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Were the Salem Witch Trials drug induced?
Q: I've recently heard that the Salem Witch Trials were caused by tripping puritans. In their bread there was a rye/wheat mold which is the same as where LSD comes from, therefore, it affected their sight and made them see other people doing "witchy" things. I was wondering if this were true?

A: This is a theory that some historians have proposed. A fungus called ergot sometimes infects rye grains. This fungus produces some chemicals which are very similar to LSD, and in fact LSD was discovered by a chemist who was experimenting with modifying ergot chemicals. People who eat ergot-infected rye or products made from it can experience LSD-like symptoms. In the middle ages when this happened, it was called St. Anthony's Fire. Occasionally, whole villages would be affected by it.

The primary theory that we've heard is not necessarily that those who saw witches were under the influence of ergotism, but that those who were called witches were. The theory is that those suffering under the effects of ergotism acted in ways which others blamed on the influence of the devil, therefore calling them witches. There are many web sites which discuss this possibility, including a few listed below.

Rye Ergot and Witches

Saint Antony and The Salem Witch Trials

The Tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials

There is no real conclusive evidence that this happened in Salem, but there seems to be some support of the possibility. Nobody really knows what caused the Salem Witch Trials, and there are many competing theories. Most likely a mystery that will never be solved.

Asked By : Mary
Answered By : murple
Published Date : 2 / 8 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 2 / 8 / 2001
Question ID : 2167

Categories: [ History ] [ Ergot ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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