Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When Tomatoes Were Blamed for Witchcraft and Werewolves

From Atlas Obscura comes this fascinating article: When Tomatoes Were Blamed for Witchcraft and Werewoves. Perfect for Halloween!

No other vegetable has been as maligned as the tomato (and it is a vegetable, by order of the United States Supreme Court). We call tomatoes killers. We call them rotten. We call them ugly. We call them sad. To find the reason why, you have to go back to the 1500s, when the humble fruit first reached European shores (and it is a fruit, by scientific consensus). Through no fault of its own, the tomato stepped into the middle of a continent-wide witchcraft panic, and a scientific community in tumult.

Between 1300 and 1650, thousands of Europeans (mostly women) were executed for practicing witchcraft, in a church-and-government-sanctioned mass hysteria academics call the "witch craze." Women were burned, drowned, hanged, and crushed after trials in both secular and religious courts; and lynched by vigilante mobs. By the most conservative estimate, Dr. Ronald Hutton's count of execution records, between 35,184 and 63,850 witches were killed through official channels—at least 17,000 in Germany alone. Sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda estimates the combined death toll could have been as high as 500,000. It was a massive, concerted, prolonged crusade.


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