Ergot In Hysteria

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A Medical Explanation for the Salem Witchcraft Occurrences
While some people believed that the symptoms of the afflicted were too easily turned off and on, ergot poising could have caused the Salem witchcraft trials because most symptoms resembled ergot poising and the environment in New England had the perfect conditions for ergot to survive. In his historical piece on the witch trials called the Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather said “... I report matters not as an advocate, but as an historian” (330). Mather, a devout Puritan, believed truly that the devil was testing the people of Salem and although a believer of witchcraft, in some ways felt that there was much more to the story than what was told. Mather documents the events
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Leaving me to believe that the girls, who were younger that those they accursed might have overcome the symptoms sooner and might have exaggerated the events after. They could have also consumed more bread that contained ergot, thus giving them more symptoms. This also leads me to believe that although some were probably affected by ergot, it cannot be discounted that hysteria also played a part. I believe that the people who were affected by ergot were healthy enough to quickly recover but were ashamed or unfortunately did not understand they were only sick. In some cases, it was too hard for most to understand that it was not witchcraft because most Puritans, believed that if an event could not be explained it was the work of the devil. There were some who believed witchcraft was not the reason and in Science and Justice by Sanford J. Fox, he analyzes many of the events from a logical point of view. Fox, finds documentation and states, “Dr. Meric Casaubon’s cautions in this regard is especially significant because it is directed partly at what was then a poorly understood area of mental disorders (“melancholy”) where ignorance-and hence a diagnosis of witchcraft-was highly likely” (65). Most educated individuals were less likely to believe the events were caused by witchcraft, but then we ask why did these individuals did not express their opinion on the matter. In conclusion ergot poisoning, I believe, in some ways played a part in the Salem trials and forever affected the people of Salem. We will never have a full explanation of how or why Salem came to be the center of this horrible event. Although ergot poisoning may have not been the sole factor of the Salem trials, it could have been the start of this horrible event in our

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