Wicca isn't Satanism and Wiccans don't believe in Satan. Since I know
this, thanks for not emailing me and telling me what I already know.)
I have read on some webpages (chances are you
have too) about "hundreds of witches being burnt at Salem" or words to
that effect. The truth is 28 people died during the trials, and none
were burned. True, even 1 was one person too many, but the people of
Salem were under the effects of ergotism, and could not be held
responsible for what they did.
The 28 people who died during the Salem Witch trials are viewed
by Wiccans to be like religious Martyrs. This is especially ironic
since not one of them was a Wiccan!
We have to remember the people executed in
Salem Village were not Wiccans. Wicca was invented in 1950 in England
by Gerald Gardner,a follower of Aleister Crowley. No Book of Shadows
was found during the Salem Witch trials, and there is no mention of
"Wicca" "Cernuous", or "Diana" in any of the historical documents from
that era. There is also no description of any rituals taking place that
resemble Wicca. None. In other words...no Wiccans were executed during
the Salem Witch Trials, period! They couldn't have, since Wicca didn't
exist until the 20th century, which we will read about a little later.
But nevertheless, searching for books on the
subject of Wicca on Amazon.com will turn up hundreds of titles,
including at least a dozen or so about the Salem Witch Trials. What
does the Salem Witch Trials have to do with Wicca? Nada,zilch, nix,
nothing...except in the minds of Wiccans. Meanwhile, the Salem Witch
Trials fuels the hate Wiccans have for Christians.
The Salem Witch Trials are used by Wiccans as an example of
Christian hate for witches, and offered as proof that someday
Christianity will start up a new round of persecution. The trials
happened during the winter of 1691-92 A.D. The 9 girls involved in the
accusations were Elizabeth Paris, Abigail Paris, Ann Putnam, Elizabeth
Hubbard, Mary Warren, Mercy Lewis, Mary Wolcott, Elizabeth Booth and
The now infamous incidents started when a
small group of girls at the home of their friends, cousins Elizabeth
and Abagail Paris became involved in occult activities of a slave named
Tituba. Tituba told the girls stories of "African" black magic (even though she was actually Native american) with
descriptions of spells, and performed fortune telling for them. She did
not initiate them into an ancient goddess or "horned god" worshiping
religion. Read that statement again until you get it. The Salem Witch
Trials of 1692 resulted in nearly 200 people imprisoned, but only 20
were executed and a further 8 died in prison.
No one was burned at the stake in Salem, the
condemned were in fact, hanged, and one person was crushed to death.
That one person who was crushed to death with stones, placed a curse on
the Sheriff of Salem with his dying breath (hardly the act of a
Christian, but rather the act of a sorcerer). Curiously, from that time
forward, every Sheriff in Salem has died of a heart attack while in
office. It is unfortunate that anyone was put to death over Witchcraft,
just as it is unfortunate Christians were thrown to lions for not
believing Nero was a god, or making offerings to Pagan idol statues
that also werent gods.
In Science magazine on April 2, 1976, scientist Linda Caporael
put forth a explanation as to why the people of Salem acted the way
they did. According to Caporael rye was a staple in New England at the
time of the trials, and it may have been the rye bread consumed by the
villagers played a part in the trials. Caporael felt that the girl's
affliction could have been caused by "Convulsive Ergotism" a disorder
resulting from the ingestion of contaminated rye grain. The weather
conditions were ripe for the fungus that causes this disorder at the
time of the trials, according to Caporael, and there is evidence from
the writings of the time that suggest this was the case.
The disorder, which mainly affects young
females, has symptoms exactly like those suffered by the young girls.
The symptoms include "hallucinations, violent fits, choking, pinching,
itching, a crawling sensation in the skin and muscular contractions."
Ergotism can also cause delusions and psychotic behavior, which sounds
like what the older members of the community experienced. In a nearby
village, a dog was even accused of witchcraft. When the dog failed to
confess, it too was hanged! This hardly sounds like the action of
rational people, it sounds more like the acts of people suffering from
psychotic behavior, which would certainly fit with the ergotism
explanation. So in other words, it was bad grain, not "persecution of a
surviving Stone Age Pagan religion", that lead to the Salem Witch
Around 200 hundred people were arrested in all, but were later
released. A year later the girls who accused so many publicly asked to
be forgiven by the community, not even understanding themselves what
had happened, or why they did it. There was also no mention from
surviving records of mold on the wheat in 1693,which might also explain
why the people of Salem Village regained their senses.
If the people of Salem Mass were under the influence of
psychotropic molds, then they were hardly in their right minds. If they
weren't in their right minds, they can't be held responsible for what
they did. Is there really a good reason to hate them for what happened
while they were not in their right minds? Is there a point in hating
Christians alive today for something that happened over 300 years ago?
Is there a point in Wiccans in hating Christians for the Salem Witch
trials at all, since none of the people executed were even Wiccans
anyway? Does anybody know where I left my car keys? Just thought I'd
throw that last one in. I can never find my car keys! The idea of
Wiccans trying to adopt these poor folks as fellow travelers is silly.
They might as well get mad about Stalin's killing of Khulaks during his
reign of terror. They have no more a connection to them as they do the
"Witches" of Salem.
What do the Salem Witch trials have to with the religion invented
in 1950 known as Wicca? Nothing. But a search of books on Wicca on
Amazon.com will turn up at least half a dozen or so.
TOTAL NUMBER OF WICCANS KILLED BY CHRISTIANS TO DATE:
Ergot Poisoning - The Real Cause of the Salem Witch Hysteria
[From PBS "Secrets of the Dead II" Witches Curse]
Case 1: Interview
Linnda Caporael may have solved one of the biggest mysteries of
early American history the cause of the Salem Witch Trials but she
stumbled onto the case quite by accident. "I actually started this
project as a senior in college," recalls Caporael, now a behavioral
scientist and full professor at Photo of Linnda Caporael Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
"I had one of those standard senior problems
where you are going for graduation check-out and find you are missing a
critical course. Mine was a history course. I enrolled in one, and had
to immediately write a paper, which I decided to do on Anne Putnam
because I'd seen Arthur Miller's play THE CRUCIBLE. My goal was to
demonstrate that women could be as wicked as men. As I began
researching, I remember having one of those kind of 'ah-hah!'
experiences, where I was reading a book in which the author said he was
at a loss to explain the hallucinations of all these people in Salem.
It was that word 'hallucinations' that made everything click. Years and
years ago, when I was a little kid, I had read about the French case of
ergot poisoning, and I made the connection between the two."
"The curious thing is that I went back recently to take a look at
that reference and the author doesn't use the word hallucination at
all. I must have hallucinated the word as much as anything else! Now
I'm not too sure what the click actually was, but something said to me
'maybe it could be ergot poisoning.'"
Her detective work, first published 25 years ago, brought
Caporael instant fame, worldwide recognition even a front-page story
in the NEW YORK TIMES. That's quite a heavy load for a student. "When
it first came out it was quite sensational," Caporael recalls. "I sort
of thought that was my 15 minutes of fame and went on to do my more
usual work." But the allure of the trials and Caporael's intriguing
explanation that the "bewitched" accusers of Salem had in fact
suffered hallucinations, convulsions, bizarre skin sensations and other
unusual symptoms because they'd been poisoned by a crop of
fungus-infested rye is still fascinating 25 years later.
Caporael sees the allure. "It has all the elements of a good
mystery story. I'd never worked on a project that was as well defined
we were talking about one event at one particular point in time," she
says. "Plus, it was a lot of fun to do!"
Although she has long since moved on to other work, Caporael
keeps her nose in the ergotism case file, following research that
suggests the role of ergot in other historical events. She doesn't buy
into all of them. "Some of these ideas are skating on thin ice," she
says, such as the theory that ergot poisoning may have influenced the
outcome of the French Revolution. "I do think there is a lot of work
that can be done on the historical incidence of ergot, but not all of
these cases will end up being ergot poisoning. Many of them could be
attributed to the same kind of mass hysteria hypothesis that described
Salem at one time."
Ergot poisoning can't even explain all of the events at Salem,
Caporael concedes. Some of the behaviors exhibited by the witch
accusers probably were the result of mass hysteria or outright
fakery. "At the end of June and the beginning of July, 1692, I think
there was more imagination than ergot. But by that point in time three
people had already been hung, and the trials had taken a path that
people felt they had to stay on," Caporael says. "One of the clearest
examples is the young accuser who, in the late summer, said 'wait a
minute, I don't think that there are witches after all.' At that point,
the other girls began accusing HER of being a witch, and she
immediately seemed to understand what was going on and began being a
vociferous accuser again."
And yet Caporael believes that the role of ergotism in history
might still be under-appreciated. "I just got a fascinating email from
a scholar in England who noticed that the fits of Caliban the
character in Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST matched the description of
those of people with ergot poisoning. She wondered would this kind of
poisoning been possible in the 16th century when Shakespeare was
writing. And the answer, of course, is yes. There were claims of
outbreaks in both the U.K. and Europe then," says Caporael. "I think
it's a fascinating idea that this would have been picked up in
literature. In fact, it should have been if there was some kind of
consistent physiological response."
Case 1: Background
The trouble in Salem began during the cold dark Massachusetts
winter, January, 1692. Eight young girls began to take ill, beginning
with 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris, the daughter of Reverend Samuel
Parris, as well as his niece, 11-year-old Abigail Williams. But theirs
was a strange sickness: the girls suffered from delirium, violent
convulsions, incomprehensible speech, trance-like states, and odd skin
sensations. The worried villagers searched desperately for an
explanation. Their conclusion: the girls were under a spell, bewitched
and, worse yet, by members of their own pious community.
And then the finger pointing began. The first to be accused were
Tituba, Parris's Caribbean-born slave, along with Sarah Good and Sarah
Osburn, two elderly women considered of ill repute. All three were
arrested on February 29. Ultimately, more than 150 "witches" were taken
into custody; by late September 1692, 20 men and women had been put to
death, and five more accused had died in jail. None of the executed
confessed to witchcraft. Such a confession would have surely spared
their lives, but, they believed, condemned their souls.
On October 29, by order of Massachusetts Governor Sir William
Phips, the Salem witch trials officially ended. When the dust cleared,
the townsfolk and the accusers were at a loss to explain their own
actions. In the centuries since, scholars and historians have struggled
as well to explain the madness that overtook Salem. Was it sexual
repression, dietary deficiency, mass hysteria? Or, could a simple
fungus have been to blame?
Case 1: Clues and Evidence
When Linnda Caporael began nosing into the Salem witch trials as
a college student in the early 1970s, she had no idea that a common
grain fungus might be responsible for the terrible events of 1692. But
then the pieces began to fall into place. Caporael, now a behavioral
psychologist at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, soon
noticed a link between the strange symptoms reported by Salem's
accusers, chiefly eight young women, and the hallucinogenic effects of
drugs like LSD. LSD is a derivative of ergot, a fungus that affects rye
grain. Ergotism ergot poisoning had indeed been implicated in other
outbreaks of bizarre behavior, such as the one that afflicted the small
French town of Pont-Saint-Esprit in 1951.
Photo of professor discussing ergot. But could ergot actually
have been the culprit? Did it have the means and the opportunity to
wreak havoc in Salem? Caporael's sleuthing, with the help of science,
provided the answers.
Ergot is caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which affects
rye, wheat and other cereal grasses. When first infected, the flowering
head of a grain will spew out sweet, yellow-colored mucus, called
"honey dew," which contains fungal spores that can spread the disease.
Eventually, the fungus invades the developing kernels of grain, taking
them over with a network of filaments that turn the grains into
Sclerotia can be mistaken for large, discolored grains of rye. Within
them are potent chemicals, ergot alkaloids, including lysergic acid
(from which LSD is made) and ergotamine (now used to treat migraine
headaches). The alkaloids affect the central nervous system and cause
the contraction of smooth muscle the muscles that make up the walls
of veins and arteries, as well as the internal organs.
Toxicologists now know that eating ergot-contaminated food can
lead to a convulsive disorder characterized by violent muscle spasms,
vomiting, delusions, hallucinations, crawling sensations on the skin,
and a host of other symptoms all of which, Linnda Caporael noted, are
present in the records of the Salem witchcraft trials. Ergot thrives in
warm, damp, rainy springs and summers. When Caporael examined the
diaries of Salem residents, she found that those exact conditions had
been present in 1691. Nearly all of the accusers lived in the western
section of Salem village, a region of swampy meadows that would have
been prime breeding ground for the fungus. At that time, rye was the
staple grain of Salem. The rye crop consumed in the winter of 1691-1692
when the first usual symptoms began to be reported could easily
have been contaminated by large quantities of ergot.
The summer of 1692, however, was dry, which could explain the
abrupt end of the 'bewitchments.' These and other clues built up into a
circumstantial case against ergot that Caporael found impossible to
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