Salem Witch Trials The Search For Causes - Essay

The Search For Causes

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

Linnda R. Caporael (essay date 1976)

SOURCE: "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?" in Science, Vol. 192, No. 4234, April 2, 1976, pp. 21–6.

[In the following excerpt, Caporael suggests that convulsive ergotism (an illness caused by a rye fungus) may have initiated and furthered the Salem witchcraft delusion.]

Numerous hypotheses have been devised to explain the occurrence of the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692, yet a sense of bewilderment and doubt pervades most of the historical perspectives on the subject. The physical afflictions of the accusing girls and the imagery of the testimony offered at the trials seem to defy rational...

(The entire section is 32517 words.)