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BIO 101 Amanita Muscaria the Truth Behind the Fairy Tale

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Amanita Muscaria the Truth Behind the Fairy Tale
Amanita Muscaria: The Truth Behind The Fairy Tale
BIO 101
Amanita Muscaria: The Truth Behind The Fairy Tale
Deep in the Pacific North West forest, there is a magical mushroom. One
that has helped influence many types of people and even helped create
mystical pictures. It is often illustrated with unicorns, pixies, and the
occasional frog. They are also very frequently mentioned in many fairy
tales that so many children grow up on. This enchanting mushroom is
called the Amanita muscaria by mycologists; everyone else refers to it as
Fly Agaric, Beni Tengutake, or simply the Fairy Mushroom (Erowid &
Erowid, 2012).
The Amanita muscaria is a large and conspicuous mushroom that
usually grows in groups. The caps are generally bright red or scarlet in
color but can also range in colors from yellows to oranges. The average
cap is between three and eight inches, however, some the size of dinner
plates, have been found. The cap is also covered in white to yellow
flecks or warts which are actually remnants of the universal veil. The gills
and stem are also white, along with the spore print. The stem, which
contains a basal bulb, is generally between two and eight inches tall but
there have been finds of taller specimens. It should also be noted that
with age and rain, these mushrooms can fade and become flaccid
(without its color and spots, this mushroom can easily be misidentified).
The texture for the majority of this mushroom is slightly brittle and fibrous
(CHEMIE.DU Information Services GmbH, 2012).
Amanita muscaria was officially named in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus and
Jean Baptiste. Working our way down the taxonomic hierarchy, these
are the proper classifications for this species. The kingdom is Fungi; the

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division, Basidiomycota. Homobasidiomycota is the class and
Hymenomycetes is the subclass. Next is the order coming in with
Agaricales. The family name is Amanitaceae and the genus is Amanita.
Since the species is A. Muscaria, it is essential to know that most
mycologists have decided that there are seven different variants to this
species which include muscaria, flavivolvata, alba, formosa, guessowii,
persicina, and regalis (CHEMIE.DU Information Services GmbH, 2012).
Each of these subspecies have different shades of color and different
effects if consumed, it also important to note that the intensity of these
mushrooms depends on the location of growth and the time of year that
it is harvested.
Being a very hardy mushroom in the wild, this species can be found in
Hindu Kush, Mediterranean and Central America, the Siberian-Beringian
region, Asia, Europe, and North America. It has even been transported
to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America
(CHEMIE.DU Information Services GmbH, 2012). Fruiting of this fungi is
generally in the summer and autumn seasons, however, in the Pacific
North West, it can even mature in late autumn and early winter. Another
important aspect of where to find these beautiful mushrooms is their
mycorrhizal relationships. In order for these mushrooms to survive, they
must have trees around and even more specifically they like birch,
spruce, pine, fir, and cedar. Many have tried to cultivate these fungi, but
in “captivity” they do not do well. Due to their hardiness, they have been
known to adapt in other places by jumping species like when they were
introduced in Australia and they choose to survive with the Eucalyptus
(Erowid & Erowid, 2012). This really is a fascinating species.
So what does beautiful Amanita muscaria do that makes it special? Well,
the Amanita muscaria var. Muscaria is considered to be a psychedelic.
One of the nick names given is the Fly Aragic, which simply put, means
fly killer; people around the world have been mixing it with milk for years
to attract the pesky insects. Once the fly consumes some of this
concoction, it becomes inebriated and flies into walls, killing its self
(Erowid & Erowid, 2012). People around the world have also been
consuming it for the psychoactive qualities. There are even images that
have been discovered from 3500 BC illustrating the usage of this
psychoactive fungus. There is also very strong evidence that it was also
used in the Siberia region. While Western Siberia reserved it for the use
by Shamans, the eastern side showed use throughout all levels of
society. It was said that the Shamans used it to achieve a trance like

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states that were said to help them speak to their gods and spirits. This
group even went as far as including the mushroom in their legends; one
example is the story about Vahiyinin, loosely translated to “existence”
(CHEMIE.DU Information Services GmbH, 2012).
Siberians were not the only group to find the psychoactive A. Muscaria
useful and interesting; there are many unconfirmed stories from
throughout the world (however, highly likely). In Afghanistan, there is a
group of Parachi-speaking Sami people and two Sub-artic Native
American tribes called the Ojibway and the Dogrib. Many India religion
and Buddist scriptures also had reference to its use. There have even
been stories that go all the way back to Greek mythology and the
Dioysian Rites! John Marco Allegro wrote an interesting book with a
strong argument that considered that the Christianity Religion was
derived from a sex and psychoactive mushroom cult (CHEMIE.DU
Information Services GmbH, 2012). Another fascinating fact is that A.
Muscaria, however unpredictable, has the very common side effect of
erasing fear. With this in mind, think of the Vikings. It is said that the
Vikings would consume these mushrooms before invading and that is
why they went “berserk” on their enemies (Volk, 1999).
Bringing the time to the present and looking at human entertainment,
there are several excellent examples of A. Muscaria usage. Remember
the caterpillar in Alice In Wonderland, written be Lewis Carroll? It is very
likely that the mushroom he resided on was a psychedelic and even
more likely, was the mushroom intake by the author. Generically, think
about some of the old fables that have been passed down through the
ages, many of them have reference to “special mushrooms.” There is
also a fairly large collection of artwork that includes faeries, unicorns,
wizards, and the such, with details of white spotted, scarlet red
mushroom. In 1940, Disney produced Fantasia which included the
sequence of the “dancing mushrooms.” The 1980’s gave us Super Mario
Brothers in which Mario consumed mushrooms to gain lives and grow
“bigger” and The Smurfs, who lived in mushrooms that very closely
resembled the A. Muscaria. Lastly, Jonathan Ott, a famous Mycologist,
made an amazing argument that claimed the origin of Santa Claus was
due to A. muscaria. The mushroom is generally red with white, as is
Santa’s suit. There is also the parallel that can be made with the flying
reindeer and the euphoric results of consumption. And interestingly
enough is the story of the Shamans of Siberia going into the homes
throughout the village and placing fresh Muscaria into the stockings that

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