Two and a half millennia ago, Grecians celebrated Demeter by drinking kykeon, a drink made from fermented barley water. This special drink contained ergotamine and caused in participants intensive psychic changes, which cleared their souls, and made them accept death not so much as harm as a blessing, as one of the ancient diarists reported. Kykeon was consumed on a 14 mile walk from Athens to Eleusis, which culminated in a mysterious all-night ceremony. The site of Eleusis was burned by a Christian barbarian, according to Terrence McKenna.
Ergot is the name given to the dark-colored fungus growing on pods of rye (below). It is a horn-shaped growth that is typically in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 mm long, and can reach diameters of about 5 mm. The ergot consists of tightly interwoven hyphae of fungus. The ergotamine-containing fungus is named Claviceps purpurea.
|From LSD research|
Breads made from contaminated grains may have led to bizarre events in history such as the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Around 1830, in rural areas of Germany, the scientist Karl von Reichenbach built a special conservatory for studying "sensitive" individuals, and he refracted moonbeams into the room for their amusement. Presumably, von Reichenbach's "sensitives" were patients who had consumed ergotamine from contaminated bread crops.