At an early brewery site in Skara Brae, Scotland, archaeologists found residue of a beer made with henbane, hemlock, meadowsweet, and nightshade. Henbane could also produce a feeling of flight, and was a common component in witches’ flying potions. Nightshade, or Belladonna, causes delirious hallucinations. It was also used during the Inquisition to torture some of those same potion-wielding witches into confessing.
Beer could be even more potent than that. Ergot, for example, is powerful stuff. Some Nordic brewers were fond of a parasitic fungus called Claviceps purpurea, or ergot, that grew on rotted barley and rye. Archaeologists have found its tell-tale bloated purplish grains in the guts of buried bog bodies. The fungus shares some of the same chemical compounds as LSD, which can yield wild hallucinations and ecstatic dancing. Doctors call it “convulsive ergotism.” The bad side known as, “gangrenous ergotism,” causes abdominal pain, convulsions, a sensation of burning limbs called St. Anthony’s Fire and, ultimately, death.”
- How to Drink Hallucinogenic Beer Like a Viking Shaman
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