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Plant Spirit Shamanism: Fly Agaric

A number of years in the past, I used to be referred to as as an professional witness in a felony case involving trance and possession. The circumstances of the case will not be vital to this text however, to not go away 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 presumably drugged, by a bunch of males who had planted the cocaine on him earlier than he boarded the airplane.

What was extra attention-grabbing for me was that I received to have lunch with one other professional witness, a toxicologist from one of many UK’s main educating 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 non secular therapeutic and historical warriorship practices.

On account of his research, he had just lately labored with a TV manufacturing firm who had made a documentary with him to check one in all his private pet theories: that the Zulu Struggle was fought by the indigenous folks 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 function in battle. It was this that had helped them go away the sector victorious, he claimed.

Clearly, the TV firm couldn’t stage one other conflict to check this principle, however what they may do – and did – was to get two martial arts specialists into a hoop to battle it out for the cameras.

Within the first a part of this experiment, the combatants met equally and fought just a few rounds collectively. Neither emerged as a transparent winner on this fastidiously matched contest.

Within the second half, nonetheless, one of many fighters was given 5 strips of fly-agaric to eat. He was allowed to relaxation whereas it took impact, after which each fighters met once more.

Besides they did not, precisely. Based on the professional 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 exhausting that he ended up on the ground outdoors the ropes. The intoxicated fighter by no means even broke a sweat and was not respiration at something above regular ranges when his opponent was counted out.

Utilization and results of fly-agaric

Within the trendy West, we’ve got misplaced most of our historical ceremonial practices and not imagine in a ‘spirit world’. Consequently, fly-agaric (whether it is thought-about in any respect) is regarded solely as a harmful and probably toxic ‘drug’, fairly than a path to the divine.

In his e-book, Ploughing The Clouds, nonetheless, Peter Lamborn Wilson argues convincingly that fly-agaric shouldn’t 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 type, as we speak.

The mushrooms themselves, brilliant crimson with white spots, are gathered for ritual use in these traditions throughout the hottest months of the yr – July and August – when they’re most infused with the aspect of fireside and the breath of the solar/Sky Father. Essentially the most highly effective mushrooms, in truth, are stated to dry themselves, able to be picked for his or her communion with man. These are thought-about far ‘stronger’ than these picked early and dried artificially. Smaller mushrooms are additionally stated to have a lot higher energy than bigger ones, and it appears probably, from trendy experimentation, that their narcotic results are actually extra intense throughout the early rising part.

For non-ritual utilization, the mushrooms are utilized in a lot the identical manner as coca leaves within the Peruvian Andes, to create a mild shift in consciousness, accompanied by gentle 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, nonetheless, a number of mushrooms are usually consumed, often in a set, or units, of three. “The Rg Veda all the time speaks of Soma in units of three cups and, in Siberia as we speak, three Amanitas are nonetheless thought-about the correct ritual dose”, says Wilson.

An elaborate ceremony will typically accompany the ritual consumption of ‘magic mushrooms’. This will likely 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 protected’ for human ingestion. It’s then ready in a time-honoured manner which is designed in any respect levels to honour its energy, keep away from its wrath and, on the similar time, achieve management of its non secular power. 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 might seem as involuntary muscle spasms, adopted by a way of the fluidity of actuality and sensory disorientation. Sometimes, there may be vomiting, throughout which complete mushrooms could also be regurgitated. Paradoxically, nonetheless, this typically 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.

Based on 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, absolutely acutely aware of his actions and conscious of his secret, however unable to carry himself in examine. A person who’s keen on dancing dances, and a music-lover sings incessantly. Others run or stroll fairly involuntarily, with none intention of transferring”.

Two of essentially the most attention-grabbing elements of fly-agaric are that it retains its effectiveness virtually completely, and that its results are simply transmitted to others, notably via ingestion of urine from the primary individual to eat the mushrooms. The identical impact could be transmitted to a 3rd, fourth or fifth individual in precisely the identical manner.

In truth, the flexibility of the mushroom to behave on this manner could also be partly on the root of the ‘Father Christmas’ myths which are 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 neighborhood. 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 would possibly stroll into the woods to take action. Reindeers would then eat the urine-covered snow as a part of their regular grazing and likewise turn out 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 via the sky to ship presents… all the weather of the trendy day Father Christmas are there, making a fairly idyllic view of fly-agaric.

We should keep in mind, although, that the Amanita has not all the time had such a ‘peaceable’ status. The Vikings, for instance, are stated to have ritually ingested it with the intention to enter the ‘berserker’ state, prepared for battle (certainly, the Icelandic title for fly-agaric incorporates the phrase, ‘berserk’), simply because the Zulus did, based on my toxicologist lunch mate.

Properties and chemistry

One of many first research of fly-agaric was made in 1863, by two German chemists who revealed a e-book on the properties of muscarine, a poisonous alkaloid that they’d remoted from the Amanita. For nearly a century, their research (which turned out to be unsuitable) 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 virtually 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 throughout the human system, following ingestion of the mushroom, and this produces the results for which fly-agaric is understood.

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 speedy or fairly sluggish, 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 often sufficient for the complete results to be felt, which can then final for Four-Eight hours, relying on dose, and can usually embody 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 might 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 manner, a 50-100mg dose of ibotenic acid might produce 10-15mg doses of muscimol for as much as 10 customers, in order that one consumption of mushrooms will surely be efficient throughout 4 or 5 generations of animal or human ingestion.

Bushes 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 varieties (such because the mushroom and the tree) are revered because the shamanic perception is that we’re all – each life type – related, one to a different. This animistic precept of connection will surely have been strengthened for the shaman experiencing the magical results of fly-agaric, in order that the birch tree would turn out to be sacred by affiliation.

The fly-agaric mushroom continues to be discovered wherever the birch is frequent, together with the UK and the Americas. Distinguishable by its brilliant crimson colouring and white spots, it’s best ready for ceremonial use (based on some shamanic traditions, in addition to the recommendation of my toxicologist lunch mate) by slicing 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, consuming the alcohol-Amanita combination when the liquid turns orangey-red.

Naturally, in ritual utilization, essen fliegenpilz should all the time be taken in a sacred manner with the intention of unveiling true non secular data, and with full reverence for its energy. To do in any other case is just 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 might then should cope with.

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