Anyone interested in the bizarre and unusual has undoubtedly come across the Salem Witch Trials in their curiosities. Of course, a good mystery is worth at least a handful of theories as to how this hellish reality came to fruition. Mass hysteria, petty grudges, and a misinformed public created a societal nightmare of epic proportions. Yet, those factors alone aren’t what make the trials such a compelling subject. 📚
This piece was researched and written by guest author Rob Quest, a pop culture enthusiast, and musician from Texas. You can listen to his work here. Rob also appears in Opposuits Attract. Fun Fact: Rob once ate a dragonfruit believing it’d imbue him with flame breathing powers.
Some 300 years later, we’re discovering that Mother Nature herself may have been the culprit behind the Salem witch fiasco. It’s a possibility these women were simply victims of the times; science and medicine were quite primitive within their puritan village in the late 1600’s.
Down With the Sickness
Here’s a scary thought: one day, you start experiencing violent muscle spasms, accompanied by erratic jerks of your head and limbs. You’re confused and weak, you feel pricks and pinches upon your skin with no visible perpetrator. 🤕 You do what any puritan, god-fearing person would do and go to the top authority on ailments and diseases in your village: Dr. William Griggs.
Dr. Griggs diagnoses you with being “bewitched”– meaning you’ve been consorting with the devil, and you’re under the influence of evil! For your mega-religious little heart, that is one hell of a diagnosis—but wait until you hear your treatment plan!
First comes your arrest, then comes your trial in front of your entire village. After that is your honeymoon to the gallows from which you’ll never return. Killed for making a pact with some dude named Lucifer; who must have been at that party in the woods. What a wild night! ☠️
The Drugs Are My Mother’s, I Swear
As it turns out, Mother Nature might have drugged them with some fungus. Ergot is some pretty potent stuff; it’s a type of fungus found among rye and similar types of grains and grasses. Rye was a commonly grown crop for many years, growing easily in all climate regions and being super cheap to produce. It is believed that the accused witches were actually under the influence of Ergot, causing them to act oddly in public, which in turn would spur rumors. I would also like to theorize myself, that the entire puritan environment was just ripe for mass hysteria and alienation. Ergot poisoning was a known and documented affliction, also being dubbed “Holy Fire” as far back 800 AD.
In 1939, a Swiss scientist by the name of Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD from this specific rye fungus. Flashback to our wholesome puritan village: their bread was derived from the infected crop, and their water wells may have also been contaminated with the fungus. 🍞💦☠️
Witches Be Trippin’
Imagine our small, isolated village–quiet and calm, when suddenly women are trippin’ balls on acid not knowing what the hell is going on. Boom. Bam! Pow. ⚡️ Little House on the Prairie just took a crash course in psychedelia and little Dorothy doesn’t know how to comprehend her first acid trip.
Imagine for a second what that’d be like for someone who had no idea that such substances existed. You have no reference for this kind of mind-altering substances aside from alcohol. Bear in mind, though, that this is Ergot poisoning and probably less euphoric and concentrated than a dose of modern-day LSD. 🍭
Adding to the scandal are rumors of a woman sharing tales of her native land’s practices of voodoo, which as we all know is totally not a very Christian thing to do. The values of puritan society also didn’t allow for others to embody anger, as that was seen as sinful. Back then, sinning was taken pretty goddamn seriously. 👿
Women were often more suppressed by puritanical values than their male counterparts, and it played a big role in how accusations spread. Occurrences of women lashing out in anger, often attacking and cursing others would easily be forgiven if such trespasses were aimed at a witch taking hold of the aggressor. The church, wanting to remain in front of the scandal, organized mass witch hunts to contain the spread of evil.
How to Hunt a Witch
When hunting for witches, what exactly are we looking for? A green woman with a pointy hat, riding a broom? Or maybe even Sarah Jessica Parker? Wonder no more, because famous witch hunters have relied on sophisticated, tried and true methods of hunting down evil, such as:
- identifying an extra nipple on the body supposedly used to feed their familiars
- owning a broom
- unable to cry (Lookin’ at you, mother.)
One documented method was to make a witch cake. I’d be remiss if I didn’t lead with the fact this isn’t something for human consumption, but who am I to kink shame you? I digress.
If you have any suspicions about neighbors or the weirdos you share your living space with, you can check out this handy guide here on how to identify witches.
- A Comprehensive List of Witches (Real & Fictional)
- (In)Famous Witch Hunters
- A Magical Urine History
- Salem Trials Memorial (Video)
- The Witches of Whitewater
XOXO, ROB. This piece was researched and written by guest author Rob Quest, a comic book reader, poetry writer, avid procrastinator, and musician from Texas. You can listen to his work here. Rob also appears in Opposuits Attract. Fun Fact: In 2008, Rob placed third in a county art fare.