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Divine Mushroom of Immortality

An 1809 article on the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria).



Divine Mushroom of Immortality

by: Georg Heirich von Langsdorf

The plant kingdom is of immeasurable influence and usefulness for mankind, since it supplies most of our clothing, food, drink, and shelter. The medical science of primitive people consists entirely in their knowledge of the more or less efficacious plants, and everyday experiance confirms the fact that even a number of plants native ot our own regions are known to many uneducated nations almost more thouroighly than they are to us.

To demonstrate this assertion, I should like to say at this point something about the fly-agaric, which we regard as extremely poisionous but which is used by various inhabitants of northeastern Asia as an intoxicant just as wine, brandy, arrack, opium, kava, and the like are used by other nations.

The Kamchacals gather them usually during the hottest months of July and August; they maintain that those that dry themselfs in the earth, on the stalk, and that are somewhat furry and velvety to the touch on the underside of the cap have a far stronger narcotic effect than those picked fresh and strung up to dry in the air...

The smaller mushrooms, which are bright red and covered with many white warty protuberances, are said to be far stronger in narcotic power than the larger ones, which are pale red and have few white spots.

The usual way to consume fly-agarics is to dry them and then to swallow them at one gulp, rolled up into a ball, without chewing them; chewing fly-agarics is considered harmful, since it is said to cause digestive disturbances.

The body's predisposition or susceptability to the intoxcicating effect of fly-agarics apperently is not the same at all times, since the same person may sometimes be strongly affected by a single mushroom and at other times remaining completely unaffected after twelve to twenty of them. Ordinarily, however, one large fly-agaric or two small ones are enough to make an enjoyable day.

The narcotic effect begins to manifest itself about a half hour after eating, in a pulling and jerking of the muscles or a so-called tendon jump (although sometimes these effects appear only after an hour or two); this is gradually followed by a sense of swimming befoer the eyes, dizziness, and sleep. During this time, people who have eaten large quantity of mushrooms often suffer an attack of vomiting. The rolled-up mushrooms previously swallowed whole are then vomited out in a swollen, large, and gelatinous form, but even though not a single mushroom remains in the stomach, the fly-agaric eating are, in fact, intensified. Many other persons never vomit, even after eating copiously of the mushrooms.

The nerves are highly stimulated, and in this state the slightest effort of will produces very powerful effects. Consequently, if one wishes to step over a small stick or straw, he steps and jumps as if the obstacles were tree trunks. If a man is ordinarily talkative, his speech nerves are now in constant activity, and he involuntarily blurts out secrets, fully consious of his actions and aware of his secret but unable to hold his nerves in check. In this condition a man who is fond of dancing dances and a music-lover sings incessantly. Others run or walk quite involuntarily, without any intention of moving, to places where they do not wish to go at all.

Equally remarkable and strange is the extremely subtle and elusive narcotic substance contained in fly-agarics, which retains its effectiveness permenantly and can be transmitted to other persons: the effect of the urine form eating one of the same mushrooms can be transmitted to a second person, the urine affects a third, and similarly, unchanged by the organs of this animal secretion, the effect appears in a fourth and a fifth person.

Fly agaric is also the kind of mushroom that Vikings took to enter the "beserker" state for battle. The Icelandic name for the fly agaric contains the word 'berserk' in it.

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