The reasons for considering the psychoactive mysteries to be associated with the use of Claviceps are long and complex, but the arguments are most convincing and apparently from several disciplines sound. Basically, it has now been shown that several species of Claviceps can infect a number of wild grasses in Greece.
By far the most important species of Claviceps is the Ergot of rye. This hard, brown or purplish black sclerotium of a fungus originating in the caryopsis of rye is exceedingly common in Europe. Psychoactive Eleusian mystery.
Psychoactive LSD mysteries
The native nomenclature of Claviceps purpurea is indeed complex. Ergot, the French word for “spur” of a cock, now generally employed in numerous languages, was first applied to the fungus in a region not far from Paris. There are, however, two dozen other words for the sclerotium in French; sixty-two vernacular names in German, Mutterkorn being the most commonly used.
There are twenty-one in Dutch, fifteen in the Scandinavian languages, fourteen in Italian, and seven in English in addition to the borrowed word Ergot. This proliferation of vernacular terminology indicates the importance of the fungus in European countries.
The ancient testimony about Eleusis is unanimous and unambiguous. Eleusis was the supreme experience in an initiate’s life. It was both physical and mystical: trembling, vertigo, cold sweat, and then a sight that made all previous seeing seem like blindness, a sense of awe and wonder at a brilliance that caused a profound silence, since what had just been seen and felt could never be communicated; words were unequal to the task.
These symptoms are unmistakably the experience induced by a hallucinogen. Greeks, and indeed some of the most famous and intelligent among them, could experience and enter fully into, such irrationality.
Eleusis was different from the con- vivial inebriation of friends . . . In their various ways, other Greek cults too enacted aspects of the ancient communion practiced between gods and men, between the living and the dead, but it was at Eleusis alone that the experience occurred with overwhelming finality…
For close on to two thousand years, a few of the ancient Greeks passed each year through the portals of Eleusis. There they celebrated the divine gift to mankind of the cultivated grain, and they were also initiated into the awesome powers of the nether world through the purple dark of the grain’s sibling.
Thus in an interdisciplinary study based on three different approaches, ethnomycology, classical studies, and chemistry, the secret rites of ancient Greece, which have remained a puzzle for four thousand years, are associated with intoxication caused by the fungus Claviceps, which grows parasitically on certain cereals.
It is now believed that the intoxicant underlying the ecstasy experienced in the mysteries was induced by Claviceps paspali, and possibly other species, growing on various Loliums and other cereal grasses native to Greece. The bio- dynamical principles characteristic of the well-known Ergot have been isolated from some of the other species of this fungal parasite.