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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Magic Mushrooms Around the World:
A Scientific Journey Across Cultures and Time: The Case for Challenging Research and Value Systems.

Gartz, Jochen. (1996).
Los Angeles: LIS Publications.

ISBN: 0-9653399-0-4

Description: Paperback original, 136 pages.

Contents: Foreword by Christian Rätch, 10 chapters, bibliography, index.

Note: Originally published in Germany (1993) under the title Narrenschwämme: Psychotrope Pilze in Europa. Herausforderung an forschung und Wertsystem. Translated and edited by Claudia Taake.

Excerpt(s): The main purpose of this book is to inspire further study of these mushrooms, particularly basic research efforts and medical applications of magic mushroom ingredients. (page 9)

I believe that historic accounts – including those described below – indicate knowledge of and familiarity with psychotropic mushrooms in Europe that is mostly likely derived from usage of Psilocybes and related species, rather than experience with Amanita muscaria. (page 10)

Tales of ritualistic mushroom usage have found their way into the realm of myths and legends. For instance, one legend describes a peculiar poisonous mushroom in Wales (British Isles) with the strange name Bwyd Ellyon, which was considered a delicacy by fairies, feasting in celebration of the spirit world. Psilocybe semilanceata is the most important psilocybin-containing mushroom in Europe and it thrives in parts of Great Britain, where the mushroom grows abundantly all across the Welsh countryside during the fall season.

I would like to thank G. Samorini for pointing out that the Inquisition was unusually cruel and vicious in the Alpine valleys of Valcamonica, Valtrompia and Valtellina (located in the provinces of Brescia and Sandrio in Northern Italy). ... pastures in the area abound with Psilocybe semilanceata during the fall. ... In light of the medieval accounts describing the practice of witchcraft, it is interesting to note that a subjective sensation of flying or levitation is among the commonly reported effects of psilocybin intoxication. (page 10)

Berserk Rage of Nordic Warriors

In the course of the ideological power struggle between Christianity and the remnants of pagan religions that worshipped Nature, many sources of knowledge were lost. The aggressive repression and eradication of pre-Christian customs all but destroyed the continuity of Europe's cultural heritage, along with much historic evidence documenting early cultural practices, including the usage of plants and mushrooms for the purpose of temporary alterations of consciousness.

Some authors went so far as to blame the fly agaric mushrooms for proverbial fits of "berserk rage" attributed to Nordic warriors. Many accounts detailing the phenomenon allude to a "deception of the eyes" (i.e., visual hallucinations). After the Nordic legal system banished the practice of "going berserk", it disappeared quite suddenly during the 12th century. At about the same time Saxo Grammaticus speculated that the Berserkers may have used magical potions.

It is just as plausible, however, to suggest that the hallucinogen of choice among early Nordic cultures was Psilocybe semilanceata, a mushroom species quite common in Norway. ...

It is important to note the existence of ancient Northern European rock drawings that depict various mushroom themes, along with the discovery of bronze-age vessels decorated with mushroom-related artwork. The drawings often include renditions of zoomorphic entities as well as mushrooms. Significantly, they predate any reports and speculations about the Berserkers by over 2,000 years.

These ancient images suggest the evolution of early European mushroom cults – a cultural practice that most likely vanished during the early Iron Age, as did many other customs and social practices from that era. Still, the discovery of ancient Northern European mushroom cults is a powerful piece of evidence supporting the notion that psychoactive mushroom usage has been continuous throughout history. (page 11)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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