An Arawak slave woman who featured prominently in the Salem Witch Trials.
Her true origins are unknown, but she was brought to Barbados as a slave by adolescence and she was eventually purchased by businessman turned minister, Samuel Parris, and would later be brought to Salem Village, Massachusetts, and serve the Parris family, including caring for the children.
In early 1692, Elizabeth "Betty" Parris, age 9, and her cousin, 11-year-old Abigail Williams, began acting strangely, and several other girls in the community soon displayed the same symptoms. Convinced that it was witchcraft, the fanatical Parris grilled his daughter and niece until they named Tituba as the witch who afflicted them; as an Arawak slave woman in a Puritan community, she was very obvious and an easy target.
After the testimonies of Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, who both denied harming anybody, Tituba's testimony (probably to avoid any more trouble) confirmed the fears of the village: she had been coaxed by a mysterious man in black to sign her name in his book, offering her magical powers in exchange for her soul. Tituba claimed that her name and those of Osborne and Good were among a list of six other names that she could not see; this confession was like Pandora's box had opened.
Although portrayed as an African slave in many dramatizations, the historical Tituba was actually a First Nations slave, most likely Arawak.
While there is little contemporary evidence, the legend is that Tituba entertained her young wards with tales of her life in Barbados, tales involving magic. As the winter continued, Tituba grew bolder and began demonstrating magic tricks for the girls, including a divination method in which an egg white was suspended in a glass of water and the shapes that it made were interpreted.
By this time, other girls and young women from the village were coming to these secret meetings. Their excitement was mixed with guilt, for they knew that this was forbidden; during one divination, the egg settled into what looked like the shape of a coffin, an image that snapped their nerves.
1. A character from "The Crucible".
Tituba don't truck wit no devils.