Ergot Poisoning Dbq

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Witches in the New World “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus, 20:18). In February of 1692 and lasting just over a year, more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft and 19 were executed, 14 of them women, in a small fishing village called Salem. Once branded with the deadly label of witch, one either confessed or named other witches in desperation to be ridden of the title. The events in Salem were not the first of mass executions of accused witches. The tests in determining if one was a witch were centuries old and based in religion. The explanations for this mass hysteria are mixed. Some scholars blame the strange symptoms and panic on the hallucinogenic effects of ergot poisoning. John Updike theorized in his novel The…show more content…
The hallucinogenic and mind altering effects of ergot poisoning seems to be the most widely accepted theory. Prior to the events in Salem, ergot poisoning was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of people in Europe throughout the middle ages in what came to be known as Saint Anthony’s Fire (Goldberg, 275). Symptoms of ergot poisoning include hallucinations, disorientation, spasms, and a burning sensation in the hands and feet (Secrets of the Dead). These symptoms were similar to the behavior of both the accused witches and the supposed victims of witchcraft, who apparently suffered from torture by an unseen force and reported being bitten and scratched (The Salem Journal: The Aftermath). Or perhaps it is no coincidence that many of the accused witches were girls between the ages of 11 and 20, living in a society that had little concern for the hormonal changes of puberty. Remoteness, a strong and possibly overbearing weight of religion, and the burden of womanhood in Puritan society were the factors that caused many young girls to act out for attention, and then relish in the dramatic response they
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