Amanita Muscaria Fascination - by Jim DeKorne

(Excerpted from "Psychedelic Shamanism") - AVAILABLE HERE

Next to Datura, there is probably more general fascination with Amanita muscaria, the so-called agaric" mushroom, than any other non-scheduled hallucinogen. The mythological mist surrounding this fungi is so thick that probably nobody knows where the truth lies, even as they tramp underfoot in the fog.

Perhaps the major myth (which, maddeningly, may be accurate under certain circumstances) is that A. muscaria is a deadly poison to ingest is almost "certain death." On the other end continuum is the hypothesis that this was the fabled Soma praised in the Aryan Vedas, those ancient hymns of adulation for an unknown hallucinogen ("Soma") which quickened the religious impulse in primitive humanity and kicked off two of the world's major religions, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Between these two positions, deadly poison vs. religious catalyst, lies a vast area of fact and speculation. The following information is reasonably accurate:

This red mushroom with its white spots (the very archetype for a "mushroom" in Western culture), is native to the Northern latitudes of planet Earth. There are old reports that it was used ritually by Siberian shamans, though I am uncertain of any modern observations of this. Part of the mystique surrounding this fungi is the curious observation that you can get high by drinking the urine of someone who has eaten it. It grows only in the wild, usually associated with birch trees, and cannot be cultivated. Much of the conflicting data on A. muscaria stems from the extreme variability of individual specimens potency depends upon soil conditions, moisture, weather and genetic makeup, i.e., strain or subspecies (of which there are at least six). The time of harvest is also important:

"We have found, according to the data reported in many texts, that the most important variable is the time of the season when the mushroom is picked. The most powerful mushrooms were picked in the middle of August when the season [was] beginning. In the mushrooms picked in September the narcotic and physical effects were predominant whereas in August the "visionary" and psychedelic effects were more highlighted.... The amount of drug changes from 1-3 mushrooms in August to 4-5 mushrooms in the middle of September. But even with the higher amount the experience is not the same: in September the physical symptom of nausea is more marked and less the narcotic and visionary experience.... I think that the most powerful quality of the Amanita muscaria is the sense of silent talking to oneself; it's a kind of internal dialogue where a person has the feeling of important revelation about his life, a feeling which is maintained for a long time after the experience. I think that this mushroom could have a lot to teach us about ourselves."

The above observations were made in Europe, so there may be differences in specimens harvested in North America. The lethal dosage of A. muscaria in Europe, as estimated in the quoted article, is something like five kilograms of fresh material, far more than anyone would be likely to ingest. Here is a hallucinogenic dosage recommendation from an anonymous Xeroxed article mailed to me by a correspondent:

"Suggested dosage for one adult: 10 to 15 grams dried material. Make sure the cap to stem ratio is kept at about three to one. Preparation: Pulverize dried mushroom material into a fine powder. A small electric spice mill works best. Mix with one cup of water in a small cook pot. Heat slowly to about 190 [F] degrees. Do not boil. Steep like tea. Keep at 190 for at least one-half hour, using a candy thermometer to monitor temperature, and stirring occasionally... Let cool enough to consume. Consume solids and all. Straining out solids is not advised. That is why it is best to have a fine powder. The elixir should be about the consistency of tomato soup... Using soda pop as a chaser works fairly well, but beware of caffeine unless you are used to it. Special caution! This is not to be mixed with alcohol... Abstain [from alcohol] for 48 hours preceding the experiment."

Repeating anonymous instructions like this for a substance which I have never taken myself is questionable. I do it because of the perennial interest in Amanita muscaria and because I trust the correspondent who sent it to me. It also has a ring of authenticity to it. (Litigiously-disposed readers are advised to re-read the disclaimer at the front of this book.) The article goes on to say that it is part of the experience to sleep for a while after ingestion:

"From one-half hour to one and one-half hours after consumption of [Amanita muscaria] you will notice a particular nausea and drowsiness. Here is where it is important -to relax. Do not fight it. Relaxing and sleeping will relieve the nausea. Lie down and sleep it off for one to two hours... This stage is critical for the transformation of crude chemical into a purer refined soma. Upon awakening and rising, you will understand, and enjoy, as a caterpillar metamorphosizing [sic] into a butterfly."

The following is a description of an Amanita trip sent to me by a different correspondent:

The three participants were A, B and C. D was the sitter. Although she had never sat or taken a psychedelic, she was a nurse, so it was felt to be safe. The mushrooms had been picked about a week before and were dried by a combination of sun, oven and fan. They were completely dry by the time they were taken. Each subject took just under half a cup of finely powdered chopped mushrooms blended with grape juice and consumed at 10:10. They all took some capsules of algae afterwards.

At 10:20 C felt nauseated. A and B went for a walk. By 10:30 A and B were feeling a little woozy, A more than B. A then lay down next to C who had just vomited and drank her emesis. C got up again to vomit at 10:40 but couldn't stand the idea of drinking it again. A is feeling definitely altered, queasy and nauseated. When his breathing was shallow he felt sicker: when he breathed deeply and slowly it was not too bad. B was moving around a lot saying if he moved he didn't feel as nauseated.

A is checking out, feeling like he is skimming an out of body experience: "so ready to leave, just about gone, just about gone." He is hearing things in the room and starting to salivate a lot. The three of them had all prayed and meditated for a few minutes before ingestion, discussing hopes, fears, feelings, most definitely a feeling of gratitude, awe, fear, reverence: the world's oldest psychedelic.

Then followed a two hour bizarre twilight state. C was out, not moving, rapid shallow breathing. (She is generally quite hyper kinetic.) D was most worried about her. C was not sweating or drooling. A and B were occasionally twitching, with a gleam of perspiration over them and saliva pouring or dribbling rapidly out of their mouths. B was apparently less out of it and more present, wondering if he had taken enough. A did not know how much time had passed. He thought he was either awake or dreaming dreams that were totally life-like: dreamed in total awareness. He was only dimly or not at all aware of the music. They were all lying 6 to 8 feet away from 4 foot high speakers that were on very loud.

A threw off his blanket, he was both hot and sweaty and cold and chilled. According to D., none of them showed any visible chills. A was very stoned, feeling like it was unlike anything he had felt before. He said: "psychedelic is too broad-based a term: it's too all-encompassing, too much assumption that it was a psychedelic. It was as if everything was exactly the same but totally unfamiliar. But it all looked like I knew it to be." They all went outside laughing, wondering: "What's going on?" They couldn't tell if they were intoxicated or not. B didn't think so, neither did C, but A did. All he could note was the shadows of the grass and plants looked different, but in retrospect he said: 'It was this world about a shade or quantum level off somehow in an eerie, profound, unmistakable way.'

They were ataxic and staggered. They were all quite happy. There was minimal visual phenomena occurring. They all felt quite loving toward each other but didn't feel concerned about sharing it, unlike MDMA. They all felt like they were in it together, but it was clearly an effort to say much more than a few clipped or short sentences. They were too intoxicated to carry on a conversation. It was as if they were all passing each other on the sea. B and C were hungry and not that intoxicated. They were all cold and hot. All three of them had gotten up off the floor at the same time sweating and drooling with mushroom stench everywhere. A had some gas and cramps. He belched and passed gas and felt better quickly, particularly after D convinced him to drink some hot miso soup and take a shower.

B and C smoked a synergistic herb blend and then they both got much more intoxicated. It appeared as if A was about thirty minutes ahead of B and C. Originally B had asked when all three arose at 1:00 PM if A wanted more. He said, "No way." Later B agreed he couldn't have had any more once he finally came on. Music was incredibly intense, maybe the most intense ever. Every note with its own rise, plateau, peak and fall, along with every melody with its component parts. A felt, then physically became each note: his body was every note. "Perfect," he said, listening to the end of a New Age tape. There was almost too much energy surging through him with the music he wanted to scream to release some of it. There was a feeling of predicting the future and feeling the past somehow the telescoping of time. His thoughts about the future appeared to be a statement about what's happening in the present, or what occurred in the past as the same. He said, "I feel the past and the future as presently true." Some future plans appeared to be automatically happening, as a matter of course.

There was an apperception of being taught: "I feel an incredibly old, earthen, Druidic, arctic-summer, Siberian tree-spirit kind of entity." It was powerful, old, wise and slow-moving: sepias and browns and pale greens: "Here I am can you, will you ask of me?" It seemed very patient the mushroom was gentle and beneficent, but too old to really empathize with: a benign fairy god; a supreme-being everywhere immovable. A felt he could put his hand through it without difficulty.

They all felt a little delirious at times. They felt that taking less would help one remember better; although the experience wasn't too much, it approached that at times. They all laid down until 4:00 PM and got up feeling well. They took a fifteen minute walk, a little wobbly, with the same weird double sense of reality as normal, yet unmistakably different. By 5:30 they all felt great, hungry, able to converse, giggling a lot. They smoked some marijuana in the hot tub. All felt remarkably refreshed no hangover at all: energetic, calm, happy, blessed, astounded.

C verbalized something true for each of them: as soon as one observed that something was odd or stoned or trippy, it changed: turned into a flatter, less voluptuous organic experience. The mushroom did not want you to become a detached observer. It was a lucid dream, but once it became truly lucid (knowing you were in it) it was no longer a dream. It was very odd for such a powerful effect to be so subtly determined. They all slept well with no unusual dreams. The next day they all commented that their vision seemed clearer.

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