I. Origin of Halloween
A. Pre-Christian festival of the dead in Ireland/Britain
- Celtic New Year Samhain (Sah-ween) Nov 1
- Crop harvest (prepare for winter, end cycle start new, arrival of new year)
- Also believed spirits of dead people roamed on trip to other world therefore a
time when the souls of the dead mingled with the living
- Bonfires to light the way for the spirits
- Offerings food, drink, sacrifices to placate spirits
B. Collision with Christianity
- Early missionaries tried to remove, but unsuccessful
- Got smart, tried to change strategies if ya cant beat em, join em" .
They figured that if they wouldnt stop celebrating the pagan holiday, at least they
would celebrate on a Christian Holy day.
- Set a Christian holy day at the same time
- All Saints Day Nov 1 also called All Hallows
- Didnt work too well pagan traditions maintained cuz it was in imperfect
idea. The new idea was not closely enough related to the original tradition.
- In 9th century add All Souls Day Nov 2 where living
prayed for the dead.
- This didnt work great either, but eventually forgot the origins
- Celebrate the night before night when the spirits abounded.
- All Hallows Eve Hallows Even Halloween
- Trick-or-treating costumed individuals went door to door dressed as spirits
seeking food and drink
- Jack OLantern
- Originally carved into a turnip or rutabaga couldnt be a pumpkin cuz not
- Legend of the Jack
OLantern check out the essay I wrote.
II. Pumpkin Biology
A. Cucurbitaceae Gourd Family
- "cucurbita" comes from the Latin for "gourd"
- imperfect flowers
- plants monoecious
- male flowers often appear first, followed by female flowers
B. Whats a pumpkin? Comparison of squash/pumpkin/melons/gourds
||Ornamental, other (bottle, sponge) bitter, inedible
||Old World "luxury" fruits watermelon
(Africa), cantaloupe (Africa), cucumber (SE Asia)
C. Importance of Pumpkins
- important to early settlers. Europeans took longer time to appreciate.
- Probably domesticated for seed rich in protein & oil
- Probably not domesticated for fruit bitter and thin fleshed.
D. Kinds (species)
- pentagonal stem with spines
- Examples: Halloween pumpkin, Pie pumpkin, Zucchini, Acorn squash, Summer squash
- Domesticated in C. America and Mexico, at least 9000 ybp.
- Member of important food triad: squash-maize-beans
- Round stem
- BIG! largest fruit
- Buttercup, turbans
- Domesticated S. America
- Pentagonal ridge on stem,
- Smooth stem, enlarged next to fruit
- Canned pie-filling (most canned filling is made from Golden Delicious or Boston Marrow
- Northern South America & C. America
C. mixta white and green cushaws
- Flowers edible
- Contamination according to folk tales you shouldnt plant gourds near
squash because youll will grow bitter squash. This is not true. although the
two may hybridize, the taste is determined by material genes. This will not affect the
current generation but could impact the next open.
- Milk does watering your plants with milk make them grow more? Laura Ingalls
Wilder reported that it did in her "Little House" books.
The answer (from Dr. D Hershey) - NOT! the concentration of
sodium and other constituents in the milk would be expected to have a negative
effect on growth by making it more difficult for the plant to absorb water
from the soil. In addition, less microbial growth would be expected in
- Scarring if you want your name or other written on a pumpkin, scratch it into the
skin when the pumpkin is young.
- Summer vs. winter squash
III. Witches & Ergot
- Salem Witch Trials 1692
- 14 women, 5 men hanged, 1 man "pressed to death"
- many others were accusers (had fits) or were accused of being a witch
- interesting because: (a) it was 47 years after the witch trials in England; (b) there
were few trials before Salem (only 5 in MA), (c) it stopped abruptly; and (d) not in other
B. Possible Explanations (hypotheses)
- Witchcraft was really practiced
- Fraud (to gain notoriety, protect from punishment)
- Hysteria (guilt, repressive society)
- Physiological cause (i.e., ergot poisoning)
C. Ergot & Salem
- Linnda Corporeal (1976) Science 192: 21 26.
- Mary Matossian (1982). Amer. Sci. 70: 355 357.
2. Hypothesis - Salem affair was initiated because individuals ate bread/products from
ergot-infected rye. This caused the symptoms of bewitchment.
3. Ergot Biology
- Parasitizes rye flowers
- Releases spores, land on stigma, enter pistil, grow to ovary
- Ovary replaced by fungus mycelium
- Produces more spores in a sweet nectar (dispersed by insects to other plants)
- Mycelium hardens to become a sclerotium ("sun burnt" grains).
- Fall to ground, germinate in the spring
- Produce a stalked structure that produces more spores.
4. Ergot Chemistry
- produces about 1% alkaloids
- Two major kindsof alkaloids
Clavine (i.e., ergotamine)
- Used medicinally since 1582 (German midwives recognized use in childbirth)
- Childbirth & migraine
- Vasoconstrictor reduce blood flow after childbirth and dilation of vessels that
may be associated with migraine headaches
Lysergic Acid derivatives
- Studied by Albert Hoffman (Sandoz Chemical)
- Hallucinogenic effects
5. Gangrenous ergotism
- Serious problem
- Between 1580 � 1900, 65 major episodes worldwide (29 in Germany, 11
Russia, 5 US. 1977 Ethiopia)
- In 994 there were 4000 recorded deaths; in 1041 at least 2000 deaths
- St. Antony�s fire (Patron Saint of fire). Egypt, 3/4th century;
- Peter the Great called off attack on Turkey because 20,000 men and horses
- Napoleon (1812 � 1813) defeat was related to ergot
- Caused by clavine alkaloids
- Symptoms � constriction of vessels, especially extremities; burning,
alternate with cold sensations; numbness, blackening, odor, death
6. Convulsive Ergotism
- due to proportion of lysergic acid derivatives
- twitching head, arms, feet
- vomit, nausea
- deafness, blindness
7. Evidence for ergotism
- symptoms of bewitched matched ergotism (giddiness, nausea, convulsions,
pinch/bite, formication, weak
- children/women affect (i.e., smaller, nursing)
- perfect growing conditions for fungus (severe winter 1690-1; wet cool in
1691 when started, dry cool 1692 when ended)
- alkaloids stable for 2 years (i.e., still toxic after harvest)
- many of afflicted lived in low, wet areas (likely growing spots)
- unrelated to causes of other witch trials (cuz so long after)
- horses and children afflicted with symptoms (even death) BEFORE witch accusations began
IV. Broad Beans (Vicia faba; Fabaceae Legume Family)
- Fava beans, horse beans
- Cultivated in Mediterranean for at least 6000 years
- Beans thrown at ghosts on All Saints Eve our "Halloween"
- Women would abstain from eating them for fear of being impregnated by ghosts of
- Most people can eat broad beans with impunity, however some people are allergic. Cause
red blood cell destruction because they lack an enzyme to detoxify the toxin.
10/31/2008 / � Copyright by SG