Ergot  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Shop


Featured:

Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Enlarge
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
ergotism

Ergot is the common name of a fungus in the genus Claviceps that is parasitic on certain grains and grasses.

History

Human poisoning due to the consumption of rye bread made from ergot-infected grain was common in Europe in the Middle Ages. The epidemic was known as Saint Anthony's fire, or ignis sacer, and some historical events, such as the Great Fear in France during the Revolution have been linked to ergot poisoning. Linnda R. Caporael posited in 1976 that the hysterical symptoms of young women that had spurred the Salem witch trials had been the result of consuming ergot-tainted rye. However, her conclusions were later disputed by Nicholas P. Spanos and Jack Gottlieb, after a review of the historical and medical evidence. Other authors have likewise cast doubt on ergotism having been the cause of the Salem witch trials.

British author John Grigsby claims that the presence of ergot in the stomachs of some of the so called 'bog-bodies' (Iron Age human remains from peat bogs N E Europe such as Tollund Man) is indicative of use of ergot in ritual drinks in a prehistoric fertility cult akin to the Eleusinian Mysteries cult of ancient Greece. In his book Beowulf and Grendel he argues that the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is based on a memory of the quelling of this fertility cult by followers of Odin. He states that Beowulf, which he translates as barley-wolf, suggests a connection to ergot which in German was known as the 'tooth of the wolf'.

Kykeon, the beverage consumed by participants in the ancient Greek cult of Eleusinian Mysteries, might have been based on hallucinogens from ergot, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a potent hallucinogen, which was first synthesized from ergot alkaloids by the Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, in 1938.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ergot" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools