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Amanita Muscaria

~ Amanita Muscaria ~
This iconic, fairytale mushroom has been used for religious, recreational and even food for millennia. It’s use in folk medicine dating back to 6000 B.C. makes it one of the earliest known hallucinogenic plant medicines. Also known as ‘fly agaric’ from it’s reported use in the middle ages to kill flies.
Today, it’s found growing all over the world. It cleverly creates a symbiotic relationship with it’s host tree, colonising and extending the host trees root system (I always find it under Oak trees). You can’t grow Amanita, it grows exclusively in the wild.
Apparently A. Muscaria was eaten by Italian villagers during WWII when there was nothing else to eat. First a very careful detoxifying & cooking process was involved, to make this mushroom edible during desperate times.
Amanita’s are better known for their sacred uses, especially with the Shamans and villagers of far flung villages in Siberia, where the reindeer also seek out these colorful fungi. The Shamans of this region ingest the mushrooms, entering trancelike states and cross the threshold to other/spirit worlds, acting like a conduit for channelling the mushrooms divine power. The local villagers then drink the Shamans urine to experience the psychoactive effects. Even the reindeer are onto it & seek out this mushroom, consuming it then drinking each others pee in the snow. This all might sound rather bizarre but the body filters out some of the less desirable effects of the mushroom, and therefore drinking the urine of someone that ingested it is very clever.
A. Muscaria is used as a medicine to treat injuries, mental imbalances and psychological fatique, a mediator of the spirit world, as an aphrodisiac, and some elderely take it at night to sleep. It’s also used to celebrate seasonal events and weddings.
Amanita is a genus that contains many different species, inculding edible, as well as some of the most poisonous mushrooms on earth, including death caps, which cause over 90% of all mushroom eating fatalities. BEWARE. Although it looks like candy & we’ve all seen it pictured in fairytales (the gateway mushroom to nymphs, fairies & dwarfs), this is a mushroom to teach your children not to touch or play with...
Note I am not encouraging anyone to rush out and consume Amanita! I just find all this folklore & info about a mushroom that we all recognise absolutely fascinating and wish to share it!
Obviously when foraging you need to be 100% sure of the ID of any plant or fungi, as well as how to safely gather and prepare it for consumption.
If you’d like to learn more about foraging for (safe) wild edible plants, you can join my upcoming Foraging Workshop in Wellington, sign up for my self paced online foraging course, or order my foraging guides.