Literature

An Interesting History Between Shrooms & Vikings

Magic mushrooms have been making waves for the past couple of years. But, whether you have tried them or not, you know what they are and what they do.

These natural psychedelics, when eaten, cause hallucinations. But there’s more. They have a rich history you can trace even before the Spanish colonization.

Magic Mushrooms Before

According to historians, people used magic mushrooms as early as 9000 BC. The cave paintings from North Africa and Europe may be the first to describe magic mushrooms.

Aztec rituals also use a hallucinogenic substance called “flesh of the gods.”

With that said, it’s safe to assume that there are ancient cultures that used magic mushrooms.

But everything started in 1957 when Gordon Wasson was traveling around Mexico. He learned about magic mushrooms through a Mazatec ceremony. It’s a ritual conducted by a shaman featuring shrooms.

Gordon Wasson coined the term “magic mushrooms.” The name describes the varieties of fungi that induce hallucinogenic experiences when ingested.

cluster of dried magic mushrooms

He wrote about his experience. In May 1957, they published an article in Life magazine. This article would prove pivotal in introducing the rest of the world to magic mushrooms. Wasson used the phrase “magic mushroom for the first time.”

At the same time, scientists were already studying shrooms. Mycology is the scientific study of mushrooms. Albert Hoffman, a Swiss scientist, is well-known as the Father of LSD.

He is the first person to extract psilocybin from magic mushrooms for the first time.

Since then, more people know there’s a fungus called psilocybin mushrooms. That, when eaten, causes hallucinations.

In 1960, Timothy Leary read Gordon Wasson’s article on Life. He is a counterculture and psychedelia icon. So he decided to travel to Mexico to try magic mushrooms himself. According to Leary, he learned more about himself during his five-hour trip.

Afterward, he returned to Harvard University. He started the Harvard Psilocybin Project to conduct experiments based on psychedelic drugs. But, he got fired in the 1960s. So he started distributing psychedelic drugs in the US. He did this at the height of the hippie movement.

In 1965, magic mushrooms escaped the walls of academia. It was the year it entered the public consciousness. The hippie movement began to embrace its power and other psychedelic drugs. It expanded further by its embrace in popular culture, literature, film, and music.

Alan Ginsberg, a beat poet, was also curious. So, along with his friends, Jack Kerouac and Charles Mingus, they did drugs in the name of science.

In 1970, the US criminalized the use of magic mushrooms. But, Terence Mckenna released a book on how to grow magic mushrooms. He is a writer and ethnobotanist. He said that people could start cultivating mushrooms at home.

His book is still one of the top books on magic mushrooms on the market today.

Since then, they began to advocate more for the benefits of magic mushrooms. Including other psychedelics like LSD, ibogaine, mescaline, and ayahuasca.

Psychedelic Mushrooms Now

Johns Hopkins University confirms the use of magic mushrooms to treat the following:

  • PTSD
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • smoking addiction

In 2019, individuals and organizations initiated a nationwide push for its decriminalization. Denver was the first state to decriminalize magic mushrooms. In the same year, Oakland also decriminalized psychedelic plants and fungi.

Hawaii may soon legalize psilocybin therapy. They will use magic mushrooms to treat a range of mental health issues.

Vikings & Magic Mushrooms story

vikings attacking

Many feared Vikings or Norsemen from Scandinavia due to their sheer rage and brute power. A lot of people saw them as monsters or savages.

In 793-1066 AD, they raided, colonized, and pillaged Europe. These years were the Viking Age.

Most people don’t realize that the Viking warriors’ fury had a trance-like quality to it. One might even call their stubborn strength inhuman. It’s all thanks to psychedelics.

Berserkers, Wars, & Psychedelic Mushrooms

Historians have said that the berserkers would cause this frenzy due to drugs. One of these drugs is psychedelic mushrooms.

Also, drinking tons of alcohol could explain the Vikings’ rage and numbness to pain.

But there’s one burning question. Is it enough to maintain the rage for hours on end?

According to researchers, Vikings took psychedelic mushrooms. But not the Psilocybe variety.

It was either Amanita muscaria or fly agaric mushroom. Or the Amanita pantherina or panther cap mushroom

Fly agaric can kill flies, small bugs, and other insects with hemolysin. This is a chemical that breaks down red blood cells.

Until modern times, people used fly agaric as a household bug spray.

Both fly agaric and panther caps can trigger temporary psychosis. Sometimes the delirium can even last for hours. So they can also be toxic. But human deaths from fly agaric are rare.

When you eat dried Amanita muscaria or fly agaric, you can expect the rage to start within 30 to 120 minutes. This experience lasts for five to ten hours.

There are some severe side effects, though, including:

  • nausea
  • drooling
  • muscle twitching
  • upset stomach
  • tremors
  • delirium

These are all classic signs of berserkergang.

Final Thoughts

We know that psilocybin mushrooms have been part of religious rituals for many years. Some people have been taking them for fun for centuries.

But, we’ll never know the full scope of the magic mushrooms story. We can only read their influence across ancient societies.

But, with its increasing popularity. Magic mushrooms will continue to influence our perception of the world.

As we progress down, it is only a matter of time before psilocybin reshapes our lives.

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