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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

The Year 1000:
What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium

Lacey, Robert & Danziger, Danny (1999)
Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

ISBN: 0-316-55840-0 hardcover

Description: Hardcover, x + 230 pages.

Contents: 14 chapters, acknowledgments, bibliography, source notes, index.

[Chapter 8] July - The Hungry Gap

... The barns were at their lowest point and the grain bins could well be empty. Tantalisingly, on the very eve of the August harvest, people could find themselves starving in the balmiest month of all. July was the time of another phenomenon quite unknown to us in the modern West - "the hungry gap." (page 101)

Midsummer was also the season when that other sardonic observer of peasant life, the Flemish artist Pieter Breughel the Elder, painted his famous tableaux of crazed rural festivals. At the very end of the Middle Ages, Breughel depicted countryfolk wrapped up in fits of mass hysteria, and the historical accounts of these rural frenzies have explained the delirium in terms of the slender diet on which the poor had to subsist during the hungry gap. People were light-headed through lack of solid food, and modern chemistry has shown how the ergot that flowered on rye as it grew moldy was a source of lysergic acid - LSD, the cult drug of the 1960s.

The hallucinogenic lift was accentuated by the hedgerow herbs and grains with which the dwindling stocks of conventional flour were amplified as the summer wore on. Poppies, hemp. and darnel were scavenged, dried, and ground up to produce a medieval hash brownie known as "crazy bread." So even as the poor endured hunger, it is possible that their diet provided them with some exotic and artificial paradises. "It was as if a spell had been placed on entire communities," according to one modern historian. There are no accounts from the years around 1000 to match these descriptions of "colossal somnolent vertigo" which have been explained in terms of mind-bending substances, but who can tell? It is nice to think that, by accident or design, the poor of the year 1000 were tuning into transports of delight that matched the pleasures of their betters carousing in the great hall. (pages 102 - 103)

This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2003 CSP

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