Aminita Muscaria - Introduction
Flying Agaric by R.P.
The Fly Agaric mushroom has been used as an intoxicant since time immemorial but from my own research over the years most of the available information on it is either vague or recycled from older sources. What follows will not delve into it’s folk lore, rich with stupefied flies, stoned reindeer & urine quaffing, but draws on my own first hand experience and may help clarify some points on a seldom used drug which has possibly had a early impact on religious development, should such arguments as its identity as "Soma" for example be correct. My interest in Amanita Muscaria came from my Scandinavian heritage, my wrongly identifying "magic mushrooms" as Fly Agarics from early reading before I was aware of the Psilocybin containing fungi and the fact that my girlfriend (also unaware of Psilocybin/Psilocin) had taken them.
Before I relate my experiences I shall make some comments on toxicity and dosage: Many texts, especially older ones, list A.Muscaria as deadly or highly toxic; this position is probably more than exaggerated. I have taken it many times without any effect other than some slight stomach discomfort and when successful the worst effects have been nausea and strong sedation although the latter does suggest caution, as I will explain later. Some have become ill but as far as I can see complete recovery is the norm. An important factor here is the drying or cooking of the mushrooms when used as an intoxicant – as far as I can see little chemical work has been done on A.M. since 1967 or so – but this processing appears to heighten psychic effects (by converting ibotenic acid into muscimol) and lessen unwanted effects (it has been suggested other trace toxins are thus destroyed). FRESH MATERIAL IS SUSPECT AND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED POISONOUS UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.
The presence of other drugs such as muscazone may help account for the mushroom’s variable effects but scientific research seems lacking.
As to dosage, here we have a problem in that A.M. seems to vary in drug content - one source quotes ibotenic acid as being present in fresh material in amounts of 0.03 – 0.1% another source says "drug" content goes from "virtually nothing to as much as 1.2% of the dry weight". There are suggestions that this is due to locality, time of picking and all sorts but as far as I can see no reliable information exists.
The first information on dosage I came across comes from the 1953 book "Mushrooms & Toadstools" by John Ramsbottom which belonged to my father and is still a marvellous read. The dosage is I believe quoted from W.I.Jochelsen in 1900-01 studying the Koryak & neighbouring tribes of Kamchatka; "..From 3 to 10 dried fungi can be eaten without deadly effect". More recently the Church of the Tree of Life has suggested that no more than one medium size specimen be taken, at least at first. Jonathan Ott suggests no more than ¼ - ½ cup of chopped or sautéed material is tried. Yet other sources list dried doses from 1-28g. Clearly we have a wide range, so as a rough guide I would say most people have had reasonable or even strong effects in the 10-15g range or from about 1-2 mushrooms dependant on size.
To round up I should mention that Amanita Pantherina appears much more active then A.M but here information is even more sketchy and the mushroom is rarer so I really can do no more than mention it. Also it is often mentioned that Amanita Phalloides should never be confused with it’s red/white cousin due to its genuinely deadly status but here I would say if you really can’t tell them apart you are probably a danger to yourself and society anyhow.
My first success with A.M. came a few years ago from a batch of perhaps 10 mushrooms of variable sizes collected from pine forest in the midlands; I removed the stipes (I think) and boiled them to produce a broth in order to standardise drug content/dosage, drank perhaps 1 large caps worth on an empty stomach and froze the rest as ice cubes. The resultant intoxication lasted some 8 hours; I cannot say that it was either stimulant or sedative; Its most distinct feature was its wave like formation – perhaps a dozen times I would find my self completely normal for a period of time and then another wave would rise up, at the crest of which I was clearly in an altered state and although there was no denying this I cannot say exactly how. During the strongest wave I lay down in a dark room and did a breath counting exercise – I was somewhat disassociated and the image of an atomic mushroom cloud over the city came to me. (this has gladly not turned out to be a prophecy!) No ill effects were noted at any point and it was reasonably pleasant. The next day I felt refreshed and on the bus into town the image I’d seen on TV of a Shaman on A.M. dancing with a spirit seemed highly comprehensible to me and my mood was good.
A couple of days later I doubled the dose but the effect was much less and I again doubled the dose a few days later; this was more effective but the thing that stood out from this session was that when I put pen to paper I produced, at great speed, an odd picture of one of our cats unlike my usual more laboured precise style. This was curious since my girlfriend then dug out her A.M. induced picture, which also shared this characteristic. A month later I finished the ice cubes with little effect. So whether I became tolerant in the week of 3 exposures and/or chemical degradation occurred I don’t know.
The following year I picked A.M. from a broadleaf forest. 1 mushroom (oven dried in bits on foil – a messy wet procedure not recommended) produced strong nausea; I induced vomiting and soon felt well again. Several days later I had 1½ A.M. (I can’t remember how they were processed); after a rest I woke and the room seemed to sparkle in some way. To be honest I don’t remember much of it other than lying on the sofa for a couple of hours enjoying a mild, relaxing sort of delirium.
The following account is of my trip using dried A.M. posted from the U.S.A. After reading on the internet that lots of people had had effects from 10g dried mushroom and others had had up to 28g or so I decided to take 10g and a further 5g if needed (since most had found the 10-15 range effective but a few had found it overly so)
5.25 Ingest 10g dried Amanita Muscaria broken down in bits at about 1 tsp. a time with tea.
5.45 Aware of indigestible mass in stomach
5.55 Nausea + stomach discomfort; slight salivation; perhaps light headedness perhaps placebo effect
6.00 Lay down on sofa, close my eyes and go into a dreamy semi sleep for about an hour.
6.50ish get up stick my fingers down my throat and vomit. Note spots on the bits of rehydrated cap are clearly visible. Nice! Feel much better.
At this point I thought the mental effects were due to just waking up but it soon became clear that it was the A.M. It seemed that I had just woken up (that slightly stunned state) again and again. I went and sat in the armchair and made the comment that in some odd way it reminded me of Salvia. There were some visual effects "Things aren’t moving but they’re not staying still either". The effects seemed a little crude and mechanical compared to other drugs. I ate some soup, chips & salad – I wasn’t hungry although empty but it went down ok. It then seemed that my brain got caught in some sort of cycle – I really can’t for the life of me explain this state now in words or even fully relive it. I know that I didn’t want my evening bath because I would be trapped in water over and over forever. Certain thoughts seemed more likely to repeat and trap me so and when it seemed I had such a thought I tried to change it before that happened. Perhaps near 9pm I went to bed and F read to me from a Buddhist text to see how this affected it – I drifted off and it sounded highly meaningful but this is the last I remember. At 10.33 F sent the following email to a mate who had been following the progress of his mad friend’s experiment…
staggering at 7pm post vomit.
Everything 'flashing' moment to moment, same event/thought repeating until replaced by another. Not very functional by this point, and becoming more drowsy so went upstairs to lay down - seemed to be caught in some sort of time loop, not particularly pleasant but seems to have settled now into semi-comatose state - can just about get a 'mmm' out of him so i guess he's ok! Heartbeat regular etc.
Catch you later if you're on MSN before bedtime.
At near midnight I had apparently sat up and had a short conversation with F and since I seemed ok and had managed something to the effect of "Love you – good night" she went to sleep. All I know is that I woke at about 7am surprised at being fully dressed and desperately trying to recall what day it was (7am – pm?) or what the hell had gone on! This actually didn’t take long and I felt fine. If I take more of this batch it will be a smaller dose since such strong sedation is hardly useful and could presumably be dangerous if taken to a very high level. If a smaller dose would have allowed me to stay awake and experience more of the effect I don’t know.
Before I let F relate her experiences of A.M. I will just make brief mention of two others I know to have tried it – one was a chap I knew briefly who said it was "like being pissed" but as he was on planet "Noo Noo" from 20 years of chronic high dose amphetamine abuse, I never took anything he said too seriously. The other was the friend of a friend who had taken it a couple of times with no effect and then had boiled 1 whole large specimen (I think – certainly not much more) and drunk the juice. His description was not very detailed but he told me that his eyes seemed to be moving in a triangular fashion or things seemed somehow triangular and his cheese plant seemed to be moving around in the corner of the room. He had been sick and then either became bored or sedated and went to bed.
Firstly, to put these accounts into context: this happened around Xmas 1992, was my first adult psychedelic experience (I’d had ½ tab of acid when I was about 15 and not thought much of it – more recent experiences have compelled me to revise my opinion on that) and was during an emotionally very stressful time. Also, I’m a ‘psychedelic softhead’, reacting to minimal amounts of anything (come to that, ½ an antihistamine usually lasts me all day even at the height of the hayfever season!).
The material used was four specimens of varying size I had picked in local woodland, dried by tying thread around the stipe and hanging them in an oven on minimal heat for hours and hours, then broken up and put away in a small, opaque, airtight container for about two years.
So far as I can remember, I took several pieces of dried AM, probably about a caps worth, chewed well and swallowed. No effects were noticeable for at least a couple of hours. I then began to feel light-headed, drowsy-but-alert, made my excuses and went for a lie down. At this point I wasn’t sure whether or not I might have ingested something Very Poisonous, but felt I’d probably be ok – I had read a bit about AM around the time I’d picked these specimens and was fairly sure of identification. Effects were not spectacular, I found that whatever I thought about was very vividly visualised. There was also an impression that things were going on in my head that I was not consciously aware of, and that I was now somehow ‘thinking with a different part of my brain’. After about an hour I got up and, though feeling slightly intoxicated, went about normal tasks. Later in the evening I did a painting, much more rushed and impressionistic than my (also) usual very detailed fine-lined style. Also noticeable were possible toxic effects – palpitations, numbness of fingers – perhaps because the specimens were dried at a fairly low temperature.
A second go some weeks later at a higher dose (not sure how much, though – possibly 2 caps) produced an intoxication that came in waves, and kept coming back over a couple of days (possibly reactivated by food and/or alcohol? It seemed that way at the time), also palpitations and peripheral numbness as before.
The third time, about eight months later, finishing off what was left, produced a mild intoxication, in waves again, with enhanced imagination – I can remember reading the Mabinogion on the underground on the way back from R’s, and being caught up in the detail and colour of the descriptions of Arthur’s knights with their armour and horses, and seeing how this could be used in a shamanic/initiatory situation. This time no toxic effects appeared.