Just a few years in the past, I used to be referred to as as an skilled witness in a legal case involving trance and possession. The circumstances of the case will not be necessary to this text however, to not depart you hanging, needed to do with a person who had flown to the UK from Nigeria and was discovered to be carrying cocaine when he was stopped by Customs Officers. His defence was that he had been entranced, or probably drugged, by a bunch of males who had planted the cocaine on him earlier than he boarded the aircraft.
What was extra fascinating for me was that I acquired to have lunch with one other skilled witness, a toxicologist from one of many UK’s main instructing hospitals, who had a eager curiosity in mycology and deliberate to publish a e book on the sacred use of fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria) in religious therapeutic and historic warriorship practices.
On account of his research, he had not too long ago labored with a TV manufacturing firm who had made a documentary with him to check one in every of his private pet theories: that the Zulu Struggle was fought by the indigenous individuals beneath intoxication from the sacred mushroom. This had given them, not solely superhuman energy and imperviousness to ache, however a way of fearlessness and their very own divine goal in battle. It was this that had helped them depart the sector victorious, he claimed.
Clearly, the TV firm couldn’t stage one other battle to check this principle, however what they may do – and did – was to get two martial arts consultants into a hoop to combat it out for the cameras.
Within the first a part of this experiment, the combatants met equally and fought a number of rounds collectively. Neither emerged as a transparent winner on this rigorously matched contest.
Within the second half, nevertheless, one of many fighters was given 5 strips of fly-agaric to devour. He was allowed to relaxation whereas it took impact, after which each fighters met once more.
Besides they did not, precisely. In keeping with the skilled I used to be chatting with (apparently, over a lunch of mushroom paella), the fighter who had taken fly-agaric merely flew throughout the ring as quickly because the bell rang, hardly even touching the bottom, and threw his opponent so laborious that he ended up on the ground exterior the ropes. The intoxicated fighter by no means even broke a sweat and was not respiratory at something above regular ranges when his opponent was counted out.
Utilization and results of fly-agaric
Within the trendy West, we now have misplaced most of our historic ceremonial practices and not consider in a ‘spirit world’. Consequently, fly-agaric (whether it is thought of in any respect) is regarded solely as a harmful and doubtlessly toxic ‘drug’, slightly than a path to the divine.
In his e book, Ploughing The Clouds, nevertheless, Peter Lamborn Wilson argues convincingly that fly-agaric will not be solely the sacred Soma referred to within the Rg Veda, however that it was utilized in many European international locations and was additionally central to the Irish Keltic custom of shamanism, which nonetheless continues in its primary kind, right now.
The mushrooms themselves, brilliant crimson with white spots, are gathered for ritual use in these traditions through the hottest months of the 12 months – July and August – when they’re most infused with the factor of fireplace and the breath of the solar/Sky Father. Essentially the most highly effective mushrooms, the truth is, are mentioned to dry themselves, able to be picked for his or her communion with man. These are thought of far ‘stronger’ than these picked early and dried artificially. Smaller mushrooms are additionally mentioned to have a lot better energy than bigger ones, and it appears seemingly, from trendy experimentation, that their narcotic results are definitely extra intense through the early rising section.
For non-ritual utilization, the mushrooms are utilized in a lot the identical means as coca leaves within the Peruvian Andes, to create a delicate shift in consciousness, accompanied by delicate euphoria and elevated vitality. In such utilization, the mushrooms are merely rolled right into a ball and swallowed complete, with out chewing. One bigger mushroom (Three-4cm) or 2-Three small ones is sufficient.
For prescribed ritual utilization, nevertheless, a number of mushrooms are usually consumed, normally in a set, or units, of three. “The Rg Veda all the time speaks of Soma in units of three cups and, in Siberia right now, three Amanitas are nonetheless thought of the correct ritual dose”, says Wilson.
An elaborate ceremony will usually accompany the ritual consumption of ‘magic mushrooms’. This will take the type of a ‘hunt’ for the mushroom, adopted by the ‘killing’ of its spirit by symbolically attacking it with spears, golf equipment, or arrows, so it’s ‘made secure’ for human ingestion. It’s then ready in a time-honoured means which is designed in any respect phases to honour its energy, keep away from its wrath and, on the identical time, acquire management of its religious pressure. Solely then is the mushroom eaten, beneath extremely contained, sacred circumstances, and in a Holy house defended by the shaman, who will lead the ritual all through.
As soon as ingested, what we’d name the ‘narcotic’ results of fly-agaric start after about 30 minutes.
Outwardly, the intoxication could seem as involuntary muscle spasms, adopted by a way of the fluidity of actuality and sensory disorientation. Sometimes, there’s vomiting, throughout which complete mushrooms could also be regurgitated. Paradoxically, nevertheless, this usually serves to accentuate the otherworldly sensations of flight and entry to a ‘non-ordinary’ house.
Inwardly, the shaman, and people who partake of this sacrament, are actually in communion with the gods.
In keeping with one description at Erowid.org, which, maybe, bridges the hole between outward impact and inward sensation, the impression of fly-agaric is that “the nerves are extremely stimulated and the slightest effort of will produces very highly effective results. If one needs to step over a small stick, he steps and jumps as if the obstacles have been tree trunks. If a person is ordinarily talkative, his speech is now fixed, and he involuntarily blurts out secrets and techniques, totally aware of his actions and conscious of his secret, however unable to carry himself in test. A person who’s keen on dancing dances, and a music-lover sings incessantly. Others run or stroll fairly involuntarily, with none intention of shifting”.
Two of essentially the most fascinating facets of fly-agaric are that it retains its effectiveness nearly completely, and that its results are simply transmitted to others, notably by ingestion of urine from the primary particular person to eat the mushrooms. The identical impact could be transmitted to a 3rd, fourth or fifth particular person in precisely the identical means.
In actual fact, the power of the mushroom to behave on this means could also be partly on the root of the ‘Father Christmas’ myths which can be noticed within the Winter rituals of the West.
Within the shamanic traditions of Siberia, the shaman would ingest fly-agaric with the intention to journey to the Sky Father and produce again presents of data and energy for his group. Wearing a heat, fur-lined, ritual costume, with a thick belt hung with bells, the shaman would make his journey at dusk to seek the advice of with these otherworldly spirits. Within the hours that adopted, the shaman would wish to urinate and may stroll into the woods to take action. Reindeers would then eat the urine-covered snow as a part of their regular grazing and in addition grow to be intoxicated.
‘Flying’ (intoxicated) reindeers with one sky-borne human (the shaman) who controls them… the similarities in costume… the bells and the belt… the crimson and white of the mushroom… the journey by the sky to ship presents… all the weather of the fashionable day Father Christmas are there, making a slightly idyllic view of fly-agaric.
We should keep in mind, although, that the Amanita has not all the time had such a ‘peaceable’ popularity. The Vikings, for instance, are mentioned to have ritually ingested it with the intention to enter the ‘berserker’ state, prepared for battle (certainly, the Icelandic title for fly-agaric accommodates the phrase, ‘berserk’), simply because the Zulus did, in accordance with my toxicologist lunch mate.
Properties and chemistry
One of many first research of fly-agaric was made in 1863, by two German chemists who printed a e book on the properties of muscarine, a poisonous alkaloid that that they had remoted from the Amanita. For nearly a century, their research (which turned out to be fallacious) was taken as gospel and muscarine was erroneously believed to be the principle lively ingredient of fly-agaric mushrooms. Numerous confusions adopted and it was not till 1964 that its true constituents have been remoted – after which nearly concurrently by three totally different laboratories, in Japan, England and Switzerland. Lastly, the right compounds have been recognized as ibotenic acid and muscimol.
Muscimol is the psychoactive constituent. A tiny a part of the ibotenic acid is modified to muscimol inside the human system, following ingestion of the mushroom, and this produces the results for which fly-agaric is thought.
Analysis reveals that ibotenic acid will create an hallucinogenic impact in people, at doses as small as 50mg. The onset of those results could also be fast or fairly gradual, starting from 30 minutes to 2-Three hours, relying on physique kind, susceptibility, habituation, and the circumstances of ingestion.
In any case, three hours is normally sufficient for the complete results to be felt, which is able to then final for Four-Eight hours, relying on dose, and can usually embrace muscle spasms (as if one is definitely taking a ‘journey’ of kinds), visible distortions (‘visions’), altered auditory notion (‘listening to voices’), and lack of equilibrium (modified perspective on ‘regular actuality’).
A substantial quantity of ibotenic acid is excreted shortly after fly-agaric is consumed, and stays unaltered within the urine. This provides credibility to the Siberian expertise (together with the residual Father Christmas fantasy) since, after consuming the mushroom, the shaman would excrete ibotenic acid in his urine and reindeers may ingest this and reprocess its ibotenic acid content material as muscimol, producing the same hallucinogenic impact. The animal would then excrete ibotenic acid in its personal urine, and the method would proceed.
On this means, a 50-100mg dose of ibotenic acid may produce 10-15mg doses of muscimol for as much as 10 customers, in order that one consumption of mushrooms would definitely be efficient throughout 4 or 5 generations of animal or human ingestion.
Timber and mushrooms, mushrooms and timber
It appears that there’s additionally a symbiotic relationship between the fly-agaric mushroom and the birch tree – the mushrooms develop within the shade of the tree – which might account for the ‘sacred birch’ custom in European shamanism.
Certainly, inside shamanism, timber, per se, are held as sacred, as properties of the elementals or gateways to spirit, and connections between totally different life kinds (such because the mushroom and the tree) are revered because the shamanic perception is that we’re all – each life kind – linked, one to a different. This animistic precept of connection would definitely have been strengthened for the shaman experiencing the magical results of fly-agaric, in order that the birch tree would grow to be sacred by affiliation.
The fly-agaric mushroom continues to be discovered wherever the birch is widespread, together with the UK and the Americas. Distinguishable by its brilliant crimson colouring and white spots, it’s best ready for ceremonial use (in accordance with some shamanic traditions, in addition to the recommendation of my toxicologist lunch mate) by reducing it into skinny strips that are then boiled in milk for 30 minutes or so. The liquor is then drunk and the mushroom strips eaten. Another is to dry the mushrooms and add them to vodka, ingesting the alcohol-Amanita combination when the liquid turns orangey-red.
Naturally, in ritual utilization, fliegenpilz should all the time be taken in a sacred means with the intention of unveiling true religious data, and with full reverence for its energy. To do in any other case is solely to have interaction in ‘drug-taking’, with all of the inherent risks of misuse and the results of superhuman, Zulu-like, energy which we mere mortals and Western suburbanites could then should cope with.