Tituba, also called Tituba Indian, was one of the first three people accused of practicing witchcraft during the Salem witch trials of 1692 in Salem Village, Massachusetts.
Prior to the trials
Tituba was born in a small Arawak village in South America. As a child she was captured and taken as a slave to the island of Barbados, in the Caribbean. While living on the island she was bought by Samue Parris to care for his home. Sometime during the 1680’s Samuel Parris moved his family and his slave, Tituba, along with another slave he had purchased named John Indian from Barbados to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1689 Samuel Parris became Minister of Salem Village and began to preach in the Village, that same year Tituba and John Indian were married.
Salem witch trials
Tituba was one of the first three women accused of being a witch in Salem Village in 1692, which was the beginning of what would eventually lead to over 150 men and women in Massachusetts to be accused of witchcraft.
Tituba was first accused by 9-year-old Betty Parris, minister Samuel Parris’s daughter, and her 11-year-old cousin Abigail Williams, who also lived in the Parris home. The two girls claimed to be bitten and pinched while they slept. The girls also began having fits, seizures, and comatose trances, which were eventually attributed to witchcraft after Dr. Griggs diagnosed an "evil hand" upon the girls. The girls' claims included accusations that they felt Tituba in their dreams pinching and biting them, then whispering in their ears to cause their fits.
The Parris’ neighbor, Mary Sibley, told John Indian, Tituba's husband, the recipe for a "witch cake", from rye and the urine of the afflicted girls, which when fed to a dog, would injure the witch who was responsible.
Tituba was formally accused of bewitching the two girls on February 29, 1692, and was publicly examined with two other women of the village, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, by local magistrates on March 1, 1692.
Tituba at first denied that she cast a spell on any of the afflicted girls, now numbering at least a half-dozen, but when pushed confessed to witchcraft and implicated the other two women accused, as well as mentioning that there were other witches in the village as well. The ensuing search for witches led to more than 150 people being arrested for witchcraft, with nineteen executed for the crime.
Tituba remained in custody for the duration of the Salem witch trials. In May 1693, a grand jury failed to indict Tituba. Her ultimate fate is unknown.
The effects of the accusation of Tituba and her confession allowed the Salem witchcraft trials to take place. If Tituba had not confessed to being a witch and afflicting the Parris girls, then there may never have been a witchcraft trial in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. With Tituba’s false confession Salem Village was allowed to play out all of the anger, frustration, and hysteria that it held pent up within its society.