Mezik On the other hand, the drug was only admitted to the Pharmacopoeia of the London College of Physicians in The epidemic near Lille in and was peculiar among French outbreaks for its manifestation of convulsive symptoms ; this may have been connected with an epizootic disease of cattle, recorded some years previously. This disease was infectious, and the infection would continue in the body being taken once, six, seven, or twelve moneths. According ergoyism Maurizio this weed was so abundant among rye that it was sometimes regarded as arising from the ny by metamorphosis. The only patient who came to the Dublin hospital was a young man from a farm in Co.

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Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem? Convulsive ergotism may have been a physiological basis for the Salem witchcraft crisis in Linnda R. Caporael From Science Vol. The physical afflictions of the accusing girls and the imagery of the testimony, therefore, is dismissed as imaginary in foundation.

One avenue of understanding that has yet to be sufficiently explored is that a physiological condition, unrecognized at the time, may have been a factor in the Salem incident. In looking back, the complexity of the psychological and social factors in the community obscured the potential existence of physical pathology, suffered not only by the afflicted children, but also by a number of other community members. The value of such an explanation, however, is clear.

Winfield S. Nevins best reveals the implicit uncertainties of contemporary historians 1: 2, p. I must confess to a measure of doubt as to the moving causes in this terrible tragedy. It seems impossible to believe a tithe of the statements which were made at the trials.

And yet it is equally difficult to say that nine out of every ten of the men, women, and children who testified upon their oaths, intentionally and wilfully falsified. Nor does it seem possible that they did, or could invent all these marvelous tales, fictions rivaling the imaginative genius of Haggard or Jules Verne. The possibility of a physiological condition fitting the known circumstances and events would provide a comprehensible framework for understanding the witchcraft delusion in Salem.

Background Prior to the Salem witchcraft trials, only five executions on the charge of witchcraft are known to have occurred in Massachusetts 3, 4. Such trials were held periodically, but the outcomes generally favored the accused.

In , a man charged with witchcraft was convicted of simply having told a lie and was fined. Another man, who confessed to talking to the devil, was given counsel and dismissed by the court because of the inconsistencies in his testimony.

A bad reputation in the community combined with the accusation of witchcraft did not necessarily insure conviction. The case against John Godfrey of Andover, a notorious character consistently involved in litigation, was dismissed. In fact, soon after the proceedings, Godfrey sued his accusers for defamation and slander and won the case.

The supposed witchcraft at Salem Village was not initially identified as such. In late December , about eight girls, including the niece and daughter of the minister, Samuel Parris, were afflicted with unknown "distempers" 1, Their behavior was characterized by disorderly speech, odd postures and gestures, and convulsive fits 7. Physicians called in to examine the girls could find no explanation for their illness, and in February one doctor suggested the girls might be bewitched.

Parris seemed loath to accept this explanation at the time and resorted to private fasting and prayer. Shortly thereafter, the girls made an accusation of witchcraft against Tituba and two elderly women of general ill repute in Salem Village, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn.

The three women were taken into custody on 29 February The afflictions of the girls did not cease, and in March they accused Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse. Both of these women were well respected in the village and were covenanting members of the church.

Further accusations by the children followed. Examinations of the accused were conducted in Salem Village until 11 April by two magistrates from Salem Town. At that time, the examination were moved from the outlying farming area to the town and were heard by Deputy Governor Danforth and six of the ablest magistrates in the colony, including Samuel Sewall.

This council had no authority to try accused witches, however, because the colony had no legal government--a state of affairs that had existed for 2 years.

By the time Sir William Phips, the new governor, arrived from England with the charter establishing the government of Massachusetts Bay Colony, the jails as far away from Salem as Boston were crowded with prisoners from Salem awaiting trial. Phips appointed a special Court of Oyer and Terminer, which heard it first case on 2 June. The proceedings resulted in conviction, and the first condemned witch was hanged on 10 June.

Before the next sitting of the court, clergymen in the Boston area were consulted for their opinion on the issues pending.

In an answer composed by Cotton Mather, the ministers advised "critical and exquisite caution" and wished "that there may be as little as possible of such noise, company and openness as may too hastily expose them that are examined" 2, p. The court seemed insensitive to the advice of the ministers, and the trials and executions in Salem continued. By 22 September, 19 men and women had been sent to the gallows, and one, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death, an ordeal calculated to force him to enter a plea to the court so that he could be tried.

The evidence used to obtain the convictions was the test of touch and spectral evidence. The afflicted girls were present at the examinations and trials, often creating such pandemonium that the proceedings were interrupted. The accused witches were, for the most part, persons of good reputation in the community; one was even a former minister in the village.

Several notable individuals were "cried out" upon, including John Alden and Lady Phips. All the men and women who were hanged had consistently maintained their innocence; not one confessor to the crime was executed. It had become obvious early in the course of the proceedings that those who confessed would not be executed.

On 17 September , the Court of Oyer and Terminer adjourned the witchcraft trials until 2 November; however, it never met again to try that crime. Of 50 indictments handed in to the Superior Court by the grand jury, 20 persons were brought to trial. Three were condemned but never executed and the rest were acquitted. In May Governor Phips ordered a general reprieve, and about accused witches were released.

The end of the witchcraft crisis was singularly abrupt 2, 4, 8. Tituba and the Origin Tradition Repeated attempts to place the occurrences at Salem within a consistent framework have failed.

Outright fraud, political factionalism, Freudian psychodynamics, sensation seeking, clinical hysteria, even the existence of witchcraft itself, have been proposed as explanatory devices. The problem is primarily one of complexity. No single explanation can ever account for the delusion; an interaction of them all must be assumed. No mental derangement or fraud seems adequate in understanding how eight girls, raised in the soul-searching Puritan tradition, simultaneously exhibited the same symptoms or conspired together for widespread notoriety.

The odd behavior of the girls, whether real or fraudulent, was a consequence of these experiments. The basis for the tradition seems two-fold. In a warning against divination, John Hale wrote in that he was informed that one afflicted girl had tried to see the future with an egg and glass and subsequently was followed by a "diabolical molestation" and died 6.

The egg and glass an improvised crystal ball was an English method of divination. Hale gives no indication that Tituba was involved, or for that matter, that a group of girls was involved. The other basis for the tradition implicating Tituba seems to be simply the fact that she was from the West Indies.

The Puritans believed the American Indians worshiped the devil, most often described as a black man 4. Curiously, however, Tituba was not questioned at her examination about activities as a witch in her birthplace. Historians seem bewitched themselves by fantasies of voodoo and black magic in the tropics, and the unfounded supposition that Tituba would inevitably be familiar with malefic arts of the Caribbean has survived. She at first denied knowing the devil and suggested the girls were possessed.

Although Tituba ultimately became quite voluble, her confession was rather pedestrian in comparison with the other testimony offered at the examination and trials. There is no element of West Indian magic, and her descriptions of the black man, the hairy imp, and witches flying through the sky on sticks reflect an elementary acquaintance with the common English superstitions of the time Current Interpretations 1 Fraud.

The girls may have perpetrated fraud simply to gain notoriety or to protect themselves from punishment by adults as their magic experiments became the topic of rumor 2. One author supposed that the accusing girls craved "Dionysiac mysteries" and that some were "no more seriously possessed that a pack of bobby-soxers on the loose" 8, p.

Upham 4 appears to accept the contemporaneous descriptions and ascribes to the afflicted children the skills of a sophisticated necromancer.

He proposes that they were able ventriloquists, highly accomplished actresses, and by "long practice" could "bring the blood to the face, and send it back again" 4, vol.

These abilities and more, he assumes, the girls learned from Tituba. As discussed above, however, there is little evidence that Tituba had any practical knowledge of witchcraft.

The general conclusion of the New Englanders after the tragedy was that the girls suffered from demonic possession 2, 6, 9. The advent of psychiatry provided new tools for describing and interpreting the events oat Salem. The term hysteria has been used with varying degrees of license 2, 8, 9, 14 , and the accounts of hysteria always begin in the kitchen with Tituba practicing magic.

Starkey 8 uses the term in the loosest sense: the girls were hysterical, that is, overexcited, and committed sensational fraud in a community that subsequently fell ill to "mass hysteria.

He insists that witchcraft really was practiced in Salem and that several of the executed were practicing witches. He states that the mental illness was catching and that the witnesses and majority of the confessors became hysterics as a consequence of their fear of witchcraft. However, if the girls were not practicing divination, and if they did indeed develop true hysteria, then they must all have developed hysteria simultaneously -- hardly a credible supposition.

Furthermore, previous witchcraft accusations in other Puritan communities in New England had never brought on mass hysteria. Psychiatric disorder is used un a slightly different sense in the argument that the witchcraft crisis was a consequence of two party pro-Parris and anti-Parris factionalism in Salem Village In this account, the girls are unimportant factors in the entire incident.

Their behavior "served as a kind of Rorschach test into which adults read their own concerns and expectations" 14, p. The difficulty with linking factionalism to the witch trials is that supporters of Parris were also prosecuted while some non-supporters were among the most vociferous accusers 2, Thus, it becomes necessary to resort to projection, transference, individual psychoanalysis, and numerous psychiatric disorders to explain the behavior of the adults in the community who were using the afflicted children as pawns to resolve their own personal and political differences.

Of course, there was fraud and mental illness at Salem. The records clearly indicate both. Some depositions are simply fanciful renditions of local gossip or cases of malice aforethought. There is also testimony based on exaggerations of nightmares and inebriated adventures. However, not all the records are thus accountable.

Before the accusations of witchcraft began, Parris called in a number of physicians 6, 7. In an early history of the colony, Thomas Hutchinson wrote that "there are a great number of persons who are willing to suppose the accusers to have been under bodily disorders which affected their imagination" 12, vol. However, because the Puritans identified no physiological cause, later historians have failed to investigate such a possibility. Ergot Interest in ergot Claviceps purpura was generated by epidemics or ergotism that periodically occurred in Europe.


Ergot and ergotism.

Kagor The winter of had been excessively cold and the following spring was very wet. Later in the eighteenth century the help of the clergy was enlisted in teaching the people the harmful effects erhotism ergot. Perusal of this volume will satisfy the reader that ergot stands easily first among poisons in respect to its historical importance and its potential incidence especially among more backward agrarian peoples where rye rye Subject Category: In the Vielvergroster und heller polirter Schorbocks — Spiegel of Ilorst discusses the question whether convulsive ergotism Kricbelkrankheit has anything in common with scurvy. Any student or worker desiring exact information on ergot will find ergotsm in this book.


George Barger

Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem? Convulsive ergotism may have been a physiological basis for the Salem witchcraft crisis in Linnda R. Caporael From Science Vol. The physical afflictions of the accusing girls and the imagery of the testimony, therefore, is dismissed as imaginary in foundation.






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