"Art thou like the Black Man that haunts the forest round about us?"
Temptation on the Mount (c.1311) shows a black devil
Public DomainTemptation on the Mount (c.1311) shows a black devil - Credit: Duccio

Just as whiteness is emblematic of spiritual purity in Christian iconography, blackness symbolizes the demonic, and depictions of Satan as a “black man” have been common for many centuries. During the witchcraft trials, accusations abounded of alleged witches meeting with the devil in the forest — believed to be his natural habitat — for sexual intercourse or to enter into an unholy covenant with him. For the New England Puritans, the similarities between the devil’s skin color and dwelling place and those of the Native Americans meant that the latter were often seen as Satan’s children. The Puritan minister and author Cotton Mather records in his Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) that “Black Man” is what “Witches call the Devil; and they generally say he resembles an Indian” (p. 75).