QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-04 > 1081470065
Subject: Excerpt Of History
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 20:21:05 EDT
"The common wild rye grasses of New England often caused cows to get sick,
but a witch could cure any animal sickness with marshwort. If she wanted to
make a human feel sick, however, she'd mix rye grass with the victims food in
some clever undetected manner. To much rye grass, or an intended overdose, would
cause fits and possibly blindness to the witches prey. There is even a
popular theory today that moldy rye was the real cause of the Salem witch hysteria.
Rye, which grows in low, wet ground, yields ergot. Judge Sewalls diary states
that before the rye was harvested for the 1692 season, to be eaten in Salem in
bread and cereals, it was rainy and warm, hot and stormy. Ergot according to
Dr. John Stearns, the man who discovered the fungus in 1807, causes
hallucination, violent fits, choking, pinching, itching, a crawling sensation in the
skin, and muscular contractions. Females and children are more likely to get
ergot poisoning than males."