The Mystical Symbolism of Fly Agaric Mushroom

Amanita muscaria has a history like no other mushroom. One of the most fascinating mushrooms to admire for its magnificent shape and sparkling red colour due to its pigment called muscarufin, has inspired many artists throughout history who painted the fly agaric mushroom as an archetype of all mushrooms.

Native from the northern hemisphere and found very commonly across Siberia, the fly agaric mushroom has been used for thousands of years by shamans as a ceremonial object in religious ceremonies.

In Siberia, shamans used to harvest Amanitas in pine forests and placed them on tree branches, stringing them on, or placing them in wet stockings hung before the fire to dry. These Amanita-drying practices and Christmas traditions such as hanging ornaments on trees and above the fireplace make an interesting coincidence. We also know that Santa Claus wears red and white, the same colors as the fly agaric mushroom, and he flies, which is what a shaman is believed to do when consuming fly agaric mushroom.

Amanita mushroom also appears in numbers of tale illustrations, such as old Disney movies Fantasia, and Super Mario Brothers video games, as well as in Christian art.

Amanita mushroom in Fantasia Disney

Amanita mushrooms dancing in Fantasia, the Disney movie.

Toad from Mario Bros video games.

Toad from Mario Bros video games.

christmas card amanita mushroom

An example of a common Christmas card featuring an Amanita mushroom gift.

Amanita muscaria 101

When mature, the cap diameter can be as large as 25cm, with the white shaggy stem as tall as 22cm. The stem is bulbous at the base, with a high skirt-like, soft, white ring. Gills are white, close, and of various lengths. The spore print is white. With age, the cap of Amanita muscaria may flatten out and turn up. On the top of the cap, the fly agaric mushroom has little white spots.

Amanita muscaria grows largely in the pine forest under conifers and other type of pines. Here is an image the Life Cykel team took when on an mushroom adventure in the pine forests of Manjimup, Western Australia:

Amanita mushroom found by Life Cykel Team at Manjimup, Western Australia

Amanita mushroom found by Life Cykel Team at Manjimup, Western Australia

Consumption of Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria is a psychoactive mushroom. Among the amanita species, Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina, contain muscimol and ibotenic acid which are psychoactive substances. Ibotenic acid is a neurotoxin responsible for toxic delirium.

The effects of eating dry or fresh psychoactive Amanita mushrooms include euphoria, a sense of inebriation, impaired balance, and increased clarity of thought. Negative effects such as chills, sweating, salivation, nausea, diarrhea, dyspeptic disorder and non stopping vomiting can also manifest, and are more likely to occur when Amanitas are eaten fresh.

Talking about Amanita muscaria or fly agaric mushroom, the North American Mycological Association has stated that there were: “no reliably documented cases of death from toxins in these mushrooms in the past 100 years”. However, as listed above, consuming Amanita muscaria mushroom can lead to important negative effects. Thus we firmly do not advise under any circumstance the consumption of this psychoactive mushroom.

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