The Puritanism was a religious reform movement in

The Salem witch trials, one of the best examples of the problems caused by religious extremism and the severe isolation of a community, condemned young “suspicious” women for witchcraft; however, it is far more likely that the “witches” in Salem suffered from mass hysteria, ergot poisoning, socio-economic downturn because of the Little Ice Age, or were suffering from encephalitis lethargica.The Salem witch trials, full of controversy and uncertainty, began in the spring of 1692 when rumors of witchcraft started circling the small town after a group of girls claimed to be possessed by the devil and then accused multiple women of bewitching them.   More than a hundred innocent people were found guilty of practicing witchcraft during these times, and our American government forced over a dozen to pay with their lives. The main reasons why the witch trials occurred were conflicts dealing with politics, religion, family, economics, and fears of the citizens. Before the town of Salem became so famous for its trials, its Puritan residents moved from their English homes to escape from religious persecution.   Puritanism was a religious reform movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth century full of numerous supporters whose mission sought to purify the Church of England.  The Puritans tried to transform and mold England into the perfect country but after that caused England to go into a civil war they escaped to America to start their new lives in New England.  Puritans preached it necessary to be in a covenant relationship with God in order to maintain one’s holy condition.  They believed God had chosen to reveal salvation through preaching, and that the Holy Spirit was the energizing instrument of salvation.  Puritans emphasized preaching that focused on images from everyday experience and from scripture.  The moral and religious earnestness was combined with the doctrine of predestination inherited from Calvinism to produce a “covenant theology,” a sense of themselves as elect spirits chosen by God to live godly lives both as individuals and as a community.  The Puritans wanted to live as perfect as they could to be able to go to heaven in the afterlife.  Knowing the ten commandments could also help a person on trial for witchcraft because it was believed that if a person who did not memorize the ten commandments was probably a witch or satanist.At the time of the Salem witch trials, there were other towns nearby but not as close to the point where a person could walk there on foot.  Many of the villagers lived seven to eight miles away from the dense part of the town where all of the important buildings were like the church and others; at some point even the farmers asked for a separate church because the other one was too far away, but the officials declined because of the fear they had that the outskirts of the town would become autonomous and they would lose their resources. The population of Salem at the time of the witch trials was five hundred to six hundred people with the surrounding towns adding up to about two thousand people.  Although Salem might seem like a bustling city many of the residents lived on farms separate from other people and miles away from the main part of the town which isolates them.  The Puritans living in Salem were victims of a highly stressful environment. A smallpox outbreak had happened just before the trials began causing many people to become ill and die, lowering the population.  The nonstop threat from the Native Americans also created a sense of fear in the Puritans because of the long-lasting rivalry between Americans and Native Americans. Fear can cause people to do quite rash things to take the attention away from the more problematic aspects of life.  The fear and overall anxiety in Salem created was the perfect concoction for mass hysteria. Mass hysteria is a condition affecting a group of persons, characterized by excitement or anxiety, irrational beliefs or behavior, or inexplicable symptoms.  Mass hysteria is one of the possible answers as to why the young girls fell ill and began to have terrible convulsive fits; in many cases of mass hysteria, many people have the same symptoms and usually shake violently.  In most outbreaks, people suffer from hyperventilating and fainting; usually, the victims are either children or teenagers and most of the time it affects girls more than boys.  Most of the time the illness persists for days; and usually, once the affected crowd disperses, symptoms tend to vanish, probably because they are only contagious when new victims observe others falling ill.  All of the people who fell ill and started to act “possessed” were young girls in a very stressful environment who were trying to protect their own names and potentially save their lives. Mass hysteria is one of the strongest pieces of information that acts as a buttress to all the conspirators that believe witchcraft is not real. In December 1691, the daughter of Samuel Parris, Betty Parris, became ill and was thrown into mad fits; soon many other girls become “ill” with symptoms like disorderly speech, odd postures and gestures, hallucinations, and convulsive fits.  These fits kept happening when a doctor diagnosed that the children and young women had been bewitched; with no real scientific explanations at the time, everyone believed there were witches that were endangering Salem.  Another piece of evidence as to why the witchcraft was not the reason these girls were sick eventually leading to nineteen people being condemned to death and hundreds confessing to stay alive was ergot poisoning.  Ergot is a type of fungi that grows on rye which was one of the most popular crops in Salem because it was used to make bread, an essential food for the Puritans.  Ergot was and is used to make the drug LSD which explains the hallucinations that the girls had, but LSD was not created until much later in time.  Ergot was not even a known fungus at the time so no one really knew better and ate the infected rye.  Ergot grows on rye in cold and wet weathers, it will not survive in the heat or in dry areas; Salem had one of its worst wet seasons of all time in 1691 leaving the town as sort of a marsh.  Being in New England, Salem is naturally cold in the winter which is the perfect weather for ergot to grow on rye; once again rye was the biggest crop in Salem at the time.  According to some scientists, people under the influence of ergot may have convulsions, become manic, appear dazed, be unable to speak or have other forms of paralysis or tremors, and suffer from hallucinations and other distorted perceptions. These strange behaviors are similar to those reported by the women and children charged with witchcraft in 17th Century Europe and the U. S. Because of this and reports that rye was consumed by the villagers of Salem, there is clear evidence that supports that ergotism could have contributed to the Salem witch trials.  Before the trials, farmers used to complain about their cows dying from an unknown sickness while eating the ryegrass in the countryside; ergot had already grown in America before the first settlers came.  The evidence compiled together supports that the “witches” of Salem were just innocent young girls suffering from a poison-like substance.  After the witch trials in 1691, there was basically no reports of witchcraft; late the next fall, 1692, the witchcraft crisis ended abruptly and there was no further mention of the girls or anyone else in Salem being afflicted of anything remotely close to witchcraft.  Ergot poisoning also can contribute towards miscarriages which was one of the women in Salem’s excuse to have another woman hanged; she blamed her for her miscarriages which ultimately lead the other woman to be hanged in front of the town for witchcraft.  The reasoning behind the hangings of the victims of the trials was unprecedented and with the new discovery that linked ergot poisoning and the witch trials the victims will hopefully get the justice they deserved over the centuries. During the sixteenth hundreds through the eighteenth century, a devastating cold spell called the Little Ice Age happened.  Temperatures began to drop at the beginning of the sixteenth century, with the coldest periods occurring from 1680 to 1730. The economic hardships and slowdown of population growth could have caused widespread scapegoating which, during this period, manifested itself as persecution of witches, due to the widely accepted belief that “witches existed, were capable of causing physical harm to others and could control natural forces.”   The Little Ice Age caused millions of Europeans and Americans to spiral into poverty and eventually starve because of the shortage of food due to the harsh weather.  The Little Ice Age was a period of regionally cold conditions between 1300 and 1850; the cold periods came in sporadic spurts at random times. The term “Little Ice Age” is somewhat questionable, because there was no single, well-defined period of prolonged cold rather various time periods at different places. There were two phases of the Little Ice Age, the first beginning around 1290 and continuing until the late 1400s, then there was a slightly warmer period in the 1500s, after which the climate deteriorated substantially, and with the coldest period  between 1645 and 1715, which is roughly around the same time as the Salem witch trials. During this coldest phase of the Little Ice Age, studies indicate that the average winter temperatures in Europe and North America were as much as two degrees Celsius lower than in present times.  The Little Ice Age caused many lakes and rivers, even the Baltic Sea; winters were bitterly and extremely cold and prolonged, reducing the growing season by several weeks. These conditions led to widespread crop failure, famine, and in some regions population decline which is very traumatic.  Salem Village was separate from Salem Town; Salem town was beyond richer than the village which created a divide between them.  As one can believe, the village of Salem did not like that the town had way much more money which also caused the atmosphere to be hostile.  Throughout the witch trials, while the girls were pulling facade and accusing whoever they chose, the town of Salem was making money off of the news and anything that was related to the trials. Therefore, the town let the trials continue to make enough money which the “Little Ice Age” drained out of the town; by gaining enough money the town would then be able to function on their own and gather the resources they needed for the next cold spell.  By having the excuse of the trials, the town of Salem was able to get away with basically exploiting the bad situation in return for survival giving them an excuse to not stop the horrific judgements made by the judicial system in Salem.  After all, that would not be the first or last time a town or someone of importance has exploited horrible actions for economic gain.One of the most interesting explanations for the reason why the young girls who started acting ill before the Salem witch trials is


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