The Causes of the Salem Witch Trials Hysteria of 1692

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In 1692 Salem Massachusetts was well established with Puritans. Anxiety has been with the Puritans from the very beginning. Afraid of death by starvation, diseases, and savages. The Puritans began to see that they were losing their place in the world and that both the devils and the Indians were lined against them. The fear allows the witch trial hysteria to take over. In the Salem vicinity crops of rye were grown during this time many individuals were deemed “Possessed” by the Court of Law. The following spring after winter was very wet which caused “Claviceps” (a group of fungi) to grow on some of the grains. The “Ergot” fungus blight, formed a alkaloid producing mold. The “Ergot” fungus blight was very toxic and actually caused the strange behaviors exemplified by the people who were thought to be affected by witchcraft. When the rye was consumed a foodborne intoxication accrued and this theory was not discovered till 284 years later in 1976 by Linda Caporael. The Indian tribes of New England include the Abenaki, Pawtucket, Massachusest, Narragansett. Pequot, and Wampanoag tribes. The Puritans viewed the Indians as devil worshipers, and witches were viewed as servants of the devil. They saw the Devil 70 miles away, and were fearful of them. There was always a fear that the devil was nearby and were always suspicious, and frightened. The Puritans believed that if the Devil could get you to join his ranks you were a witch and shall not be trusted. Women during the time were considered to be weaker than men, and therefore less likely to resist the Devil if he visited them. Any women with a temper was in danger of accusation, and once accused, conviction

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