Most of Virginia's colonial-era court records had been damaged in fires through the US Civil War (1861–1865), so it is impractical to know exactly what amount of witchcraft situations were heard in Virginia as soon as. Historians understand of some two dozen situations dealing with witchcraft in colonial Virginia. A lot of these instances tend to be defamation suits caused by slander or gossip; actually, truly the only Virginia law to particularly address witchcraft, passed in Lower Norfolk County on 23, 1655, ended up being designed to eliminate not the practice of witchcraft, but instead "divrs dangerous and scandalous speeches … raised by some psons regarding sevrall feamales in this countie termeing all of them to-be witches, wherein their particular reputacons have beene much weakened, and theire life earned concern." False accusers had been to pay for an excellent of just one, 000 weight of tobacco and may be additional punished because of the courtroom if it absolutely was deemed needed.
In unlawful witchcraft situations, Virginia courts followed The united kingdomt's witchcraft legislation, a 1604 statute passed away under James I labeled as "An Act against Conjuration Witchcraft and coping with evil and sinful Spirits." In Virginia these situations deal mostly utilizing the fee of maleficium—causing problems for men and women or property by supernatural means. The earliest witchcraft allegations on record against an English settler in Uk us colonies were made in Virginia in September 1626. The accused, Joan Wright of Surry County, ended up being a married woman and a midwife. Several Wright's next-door neighbors testified against her, alleging that, through witchcraft, she had caused the death of a new baby, killed crops and livestock, and precisely predicted the fatalities of other colonists. Wright was acquitted despite her own admission that she performed actually have knowledge of witchcraft techniques.
The fees against Wright tend to be typical of several witch tests during the colonial period: at the same time whenever most misfortunes, like crop failure, infection, or death, had no obvious cause, witchcraft had been a relatively reasonable explanation; an eccentric or unpopular member of the community made a convenient scapegoat. The reality that Wright had been a female is typical, also: in the enduring records of witchcraft cases in Virginia, just two accused witches had been guys, reflecting a trend that can exists in the legal documents of England in addition to Massachusetts Bay Colony.
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