hist-brewing: ergot, water (not ergot water)

Hiram Berry burningb at burningbridges.com
Tue Jan 18 21:24:20 PST 2000

> Richard considers :
> <<<But I am curious as to whether lysergic acid could have even withstood
> the brewing process. >>>

I'm pretty sure it could have; on the one hand they might not have brought
their wort to a rolling boil, on the other, lysergic acid must be fairly
stable to 100C temperatures since commercially it is produced by boiling
mixed ergot alkaloids in alkaline solution: the various bound peptides are
cleaved off leaving the lysergic acid. I don't think the free acid itself is
very psychoactive though. How yeast enzymes might have further modified it
(or its amide) is an interesting speculation.

> Boiling is a process commonly used to extract these acids where naturally
> occurring.  (Talking seeds again, or basically any psychotropic plant

That isn't necessarily so.  Hofmann himself in examining the Eleusinian
rites draws the parallel with ancient (I don't know whether to say
"historical" or not; much of it may have in fact have been recorded, but the
colonialists destroyed almost all the original records) MesoAmerican
sacrament/healing beverages and foods.  In particular, the modern descendant
of the Aztec divinitory drink Ololiuhqui is drunk even today in Mazatecan
healing ceremonies.  It is not boiled; rather it is just a decoction of one
of two species of morning glory seeds macerated with water on the
traditional pestle made of rough volcanic stone used by most Indians in
southern Mexico, and filtered.  The active principles are lysergamide and an
N-substituted lysergamide; they're water soluble at room temperature, while
the really foul tasting and nauseating parts of the seeds are not. I think
it's valid to wonder and investigate whether the modern Mazatecan ololiuhqui
is the same as the ancient Aztec drink though.

:Hmm, I had  always learned that heat destroyed Lysergic Acid, but you may
be right.  I wonder where  :someone could find information about this as
specific as that.  It woudl certainly lead to a clue as to :whether it did
exist in ancient brews.

Well, I think ergot must have infected beer at times just like it did the
bread. But the result would probably have just been poisonous beer.  There
are many mixed lysergic derivatives in unrefined barley/rye ergot.
Generally, the peptide based ones cause things like vasoconstriction,
nausea, hypertension and gangrene while the simple amide ones have
psychoactivity.  If you can't exclude the former, I don't think you'd want
to drink the result even in a religious ceremony.

Back to Eleusis, though.  Was kykeon (the sacramental drink partaken at the
conclusion of the rites) a form of specially brewed beer?  I think there are
strong indications that it was.  Grain and fertility were attributes of the
goddess Demeter with whom the celebration was associated, while Homer says
that kykeon was made only from water, barley and pennyroyal. The preparation
method of the kykeon was a closely guarded  secret of which Homer could not
have known; the parallel with the German purity law of 2000 years later is
unmistakable, and the probable lineage of Demeter from the Egyptian deity
Isis makes it more probable than merely possible in my view that kykeon was
a form of holy beer.  One of the secrets may have been that the grain used
in it's preparation was not actually barley, but a cereal grain of the genus
Paspalum which grows wild in the Mediterranean area.  Researchers have found
that the strain of ergot which grows on Paspalum contains only the
psychoactive, non-peptide and relatively nonpoisonous lysergamide;  it would
not have caused the serious somatic side effects of regular ergot
infestation. Since ancient writers who underwent the Eleusinian rite don't
report deleterious health side effects from the celebration, it seems like a
fair explanation to me.

> <<<and this draws a parallel to the consumption of unleavened bread at the
> last supper. >>>
> Religious sacraments???

:The play "Jesus Christ Superstar" suggests this following some interesting
research at the time about psychotropics being used as sacrements.
Afterall, wasn't this Leary's sacrament?  Wouldn't you call :his "movement"

I think the difference might be that the sacraments in Christian celebration
are considered to be part of  the body of God, while Leary probably looked
upon LSD rather as a vehicle to access the divine. But you don't have to
look to modern times to find this equivalence. In southern Mexico,
ololiuhqui is called "Semilla de la Virgen" while another holy plant, the
cactus Teonanacatl, means "God's Flesh".  There you see another instance of
transsubstantiation rather than mere instrumentality.

 :Shamans of many, many cultures utilized psychotropics.  But if it were
true that the signifigance of the unleavened bread was the sacrement of the
lysergic acid, then this would seem to suggest that the beer of the time did
not contain lysergic acid, becuase they drank wine at the last supper
instead of increasing the lysergic acid dosage with a beer.

The wine of that time often contained herbal additives.  Perhaps the bread
contained intentionally added ergot of Paspalum, while the wine was mulled
with haoma, the Syrian rue plant, which is quite possibly the legendary soma
of the Vedas, and which definitely potentiates the effects of indole based
entheogens.  It's just speculation of course; maybe someday someone will do
a detailed analysis of the _stains_ in those jars they found at Qumran
rather than just the literary contents. Would they find traces of
lysergamide derivatives or beta-carbolines?

Hiram Berry

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