Who were the Puritans? Or how were the Puritans? When it comes to Puritans, most of us think of intolerance and hypocrisy. As widely mentioned, the Puritans were members of a religious reform movement commonly known as Puritanism that grew within the Church of England in the later 16th century. Puritans believed the Church of England was too similar to the Roman Catholic Church and that they should eliminate ceremonies and traditional practices that were not rooted in the Bible.
To understand them easily, a famous quote by H.L. Mencken, a Mencken Chrestomathy says, “the Puritans are someone who fears that someone, somewhere, maybe happy or having fun.”
Stories go around describing Puritans never smiled, never danced, never enjoyed, and just sat in the corner reading Bible and dictating to the world what they should be doing. Other myths include that Puritans hated sex, even within marriage, like they are some sort of sexually repressed people. Perhaps, one of the most popular theories about Puritans was that they were fanatical Witch Hunters! But these are all myths, and many of them are not even close to the truth.
The real history of the Puritans paints a picture that is much different from the stories popularised against them.
One myth that suggests Puritans were fun-hating people is not at all true and accurate. If you really go by the history and see what they used to wear, you might understand that not every myth is a true story. Puritans used to wear bright colors and they would paint their houses with different bright colors and decorations. They were also great lovers of fashion, for instance, the Puritan women were very fond of laces that are visible in their clothing while men enjoyed wearing coats and boots of different styles. This fact backs up that Puritans were not people of dark psych.
Another popular myth about Puritans was that they were party poopers when in reality they actually loved throwing feasts! They would throw huge feasts whether it be Christmas or thanksgiving, and the whole community would celebrate it together. They were closely-knit people but all for the right reasons. Though it is believed that Puritans were very devout, for the majority of them, sometimes it was convenient to go to church, and sometimes it’s not, just like any regular person today. They were kind of people who loved poetry, and paintings and appreciated art. The very first poet in the new world was herself a Puritan woman called Anne Bradstreet. Some other famous Puritan poets were Andrew Marvell, John Milton, Edward Taylor, and many more.
Though it is true that promiscuity was absent from Colonial New England, sex was still important for a wife and a husband, considering the fact that Puritans has large families. They certainly did not have sexual hang-ups. Thus, in reality, the Puritans weren’t people who somehow are always sad and Depressed. When in fact they were the kind of people who first understood that there is a time for confession, there is a time for depression but mostly there are times of celebration and that life is not a straight road.
It’s also true that Puritans believed in witchcraft, just like any other religious sect of that time in Europe. And due to the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Puritans were viewed as people prone to witchcraft hysteria. Thus, despite this, Puritans took witchcraft very seriously and would often investigate before ruling the decision. The number of such cases that reached the court of Puritans was less and most of them were dismissed. If compared to the number of witchcraft killings in England, this number was very low. So, it’s unfair to criticize the complete society based on a singular event.
To put it simply, Puritans were someone who wanted to Purify Church. During the 16th century, the Church of England was controlled by the King and Queen of England. They have complete access to the rules, regulations, and practices of the church and even had the liberty to hamper the parts of the Bible translated into English, according to their means. They have the same person in charge of the State and the Church, which is too much power. Puritans took a look at how the authorities were controlling the church and they thought it wasn’t really a great model. They proposed that the church and state should be governed by different people and that religious practices should not be altered according to our own will.
In the past, every European Kingdom has its own religion that was headed by a monarch and anyone who would go against the church was considered treason. England was also no exception. The Puritans did not leave England to form a new religion or a society, nor did they arrive in North America to bring some sort of religious Freedom. They were someone who wanted to practice their religion freely, and these are very different things.