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c. 1000 BCE - 392 CE Annual mystery rites dedicated to the goddess Demeter are held in the Greek city of Eleusis. The weeks-long celebration culminates in an all-night secret initiation rite. Some speculate that the initiation may have involved drinking a hallucinogenic potion containing ergot alkaloids. 1  
600 BCE Assyrians describe ergot as a "noxious postule in the ear of grain." 2  
1039 The first-known European outbreak of "Holy Fire" afflicts Dauphiné, France, the burial place of Saint Anthony. Members of his holy order form a hospital and begin caring for the afflicted, and the ailment subsequently becomes known as "Saint Anthony's Fire". Following the introduction of rye into Europe, ergot epidemics become a periodic fact of life. 2   [Details]
Middle Ages Midwives use weak ergot extracts to hasten labor and reduce postpartum bleeding. 3  
1676 Ergot is discovered to be a cause of bread poisoning by Denis Dodart, who reports his findings to the French Royal Academy of Sciences. 4  
1692 The salem witch trials in Salem, Massachussettes, may have been prompted by an outbreak of ergotism. 4  
1807 In one of the first mentions of ergot in the United States, physician John Stearns recommends powdered ergot sclerotia as a therapeutic agent in childbirth, inaugurating modern scientific research into ergot's medicinal properties. 4  
1823 Ergot alkaloids are no longer used during childbirth, but are administered afterwards to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. 5  
Late 19th Century Extracts of ergot are first used to treat vascular and migraine headaches   
Nov 16, 1938 Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for Sandoz Pharmaceutical in Basel, Switzerland, is the first to synthesize LSD-25. He discovered LSD, a semi-synthetic derivative of ergot alkaloids, while looking for a blood stimulant. 6  
1951 Contaminated flour causes an epidemic of delirium and fevers in Saint-Pont-Esprit, France, causing 200 illnesses and 4 deaths. French authorities alternately blame ergot and mercury poisoning. 7  

  1.   Wasson RG, Hofmann A, Ruck CAP. The Road to Eleusis. William Daly Rare Books. 1998.
  2.   Schultes RE, Hofmann A, Rätsch C. Plants of the Gods. Inner Traditions. 2001.
  3.   Ott J. Pharmacotheon, The Natural Products Co. 1993.
  4.   Caporael LR. "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?". Science. 1976;192(4234):21-6.
  5.   van Dongen PW, de Groot AN. "History of ergot alkaloids from ergotism to ergometrine".Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1995;60(2):109-16.
  6.   Hofmann A. "Die Geschichte des LSD-25". Triangel Sandoz Zeitschrift fur Medizinische Wissenschaften. 1955;2(3):117-24. (as cited in Ott J. Pharmacotheon. 1993. pg 123.)
  7.   Fuller JG. The Day of St Anthony's Fire. Macmillan Co. 1968.