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The Psychological Effects of Ergotism in the Salem Witch Trials

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Hannah Qureshi

on 18 November 2013

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Transcript of The Psychological Effects of Ergotism in the Salem Witch Trials

The
Psychological Effects
of

Ergotism
in the
Salem Witch Trials

What
caused

the
Salem Witch Trials
?
Certainly
Ignorance...
Religious
Intolerance...
Vengeance...
And
Mass Hysteria

All Played

A Role...
But According to

Research...
I t w a s j u s t f u n g u s,
E r g o t
t o b e e x a c t.
But before asking how it affected the
Salem Witch Trials
, one should first
understand
what
Ergotism
is.
So what is Ergotism?
Ergot fungus
grows on the
ears
of the grain. Although it's appearance is far different that the actual grain, it was so common that it was thought to be a natural part of the rye plant in the late 1600's. And therefore, it was consumed
very often.
What happens when you consume Ergot of Rye?
Eating Ergot Fungus will give you the disease of Ergotism
Its symptoms include:
Contortions
Painful Spasms
Trembling
Mummification of limbs...
...Which eventually fall off
Ergotism has Many Symptoms
And, most interestingly...
Black Book

Ergotism Causes
Hallucinations
Making the Connection:
Many of the medical symptoms of
Ergotism
parallel the "
witch-like
" symptoms of those in the Salem Witch Trials
completely.
In January 1692, 9-year-old
Elizabeth “Betty” Parris
and 11-year-old
Abigail Williams
began having fits, including
violent contortions
and
uncontrollable outbursts
of
screaming
. Their slave,
Tituba
also experienced many
hallucinations
involving the
devil
.
These symptoms match the effects of Ergotism

to exactness
Also, Ergot grows on rye. Rye happened to be the main staple crop of Salem.
Starting to connect the dots?
Combine all these factors together, and
it is easily understood that a direct link existed
between Ergotism and the "bewitched" victims.
However, the link between the Salem Witch Trials and Ergotism wasn't recognized until
three centuries
after the trials occured
.
So, with the lack of knowledge of Ergotism, how did the people of Salem deal with all of these terrifying occurrences?
To say the least, they did it in the most illogical, paranoid way possible.
Around 30 people were afflicted with the "bewitching" effects of Ergotism...
And accused many people of witchcraft, causing 19 to be hanged...
The
only proof
that these accusers possessed were their own Ergotism-fueled hallucinations.
This lead to a progressive course of falsely-accused
witches, based on a weak foundation of insecurity and the need of acknowledging scapegoats to deal with the inexplicable effects of Ergotism.
The seed of paranoia planted...
... Could only grow with
the Ergot-infected rye.
The effect of Ergotism left the society with a lack:
Lack of logical reasoning =
impaired judgement
Lack of education =
indicated ignorance in medical sciences
Lack of compassion =
preceded to acts of cruelty and injustice to the innocent.
Undeserved But Inevitable
However, the discovery of Ergotism, as well as finding its cure and relating connecting it to the Salem Witch Trials, was perseverance of
logic.
Bumberg, Jess. "A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials." Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.com,
27 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Oct. 2013. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com>.

Caporael, Linnda. "Secrets of the Dead: Clues and Evidence." PBS. PBS, 2002. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
<http://www.pbs.org>.

Dan. "Witchcraft or Psychedelic Trip?" Smellslikesciencecom. Smells like Science, 1 Nov. 2010. Web.
08 Oct. 2013. <http://smellslikescience.com>.

Education Department. "The Salem Witch Trials of 1692." Salem Witch Museum. Salem Witch Museum,
2012. Web. 09 Oct. 2013. <http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com>.

"Ergot of Rye - I: Introduction and History." Ergot of Rye: History. Hawaii.edu, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.
<http://www.botany.hawaii.edu>.

Lienhard, John H. "No. 1037: Rye Ergot and Witches." No. 1037: Rye Ergot and Witches, 1997.
Web. 08 Oct. 2013. <http://www.uh.ed>.

Miller, Arthur. "Act 1." The Crucible. New York, NY: Penguin, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Neuron Wallpaper. 2012. Photograph. Blingcheese.com. Bionix Wallpaper, 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.blingcheese.com/wallpaper/view/0/neuron+wallpaper.htm>.

Illustration of Wheat. 2010. Photograph. Freestockphotos.biz. Shuttershock, 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/8578>.

Illustration of Wheat with Transparent Background. 2009. Photograph. Freestockphotos.biz. Shuttershock, 14 Jan. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/5321>.
Works Cited
Thanks for Watching!
Ergotism
is a fungal monstrosity, found in
rye grain,
which enraptures its victims with "
witch-like
" syndromes once consumed.
By Hannah Qureshi
Full transcript