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Does Homer’s Odyssey Mention Ancient LSD and its Antidote?

odysseus circe hermes
Odysseus is helped by Hermes (the messenger god), who gives him a plant antidote, which saves him from being turned to a pig. Scene of The Odyssey. Credit: welcome images / wikimedia commons CC BY 4.0

Probably one of the best known Odyssey tales is the story of Odysseus’ journey to the land of the sorceress Circe, an iconic character in the poem. In the pages of the Odyssey the land is described as an island, while today it is thought to be in Lazio, central Italy.

But … it is not geography that interests us today.

The mysterious adventure of Odysseus.

Within the pages of the Homeric masterpiece, the Odyssey, you will find many fantastic and fictional elements, one of them being the transformation of Odysseus’ men into pigs by the sorceress Circe.

In the course of the tale, Odysseus is helped by Hermes (the messenger god), who gives him a plant antidote, which saves our hero from a sad fate. So Odysseus, protected by the natural remedy, faces the sorceress, who, being unable to change him into a pig, surrenders and frees all his men from her spell.

The End…actually, not the end!

If we analyze carefully, there is a small detail that might connect this spell and its antidote to the real history of the times.

In fact, once in the sorceress’s palace, the faithful followers of Ulysses are offered a sacred drink, a symbol of spirituality and divine worship: the Kykeon.

Kykeon, based on LSD

Etymologically, in Greek, it means “blended mixture”. The classical material base for its preparation was simple: in fact, it was composed of water, rye flour, and some wild mint.

According to some hypotheses instead of water they used wine; however, this would go against the principle of abstinence, an important part of divine and spiritual rites.

During various ancient rituals where the drink was consumed, it was thought that one could have direct contact with the world of the afterlife and the celebrated deities.

The truth? It lay behind the rye flour.

The lack of scientific knowledge in ancient times meant that people were not aware of the presence of a fungus which can still be found in rye crops today: ergot. Obviously in today’s agricultural processes, the fungus is treated and removed.

To this day, we know that the ergot fungus is used for the production of LSD!

So the crew of the King of Ithaca had turned into pigs, but not in reality, only in their heads in the grip of an ancient LSD trip!

The Antidote of Hermes

Hermes Mercury God
Gree god Hermes. Credit: Hendrick Goltzius / Public Domain

But… what did Odysseus eat to avoid sinking into these out-of-body delusions?

Well, it’s fairly simple. Hermes offers the protagonist some “moly” (μώλυ), a plant considered divine and with healing, soothing and calming properties.

However, we fact-seekers still seem to be defeated at this point, since the plant is considered mythological, thus imaginary, thus… does not exist.

But we do not give up, and even if we do not find all the historical facts hidden in this fantastic tale, we try to get closer.

We turn next to Dioscorides Pedanius, a Greek botanist and doctor who lived in Roman imperial times. In his medical treatise “De materia medica,” Dioscorides points out many similarities between the moli plant and Peganum Harmala: that is, Syrian rue.

This was a potent healing plant of Middle Eastern culture, would have prevented Odysseus from falling victim to the hallucinogenic fungus.

This analysis of the Odyssey shows us that Greek mythology is not merely a collection of simple tales and fictional stories, but frequently contains historical references and factual evidence of rituals and customs in ancient times.

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