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 Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?

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lmm
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PostSubject: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:15 am

An interesting view of the problem...I would think that if any calamity is investigated, hardship of any kind would tend to enhance it...



Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?
Natalie Wolchover, Life's Little Mysteries Staff Writer
Date: 20 April 2012 Time: 11:57 AM ET

Historical records indicate that, worldwide, witch hunts occur more often during cold periods, possibly because people look for scapegoats to blame for crop failures and general economic hardship. Fitting the pattern, scholars argue that cold weather may have spurred the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692.

The theory, first laid out by the economist Emily Oster in her senior thesis at Harvard University eight years ago, holds that the most active era of witchcraft trials in Europe coincided with a 400- year period of lower-than-average temperature known to climatologists as the "little ice age."Oster, now an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago, showed that as the climate varied from year to year during this cold period, lower temperatures correlated with higher numbers of witchcraft accusations.

The correlation may not be surprising, Oster argued, in light of textual evidence from the period: popes and scholars alike clearly believed witches were capable of controlling the weather, and therefore, crippling food production.

The Salem witch trials fell within an extreme cold spell that lasted from 1680 and 1730 — one of the chilliest segments of the little ice age. The notion that weather may have instigated those trials is being revived by Salem State University historian Tad Baker in his forthcoming book, "A Storm of Witchcraft" (Oxford University Press, 2013). Building on Oster's thesis, Baker has found clues in diaries and sermons that suggest a harsh New England winter really may have set the stage for accusations of witchcraft.

According to the Salem News, one clue is a document that mentions a key player in the Salem drama, Rev. Samuel Parris, whose daughter Betty was the first to become ill in the winter of 1691-1692 because of supposed witchcraft. In that document, "Rev. Parris is arguing with his parish over the wood supply," Baker said. A winter fuel shortage would have made for a fairly miserable colonial home, and "the higher the misery quotient, the more likely you are to be seeing witches."

Psychology obviously played an important role in the Salem events; the young girls who accused their fellow townsfolk of witchcraft are believed to have been suffering from a strange psychological condition known as mass hysteria. However, the new theory suggests the hysteria may have sprung from dire economic conditions. "The witchcraft trials suggest that even when considering events and circumstances thought to be psychological or cultural, key underlying motivations can be closely related to economic circumstances," Oster wrote.

Weather patterns continue to trigger witchcraft accusations in many parts of Africa, where witch killings persist. According to a 2003 analysis by the Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, extreme rainfall — either too much or too little — coincides with a significant increase in the number of witch killings in Tanzania. The victim is typically the oldest woman in a household, killed by her own family.

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries and join us on Facebook.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:39 am

That does make sense. When something terrible happens, we want to place blame somewhere, even when there is no one to blame.

People groups who did not, and those who still do not, understand science would have an easier time taking out their fear and grief on their fellowman.

To me, it's like a form of control in an area where in reality you have no control. If they can blame someone for the catastrophe, they can control the catastrophe and prevent another.

JMHO
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:47 am

Joy wrote:
That does make sense. When something terrible happens, we want to place blame somewhere, even when there is no one to blame.

People groups who did not, and those who still do not, understand science would have an easier time taking out their fear and grief on their fellowman.

To me, it's like a form of control in an area where in reality you have no control. If they can blame someone for the catastrophe, they can control the catastrophe and prevent another.

JMHO

I think you said it well and it makes sense. Fear brings out the worst in people and it definitely did then.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:48 pm

Yes when fear-ful hold a gun in your hand you will feel so much better! I know i do.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:52 pm

I guess we all approach fear and deal with it in our own ways. Holding a gun wouldn't make me personally feel less fearful, but I understand that it does for others.

The whole Salem witch trials situation was sad.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:13 am

It was sad, Sync...the treatment of women period throughout the world and throughout history is sad. I've never been more thankful to have been born in 1968 in America. I might have had a screwed up family situation, but I had SO much that all the women before me did not. For instance, my daughter is a single mom getting a college degree and sees a bright future for her and her son, marrying again may or may not be a part of that - but not necessary...unheard of until my generation...and really freakin' awesome. Smile

I'll add that the treatment of anyone weak enough to dominate (people groups & classes) throughout the world and throughout history - also sad. We've come a long way, baby.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:54 am

Yes, it was horrible. Those poor women/girls were guilty of nothing. Even if they had been witches, witches aren't evil or bad. It is a religion that celebrates the earth and a big tenant of the religion is that your deeds come back to you three (or seven)-fold, so do no harm and do all the good you can. It's all about fear...plant fear in people and they do crazy things.

But that all aside, yes, they were treated horribly and women were treated horribly for ...well, it's not perfect yet, but we are getting there. We still don't get equal pay and there are still serious issues to be dealt with, but we have come a long way for sure. Yes
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:06 am

There is also the "ergot theory."

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.

At that time, rye was the staple grain of Salem. The rye crop consumed in the winter of 1691-1692 -- when the first unusual 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 ignore.

More here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/previous_seasons/case_salem/clues.html
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:11 am

Absolutely, Prop. That is the most rational explanation for all the things the women were doing...too bad they decided it meant they were witches and had to be killed. No
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:49 am

The Propagandist wrote:
There is also the "ergot theory."

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.

At that time, rye was the staple grain of Salem. The rye crop consumed in the winter of 1691-1692 -- when the first unusual 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 ignore.

More here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/previous_seasons/case_salem/clues.html

I had not heard of that before. Fascinating. Too bad there was no 'scientific investigations' at the time to determine if there was an actual illness. It was easier to blame the 'evil' spirits than to look for a cause.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:51 am

Yep. Used to be epilepsy was a possession by the devil, too.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:58 am

The devil does get a lot of blame for things, doesn't he?

A lot of ignorant people still blame any type of mental illness on the 'devil'.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:59 am

Yes, it is true. It often prevents the real cause of something from being found out for a long time, too.
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:01 am

Synchronicity wrote:
Yes, it is true. It often prevents the real cause of something from being found out for a long time, too.

the "debbil" is behind that.......................... Giggle
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:08 am

Giggle
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PostSubject: Re: Did Cold Weather Cause the Salem Witch Trials?   Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:55 pm

LOL
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