Discussion in 'Various drugs not covered by other forums' started by sublimejenni, Jan 9, 2005.
How do you take ergot? Where can you get it? I know nothing.
Do not take ergot! It is a precursor, not a usable drug. Unless you want to experience st. anthonies fire. Trust me you don't. Edited by: Alfa
Okay, im glad that I asked. I feel like an idiot because I know so little about some things. Although, it never hurts to gain information. THANK YOU!
St. Anthonies fire?
Here are some articles which explain St. Anthonies fire, a horrific side effect of ergot poisoning:
Edited by: Alfa
St. Anthony's Fire -- Ergotism
PARIS, October, 2000 -- This reporter had the good fortune recently to visit the French village of Lavardin (population 200 plus or minus a few souls) in the valley of the little Loir River. Forty minutes from Paris by the bullet TGV train, this tiny village has a church, Saint Jenest, that dates from the 12th century. The church is in a simple romanesque style and contains extraordinary frescoes and stone carvings. One of the frescoes depicts St. Anthony and sufferers from St. Anthony's fire.
The History of Saint Anthony's Fire
On 15 August 1151 one in twenty of the 4000 inhabitants of another village in France called Pont Saint Esprit (Bridge of the Holy Spirit) went mad. They had hallucinations, writhed in agony in their beds, vomited, ran crazily in the streets and suffered terrible burning sensations in their limbs.
The madness was quickly diagnosed. They were suffering from St Anthony's Fire, a dreaded illness that was common in the Middle Ages. The cause was poisoning from a fungus (ergot) that grows on rye grass. The fungus contaminated the rye flour used in making bread.
Ergot contains a chemical that makes the sufferers go berserk and causes gangrene of the hands and feet due to constriction of blood supply to the extremities. If it is not treated (and this was not possible in the Middle Ages), victims had the sensation of being burned at the stake, before their fingers, toes, hands and feet dropped off.
A Masterpiece Born of Saint Anthony's Fire
Matthias Grünewald's 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece glorified suffering and offered comfort to those afflicted with a dread disease.
In the French town of Colmar near the German border sits one of the wonders of Western art -- a 16th-century polyptych (multipanelled altarpiece) created by an enigmatic figure for a hospital that treated victims of Saint Anthony's fire. The Isenheim Altarpiece, regarded as a "sublime artistic creation," and its creator, Matthias Grünewald, have fascinated artists and scholars since the work was first moved to Colmar some 200 years ago.
Commissioned by Antonite monks, the altarpiece was created between 1512 and 1516 for the chapel of a hospital at the order's monastery in Isenheim, 15 miles south of Colmar. There, the monks ministered to patients suffering from the painful and often fatal disease, named (as were the monks themselves) for a figure who himself had known great suffering. The man chosen to execute the commission was a German artist and engineer - contemporary of Albrecht Dürer's - whose very name long eluded scholars. A biographer declared him Matthias Grünewald in 1675, and since then - though it has subsequently been determined that his name was either Mathis Godhardt or Mathis Godhardt Neithardt - scholars have continued the tradition of using the misnomer.
The altarpiece Grünewald created is a many-faceted collection of disturbing and uplifting images that unfold as the wings open to reveal a series of scenes. As in most Christian art, the Savior plays a central role, appearing in a terrifying Crucifixion panel and a powerful Resurrection. But in this work, the tortured Saint Anthony is also prominently featured. The two figures seem meant to give hope and consolation to the ill, conveying the message that pain, also, brings one close to God.
Who was Saint Anthony?
Saint Anthony (c.251-356) of Egypt was a hermit and one of the earliest monks. He is considered the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism. His rule represented one of the first attempts to codify guidelines for monastic living.
Anthony began to practice an ascetic life at the age of 20 and after 15 years withdrew for absolute solitude to a mountain by the Nile called Pispir (now Dayr al-Maymun), where he lived from about 286 to 305. During the course of this retreat, he began his legendary combat against the devil, withstanding a series of temptations famous in Christian theology and iconography. In about 305 he emerged from his retreat to instruct and organize the monastic life of the hermits who imitated him and who had established themselves nearby. When Christian persecution ended after the Edict of Milan, he moved to a mountain in the Eastern Desert, between the Nile and the Red Sea, where the monastery Dayr Mari Antonios still stands. Here he remained, receiving visitors and, on occasion, crossing the desert to Pispir. He ventured twice to Alexandria, the last time (c. 350) to preach against Arianism, a heretical doctrine teaching that Christ the Son is not of the same substance as God the Father.
The early monks who followed Anthony into the desert considered themselves the vanguard of God's army, and, by fasting and performing other ascetic practices, they attempted to attain the same state of spiritual purity and freedom from temptation that they saw realized in Anthony. Anthony's spiritual combats with what he envisioned as the forces of evil made his life one long struggle against the devil.
The devil's assault on Anthony took the form of visions, either seductive or horrible, experienced by the saint. (This is according to St. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria.) For example, at times, the devil appeared to Anthony in the guise of a monk bringing bread during his fasts, or in the form of wild beasts, women, or soldiers, sometimes beating the saint and leaving him in a deathly state. Anthony endured many such attacks, and those who witnessed them were convinced they were real. Every vision conjured up by Satan was repelled by Anthony's fervid prayer and penitential acts. So exotic were the visions and so steadfast was Anthony's endurance that the subject of his temptations has often been used in literature and art, notably in the paintings not only Matthias Grünewald, as mentionned, but also of many other artists ranging from Hiëronymus Bosch and Max Ernst.
From these psychic struggles Anthony emerged as the sane and sensible father of Christian monasticism. The rule that bears his name was compiled from writings and discourses attributed to him in the Life of St. Anthony and the Apophthegmata patrum and was still observed in the 20th century by a number of Coptic and Armenian monks.
Anthony's popularity as a saint reached its height in the Middle Ages. The Order of Hospitallers of St. Anthony was founded near Grenoble, France (c. 1100). This institution became a pilgrimage center for persons suffering from the disease known as St. Anthony's fire (ergotism).
ErgotismErgot contains ergotamine. In moderate doses, ergotamine causes the contraction of smooth muscle fibers, such as those in small arteries. Ergotamine has been used to control hemorrhage (bleeding) and to promote contraction of the uterus during childbirth. It is also used to treat migraine headaches (its major use today).
In large doses, ergotamine paralyzes the motor nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system. The disease ergotism (St. Anthony's fire) is caused by excessive intake of ergot. This can occur by the overuse of the drug or by eating baked goods made with contaminated flour, as happened in the Middle Ages. (Ergotism also can affect cattle, by their eating ergot-infected grain and grass).
Acute and chronic ergotism are characterized by mental disorientation, convulsions, muscle cramps, and dry gangrene of the extremities.
A psychoactive drug, lysergic acid diethylamide, best known as LSD, is chemically related to ergotamine.
St Anthony's Fire is the gangrenous form of ergotism, which is what you get if you eat ergot, and it's not much fun by all accounts. Ergot alkaloids massively constrict blood vessels, leading to initially prickling sensations and muscular pain, which intensifies to the point that all sensation is lost. The skin becomes jaundiced, with maybe a red or violet tint, before the affected areas turn gangrenous and fall off. Not what you need.
The second form of ergotism was known as bewitchment, and this is the trippy one. It usually starts with itching, as if ants were crawling over you, accompanied by nightmarish hallucinations(people described demons sitting on their chest and lurking in the room, pricking them with pins and branding with hot irons). Then follows intense cramps, suffocation, spasms and convulsions. Finally the body would curl into a ball and lock, or flex backwards, often breaking the spine - similar to tetanus or strychnine poisoning (could this be where that li'l myth comes from perhaps?). Onset to death only takes a couple of hours, and the survival rate was pretty slim.
Ergotism has been recorded for over 1000 years, but was particularly rife between the 14th and 17th centuries in northern Europe and later in N.E. America, where rye was the staple crop. This period of time was particularly violent and paranoid, with a lot of wars,religious fervour, poverty and disease kicking about. It was also very wet. Ergot is a mould exclusive to rye grain, being a mould it loves the damp, and as it grows it takes on the shape of the grain it grows on, the only thing marking it out being the mould is black, making it virtually impossible to isolate in a harvest or grain store, which were generally communal, and catered for humans and livestock alike. Bear in mind that people ate a lot of bread, and not much else, and ergotism also affects livestock.
Because of the nature of both the times and the ergot mould the convulsive form of ergotism became known as 'bewitchment'. When people are scared and don't know what's going on they look for scapegoats, and in this case they went for what were percieved as witches. This could be anyone from the local healer to the slightly dotty old(or young!) woman who lives with her cat to the bloke you had an argument with last year to a pig who looked at you funny. It really didn't matter so long as a reason is found for what's going on, and something is seen to be done about it. The combination of ergotism, religious paranoia and the rise of the medical profession is possibly responsible for most of northern Europes old knowledge and lore being lost, especially when it comes to healing and spirituality. The Church and the medics, despite close links, were at this time involved in something of a power struggle, but both had the common agenda of believing they were the one true way, and all other knowledge must be suppressed, at any cost. In this case the cost was tens of thousands of innocent people (and animals!) and the decimation of a culture. Needless to say the majority of people to die in the Burning Times were women (another common feature between the Church and the medics was a rabid mysoginy!).
The most renowned of the trials for bewitchment was at Salem in Massachusutts in 1692, following a particularly wet growing and harvest season. 250 people were arrested and 19 executed ( one by being pressed to death!), due to ignorance, paranoia and a fungus. And we think we've got problems!
Communities that ate a dairy rich diet seemed much less affected by ergotism - it's since been found that dairy products offer some protection against the poison, although not against witch hunts unfortunately.
Ergotism still pops up every now and again - it was still quite common in Russia until the mid 20th century, and I can remember a couple of cases in France not that long ago. Ergot itself has found a few medical uses too - it's used to staunch the flow of blood in childbirth, and to treat migraines (one of the side effects of the med being...Hallucinations!). The fungus itself, however, is best left alone!
Don't you just hate it when someone does that? Great articles - nice one Alfa!
Okay ppl, thanks for the information..
ergot would be completely decomposed by heat, you can't smoke it
Fascinating stuff! I would rather not try it though!
I know this is an old thread, but I recently came across an article with some interesting speculation on the relationship between ergotism and 17th century European witchcraft. I saw an article posted here about the Salem witches, but I don't think this one has been posted yet. Some interesting info in the article, unfortunately a lot of the references are German.
Great find helikophis. Please upload it to the archive, under "Drug History"
Is there any know cure for antonys fire.
Depends on the severity. If treatment is sought early enough, the use of potent vasodilators can be used to try and restore blood flow to the peripheral tissues. Both nitroprusside and synthetic prostacyclins like Iloprost have been reported to be effective in the literature, though I do not know if these are still first-line treatments.
Unfortunately the literature also suggests that people do not tend to seek medical treatment until it is too late. The negative effects of peripheral vasoconstrictors like the ergot alkaloids and also the psychedelic amphetamines (e.g. DOB, bromo-dragonFLY etc.) are not necssarily immediately apparent, and may take days to manifest. If the tissue has already been deprived of blood for too long then there is little that can be done; the tissue will already be necrotic. Amputation is the only viable option to avoid life-threatening infections like gangrene in these scenarios.
I'd imagine with the advances in supportive medical treatment that ergotism is rarely fatal in this day and age, but it's still a very unpleasant and often disfiguring form of poisoning.