The Salem Wiki
The Salem Wiki

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My father told me that there was no time in Hell no past, no future, only all of time in an eternal present. And that I was already there burning beside him. I have tormented myself ever since, wondering what crime I could possibly commit that would so consign myself to Hell. I am relieved. It was no crime, but a choice. I will choose to be in Hell, so that others may not.
— Cotton Mather

Reverend Cotton Mather is a major character in Salem. The reverend was sent to investigate a case of a spectral attack in Salem, Massachusetts, and ended up getting involved in a crossfire of witch-panic hysteria leading to full-blown witch trials. During his stay in Salem, Cotton became romantically involved with Gloriana, a local "fallen woman." Cotton tried to lead the citizens to safety, but came to have doubts about his father's extremist methods. After Gloriana was banished, he was enticed by Anne Hale's spell, a love that led him to infernal turmoil.

He is portrayed by American actor Seth Gabel.

Character Description

"Driven by secret obsessions and desire, Cotton Mather is the well-educated local aristocrat who fans the flames of Salem’s witch hunt. The foremost expert on witches and malice, Cotton Mather is a Puritan Reverend, son of the infamous witch hunter Increase Mather. But even as he is hunting witches, he lives under the shadow of his very famous father and agonizes about living up to him. Cotton is a man of contradiction. He is a God-fearing believer that strives to uphold the law, and yet he has demons inside himself that he is too afraid to exorcise."[1]

"Well educated aristocrat and former reverend, Cotton Mather finds himself married to a witch and is trying to find a way to escape, which is hard to do with Brown Jenkins eating his insides every time he does something wrong."[2]

Early Life

Born in Boston, Massachusetts from the union of two of the most prominent Puritan families, Cotton and Mather. For that reason, he was baptized to live up to his heritage. Deprived very early of his mother's love, Cotton was harshly raised by his father to achieve a glorious political career. An excellent student, Cotton was sent away to study theology at Harvard. However, he became fascinated by science and "the invisible wonders" of the earth but lacked the courage to pursue such studies. While his peers went to war or built a career, Cotton became an avid reader and scholar, as well as a great expert of witchcraft from the hunters' point of view. At some point in his youth, he developed an addiction to alcohol.

After at least seven years of separation, Captain John Alden saw his old acquaintance assist the construction of a gallows and later, during a conversation with Giles Corey, John Alden recalled of how Cotton wore "feminine" clothing when he was a child and of his rather puny constitution.

Physical Appearance

Cotton Mather is a handsome man in his twenties, with brown hair, green eyes, and fair complexion. His body is athletic as it could be to his own age, whose activities do not require much physical prowess as that of the militia. From nude scenes at the brothel, it is possible to notice a hairy chest and barely sculpted abdominal muscles and biceps. His black dress is those of a high social class, with starched shirts, redingote, and expensive shoes, suitable for the office of governor and Reverend. During the second season, his clothes are less sophisticated and more colourful, being made of a simple shirt, pants, and boots.


John: I remember when we were kids he used to dress like a girl. Fought like one, too.

Giles: Well, he's all grown-up now. A fine fool in fine silk clothes, and not just any fool, the most dangerous kind the kind that thinks he knows everything.

— describing Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather is a man with a multi-faceted personality since he is responsible for both horrible and severe gestures and loving compassion. His childhood has undoubtedly marked him, having grown up with a despotic father who took all the decisions for their child, even resorting to physical punishment and psychological terror. The education he received made him a skilled orator, able to agitate and control the masses at will, thus showing to be more adept at taming the demons of other people, and not his own. Raised according to Puritans precepts, Cotton is a fervent believer in the Almighty's plan, however, the closeness to real evil in Salem made him aware of the discrepancies and probably false beliefs, prompting him to seek not exactly orthodox answers to his questions. Emotionally, Cotton constantly needs reassurance and comfort, whether they come from God, from a woman or the bottom of a liquor bottle, is irrelevant. He is also on a perennial search for his father's approval. On a romantic level, Cotton shows again a split personality, as he can be so loving and kind, but also jealous and violent, using as an excuse the fact of being an only child not used to sharing. On several occasions, Cotton showed paranoid behaviour, as well as depressed as he tried to take his own life.

Throughout The Salem series


Cotton Mather studies signs on the body of Mercy Lewis searching for traces of demonic possession after seeking the help of his old acquaintance and war veteran John Alden. After a heated sermon in church, in which he condemned the costumes of Salem warned citizens against evil witches, we find the same Cotton having a sexual relationship with Gloriana, one of the prostitutes of the city's brothel. Later he queries Mercy into giving the names of the witches coven, but she tells him that she had been rendered incapable of naming names. Cotton then puts her on a leash and carries her around the streets to indicate the witches. Here Mercy, under the order of Mary, indicates Giles Corey that Cotton arrested. On the advice of Mary, Cotton press with stones Giles to force him to confess but this dies before the eyes of John Alden that threatens citizens to stop the witch hunt. [3]

Cotton prays to God to show him the way

Cotton is in bed with Gloriana when surprised by Alden, who threatens him. The veteran says he saw the hell on earth, namely a sabbath of witches so they decide to reach an agreement to investigate. In the study, the Reverend insists on using books while Alden to use the experience and reason. Isaac then says the two must work together. That same night Cotton is accompanied by Isaac in the place where it happened the Sabbath and finds a severed hand inserted between the roots of a bewitched tree. The next day Mary makes sure to give birth to a monstrous child from the womb of a young woman under the care of Bridget Bishop, a midwife of the place so that she is accused of witchcraft. Gloriana who was present at the birth of the little monster is afraid of being accused herself, a prostitute, but Cotton comforts her by telling her that will protect her. The evidence of the guilt of Bridget is overwhelming, especially when Mercy spit on her blood and nails. Cotton, therefore, sentences for Bridget to be hanged. [4]

Cotton stands idly by as the chaos continues around them Mary implores him to offer counsel to the people of Salem or the very least pray and he is soon approached by John who mocks his success on killing two innocents. Cotton is at The Divining Rod when Isaac, under a spell, tries to rape the girls in the brothel and Cotton is hiding to avoid being discovered as a customer. Cotton ago following arrest Issac but recognising that it is not a witch makes him release a little later.[5]

John approaches Cotton at the tavern telling him that he thinks that the cause of Anne Hale's disease was a curse, but Cotton seems to be skeptical of the idea and his attentions are diverted when he sees Gloriana in the arms of another man and quickly loses his temper causing him to attack her admirer but he is stopped by John who pulls the Reverend away before the stranger excuses himself and leaves. Later, Mary scolds Cotton for his work because he has allowed Mercy's father to carry an exorcism. Indeed the Puritans, in addition to the witches, hate Catholics who consider away from the words of the Bible. The night, Gloriana visits Cotton who, drunk and despondent, rapes her on the stairs of refractory. [6]

Cotton, mortified, apologises to Gloriana for his bad behaviour of the previous night and tells her he loves her. The two are interrupted by John Alden who enlists the help of Mather showing the magic item that has found (the Malum) and tells him of the deadly visions he had when he touched it. Later Cotton is surprised by Mary in his office while doing research on Malum, thereby warning the witch who didn't know that her companions were plotting to bring The Malum in Salem.[7]

Cotton is at the home of John Alden intent to prepare a crippling potion to use against Rose while waiting for the alignment of Saturn for questioning her on the misdeeds of the Coven. In the forest, the two questioning the old witch and Cotton remains troubled by cryptic answers that the witch has given him under the influence of Saturn. The witch then performs a curse that brings to life the corpses thrown into the woods that attack Cotton and John. The two fight them until the spell is broken by the death of Rose, who had since fled, and the two returned to the city with more questions than before.[8]

Cotton is forced to confront her father who has just arrived in Salem, and also demonstrates the first hesitation on his mission of witch hunter because of the enigmatic words of the witch Rose before she unleashed against him the resurrected corpses.(Our Own Private America) Increase Mather forces his son Cotton to examine Gloriana, accused of Witchcraft. Although the girl did not present any kind of Devil's mark she is still a prostitute with immoral behaviour. For this, she's banished from Salem with the promise of being executed immediately if ever she had to come back.

Cotton recovered by Anne and John after a hangover

Cotton is desperate and can not get over the loss of his beloved Gloriana. Seeks refuge in alcohol and saunters through the city, much to the chagrin of his father who judges him weak. Anne Hale says she regrets having judged too harshly in the past and feel sorry for him.[9]

Cotton tries to dissuade Increase from torturing Tituba, reminding him that torture was used by the Inquisition against themselves that were considered heretics. Upset by the cries of pain of the woman, flees closing his ears with his hands and found himself wandering in the woods, drunk and upset. In the woods he tries to drown himself in a putrid lake but fails, blaming himself to also be unable to kill himself. Continuing to wander, warns of whispers and thinks it is the devil, so takes off his boot and throws it against the void. Touching the ground with his bare foot feels the contact with the mother earth. He also sees a butterfly in the empty sockets of a deer's skull hanging from an old tree and reads it as a message from God to be a part of Nature. After a few hours is found by John Alden and the magistrate Hale completely drunk, sitting in a tree, and John tells him to go home to get some sleep. [10]

Cotton is arguing once again with his father, defending John Alden against accusations of Witchcraft made against him by Increase. Cotton's hesitation on the faith is becoming more ferocious much that during an Increase's sermon at the Church, Cotton accuses his father of being the devil himself, with his violent and repressive ways, seeing witches even where there are none. To that Reverend drives out Cotton badly by throwing him on the church parvis. Cotton also continues the search for the Malum, who had left in the hands of Alden. But when he goes to dig into the hideout indicated to him by his friend, not finding the satanic object, he starts to believe his father's words, and that is that Alden has only ever used him to his purpose. [11]

Is the day of John Alden's trial, that Cotton has decided to defend against the claims of his father. During the process, Cotton embarrasses Mercy's followers, tortured by Increase, showing how their allegations that they had sex with John Alden are nothing more than erotic fantasies; later discredits his father, showing the crowd how he uses the instruments of torture to get answers from the prisoners. While during a hangover, Cotton is visited by Anne Hale who begs him to talk of witches and visit her to ensure she was not herself a witch. Cotton remains finally shocked by the girls' hanging and when he remembers his father that he had promised to the girls that he wouldn't have killed them, the rev. Mather reminds him that he had promised: "not to burn them". [12]

While men are doing raid Increase the collection of Cotton, throwing books and instruments from the window, leaving only the bed and the Bible, Isaac visits Cotton and reminds him how important the friendship with John. Newfound clarity, Cotton is tricked into House of Pain where find Increase intent on torturing Mary Sibley who, in the eyes of Cotton, is innocent. Not knowing how else to stop the rantings of his father, Cotton to prevent him from doing harm to the woman, stabs him. The witch then advises the young Reverend to flee and that she will fix the situation. Cotton, riding, running from Salem during the night, unaware of the imminent fulfillment of the Grand Rite. [13]


Cotton Mather is in Boston, to answer the events that occurred in Salem, including the mysterious death of his father. Under pressure from the council of witch hunters, Cotton continues to be convinced that John Alden is not a witch nor the head of the coven.

Cotton argues his thesis before the Council

In his room, has a sexual relationship with a prostitute but continues to have flashbacks of Gloriana and drive away the woman, returning to console himself with alcohol railing against a painting of Increase that disfigures with a knife because he cannot stand to be seen by his father's eyes. Cotton is then approached by Mr. Thomas Elliot, a member of the council, that press the young Mather to find out information about Increase. Elliot is actually an emissary of Countess Von Marburg, a witch and a bitter enemy of Mather senior.[14]

The young Reverend is surprised to see Anne in Boston and invites her to his place immediately. At home, when put comfortable, the girl begins to tell the terrible events of plague and hysteria that are upsetting Salem, upsetting Cotton. After a brief visit by the Countess Marburg, which has a bad impression on Anne, Cotton invites Anne to spend the night in his house giving her the room of Increase Mather, where he never comes, preferring to sleep in his old bedroom when he was a child. From this moment, agreeing that they have already spent together too many, the two decide to call with their respective names. Before going to sleep, Anne gently caress his cheek begging him to return to Salem, to which Cotton tenderly replies that he will return with her.[15]

Anne and Cotton are returning from Boston and has a discussion on what the true belief of Salvation and Damnation are and while in the process of entering Salem, two guardsmen stop the carriage they are riding in, and tells them no one is allowed in or out of Salem due to the mounting plague of the witch pox. When Cotton resists and tries to move forward, the men attack him and assaults Anne. In return, Anne fights back, but becomes overcome with her power and sends her attacker into the air and sends him into the tree impaling him, without Cotton even noticing.[16]

Cotton makes the acquaintance of the doctor and the two have soon a discussion because of their different opinions on the subject of theology, science and the real cause of the plague. Cotton hospital discovers that Isaac was near the Malum when it was found in the woods, and starts to put back together the pieces of the puzzle: Isaac was paid by witches to spread evil. The young Reverend talks about his own worries with Mary Sibley, who is not very happy with his return to Salem, is not even happy Mr. Hathorne, who sees Cotton Mather as a threat in its plan to dominate Salem and the Council of selectmen. [17] Cotton receive a visit from Anne and she informs him that Hawthorne has asked her to marry him and is considering it. Cotton seems surprised and asks if she loves him but she tells him what does love have anything to do with marriage in their world and shocks the Reverend when she kisses him stealing a lock of his hair (required for a love spell). [18]

Cotton has a violent dispute with Hathorne at the Tavern. The old man, in fact, talked to other customers of the tavern about Anne Hale like she's a prostitute or a simple head of cattle to buy. Cotton comes close to stab him in the public square, but then stabs the knife into the ground, a few centimeters from the face of Hathorne. Mary Sibley, then, order to arrest both of them for misconduct. In prison, Cotton dreams of having a sexual encounter in the woods with Anne. That night, Cotton pays a visit to Anne to return her ribbon but admits that it is only an excuse to come and see her. He is acting in an inebriated manner and Anne asks if he has been indulging in spirits again but poetically he tells her that he is drunk on her beauty and up until now he had no words for what he felt for her but now he knows what it is, love. The pair kisses passionately but Cotton pulls away not wanting things to go too far and bids Anne goodnight. [19]

All the important citizens of Salem are invited to the House of the Seven Gable as a welcoming dinner to the Von Marburg. Cotton comes to escort Anne with a bouquet in hand and she's shocked when he arrives with flowers. Anne asks if he planned this but the Reverend reveals he only just thought about it and stole the flowers from a neighbor's garden, showing Anne has much influence over him. During the dinner party, Cotton publicly asks Anne to marry him, but the girl asks permission to leave the table because she feels unwell. After the party, Anne goes outside to retrieve the book but is interrupted by Cotton who asks if she accepts his proposal and she says yes. The couple embraces passionately, but when he comes close to discovering her witch's mark pushes him away stating it is not the time, especially not the place. Overjoyed at her acceptance to become his wife he bids her a good night. After dinner, Cotton accompanied Dr.Wainwright to his laboratory to attend an autopsy, although this practice is considered necromancy, as Cotton is careful to advise the doctor. But when the man opens the chest of the man affected by the plague, the two discover that all the internal organs are eaten by Hellfire which corrodes the body, the table, and even the floor, leaving the two men in the state of shock. [20]


A prisoner in his own mind, Cotton dreams of wandering around a dark and deserted Salem, chased by a menacing presence. Hidden in a niche, and illuminating the way with a flickering light from a lamp, Cotton is attacked by Anne Hale, urging him not to be afraid while approaching Brown Jenkins to his face. Cotton wakes up with a start, half-paralyzed on his wheelchair, his face covered with blood. Brown Jenkins, in fact, is going up your esophagus and is pulled out by Anne that feeds the familiar with her witch nipple while Cotton, exhausted, fell tumbling to the ground spitting blood.

The Reverend is exhausted from the nefarious process to host the evil rat in his own body and begs for Anne to kill him. When Anne refuses to do such an act, Sebastian - magically appeared in the room - offers to end the miserable life of his brother in law. The following night, when Anne brings dinner to her husband, Cotton manages to slap her before being magically halted by his wife's puppetry, and thus rendered unable to ask for help to his friend John Alden, who came to interrogate Anne about the disappearance of Cotton.

"Evil resides within us all. For some, it lies deeper than others."

Later Cotton deceives Anne to free him, and his paralysis is canceled. But as soon as Cotton tried to escape in the middle of the night, Brown Jenkins begins to gnaw his entrails Cotton as soon as he sets foot out of the door. Anne then tells him that it was a test to see if she could trust him. Cotton, in despair, complains about being a prisoner in his own body. But Anne corrects him: she has actually put a prisoner in him. [21]

Cotton's torment is such that the man tries to stab himself in the chest with a kitchen knife, only to be prevented in advance by his wife, who is not willing to let him die. Distraught, Cotton seeks refuge in alcohol but does not even have the satisfaction of a hangover as the bottle is empty, and dinner is interrupted by the arrival of Sebastian, who invites Cotton, pungently, to take part in a sermon at the meeting house. If Cotton chooses to participate in the farce staged by the Dark Lord as heir to George Sibley, he may survive, otherwise, the Devil will kill him. Cotton is undecided, fought between the death wish and his faith.


Cotton gives a speech

The next morning, whilst he was finishing dressing and was still undecided, Anne tried to convince him not to attempt a greasy mission. Among the burnt debris of the former Salem Church, Cotton makes an ambiguous discourse on the "miracle of evil", but halfway speech decides to take part in the farce and stick to the Devil's game. At the end of the sermon, Cotton is approached outside the meeting house by John Alden who accuses him of being under the thumb of his wife. Cotton give him a hint about how he is "bound" to his wife, and John, as free from the marriage bond, cannot understand. Back home, Cotton declares his love for Anne and the two make love. Late at night, Cotton wakes up and snatches a string of hair from his wife. [22]

After enjoying a night of passion with his wife, Cotton tore away some hair from the head of the latter as she slept, then head in the pantry looking for some useful herbs for an exorcism. Unable to find them at home, he had to wait for a moment of distraction of his wife while they were spending at the market after a brief conversation on the degrading status of refugees in the streets. Buy herbs from a street vendor for pennies, Cotton had to attend a meeting of the selectmen chaired by Magistrate Hawthorne, accompanied by Sebastian Von Marburg, who was responsible for keeping an eye on him. Taking advantage of his brother-in-law's distraction, Cotton was able to pour the herbs into his cup of brandy, swallowing the potion thus obtained to get rid of the rat in his stomach. Exhausted by painful pangs in the stomach, Cotton rushed to the latrine, where he was able to spit Brown Jenkins by pulling him away by force from his mouth while the devilish rat clawed his throat and inside the mouth making it bleed. Elated to be successful in completing the task, Cotton crushed to death the familiar with a stone. [23]

Finally freed from the subjugation of witchcraft, Cotton fled into the woods desperate to reach Boston in an attempt to escape from Anne and the Dark Lord. Haunted by visions of his wife encircling him with sinister whispers and threats, Cotton was almost hit by a wagon on which the Stoughtons were traveling; two Bostonians who were regulars of Increase Mather's parish. Bewitched by Mrs Stoughton, Cotton woke up strapped to a table in the country house of the two, recently devoted to the Dark Arts. Terrified of being returned into the hands of the Dark Lord, Cotton tried to instill Christian charity in the heart of the witch, with very little success. Taking advantage of the woman's discussion with her husband, Cotton stabbed the latter in the chest, threw their familiar dog in the fireplace and ran screaming into the woods, where he was chased by a devilish flock of crows until he was rescued by Tituba, who offered her help to the Reverend. Once sheltered in Petrus' now owned hut Tituba, Cotton was informed by the seer about his unborn child in Salem. [24]

Cotton's vision behind the door

Cotton, then, returned to Salem for the child's own good, breaking into the parlour of the House of the Seven Gables to save his wife and child from the Dark Lord's punishment, by serving him as a scribe of the "Diabolical Deeds." Cotton then began a collaboration with The Sentinel, writing down the demon's point of view about the revolt of the angels in Heaven, colliding with him about religious beliefs towards God the Father. Later at night, mulling over traumatic experiences, Cotton was awakened by disturbing whispers coming from a door down the hall of the House of the Seven Gables. When approached eye to the crack, his eyes began to bleed for the infernal vision behind the door showing himself crucified upside down in a fiery wasteland. Awakened by the terrible vision of Mary, cotton is pitted against the woman, accusing her of being responsible for any wrongdoing causing the end of days. Once discovered that Mary had been stripped of her witch powers, Cotton stopped strangling her, then back on his feet. Writing down furiously religious rambling, Cotton conversed again with Anne about the fate of refugees and wretched citizens condemned to eternal damnation because of the Grand Rite's outcome. [25]

Cotton briefing Anne about Black Sunday

Gathered in the parlor along with the other members of the Commonwealth of Hell, Cotton Mather was briefed about Satanic Easter and the real plans of the Dark Lord to unleash Hell on Earth by saving only a select few due to a protection spell affixed on the house they inhabited via an enchanted dollhouse. Appalled by this revelation, Cotton tried momentarily solace in his wife, saying that they would have to leave the town before being hit by the apocalyptic plan, for the benefit of the unborn child. [26]

Cotton and the Sentinel

Continuing with preparations for departure that would have saved his family, Cotton was shocked and surprised at the same time by Anne's belly in an advanced state of pregnancy, described by her as the result of the cradle witch's blood. The man could not help but continue to show the best of a bad situation, even in alliance with Mary Sibley in an attempt to destroy their common enemy, repaying him with his own coin using the dangerous jewel stolen from Sebastian, a locket containing Red Mercury. Lured once again by whispers coming from behind the door down the hall, this time very similar to his father's voice calling for help, Cotton was prevented from opening the doors by the Sentinel, who revealed to the Reverend that the door concealed the passage for Hell. Cotton then joined John Alden and Isaac Walton, revealing to his old cronies the motivations of his past actions and handing John a letter written by Mary, a farewell letter that John asked his friend to read in his place. [27]

Cotton then became in all respects one of the members of the secret group of insurgents against the Dark Lord, a group comprising John Alden, Isaac Walton, Mary Sibley and Sebastian Von Marburg. They came together in a barn in Knocker's Hole, where Cotton volunteered to lure The Sentinel into a trap. Leveraging on recent terrestrial pleasures experienced by the Fallen Angel, Cotton introduced the demon to the pleasures of food and lust, taking advantage of the Bird's Nest as a place of ultimate destruction. In that place, the Reverend was approached by magistrate Hawthorne and Mercy Lewis, demanding to be married to him. [28]

Trying to recover from the wedding's hangover after waking up in Mercy's boudoir, Cotton came face to face with his lost and beloved Gloriana, thus becoming aware of his wife's terrible actions. Running back home immediately, Cotton had a furious argument with his wife, which resulted in his near death at Anne's hands prevented at the last minute by Sebastian, appeared out of nowhere, who used a spell unknown to trap Cotton in a mirror. [29]

Cotton witnessing Hell

Freed from his mystical prison, Cotton Mather was put before his toughest test by the Dark Lord after being rebuked by his wife once again, who accused him of not being some kind of great man. After an unusual and awkward goodbye to Mary, Cotton decided to accept the proposal of the devil by offering his soul in exchange for the lives of the citizens of Salem. To do so, he crossed the threshold of Hell. In doing so, Cotton's sacrifice allowed the Dark Lord to tap int enough magic to reach adulthood in a handful of minutes, and in a gruesome way. Once through the Hell Gate, Cotton witnessed a horrible and dreadful burning wasteland, where monstrous demons tortured relentlessly souls of the damned in a lava expanse, flames, and hell-blood. Unable to bear this horror, Cotton let out terrible cries of pain. [30]

Skills and abilities

  • Theological knowledge: as Protestant Reverend, Cotton possesses extensive knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. His interest in religion is, however, almost totally focused on the subject of Witchcraft, of which is one of the greatest connoisseurs, at least from the point of view of a witch hunter, as he showed ignorance on some rituals used by witches and their nature (ignoring, for example, the exact difference between a born witch and a contract witch).
  • Knowledge of the classical languages: due to his education, Cotton knows the classical languages such as Latin and Greek, which are also two of the three Christian language par excellence used in the writing of the Holy Scriptures.
  • Scientific knowledge: even in a rough and patchy way, Cotton has a scientific knowledge, or at least empirical knowledge of medical science and the use of herbs in the preparation of specific potions and poisons. He also knows how to calculate the motion of the stars.
  • Melee combat: Cotton Mather is a decent swordsman, discipline learned at Harvard while studying theology. His alcoholism is not helpful for the accuracy required by this discipline. Cotton Mather proved to be a decent fighter, though again alcoholism is not helpful to him in his movements, as he is weakened by alcohol.


Main article: Cotton and Increase

Imagine how proud I am to have raised a son so steadfast in his ability to consistently make the wrong decisions.
— Increase to Cotton in Cat And Mouse

Salem-Promo-Still-S1E13-05-Cotton and Increase.jpg

A destructive relationship in which the despotic father has canceled almost completely the self-esteem of the child. Increase dreams for his son an illustrious political career, driving away from him what he thinks is not good for Cotton. Increase sent away from Cotton, in fact, his lover Gloriana, burns his books and makes throwing trinkets and bizarre tools used by Cotton in his research and experiments, leaving the entire room a bed and a Bible.

Main Article: Cotton and John

I admire your sangfroid-- It's French for cold blood. It's a compliment.
— Cotton to John in The Red Rose and the Briar

Cotton and John after witch hunting

John and Cotton both knew each other briefly as children, though how much contact they had is unknown. Both are firstborn sons in the new world but while John became a war hero, Cotton chose to become a scholar studying at Harvard and spoke of his shock that John did not join him there. They are reunited when John returns to Salem and often come at odds especially after Cotton stones John's old friend Giles Corey to death. The pair is forced to join forces to combat the witches though they both have different ideas on how to defeat them but soon develop a friendship. When Cotton's lover Gloriana Embry is accused of being a witch John tries to plead her case on Cotton's behalf and when John himself is arrested for witchcraft, Cotton defies his father and vows to defend his friend during his trial.

Main Article: Cotton and Gloriana

Nothing is going to happen to you.
— Cotton to Gloriana in In Vain

Cotton comforts Gloriana

Cotton and Gloriana establish a loving relationship blossomed as a result of Cotton's many visits to the brothel in town. The girl was able to break the shell of Cotton, loving him for the man who is fragile. Increase Mather, however, doesn't see the love between the two as something morally ethical nor useful to the possibility of Cotton to hold high political positions. When the girl is banned for immorality, Cotton it is psychologically destroyed, letting go totally adrift.

Main Article: Cotton and Isaac Walton

Half of Salem takes you for a fool, the rest dismiss you as a pervert. Am I mad to think I saw something in you? Something of a man. Just the sort Salem needs to fight the Devil.
— Cotton to Isaac in In Vain

Cotton visiting Isaac in jail

Not much is known about their past history but it is presumed they first met when Cotton came to Salem on Mary Sibley's behest to oversee the witch trials. In the course of events, they become friends and allies in the fight against witches, both stifled by the despotism of Increase Mather.

When Cotton is deprived of all his possessions from his father and John Alden is accused of Witchcraft, Isaac reminds Cotton the value of friendship spurring him not to give up.

Main Article: Cotton and Mary Sibley

What luck for Salem that your father was unavailable. We will owe our future to you, Reverend.
— Mary Sibley to Cotton in Lies

Salem-Promo-Still-S1E05-26-Mary Sibley and Cotton.jpg

Families Mather and Sibley are old friends. Is possible, therefore, that the two are known before the arrival of Cotton in Salem. Mary Sibley uses the fervent religious conviction of the young man to carry out her Machiavellian plan to sacrifice victims to the Grand Rite. In fact, the woman is a skilled manipulator and is able to use Cotton as a puppet until her plans are ruined by his father, Increase Mather.

Main Article: Anne and Cotton

We are a father's children and we can no more control who they be and how they come to form us than we can the rise and setting of the sun.
— Anne Hale to Cotton Mather in Children Be Afraid

Anne rescues a drunk Cotton

Anne and Cotton relationship first began as being antagonistic towards each other due to Cotton having her friend Bridget Bishop hanged for being a witch. Originally Anne's parents had hoped to arrange a match between the pair much to Anne's dismay particularly as she had developed feelings for John Alden. After Cotton's lover Gloriana was banished from Salem, Anne began to see a different side to Cotton feeling more compassionate towards him but he mistook her empathy to mean something more leading him to kiss her much to Anne's surprise. When Anne feared she was a witch, she turned to him for help requesting that he examine her for the devil's mark, but found nothing to suspect that she was actually a witch.


Memorable Quotes

Cotton Mather: "Fear no man's war. For only a war from hell could destroy Salem. The Devil was never going to let a promised land be built here without a fight, without a battle! And witches armed with deadly malice are the most malignant and insidious weapons in that battle In that war. Even a single witch in Salem is enough to destroy everything we have built and ever hope to build here! Now, we have already killed three of them, and yet their malice continues unabated. Why? Because there are still witches here among us! Perhaps in this very hall!"
The Vow
Cotton (to Salem citizens gathered in church): "Imagine a foe you can't see armed with weapons unknown and the ability to appear as any one of us!"
The Vow
Cotton Mather (to Giles Corey): "Are you guilty or not?"
The Vow
Cotton Mather: "Most of those who have ever lived are now dead. All but very few must surely burn in hell. We may someday over people this vast, empty new land, but I fear that we have already over-peopled hell. So that, as it is written in Isaiah, "Hell hath enlarged itself" and is now called America. I have been in Salem a fortnight, and I have already hung three witches. Is this the price of building heaven on earth? I have laid my hands upon his most deadly servants, the witches. Or have I? I obeyed every one of your instructions. I even pressed a possibly innocent man to death. I still taste his spattered blood on my lips."
The Stone Child
Cotton Mather: "Please, Lord, I beg thee. Give me a sign."
The Stone Child
Cotton Mather (to Isaac Walton): "Half of Salem takes you for a fool, the rest dismiss you as a pervert. Am I mad to think I saw something in you? Something of a man. Just the sort Salem needs to fight the devil."
In Vain
Cotton: "I've been expecting the angel of death since I was ten. I didn't see him myself, but I knew from the look in grandfather's eyes just before he went, the angel bore a most terrible face. Quite like yours, I expect. So come, angel. You find me fully prepared to burn like a human candle for eternity in a pit of burning black tar with all the other damned."
The Stone Child
Cotton (to John Alden): "Every morning, we have a choice. Forget our dreams, or live them."
Our Own Private America
Cotton (to Increase Mather): "But should the people of Salem not question who you are? For how else would the Devil appear but in the cloak of the Lord?"
Cat and Mouse
Anne Hale "Am I intruding, Reverend?"
Cotton "I was just about to enjoy my late afternoon drink, not to be confused, of course, with my early evening drink, which I anticipate taking place shortly as well. Perhaps?" [He offers her the bottle.]
Cat and Mouse
Cotton Mather: "What is the opposite of a miracle? A force beyond human or natural power, but not, as in a miracle, for good, but for evil. Not to spread faith, but to spread terror. Inexplicable flames that blackened this Meeting House, the very heart of Salem, was just that a miracle of evil, an act of terror, a warning shot from an enemy far darker than Salem has yet seen."
The Heart Is A Devil
Cotton Mather (to Anne Hale): "Anne whatever your hatred for me, do not let that be hatred for all the people of Salem. In minutes, they will all die."
Black Sunday
Cotton Mather (to the Dark Lord): "I am no great soul. I am just another miserable sinner. I beg you, by the glory you once knew, by the Heaven you once dwelled in, do not use the innocent people of Salem as pawns in a chess game against your Father."
Black Sunday
Cotton Mather: "My father told me that there was no time in Hell no past, no future, only all of time in an eternal present. And that I was already there burning beside him. I have tormented myself ever since, wondering what crime I could possibly commit that would so consign myself to Hell. I am relieved. It was no crime, but a choice. I will choose to be in Hell, so that others may not."
Black Sunday
Cotton Mather (to Anne Hale): "I am truly, deeply sorry that I ever laid eyes on you."
Black Sunday


  • Cotton: From the English word "cotton" referring to the "plant encased in a thin fiber that is harvested to make cloth or fabric". A noted bearer is, indeed, the New England Puritan minister Cotton Mather on whom this character is based on. Mather was born in Boston, the son of Maria (née Cotton) and Increase Mather, and grandson of both John Cotton and Richard Mather, all also prominent Puritan ministers. Mather was named after his maternal grandfather, John Cotton.
  • Mather: an English medieval surname of occupational origins. It usually derives from the pre 7th century Olde English word "moethere", meaning one who mowed or who possibly operated a primitive form of mowing machine. Alternative spellings are Madder and Mathere.

Status and Rank

  • Reverend, member of the Protestant clergy. In some situations, the title "reverend" is used synonymously with a pastor (as a priest of a church), but more properly denotes the ministerial office.
  • Governor, as head of a public institution. Mab addressed Cotton Mather as "Governor" in The Vow.




  • Cotton Mather is based on the real Cotton Mather, who was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer. Noted for fostering the Salem witch trials, Cotton Mather also has a scientific legacy due to his hybridization experiments and his promotion of inoculation for disease prevention.
  • Cotton has extensive knowledge of Witchcraft, learned from the many books in different languages he studied over the years.
  • Cotton suffers from an inferiority complex toward his father.
  • Ironically, the real Cotton Mather was an erudite connoisseur of languages, including some indigenous dialects, while in the WGN's Salem series is John Alden who know the language of Native Americans.
  • His name comes from the last names of his parents; his mother, in fact, was a Cotton, while his father was a Mather. Cotton Mather is the heir of two prominent Puritan families.
  • Season Three Character Description released on the Salem's official Instagram, reads as follows:

    "Cotton Mather: the reverend of a people destined for Hell."

  • During Ask Salem interview, Seth Gabel stated that the Witch's shaft is his favorite prop. If he could choose to play another character, he would like to be a witch. Seth Gabel is the only main actor not to have suffered accidents during the filming of the first season. After long days of shooting, Seth Gabel finds it difficult to shake off the character and creepy situations filmed on sets and to relax, he watches Futurama episodes.
  • Seth Gabel studied and read books about the Colonial period and, above all, books written by Cotton Mather himself for a better rendering and understanding of his character.
  • In Cry Havoc, Cotton is writing notes on his journal, including the words "Wonders of the Invisible World". That's the title of a book written by historical Cotton Mather and published in 1693. The book is an apology to the Salem witch trials, as well as a treatise on witchcraft and demonology.
  • After Cotton's descent into Hell alive on Black Sunday, many fans have wondered about the possibility that he could return alive. Adam Simon explained in an interview that while Dr. Samuel Wainwright, like Cotton, was shoved into Hell alive, there were plans to have him escape and return to the world of the living, albeit extremely mentally damaged and possibly insane. The same may very well be possible for Cotton.

See Also


  1. Cotton Mather Official Description - Season 1 - WGN America
  2. Cotton Mather Official Description - Season 3 - WGN America
  3. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Richard Shepard (director). April 20, 2014. "The Vow". Salem. Season 1. Episode 1. WGN.
  4. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). April 27, 2014. "The Stone Child". Salem. Season 1. Episode 2. WGN.
  5. Elizabeth Sarnoff, Tricia Small (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). May 4, 2014, 2014. "In Vain". Salem. Season 1. Episode 3. WGN.
  6. Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). May 11, 2014. "Survivors". Salem. Season 1. Episode 4. WGN.
  7. Tricia Small & Elizabeth Sarnoff (writer) & Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (director). May 18, 2014. "Lies". Salem. Season 1. Episode 5. WGN.
  8. Joe Menosky & Adam Simon (writer) & P.J. Pesce (director). May 25, 2014. "The Red Rose and the Briar". Salem. Season 1. Episode 6. WGN.
  9. Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). June 8, 2014. "Departures". Salem. Season 1. Episode 8. WGN.
  10. Adam Simon & Joe Menosky (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). June 22, 2014. "The House of Pain". Salem. Season 1. Episode 10. WGN.
  11. Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & Tricia Brock (director). June 29, 2014. "Cat and Mouse". Salem. Season 1. Episode 11. WGN
  12. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Bill Johnson (director). July 6, 2014. "Ashes, Ashes". Salem. Season 1. Episode 12. WGN.
  13. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). July 13, 2014. "All Fall Down". Salem. Season 1. Episode 13. WGN.
  14. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). July 13, 2014. "Cry Havoc". Salem. Season 2. Episode 1. WGN.
  15. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Allan Arkush (director). July 13, 2014. "Blood Kiss". Salem. Season 2. Episode 2. WGN.
  16. Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). July 13, 2014. "From Within". Salem. Season 2. Episode 3. WGN.
  17. Joe Menosky & Adam Simon (writer) & Allan Kroeker (director). July 13, 2014. "Book of Shadows". Salem. Season 2. Episode 4. WGN.
  18. Turi Meyer & Al Septien (writer) & Peter Weller (director). July 13, 2014. "The Wine Dark Sea". Salem. Season 2. Episode 5. WGN.
  19. Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Nick Copus (director). July 13, 2014. "Ill Met by Moonlight". Salem. Season 2. Episode 6. WGN.
  20. Donna Thorland & Adam Simon (writer) & Joe Dante (director). July 13, 2014. "The Beckoning Fair One". Salem. Season 2. Episode 7. WGN.
  21. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). November 2, 2016. "After the Fall". Salem. Season 3. Episode 1. WGN.
  22. Adam Simon (writer) & Tim Andrews (director). November 9, 2016. "The Heart Is A Devil". Salem. Season 3. Episode 2. WGN.
  23. Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson (writer) & Wayne Yip (director). November 16, 2016. "The Reckoning". Salem. Season 3. Episode 3. WGN.
  24. Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Joe Dante (director). November 30, 2016. "Night's Black Agents". Salem. Season 3. Episode 4. WGN.
  25. Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). December 7, 2016. "The Commonwealth of Hell". Salem. Season 3. Episode 5. WGN.
  26. Adam Simon & Donna Thorland (writer) & Peter Weller (director). December 14, 2016. "Wednesday's Child". Salem. Season 3. Episode 6. WGN.
  27. Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Jennifer Lynch (director). January 4, 2017. "The Man Who Was Thursday". Salem. Season 3. Episode 7. WGN.
  28. Adam Simon & Donna Thorland (writer) & Nick Copus (director). January 11, 2017. "Friday's Knights". Salem. Season 3. Episode 8. WGN.
  29. Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Jennifer Lynch (director). January 18, 2017. "Saturday Mourning". Salem. Season 3. Episode 9. WGN.
  30. Adam Simon (writer) & Brannon Braga (director). January 25, 2017. "Black Sunday". Salem. Season 3. Episode 10. WGN.