The Fly Agaric is not a well-known mushroom based
on its scientific name or common name. Yet, the pictures on this site,
of the Fly Agaric mushroom, will probably be familiar to the reader. In recent
time, it is the Amanita mushroom that has been adopted as the “prototype”
mushroom in western cultures. Its image can be seen in Christmas and
greeting cards, children's stories, science fiction and fantasy
illustrations, and in mushroom models. There has even been a great
deal made of its connections with Christmas, since the Inuit tribes
worshipped Fly Agaric mushrooms and flying reindeer gods.
It is the author’s personal opinion that Fly Agaric is
one of the most maligned plants on the planet. It is
completely legal to posses, but is listed as a poison by the FDA, so
any change in its status from a poison to an illegal plant would be
improbable, regardless of the information that has been surfacing
recently. There is so much research that could be done regarding
this plant, and it is my hope that this research is carried out
while this possible sacred plant with a rich historical background
remains completely legal.
In Gordon Wasson’s groundbreaking book from 1968; “Soma, the Divine
Mushroom of Immortality”, he was the first to put forth convincing
evidence that the sacred, ancient drink known as “Soma” drank by Vedic
Aryans, was actually made form the pressed juice of the Fly Agaric mushroom. He was completely convinced in his assertion,
except for one small haunting detail; he was unable to reproduce the
states of consciousness that the Soma experience was supposed to evoke
despite numerous experiments with this plant.
But there have been several researchers since Hoffman, including Clark
Heinrich, author of; “Magic Mushrooms”, who were able to induce
experiences that they feel were more than perfect realizations of the
episodes described in countless passages that sought to document
Fly Agaric intoxication. Jonathan Ott, in reference to Amanita
muscaria intoxication states; “Based on my own self-experimentations
with A. muscaria and A. pantherina, as well as [with a 100mg dose of]
pure Ibotenic acid, and [a 10mg dose of] Muscimol, I would say that
each are quite capable of having produced, ‘the rapturous visionary
ecstasy that inspired the Vedas,’ far more than the seeds of Peganum
harmala, a Valium-like drug.”
Seeking Soma’s Identity
Wasson set off a worldwide hunt and debate for the true Soma of
legend, and the identity of Soma has been hotly debated ever since.
Despite this debate, the only point that every scholar can agree upon,
is that any of the alternatives that they have presented as
possibilities couldn’t possibly be the secret identity of Soma. The
solution most often offered now is that Soma was harvested out of
existence a long, long time ago.
With the alarming rate that plant species are disappearing from this
planet, it doesn’t seem like that outrageous of a theory, though I
find it difficult to believe that a plant so sacred and possibly so
widespread, could simply vanish from the face of the Earth. Others
agree as well.
With this in mind, Mr. Heinrich seems to
have also been unable to find any other evidence
that supports the position that the plant used for Soma rituals has
been harvested out of existence; even plants that have been over used
and over harvested for thousands of years, such as the Peyote plant,
still exist today. To him, it's more plausible that the identity of
the plant was lost, not the plant itself. If the research by many
scholars is correct, then the identity of Soma is simply well-guarded
in metaphor and parable, but is plainly visible to anyone who wishes
to plumb its meaning from countless passages.
He further states that one of the features of Fly agaric ingestion, is that the
intoxicating principle passes unadulterated through one’s urine. The
only other known plant that produces this same effect is Psilocybe
cubensis, in which 25% of this illegal entheogen is passed into the urine
unadulterated. This, therefore, effectively eliminates any known plant
species from being a Soma candidate…except Amanita muscaria, Amanita pantherina, and Psilocybe cubensis, all of which are mushrooms. This
fits perfectly with the Aryan’s Soma rituals which involved the
drinking of urine from someone who had ingested the magical drink.
Another interesting detail is that Amanita muscaria needs birch trees
to grow. These are plentiful in Siberia, but non-existent in India,
and there are many recorded accounts of the Aryan’s setting up trade
routes into Siberia for the purpose of trading Soma, whatever its
identity may have been. It doesn’t seem implausible that a culture
that had Amanita so integral to their religion and daily life would
spawn other religious cults, who then chose to write about it in their
religious myths, creating metaphorical stories with the Amanita as a
god or a bridge to the gods. Most of the early writing, including the
Rig Veda was by poets, so it would then be no surprise that they would
veil their stories in metaphor and alliteration.
The Aryan’s & Soma
To me, the most convincing evidence revealing the identity of Soma
lies in the fact that the Aryan’s entered India from the North, from
the area of Siberia nearly 4,000 years ago. From this entheogen cult,
Hinduism is known to have evolved. The Aryan’s brought their cult to
the Middle East as well, where Soma became Haoma. The Rig Veda is lush
with references to Soma, and as more and more unbiased scholars look
deeply into these sacred texts, they are finding more and more veiled
and metaphorical references that were overlooked by translators with
specific agendas and biases. None of the above points are disputed
among any scholars or translators of the sacred texts; the argument
and controversy arises in when the identity of Soma is debated.
Regardless of Soma's true identity, even today, the use of Amanita
muscaria in ritual is still widespread amongst numerous Siberian
tribes who have been using Amanitas since the dawn of time. Simply
stated; they wouldn't still be using this plant if it was deadly
toxic, and if it didn't serve some sort of spiritual purpose in their
ritual. Whether or not this is the famed Soma, one thing is certain,
is that at least for this tribe, Amanita muscaria serves as an
important spiritual connector.
The Facts We DO Know
So, despite all of the above, we know that there are tribes in Siberia
that have Amanita muscaria as the centerpiece of their religious
ceremony to this day. We also know that they prefer to ingest 1-3
mid-size caps about the diameter of the palm of a hand for visionary
purposes. We also know that this practice has been going on since
before recorded history, and that similar use has been recorded in
cultures across the globe, including newly discovered evidence of
Native American tribal use of this sacred mushroom. We know that this
mushroom grows in North America, Africa, Europe, and Australia.
We know that Ibotenic acid, a crystalline alkaloid, unstable and very
fragile, partially converts to Muscimol, the active component in
Fly Agaric as the Amanita dries (called decarboxylation). We
know that this conversion is possibly aided when the Amanita lies out
under a warm sun in nature, or is turned upside down, and placed in a
wood oven at about 180 degrees Fahrenheit by humans, and that it is
crucial for the juices to stay in the cap as it dries if preservation
of Muscimol is the desired goal.
We also know that the human body not only converts Ibotenic acid to
Muscimol, and that it also separates the Muscimol from the Ibotenic
acid, excreting pure Muscimol in the urine of the person that ingested
it. Ibotenic acid, which causes the uncomfortable and less desirable
physical effects (sweating/nausea), is absorbed by the ingesting body,
and the Muscimol, the active component that produces the visionary
states, passes unadulterated through the urine.
It is also known that the uncertainty of the Amanita muscaria
intoxication is a result of an unknown mixture of Ibotenic acid and
Muscimol in the amanita at the point of ingestion. There is little
scientific evidence on how to best convert Ibotenic acid into
Muscimol, which part of the Amanita that has the most Ibotenic acid
and Muscimol, the most fertile ground for Amanitas with the highest
concentration of Ibotenic acid and Muscimol, as well as the optimum
time of year to harvest Amanitas to preserve the greatest quantity of
Ibotenic acid and Muscimol. Any statements that claim to know the
truth regarding this at the time of this writing, is speaking from
pure speculation or personal experience only.
Personal experience shows that Fly Agaric from earlier in the harvest
season may be more potent, but this is purely speculation. It also shows that dehydrating Amanitas is
the best way to preserve the Amanitas, rather than drying them in the
sun, over an open flame, or in an oven. Furthermore, it shows that
Fly Agaric caps are indeed more potent than stems, but it doesn’t show that the
red lining of the cap is more potent than the entire cap itself.
Personal experience has also shown that boiling seems to decrease
potency, and that simply re-hydrating in water and eating the
re-hydrated cap, or the squeezing out of its reconstituted juices
provide the most desirable results.
All that being said, the author does not encourage, endorse, or
recommend the ingestion of Amanita muscaria. SPECIFICALLY, AMANITA
MUSCARIA IS LISTED AS A POISON BY THE FDA. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO INGEST THIS PLANT
OR INTRODUCE IT INTO THE HUMAN BODY IN ANY FORM. Equally important,
though, is dispelling the rumors surrounding the toxicity of this
sacred plant: Drawing from a large body of research regarding the
intentional ingestion of Amanita muscaria over thousands of years;
there have been only two reported deaths, and both of the recorded
deaths involved old and infirm individuals who ingested a large amount
of mushrooms. The ingestion of any drug, medicinal or ludible, can
cause death if ingested or given at the wrong time.
The most deaths from mushroom poisonings does occur from poisonings
from the Amanita species, but it is the Amanita’s related cousins that
are poisonous, NOT (according to reports) the Amanita muscaria or the Amanita pantherina.
Mycologists often choose to err on the side of caution, though, and therefore
have labeled the entire species as poisonous. There are
well-known religious cults that exist today in both the United
States, Siberia, and a couple of other places; if the Amanita
muscaria were deadly, there is a great possibility that its use as
the center of a religious practice would not have lasted very long.
The Amanita bisporigera, Amanita virosa,
Amanita verna, and the infamous Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) are the
most dangerous of the Amanitas, but they are easily differentiated
from the Amanita muscaria, because none of them have the beautiful red
cap with white spots.
The reason for the unpredictability of the Fly Agaric experience
is due to the differing amounts of Ibotenic acid versus Muscimol within each mushroom. Even ones from
the same crop picked at the same time can have varying amounts of each
Ibotenic acid is an unstable compound; consequently, during extraction
in a professional research facility, subsequent processing, through drying, or through the simple
passage of time, large losses can occur. Even in dried mushrooms, the Ibotenic acid content decreases gradually over time, Amanitas that
have been in storage for 6 months or more, will reportedly have less Ibotenic
acid contained within them than recently dried specimens, decreasing
unpleasantness if the mushroom is accidentally ingested. Furthermore,
it appears that the highest concentration of Ibotenic acid and
Muscimol is in the yellow tissue of the cap immediately below the
skin, so the practice of peeling off of the red skin may leave behind
most of both the Muscimol and the Ibotenic acid.
Finally, though frowned upon by modern society, and difficult for many
to stomach, an ongoing personal experiment by a group of people who
base their religious practice around Amanita muscaria ingestion,
yielded, according to them, these results: They drank large amounts of water,
and then ingested several Amanita muscaria caps. They then drank more
water, and after urinating, saved the liquid and dried it. The
remaining material was then placed into a GelCap and ingested,
yielding extremely pleasant, spiritual experience, without even a
hint of unpleasantness.
The interesting physiological activity of ibotenic acid stimulated several
chemical syntheses of this compound, including:
"Muscimol: (C4H6O2N) colorless crystals, m.p. 155-156° (hydrate), 174-175°
(waterfree) is the enol betaine of 5-aminomethyl-3-hydroxyisoxazole (II).
Its salt nature renders it very soluble in water but only sparingly soluble
in organic solvents, i.e. alcohol. Its colour reaction with ninhydrin in
paper chromatograms is intense yellow and exhibits the same color changes as
"Muscimol can be found in all Amanita species in which ibotenic acid occurs.
However, since it is easily derived from ibotenic acid through the loss of
water and CO2, which can occur during extraction or on paper chromatograms,
one cannot say positively that it is a genuine compound in the mushroom. In
biological tests, muscimol is at least 5 times more active than ibotenic
acid. There results the interesting case where a simple chemical reaction (decarboxylation),
which can occur during storage, in process, or in the body itself, renders a
compound that is considerably more potent than the original form."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - -
Mushrooms in Religion & Alchemy" by Clark Heinrich
"The Sacred Mushroom & the Cross" by John M.
"The Sacred Mushroom" by Andrija Puharich
"Narcotic Plants" by William Emboden
(Fly Agaric - Europe, Aisa, Africa, Americas)
could very well be human's oldest hallucinogen, as it has been identified as
Soma of ancient India.
the Solanaceae - Nature and Culture in Huichol Mythology ( - By
Peter T. Furst )
Article concerning the use of Solandra among the Huichol and the true
identity of Kieri
the Aryans - (R. Gordon Wasson)
This paper is based upon the author's "SOMA, Divine Mushroom of Immortality
", published in 1969 in New York by Harcourt Brace & World Inc., and in The
Hague by Mouton. This work is referred to in the following pages as " Soma".
Ethnobotanical Tools in the Ancient Near East ( - by William A.
It is suggested that art and artifact have been sources often overlooked in
determining the ethnobotanical content of any early civilization. The
suggestion is made that early civilizations in the area of the Fertile
Crescent employed Datura, Cannabis, Claviceps, Mandragora, Nymphaea, Vitis,
and possibly Papaver as medicaments and ritual entheogens.