Saturday, September 29, 2012

In the tropics of Africa grows the caliber bean

In the tropics of Africa grows the caliber bean, a highly toxic legume. When eaten, it causes damage to the nervous system, muscle spasms, seizures, loss of bladder and bowel control, and loss of respiratory control, resulting in death by suffocation. It follows that these beans are not eaten for sustenance. Instead, the Calabar people used them as a trial by ordeal to prove a person’s guilt or innocence. If someone was accused of a crime but there was not enough evidence to conclude things, such as in the case of accusations of witchcraft or marital affairs, caliber beans would be used to establish a verdict. According to tradition, the accused person would swallow the beans and wait for the result. If the poisonous beans killed them, the person was deemed to have been guilty and their life taken by the gods. If instead poison-induced muscle spasms caused them to vomit the beans before the poison had enough time to take its full deadly effect, they were deemed to have been declared innocent by the gods and pardoned of any crime.

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