SpruceRoots Magazine - December 2001

 

SOMA: STORM CLOUD FULL OF LIFE

by Ian Lordon

Amanita muscaria, the very name rolls off the tongue like an incantation. The siren red cap dappled with white warts bursts onto the forest floor like a celebrity diva into a room full of suits. An object of worship, a history of messing with the minds of men, she has a dark, mysterious, and mythical past. Rumored to be deadly, she never-the-less appeals to children, the imagination, and inspires art, prose, rhyme, and song. She is a queen among mushrooms - apparitions from the underworld.

Just below the earth's surface, hidden in the soil from which plants, trees, and grasses spring, lies a kingdom unlike any other - the kingdom of fungi. It's a family of life unto its own, one of the least explored and understood by modern science, and yet these creatures who number in the tens of thousands have as great a part to play in every ecosystem as any vegetable, vermin, or viper struggling in the web of life.

In nature and academia, fungi are most closely associated with plants. In the wild, many fungi depend on plants for their existence either through mutually beneficial, or symbiotic, relationships, or as the aggressor in parasitic associations. It is principally because of these relationships that mycology, the study of fungi, tends to fall within the broader academic domain of botany.

As living creatures, however, fungi have more in common with animals than plants. Metabolically, like animals, they absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. They are heterotropes, meaning they don't photosynthesize energy from the sun as plants do. And genetically, the composition of their cellular matter is closer to that of insects or mollusks than moss.

The rainforests of British Columbia play host to an extraordinarily wide spectrum of fungal life, and it should come as no surprise that the province is also home to hundreds of mycological enthusiasts. Among them, one of the most highly regarded experts in the field of fungi on the north west coast is amateur mycologist Paul Kroeger.

Although Kroeger is without academic credentials, he has studied fungi for close to thirty years, earns his living as a professional mycological consultant, and founded BC's oldest mycological society in Vancouver which now boasts more than 150 members. Like many before him, Kroeger was initially attracted to fungi in his younger years by the, ah, consciousness altering properties of certain mushrooms.

"Back in the good old days I was quite interested in the drug scene and that piqued my interest, but as I learned more I got into them in their own right," he says. "I moved from an area, the Okanagan, to the coast and was really struck by the beauty of them."

 

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Kroeger has just returned from a mycology conference in Oregon. He's tired and coming down with a cold, but still has energy left to talk about fungi in general, and mushrooms in particular.

Mushrooms are the procreative vessels of fungi, the fruit of a larger organism which exists primarily underground. Rather than seeds, mushrooms contain spores which are released upon the surface of the soil and spawn new organisms. Kroeger explains the timing and ability of fungi to produce these fruiting bodies which require energy, water, and other nutrients, are directly related to soil conditions. Conditions which are influenced mostly by the living and dead matter fungi share their habitat with, and of course, the weather.

"The seasonality of fungal fruiting has a lot to do with available moisture and the nutrient cycles of the trees. There are certain fungi that will fruit whenever the weather is moist enough and not freezing, like Amanita pantherina, which will come out in the spring and fall, and even the summer if it's wet enough," he says. "Others, like

Amanita muscaria, will come out in the fall and it probably has a lot to do with the season when the plants begin to go into a form of dormancy. With deciduous trees, for example, sugar is transferred down to the roots to be stored during the winter and then pumped back up in the spring with the sap flow. This also happens with conifers to some degree, they go through winter in a state of semi-dormancy." With the sap underground, fungi have access to the energy they require to breed.

"This is a very opportune time for the fungi to fruit because they expend a certain amount of energy producing their mushrooms. It's a vital time of reproduction, they want to get their spores out and the best time is when there's a lot of sugar around. For that reason, there are certain mushrooms that fruit predominantly in spring or fall."

Not all fungi produce mushrooms, nor do they all rely on sap from living plants and trees for energy. Some break down and feed upon decaying matter, others kill living plants in order to survive. Amanita muscaria, like many species of fungi, cooperates and coexists with certain trees in a symbiotic relationship mycologists describe as mycorrhizal.
The root of this relationship lies, well, among roots. Mycorrhizal fungi grow around the roots of trees and help them gather nutrients and moisture in exchange for food.

"The fungi form a sheath which envelopes the rootlets and greatly increases their reach and absorptive capabilities, many-fold multiplying accessibility to nutrient and water for the tree," Kroeger says. "The tree photosynthesizes sugar and exchanges these sugars with the fungus for water and minerals, especially phosphorous and nitrogen."

Then in the fall, when the trees have stored most of their sugar underground, fungi begin to fruit.

"Imagine you have this great strandy web underground. Pick up and turn over big pieces of rotting wood or bark and you'll see these huge fans or strands of white or yellow vegetable mold. What you're seeing there is the mycelium at work. Those things will gather together and they'll begin to form a cluster that will develop into the mushroom button or the mushro/M primordial, and these strands will coalesce and grow into a knot of tissue that becomes a button. Then, when the water is available, the network of strands transports the water into it and the mushroom expands and grows, sometimes very rapidly, from the small white bulb opening into the classic mushroom shape in just a couple of days."

This process is constantly underway. When fungi aren't producing mushrooms, they are expanding, extending their network of mycelium. Kroeger says in some instances these massive webs of fungi account for the majority of all living matter underground in the forest. Without them, decay would slow down, inhibiting the return of nutrients to the soil vital to the growth of new life, and depriving insects and other organisms of a source of food.

"A lot of other organisms, insects and invertebrates, depend on fungi for survival," he says. "When mushrooms have matured and given off their spores they tend to turn into seething piles of maggots and slime, and a lot of those maggots are young forms of various flies which can be very specific to certain species of mushrooms."

It's a peculiar role for a peculiar critter. An animal-like creature, concealed in a dark kingdom, nurturing and being nurtured by plants and trees, creating potential for new life from the dead. These are the origins and existence of Amanita muscaria, a colourful reminder of the larger organism underground. A curious being in its own element, and the story only grows more strange when humans are added to the equation. Never mind the reindee

 

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First off, let's get one thing straight: no matter what your mushroom guide may tell you, A. muscaria is not lethal poison. Eating a few of these mushrooms will probably make you sick, but unless copious amounts are consumed, death rarely results. Just ask Kroeger.

"It's unfortunate in a way. It's sort of put forward as the classic toadstool, and the toadstool in British culture is a poisonous mushroom. However, the origin of a toadstool has more to do with appearance and where it grows," he says. "Yet it's really hard to find a person who would be tempted to eat it because of its reputation."

In the English-speaking world, A. muscaria is commonly called Fly Agaric, a name acquired through its traditional use as a house-fly poison. The mushroom would be dried and ground, then mixed into a bowl of milk and left out to attract flies. The flies would drink the mixture and keel over. Except they don't actually die - flies left in this condition will eventually regain their senses and return to being annoying household pests.

A. muscaria's poisonous reputation probably has more to do with the rest of the Amanita family, or genus, of fungi to which the mushroom belongs than any of its own inherent qualities. The brown-capped Amanita pantherina, for instance, is often confused with muscaria and any unlucky eater becomes extraordinarily ill. While the Amanita phalloides, or Death Cap, is responsible for over 90 percent of all

European fatalities from mushroom ingestion. A. muscaria shares many of its brethren's distinguishing traits: the white gills, the ring around the stem, and the bulbous vulva at the base, but fatal poisoning isn't often one of them.

"There aren't many documented cases of someone dying from eating it," Kroeger says, "but it does have an inebriating quality. It's more of a delirium."

Ah yes, A. muscaria: the infamous inebriant. Second only to its striking appearance, this is the mushroom's most remarkable characteristic.

 

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Throughout human history A. muscaria figured prominently in several cultures precisely because of its ability to transport the human mind beyond the confines of mundane reality and onto the astral plane, or at least chemically rewire it for a spell.

For whatever reason, people have always sought ways of escaping or transcending existence through the use of substances. Alcohol boasts a long tradition in this bailiwick, and these days the list of substances employed and abused for this purpose goes on and on: cannabis, cocaine, opium, LSD, ecstasy, and a mind-boggling variety of other pharmaceutical concoctions.

For thousands of years, along the Kamchatkan peninsula in Siberia, many indigenous tribes with no knowledge of fermentation made use of A. muscaria for this reason and others. Of these, perhaps the most thoroughly documented by modern academics and anthropologists were the Koryaks, who enjoyed A. muscaria as an intoxicant, in religious rituals, and for its medicinal properties.

The Koryaks, a hunting and reindeer-herding people, prized A. muscaria above all else and the mushrooms were often used as currency for trade. When scarce, one mushroom could fetch an entire reindeer, and early explorers and traders returned from the region with bizarre tales after witnessing Koryak mushroom rituals. An account by Georg Langsdorf from 1809 provides an interesting example:

"The Russians who trade with the Koryaks carry thither a kind of mushroom called, in the Russian tongue, Muchmor, which they exchange for squirrels, fox, ermine, sable and other furs. Those who are rich among them lay up large provisions of these mushrooms for the winter. When they make a feast, they pour water upon some of these mushrooms, and boil them. They then drink the liquor, which intoxicate them. The poorer sort, who cannot afford to lay in a store of these mushrooms, post themselves on these occasions round the huts of the rich, and watch the opportunity of the guests coming down to make water. Then they hold a wooden bowl to receive the urine which they drink off greedily, as having still some virtue of the mushroom in it, and by this way they also get drunk."

Urine drinking is a common theme among cultures which employed A. muscaria as an intoxicant. Naturally, this practice jumped out at foreign visitors from societies whose only regard where urine was concerned was for its hygienic disposal, and no doubt quaffing it was not a popular means to this end. But the Koryaks knew what they were doing. After consuming A. muscaria for thousands of years, they had come to learn that the more toxic elements of the mushroom which induce nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating and drooling, are metabolized while the intoxicants are not, sparing the urine drinker these unpleasant side effects. In fact, the effects of a single dosage can be 'passed on' in this way four or five times before they diminish substantially.

How they acquired this knowledge is the subject of some speculation. Perhaps the most credible theory is that they picked it up watching their reindeer, which apparently relish an A. muscaria buzz as much as any Koryak, and will fight each other to consume the urine of one of the more drunken members of the herd.

 

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" The narcotic effect begins to manifest itself about a half hour after eating, in a pulling and jerking of the muscles, or so-called tendon jump. This is gradually followed by a sense of swimming before the eyes, dizziness, and sleep. During this time, people who have eaten a large quantity of mushrooms often suffer an attack of vomiting. But even though not a single mushroom remains in the stomach the effects are, in fact, intensified."

It's hard to tell whether Langsdorf himself tried A. muscaria or if these observations were gathered simply from watching the Koryaks, however, this portrayal does seem consistent with other descriptions of the mushroom's effects upon humans.

"The nerves are highly stimulated, and in this state the slightest effort of will produces very powerful effects. Consequently, if one wishes to step over a small stick or straw, he steps and jumps as if the obstacles were tree trunks. If a man is ordinarily talkative, his speech nerves are now in constant activity. A man who is fond of dancing dances and a music-lover sings incessantly. Others run or walk quite involuntarily, without any intention of moving, to places they do not wish to go at all."

Langsdorf's account corresponds with a report from Russian anthropologist Vladimir Bogoras of a Chukchi tribesman (neighbours of the Koryaks) who after eating A. muscaria removed his snowshoes and walked for hours through the deep snow for the sheer pleasure of conducting exercise with no sense of fatigue.

This exaggerated influence upon motor control is preserved in a Koryak myth where Big Raven, a cultural icon, was incapable of hauling a large bag of provisions. Big Raven summoned the mighty deity Vahiyinin (Existence) to help him, and was directed to seek out spirits called wapaq. Vahiyinin met him at the appointed place and spat on the ground. Where his spittle fell, small white plants topped by red hats dappled with the god's saliva appeared, and Big Raven was told to eat them. When he did he found the strength to easily carry his burden. Big Raven appealed to the wapaq to live forever on the earth and instructed his children to learn whatever they had to teach them.

There are also controversial claims that the legendary Norse Berserkers would consume heavy doses of A. muscaria before engaging in battle to take advantage of the rush of energy which accompanies the initial stages of intoxication. As their longships sailed toward their unfortunate targets, the Viking warriors would allegedly hand out and eat the mushrooms just prior to arrival. By the time the boat hit the beach, they would storm ashore wielding sword and shield effortlessly, and with luck cut down their enemies before the later stages of A. muscaria's influence set in. The blind fury and endurance of these maritime marauders in hand-to-hand combat often drew no distinction between friend or foe. They fought as though possessed by madness, earning their demented epithet: Berserkers.

 

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The later effects tend to develop two or three hours after ingestion and these can vary wildly depending on the individual, the mushrooms, and the dosage. Often they aren't all that pretty as in this recent account from an independent American comic-book artist, Mike Tolento, the morning after taking A. muscaria. This may be one of the most entertaining first-hand encapsulations of the effects I came across, so I will quote generously here:

"My first experience with Amanita muscaria has managed to scare the fuck out of me. I consumed over ten dried grams in a soup at 11:45 pm. The first effect was nausea, then the water-works began to kick in - with a trickle at first, then a torrent. My sweat and saliva glands began to work overtime. By an hour after ingestion my skin was wet to the touch. I was not warm, just very sweaty.

At about 1:30 am I felt it was imperative that I lie down and close my eyes. I was sleepy, yet still remarkably full of energy - a mental energy that engulfed and flowed through me. I closed my eyes and slept, still sweating and salivating into a bottle. I awakened easily at 2 am in another world. My eyes opened and I sat up in a puddle. I was soaked with bodily fluids and I spilled my collected spit. Then, very suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch, my vision blurred. I felt lost somewhere completely beyond the range of human experience. This stuff is definitely hallucinogenic, delirium-inducing, whatever ya wanna call it. The sheer discomfort its use causes is nearly unbearable. Hell yes, we are dealing with a poison here.

So here I am from 2 am to 2:30 am, lying in my bed, under the influence of a dynamic and powerful energy emanating from my forehead (third eye?) but I'm too scared to relax and concentrate my thoughts. Was I scared of going insane? Nah. I'm there. Was I scared the night would never end? Nah. Not really. I was scared of all my goddamn sweating and spitting. I could absolutely not gain control of my own glands. My spit bottle was filling up quickly and my clothes were stuck to my body. This lack of physical control alarmed me. My body was in a cold, wet, sticky hell that was keeping my mind from reaching heaven. After experiencing A. muscaria I can understand why some believe it was consumed by the writers of the Bible. This stuff does have the potential to be inspirational in a divine way. I shut off my light and went to sleep, uncontrollably shivering, salivating, and perspiring far from home. But my experience was not over.

I had a dream. My dream was very intense. It felt real. It centered around me, the bad trip I had been having, and (in a round about way) my job. This dreaming state was the most remarkable part of the experience. It was also the most rewarding and pleasurable moment, free as I was in this sleeping state from the horrible side effects.
I had the distinct impression that other people were in my room and that they were hard at work while I slept. What they were working on was very bizarre and abstract. The clearest way I can put it is that they were working on A. muscaria's effects on me. Each worker seemed real with a distinct personality. Like the various departments at the shitty supermarket in which I worked (dairy, frozen foods, produce, etc.), these people were each confined to a department, the sweat department, the saliva department, the pillow department ( don't ask why but one was in charge of my pillow.) I can also remember flashes of little mushroom people running around. They were shaped like tiny little A. muscarias. Kind of like the 'Goombahs' from Super Mario Brothers except they were happy. It gave me such a warm, satisfying feeling. I felt like I was surrounded by a group of real souls, actual entities that were totally separate, yet still connected to me. My people. I remember opening my eyes, hoping to interact with them only to be alone and soaked in bed in the dark.

So here I am. It's the next day. I'm fine, just really hungry, sore, and a little light-headed. Thankfully, my glands are in order again. All I can say is I was somewhere far away last night and I'm happy to be back. Not sure when or if I'll go away with fly agaric again."

Okay so Mike Tolento, supermarket clerk/comic book artist, is no ancient Siberian shaman and obviously didn't know what he was in for when he took A. muscaria, but his account touches on a number of recurring themes.

For instance there are reams of literature which echo Tolento's progression through the three stages of effects attributable to A. muscaria: the tendon jump and nausea, followed by the narcotic delirium, and finally the lucid dream state.

Another well-documented phenomenon reported by Tolento were the 'Goombahs,' or little mushroom people he envisioned. This is a common experience among those who ingest A. muscaria. In fact, Siberian petroglyphs dated back to the bronze age by Russian archeaologist N.N. Dikov and others depict images of Amanita-type mushrooms and human-mushroom forms, mostly female, with mushroom-heads or mushrooms growing out of their heads.

Historians and anthropologists have traced the spread of A. muscaria mushroom culture from its supposed origins in north eastern Siberia thousands of years ago west towards eastern Europe, and south through what is now Afghanistan to India. It's in ancient India that a new and equally intriguing chapter in the story of this fabled mushroom and its role in the development of human custom and folklore unfolds

 

In the belly of India
Intoxicating Soma is filtered.
Rig Veda IX 80.3

Soma, storm cloud filled with life,
Milked with mild and butter,
Navel of the Path; immortal Concept,
Which springs to life far from here
In unison those charged with the task,
The blessed do honour to Soma.
In flowing movements swollen men piss Soma.
Rig Veda IX 74.4

 

The fountainhead of modern Hinduism is the Rig Veda, a large collection of Sanskrit hymns and songs written more than three thousand years ago. Of the thousand holy hymns, 120 are devoted entirely to Soma, an earthly substance regarded as the embodiment of god by worshippers from a distant past.

Early religions often included ceremonies which centered around the use of hallucinogenic substances also known as entheogens. The sources of these entheogens were mostly plants, but some were mushrooms and a few were animals believed to allow communication between man and the spirit world. Soma is one of the few entheogens looked upon as a god in and of itself rather than a sacred mediator, however, the identity of this specific entheogen was forgotten after the cult of Soma died out and the original substance was substituted with other plants. For two thousand years the identity of Soma remained a mystery until an exhaustive investigation by R. Gordon Wasson published in 1967 argued that A. muscaria inspired the Vedic canon.
Wasson, an American banker and amateur mycologist, pioneered the branch of mycology which studies the uses of fungi in various cultures and the legends associated with them, a discipline he dubbed 'ethnomycology.'

Wasson rose to prominence through the publication of a 1957 Life magazine article documenting the use of psilocybe mushrooms by the Maztec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico. The story generated an incredible response, prompting a deluge of American tourists to seek out the shaman Wasson described using the mushrooms in a religious ceremony. Among the 'pilgrims' was the now-infamous Timothy Leary, widely regarded as one of the fathers of the sixties psychedelic movement, and so profoundly affected by the experience he kept right on tripping until he died.

A year after his Life story, Wasson's wife passed away, he quit banking entirely and devoted himself to ethnomycology. He pursued this interest relentlessly, forging relationships with linguists, chemists, mycologists, anthropologists, and historians until his death on Christmas Day, 1986. Along the way he published several articles and books including: Mushrooms, Russia, and History; The Wondrous Mushroom, Mycolatry in Mesoamerica; Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion; and notably, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality which deals almost exclusively with Amanita muscaria.

Wasson's work threw open the floodgates to a new field of study which growing legions of academics, anthropologists, serious amateurs, and quack theorists have subsequently embraced wholeheartedly. The result is that today, nearly fifty years after Wasson was first recognized, we enjoy a much deeper, if confused and controversial, understanding of the role mushrooms played in the evolution and development of many cultures and religions throughout human history.

One such theory even sketches out a place for A. muscaria at the roots of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In 1970, biblical scholar John Allegro published a book entitled The Mushroom and the Cross, which argues Christianity arose from a mushroom cult.

Allegro uses an early Christian fresco depicting A. muscaria as the tree of knowledge from the Garden of Eden as the jumping off point in an argument which is founded for the most part upon linguistic evidence.

Others have since seized upon the connection between A. muscaria and the tree of knowledge, arguing the biblical tale is related to Koryak myth. The Koryaks and other Siberian tribes regarded the birch as the shaman's 'World Tree,' a kind of cosmic axis onto which the wheels or planes of the universe were fixed: the underworld at the roots, the earth of everyday existence, and the heavens. It's no coincidence that in Siberia A. muscaria is usually found at the base of birch trees, owing to the symbiotic, or mycorrhizal, relationship between the two.

It was through this magical tree at the centre of the world that the Siberian shaman's spirit could explore the heavens or subterranean realms and commune with gods. And the theory goes that it was this Siberian belief, somewhat adulterated, which stumbled into the Garden of Eden

If the story of this mushroom's distant past strikes one as outlandish, well, more recent history remains true to form. In the last couple of hundred years, A. muscaria has cropped up culturally in a number of unusual places, most recently in Nintendo's Mario series of video games. When Mario eats an Amanita, he grows or gets a free life. Elsewhere, the Smurfs - little blue men with funny hats - all lived in A. muscaria houses. And who can forget that hookah-smoking caterpillar Alice ran into in Wonderland? Perched upon (yes, you guessed it) A. muscaria.

The mushroom was also a renowned good-luck charm. Well into the twentieth century, many eastern European Christmas and New Year's cards bore images of A. muscaria pictured with other lucky talismans like four-leaf clovers. Actually finding one of the mushrooms in the forest was considered to be an act of good fortune. And Wasson's Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, contains several children's nursery rhymes from Germany dedicated to glüken pilz, 'lucky mushroom,' or A. muscaria.

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Finally, just in time for Christmas, it turns out merry old Saint Nick may also owe his existence to A. muscaria, according to British journalist Rogan Taylor. In a story for the Sunday Times Magazine of London, Taylor claimed that the figure of Father Christmas evolved over centuries out of pagan traditions, and that the modern image of Santa Claus was struck from a number of elements in the 1820s by Professor Clement Clark Moore of Albany, New York, along with a pair of German illustrators - Thomas Nast and Moritz von Schwind.

Taylor backs his contention by pointing to Santa's red and white robe - the colours of A. muscaria, to his association with reindeer - the lifeblood of the mushroom-munching Koryaks, to Santa's preferred means of access, via the chimney - the same way Koryaks would enter their homes, or yurts, during the winter. Last of all, Santa's flight through the night sky on Christmas Eve can be compared to the flight of the spirit fundamental to shamanism.

An interesting case, and it's attracted some notice, adherents, and elaboration since Taylor's story appeared in 1980. Among the adherents is James Arthur, an ethnomycologist from Oregon, who has written several books about fungi, religion, and culture.

On his web site, Arthur relies on iconography and observation along with some history to make his case for the mystical mushroom's Christmas connection which he sums up along these lines:
"Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children in Siberia, a supplanter to the indigenous shaman.

A. muscaria mushrooms grow under Christmas (coniferous) trees. Reindeer eat these mushrooms, hence the presumed flight. The mushrooms are red and white and grow under a green tree. Christmas colours are red, white, and green.

Typically the red and white mushrooms are dried by stringing them on the hearth of the fireplace. Christmas stockings are red and white and hung in the same way.

The virgin birth is symbolic of the 'seedless' growth and germination of the mushroom. To the ancient mind, with no microscope to see the spores, it's appearance was thought to be miraculous.

The very name 'Christmas' is a holiday name composed of the words 'Christ' (meaning 'one who is anointed with a magical substance') and 'Mass' (a special religious ceremony of the sacramental ingestion of the Eucharist, or 'body of Christ'.) In the Catholic tradition, this substance (body/Soma) has been replaced by the doctrine of trans-substantiation,' whereby in a magical ceremony the priests claim the ability to transform a wafer into the literal body of Christ, a substitute or placebo."

Ho, ho, ho Fascinating stuff, but is there any truth to it? Kroeger, who has met and heard Arthur speak on several occasions, has his doubts.

"(Arthur) is incredible," Kroeger says. "He sees mushroom symbology everywhere. He'll see a halo around the portrait of a saint and say it represents the mushroom. Or Santa Claus was a big fat mushroom. I don't know if he's serious. A. muscaria is a very popular subject with a lot of the stoned-out psychedelic-era people, so you can get into mazes and webs of irrelevance. It's got an evil reputation as a very toxic mushroom and yet there are virtually no serious consequences from eating it - other than people get too fond of it and become flaky talkers at conferences."

Yep, from India's ancient altar to the podium and parlour of trippy former hippies - this legendary mushroom has been humbled as of late.

 

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Here on Haida Gwaii, you'll likely find A. muscaria at the feet of spruce or pine trees near the grassy fringes of the forest. If you come across one, consider yourself lucky, and remember to treat it with reverence. Picture the strands of mycelium woven wide and deep into the ground beneath it, embracing the roots of the tree it nurtures, the tree which provides for its existence.

Imagine it is many millennia ago, you are a Vedic poet, and you have found god. Write a hymn. Reflect upon the possibility, however slight, that it was once the 'body of Christ' early Christians shared in their communion, and the fact that their descendents have replaced it with a dry and brittle wafer. Ask yourself what on earth would compel a person to drink someone else's urine. Think of Big Raven. Think of reindeer, think of snow, of the jolly, bearded, fat man in the red and white suit. Drift off into a dreaming Wonderland where the Smurfs are running wild and thoughtful little Goombahs are fluffing up your pillow. Try not to barf, and don't go berserk.

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Illustrations - Michael Nicoll Yaghulanaas. Photo - SRs staff

SpruceRoots Magazine - December 2001