Abigail Williams And Ergot: The Salem Witch Trial

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The Salem Witch Trials were a terrible event in human history that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. The Trials started with a few people being accused of witchcraft and did not take long to transform into mass hysteria among the town.There are many theories for what caused the Witch Trials. Some people would argue that the girls led by Abigail Williams caused the Salem Witch Trials, or that the “ignorant” judge failed to see through their lies. However, the true reason why the Witch Trials took place is the society that people lived in and a parasitic fungus called Ergot.The Puritan Theocratic society caused victims of Ergotism to falsely accuse people of witchcraft which led to the Salem Witch Trials and the executions of 23 innocent …show more content…

Abigail Williams says, ”Why? Why do you come, yellow bird?”(Arthur Miller 114). In this line, Abigail claims that she is seeing a yellow bird, later she mentions that it is Mary Warren (115). Many people would argue that the girls were lying to get revenge on who they were accusing. However, those people do not realize that there is a parasitic fungus called Ergot which causes Ergotism if a person or animal is exposed to it for long enough (Caporael 3). Ergotism comes in two types, gangrenous and convulsive. In the gangrenous type, the limbs and portions of the body become gangrenous, die, and then fall off (Caporael 4). In the convulsive type, the symptoms “include crawling sensations in the skin, tingling in the fingers, vertigo, tinnitus aurium, headaches, disturbances in sensation, hallucination, painful muscular contractions leading to epileptiform convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea” (Caporael 4). Throughout all records of the Salem Witch Trials, all of the symptoms of convulsive Ergotism are displayed (Caporael …show more content…

However, this does not yet explain why the suspected victims of Ergotism would seek to accuse other people instead of realizing that the were sick. To understand this, it must be known that this event occurred in the late 17th century. It is well known that medicine was not even close to as effective as it is in the 21st century and there was no easy way of identifying it as Ergot poisoning. When no explanation of a disease could be found by their doctors, it led them to believe that the causes could be supernatural (Arthur Miller 9). Most people would not default to thinking witchcraft if no normal disease could be found, but it is important to keep in mind that the Puritans were not most people. Their society heavily revolved around religion and prayer, and if one did not go to church on Sundays, people would be suspicious of what he/she was doing that was more important than church, much like how Reverend Hale was suspicious of John Proctor when he does not attend church often and one of his children is not baptized (Arthur Miller 64-65). The Puritan Theocratic Society was very strict and if there was any indication that witchcraft may be in practice, they needed to find it and stop it immediately (Puritan Legacy/Who were these Puritans? 9,11). From this information, it can be determined that, with no knowledge of Ergotism, a Puritan would definitely turn

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