Certainly the world’s most historically fascinating and mysterious mushroom, Amanita muscaria— the Fly Agaric or Toadstool—goes way back. Reindeer feed on a variety of mushrooms during the Siberian summer, but come the winter months they like to seek out Fly Agarics. After eating some, they prance around or wander aimlessly, twitching their heads. The indigenous people of Siberia and Lapland discovered the mind-melting hallucinogenic effects of Fly Agarics from watching reindeer eat them. They began to use them for their vision quests, in which sensations of flying are not unusual. Are tripping reindeer the secret to Santa’s journey to deliver toys every year? If so, then what is he feeding his elves? Join the crowd, 30 million Americans have tried psychedelics as well.
While the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ happens on December 25th, people of pagan deities from Northern Europe have been uniting together for feasts and rituals during the coldest months of the winter for thousands of years. Certain traditions from the Christmas of nowadays stem from these ancient European celebrations of food and togetherness.
The ancient Fly Agaric mushroom, which contains the powerful muscimol, has a symbiotic relationship with pine trees and is often found growing directly beneath them. The ancient lore of Northern Europe indicates that these “red presents under the tree” may have inspired the Christmas legend of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. Many ancient pagan celebrations revolve some kind of drug that is considered sacred; it’s not completely inconceivable that the Fly Agaric may have inspired some of kind of legend, set during winter, that involves flying reindeer.
Toadstools might be presents under the tree, or alternatively, these mushrooms might be responsible for attracting the real presents: reindeer. The Sami people used reindeer hide to make clothing and shelter, reindeer antlers to make weapons, and consumed reindeer meat for food. Fly Agarics, delicious psychedelic treats for reindeer commonly found under pine trees, may have served as bait for the Sami hunters.
This tricky mushroom serves as bait for other creatures as well: toads.
The Italian ethnobotanist Giorgio Samorini may have discovered the origin of the mushroom’s English name, “Toadstool”: When flies are attracted to the colorful mushroom and land upon it, they go into a temporary coma. Slow but clever toads know to sit near the toadstool, waiting for flies to fall under its spell and scooping up a delicious sedated snack. Historically, people have also placed the mushroom’s caps on their windowsills as an insecticide, apparently in the belief that the flies were dying (although they were actually in a drugged stupor).
The Sami people discovered the psychedelic properties of the Fly Agarics by watching reindeer enjoy them, but how exactly does the story go? Somewhat of a rare delicacy during the winter months, packs of reindeer wander around for hours looking for mushrooms under the snow. After one of them discovers and eagerly consumes a Toadstool, other reindeer then consume the now-tripping reindeer’s urine and begin to trip themselves. Sami Shaman’s are said to have imitated this behavior and went on to discover one of the most powerful naturally occurring psychedelic substances on Earth by eating yellow reindeer snow cones.
We’ve all heard about birds getting drunk on fermented berries or cats and their love of catnip, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Tripping reindeer, giddy goats, sedated flies, rolling jaguars, psychedelic primates— the list goes on and on. Creatures get high, and they seek out substances to get them there. In fact, it’s starkly evident that the drive to alter consciousness is as natural as those for food, water and sex.
Surprisingly obscure but extraordinary discoveries have been made— and ancient wisdom has resurfaced—that confirm a method to the madness: Throughout history, humans have discovered psychoactive and medicinal plants by observing animals use them. Indeed, some of the world’s most widely used psychoactive plants have been the subject of very credible legends involving animals eating them, and curious humans following in their footsteps.
https://youtu.be/MkCS9ePWuLU Photo Credit: Pixabay
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