Known for: A minor figure in the historical record of the Salem Witch Trials, Mary Sibley was the neighbor of the Parris family who advised John Indian to make a witch’s cake. The denouncing of that act has been seen as one of the triggers of the witch craze that followed.
Age at the time of the Salem witch trials: 31-32
Dates: April 21, 1660 - ?
Married to: Samuel Sibley, February 12, 1656/7 - ?. Marriage date 1686.
Daughter: Mary Sibley, born in 1686 or 1692, died 1773. Married, had children.
Also known as: Mary Woodrow, daughter of Benjamin Woodrow and Rebecca Canterbury Woodrow
In January of 1692, two girls in the home of the Rev. Samuel Parris, Elizabeth (Betty) Parris and Abigail Williams, ages 9 and 12, began exhibiting very strange symptoms; a Caribbean slave, Tituba, also experienced images of the devil – all according to later testimony. A doctor diagnosed the “Evil Hand” as the cause, and Mary Sibley offered the idea of the witch’s cake.
A witch's cake used the urine of the afflicted girls. Supposedly, sympathetic magic meant that the "evil" afflicting them would be in the cake, and, when a dog consumed the cake, it would point to the witches.
While this was apparently a known practice in English folk culture to identify likely witches, the Rev. Parris in his Sunday sermon denounced even such well-intentioned uses of magic, as they could also be “diabolical.”
Mary Sibley confessed in church that she had erred, and the congregation acknowledged their satisfaction with her confession by a show of hands.
The next month, the town records note her suspension from communion and restoration when she made her confession.
Neither Mary nor Samuel Sibley appear on the 1689 register of covenanted church members of the Salem Village church, so they must have joined after that date.
Samuel Sibley’s sister Mary was married to Captain Jonathan Wolcott, and their daughter was Mary Wolcott. Mary Wolcott became one of the accusers in May of 1692 when she was about 17 years old. Mary Wolcott’s father had remarried after he’d been widowed, and her stepmother was Deliverance Putnam Wolcott, a sister of Thomas Putnam, Jr., who was himself one of the accusers at Salem as were his wife and daughter, Ann Putnam, Sr. and Ann Putnam, Jr.
In the 2014 Salem-based supernatural series from WGN America, Janet Montgomery stars as Mary Sibley.
Kind of ironic, that the series is picking up the accusation of Rev. Parris that anyone who dabbled in witchcraft must be themselves a witch.