Salem Possessed: The Salem Witch Trials

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Although the majority of the afflicted during the Salem Witch Trials were women, some historians believe that the men of the village were the true driving force behind the trials. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum are two such people, and in their book Salem Possessed: The Social Origins Of Witchcraft, they write about their discoveries concerning the long standing economic and political issues underlying the trials in Salem. Within their work, they split the citizens of Salem into two separate factions: those who wanted autonomy of Salem Village, led by the Putnam family, and those who were more interested in Salem Town, led by the Porters. At the most basic level, the feud starts with the tangible divide of land borders between the village …show more content…
Caporael instead searched for an internal cause that would explain why the afflicted acted the way they did. Previous to her revolutionary discovery, most historians labeled the problem as either a complete fraud or simple hysteria, an outdated and inaccurate medical diagnosis in which women acted in stereotypically un-womanly ways. Unlike previous articles, Caporael searched for a distinct origin of the afflicteds' actions that fit not only the symptoms and effects, but also the climate and geography of seventeenth century Salem. Her answer, published in her article "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed In Salem?" was ergot poisoning, or ergotism. Ergot is a fungus that grows on rye under extremely specific circumstances and can cause a large array of problems within those who consume …show more content…
Three of the afflicted came from the Putnam home, and two others came from the Parris family who would have received food from the Putnams since Samuel Parris himself was a reverend. Even cases of minor hauntings, such as that involving Joseph Bayley, were traced back to the Putnams. The Bayleys were traveling en route to Boston from Newbury, and most likely spent the night with the Putnams before Joseph's experience. As they left the village, Joseph reported being struck on his chest and “seeing” the Proctors, who were both in jail at the time. His wife told him she saw nothing, and the rest of the trip after that evening was uneventful. Had ergot been the cause, and had he eaten the food of the family who most likely held the infected stock, this evidence lines up with Caporael's

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