” I said. “I placed a hex on Betty.”
The reverend glared at me. “Why?” he had asked.
“It was the devil,” said I, “the devil told me to do it.”
I spent thirteen months in a jail cell. Everyday I was interrogated by law officials, mothers, and clergy from the church. I was made to tell my story over and over again. I said all sorts of things such as the devil and how he tricked me into placing a hex on poor Betty Parris and her cousin. My interrogators speculated that I had tricked the girls by telling them tells of intimate encounters with demons and encouraging them to practice fortune telling. In my entire servitude to the Parris household, I never told Betty any stories. I cleaned up after her and made sure she was up for her studies and church. I cared for her like almost like a mother would, but I never indulged her any tales of mischief.
The accusations grew into a town wide witch hunt. While in jail, I was asked if there were any more witches in the area. I came up with names from my head. I told then names of people that I’d heard of on the street, people whom I’d never met. Three different women were brought before me. I was asked to identify them as witches or not. I’d never seen these women in my life but I nodded my head and told the accusers that they were indeed witches.
Thirteen months I spent in a concrete jail with no window. I had a meager diet of water and mush and sometimes bread. I was allowed to see John once a month. I would sit quietly as he spoke of the events in town and in the house. The reverend was leading the group of hunting down witches and killing them. Blood had spread throughout the little community of Salem and into other towns. The reverend was not showing any sign of slowing down.
“You have to stop it,” John had said quietly.
“I don’t know how,” I said.
“Something has to be done.” He walked out of the jail and I didn’t see him for a long time.
I was released from jail in April of 1693. I remember the month and year because I had asked the jailer as I was leaving the cold building. I’d expected to see the reverend waiting to take me home as I was still his slave. Instead, I found a woman that I’d never seen before. She was white and had blond hair that was pinned in a bun. She had a pretty and kind face.
“Tituba,” she said kindly, “it’s nice to finally meet you.”
I was puzzled. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but who are you?”
She smiled. “You’ll find out in time.”