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Old 08-16-2013, 07:30 PM
 
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What I find odd is how the church gets the blame for the Salem witch trials that were started by a doctor's diagnosis and the trials carried out in a court of law instead of the church.
Early American History: Salem Witch Trials Facts
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:39 AM
Status: "Remember what the Dormouse said Feed your head" (set 6 days ago)
 
Location: Bel Air, California
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One should not presume the witches of Salem didn't have their fair day in court before judgement was passed and the punishment carried out.

In England, even to this day, they are still discovering and bringing witches to justice, as I recently saw on this PBS documentary...


She's a witch! - YouTube
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Old 08-17-2013, 05:12 PM
 
Location: Volcano
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Default It was moldy rye, not witchcraft

Fair day in court? No, the Salem Witch Trials were an example for all time of the perversion of justice by ignorance and group prejudice. All 20 of the people executed were professed Christians. And they were condemned to death by other Christians. The irony is that the single person who admitted to practices that were seen as witchcraft, the former slave, was released from custody and lived for many years after. And any of the accused could have saved their own lives had they admitted to being witches and repented, but they would not renounce their Christian faith and never stopped pleading their innocence.

The progenitor of my American family was one of the Burgesses of Salem at that time, and I have researched his story extensively, both in the US and in England. He signed the warrant against Rebecca Nurse. He personally testified under oath against another of the accused, saying he had seen her turn herself into a bird and fly away. For years I laughingly referred to this story as the "earliest recorded case of dementia in the family," whereas I have since reinterpreted this as proof of the now widely accepted theory that ergot poisoning from eating moldy rye was the source of the hallucinations that caused this great tragedy.

One fact that helps to understand what happened in Salem is that witch trials and executions were common and widespread in Europe in that era, and several had taken place in the hometown my many-Greats Grandfather grew up in. And there had been similar earlier cases of "childhood demonic affliction" in Hartford and Boston. So these early colonials were well aware of this widespread phenomenon. And many of them were in fact refugees from intolerance themselves, because being a Baptist or a Quaker could get you killed in England. So there was a kind of ingrained suspicion of people of different faiths, even if they all professed to be Christian faiths, and a downright fear of witches and demons.

Another thing to understand is that there were communal aspects to life in the colonies, and that church attendance was compulsory, but there were different factions which kind of stayed to themselves. And there were rivalries and property disputes between different families which colored everything. As a Burgess and Constable, my relative collected fines from people for non-attendance at church, and also collected taxes for building a new church in an area of recent growth, and a road to it. But the reason that some people were affected by the ergot fungus and others were not, very simply, is because they ate grain from different fields. There was no central granary. Instead, groups of households were alotted certain acreage, and they shared in the cultivation and harvest of their assigned plots. Only certain plots were affected, and only people who ate the infected grain from these plots had the hallucinations.

Rye was the grain of choice because it grows well in the boggy, wet soil north and west of the colony. One downside of rye is that in years with an unusually rainy spring, as they had in Salem in 1692, it can be contaminated with ergot fungus, which is the natural precursor of LSD. It can cause all kinds of health issues, from the insane itching of St. Anthony's Fire to convulsive death. Even in small quantities it can produce hallucinations, which in that time were interpreted as demonic possession.

Recent epidemiological studies have now correlated records over hundreds of years of rainy springs in rye growing areas in Europe to subsequent witchcraft trials. Salem was only one of hundreds of such events, but it's best known to Americans because it is such an iconic story in the history of our early settlement.

Here's a pretty good site with good, factual information about what happened in 1692 in Salem.

Early American History: Salem Witch Trials Facts
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:38 PM
 
Location: Aloverton
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As mentioned earlier, it's fascinating how this one batch of teenage girls (and evidently not much of anyone else) all happened to eat out of the same batch of moldy rye, when in fact their entire families should have been affected if that were the case. Teen drama and desire for attention seem far more credible to me as explanations. In modern days, the girls would have just gone out and gotten piercings without asking their parents, or go goth, or rebel in some other "look at me--I'm an individual--you can see it because I am copying some other individuals" method.
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Old 08-17-2013, 10:27 PM
 
Location: stuck in the woods with bears and moose
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j_k_k View Post
As mentioned earlier, it's fascinating how this one batch of teenage girls (and evidently not much of anyone else) all happened to eat out of the same batch of moldy rye, when in fact their entire families should have been affected if that were the case. Teen drama and desire for attention seem far more credible to me as explanations. In modern days, the girls would have just gone out and gotten piercings without asking their parents, or go goth, or rebel in some other "look at me--I'm an individual--you can see it because I am copying some other individuals" method.
I'll believe that version more than anything about moldy grains. Most of my family lines on one side go back to the Puritan days and so far I've found two ancestors who accused innocent women of witchcraft. Both were men. One man simply didn't get up and tell the truth when he could have. It's not that he said anything against her, he just didn't say anything FOR her. He had seen her the very day that they were saying she was doing witchcraft. She did get set free by the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony though. He finally moved out of the colony for good.

The other ancestor just sounds to me like malcontent. I read somewhere that he was in a fight with his neighbors, then he moved, then he's in another fight, then he accuses a woman of witchcraft. Finally he died but apparently the damage had been done because a few years later the witchcraft accusal got going again and she ended up dead.

I think it was a twisted, manipulative use of religion to get one's own way, along with the drama of school aged kids in an extremely repressed era. There was one instance where people reported visiting a woman and things would suddenly come falling down the chimney or doors would open and close for no reason. Later, some teen aged boy finally confessed to sitting on the roof, dropping things down the chimney and hiding behind the doors.

The Puritans came here out of strict religious beliefs and they were absolutely intolerant of anything that didn't go along 100% with their beliefs. Quakers were thrown out, even people who spoke to or helped Quakers were thrown out. It's okay to be strict and disciplined but in these cases it went way too far. Such repression of emotion-- and the emotion has to go somewhere so it went toward these poor innocent women.

A little bit of tolerance and respect for individual differences would have gone a long way.--
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:02 PM
 
Location: Eastwood, Orlando FL
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My 9th Great Grandmother was Martha Allen Carrier. She was hanged as a witch at Salem. Her husband was Thomas Carrier. What started out as a small case of withcraft spread and engulfed much of MA. It involved hundreds of people including children thrown in prison. Martha Carrier was an outspoken women. She had some disputes with neighbors over cows. They were some of her accusors. Also, her family had moved to Andover from Billerica. He kids were alleged (and really likely) passed smalpox to a couple of other children in Andover. Those kids died. There was animosity towards her because of that. Also, ThomasnCarrier had come over from England and it was long rumored that her husband Thomas was the masked executioner of Charles 1.
Some of the people in that community believed it to be true. Her young children were also thrown in prison and after some time testified against her. Martha's youngest children were coerced into testifying against their mother, and her sons, Andrew Carrier aged 18 and Richard Carrier, aged 15 were also accused, as was her daughter, Sarah Carrier aged 7 . Sarah confessed first, as did her son Thomas, Jr.; then under torture (tied neck to heels), Andrew and Richard also confessed, all implicating their mother. In July, Ann Foster also implicated Martha Carrier I believe they did it to save their own lives. Ironically I descend from Marth on my mother's side and on my father's side I descend from the Putnams of Salem, who were accusors
Martha was not a witch.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:46 PM
 
Location: Emmaus, PA
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When the people accused the Governor's wife of being a witch, he said enough is enough. He put an end to the trials and they never happened again.
That would tend to question the validity of the rotten grain theory and validate the bored and lacking attention, teenage girl phenomenon.

People might claim to be witches or warlocks, but that doesn't mean that they have any special powers. In other words, there is no such thing as witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves, or anything else "supernatural", except in people's paranoid heads.
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:40 PM
 
Location: Old Bellevue, WA
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It would not be necessary that hallucinogens be present to get this kind of behavior from humans. We had a case in Washington state about 20 years ago that was often compared to the Salem witch trials. As far as I know there was no moldy rye involved. It was a case of a child molestation ring at a church. There were 43 arrests. It all eventually fell apart. In retrospect it is hard to figure the motivation of the police and social workers who perpetrated it. It's not like they were making money by putting away falsely accused child molesters. Yet they did it.

HistoryLink.org- the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History

One thing that history teaches us is that human beings are capable of astonishing, bizarre, and extreme escapades just based on beliefs that they have adopted--no drugs required..
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Old 08-19-2013, 11:42 AM
 
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You know we do have a great deal of information on the Salem trials. I'd be curious to know to what extent was the crime of 'witchcraft' practiced in early colonial society? The Salem trials appear to have been publicized greatlly. No doubt it's the one most klnow about. But there must have been others but not on Salem's publicity. And finally did the aftermath of the Salem trials root the practice of witchcraft completely out of colonial America?
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Old 08-19-2013, 02:36 PM
 
Location: Cushing OK
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Originally Posted by travric View Post
You know we do have a great deal of information on the Salem trials. I'd be curious to know to what extent was the crime of 'witchcraft' practiced in early colonial society? The Salem trials appear to have been publicized greatlly. No doubt it's the one most klnow about. But there must have been others but not on Salem's publicity. And finally did the aftermath of the Salem trials root the practice of witchcraft completely out of colonial America?
The killings in Salem were a pale shadow of what had occured in Europe, and yet are much the same. One of the primary targets in Europe were midwives and herbalists. They were usually older women who had been trained by their mothers. They tended to live alone and were outside society. It was easy to drum up support against people who had no power and might, in the darkness of that time, be imagined were brewing up potions. The Inquisition wasn't about religion, however, but about control. The Church held the greatest power and was seen as the greatest stability. In order to preserve this, those who deviated from the set belief were to be questioned and based on 'signs' judged. During the plagues, it would be said to be the work of some evil minority, often Jews, and burning them and their village might make it go. This generated sufficent fear that anyone who still practiced the Old Religion (and it never died out) just did it quietly. But monks who read the books they copied and began to wonder if the Church was wrong did to, and people who did not like the rules knew it was safer to keep it very quiet.

Salem was much the same. There may have been some involvement of mold with the girls as it was generally made at home and one home alone could have gotten moldy flour. But the girls reaction, giving them power, could also have made them run with it. But the church and especially church leaders held power, and perhaps some even believed there were witches out there. The actions served to let everyone know they should not think differently, though. When the husband of the victum had more power than those who accused, it stopped.

In Europe, as I said, the Old Religion never died, just went underground. After the witchcraft laws were removed in the fifties, the first neopagan revival texts were based on an accumulation of versions of the Old Religion, and international elements. Within the neopagan community today you can stir a huge argument over how 'authentic' wiccan practices are, for instance.

In the US, the old ideas lived on merged with other influences. But today there is a huge neopagan community from norse based practice to wiccans to druids. So the practice may have been hidden but it didn't die. And there are those who are ancestral witches, who never gave up the Old Religion just kept it hidden who think anyone neo is not fully pure.

As a wiccan I wear a pent, the symbol of my faith, because I think it needs to be seen to remind people that the whole idea of evil witches is still flailed today by christan fundies who assume that anyone who isn't like them must be evil.
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