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Psychoactive Amanitas
by Erowid
5000 - 3000 BCE The earliest linguistic evidence of Amanita muscaria use as an intoxicant. 1   [Details]
2000 - 1000 BCE Petroglyphs along the Pegtymel River which drains into the Arctic Ocean in north eastern Siberia "depict anthropomorphic figures with mushrooms appended to their heads". The Pegtymel river area is currently inhabited by the Chukchi culture who are known to have used A. muscaria as a traditional inebriant. 2  
c. 1200 BCE Rg Veda hymns, a set of sacred stories from India, include mentions of a magical intoxicant called Soma. In 1968, R. Gordon Wasson published the controversial book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, speculating that Soma refers to Amanita muscaria.   
100 CE 7.5 cm tall miniature statue of an Amanita muscaria dated to 100 CE found in Nayarit, Mexico, suggests A. muscaria may have been in use in coastal Mexico. Many other sculptures from Central and South America depict the ritual use of other psychoactive plants and mushrooms.   
500 - 1200 CE Some Scandivian historians believe that during this period Viking 'Bezerker Warriors' ingested Amanita muscaria before going into battle. Wasson writes:
"No one who discusses the fly agaric in Europe can ignore the debate that has been carried on for almost two centuries in Scandinavia on this issue. First Samuel Odman in 1784 and then Frederik Christian Schubeler in 1886 propounded the thesis that those Viking warriors known as 'beserks' ate the fly-agaric before they 'went beserk'; in short, that 'beserk-raging' was deliberately caused by the ingestion of our spotted amanita." (Soma page 341)
This theory is not well supported.   
c. 1250 Natural philosopher Albertus Magnus describes the insecticidal properties of A. muscaria, in De vegetabilibus. It is these properties which led to the common name "fly agaric". 3  
1291 Fresco in Plaincourault Abbey in Indre, France depicts Adam and Eve standing beside a Tree of Knowledge which bears a striking resemblance to an Amanita muscaria mushroom.   
1658 A Polish prisoner of war writes about a culture from western Siberia (Ob-Ugrian Ostyak of the Irtysh region) "They eat certain fungi in the shape of fly-agarics, and thus they become drunk worse than on vodka, and for them that's the very best banquet." 4   [Details]
1730 Swedish Colonel Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, who spent 12 years in Siberia as a prisoner of war, gives detailed descriptions of Siberians consuming tea made from A. muscaria and drinking the urine of those who have ingested the mushroom to recycle its psychoactive ingredients. 4   [Details]
1753 Linnaeus officially described the fly agaric mushroom in Species Plantarum Vol 2, naming it Agaricus muscarius. 5  
1755 Botanist Stephan Krasheninnikov describes Siberians feasting on fly agaric mushrooms and falling into intoxication in his "Description of Kamchatka Land". 3  
1783 The fly agaric gains its modern name "Amanita muscaria" when it is moved to the genus Amanita by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.   
1784 Samuel Odman writes a book arguing that Viking Bezerkers deliberately ingested A. muscaria to put them in a frenzy for battle. This theory is eventually accepted by many Scandinavian historians, but remains without much direct evidence to support it. Wasson and others have taken issue with this description because it seems to contradict the experiences of many who ingest the A. muscaria and find it sedating. 6   [Details]
Late 18th Century English botanist William Curtis and his gardener eat A. muscaria after reading of its shamanic use. They eat a very small dose and report nothing more than a burning sensation in the mouth and stomach. 3  
1797 Polish Brigadier Joseph Kopec documents eating fly agaric during his travels in Siberia. 3  
1860 Mordecai Cooke's The Seven Sisters of Sleep popularizes stories of the Siberian shamanic use of A. muscaria in Europe.   
1880 During a widespread shortage of wine in Italy, Dr. Batista Grassi writes an enthusiastic paper recommending the inebriating effects of A. muscaria as an alternative. 7   [More Info]
1883 Dr. E. Downes writes to The Lancet to describe several Indians who had become delirious after eating what may have been fly agaric mushrooms. 3  
c. 1960 - 1965 A. muscaria use appears in United States urban subcultures, but remains rare because many users report the effects to be unpleasant.   
1968 R. Gordon Wasson publishes Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, advancing the theory of sacramental use of A. muscaria in Indians in the time of the Vedas. 4  
1972 In his book Difficult Questions, Easy Answers poet Robert Graves proposes that the character of Santa Claus may be based on A. muscaria shamanism. Jonathan Ott develops this theory in his book Hallucinogenic Plants of North America, published in 1976. 8  
1978 Native American author Keewaydinoquay writes of the traditional use of A. muscaria by the Ahnishinaubeg (Ojibway) people near Lake Superior in North America. Although this use is assumed to be quite old, the earliest documented use is from the 20th Century. 9, 10  
1980s Several books and scientific journal articles appear which describe modern and traditional use of A. muscaria as an inebriant in many areas of the world, including other native American tribes (such as the Dogrib Athabascan tribe from northwest Canada), groups in Spain, and more tribes in East Asia. 2  
2002 Clark Heinrich's Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy argues that A. muscaria played a key role in many world religions, including Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. 11  
Dec 6, 2008 Entheogenesis Australis Symposium    [Details] [More Info]

  1.   Wasson RG. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968.
  2.   Ott J. Pharmacotheon, The Natural Products Co. 1993.
  3.   Letcher A. Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. HarperCollins. 2007.
  4.   Wasson RG. Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968.
  5.   Linnaeus C. "Species Plantarum: Tomus II. Holmiae. 1753.
  6.   Odman S. "An attempt to explain the Beserk-raging of Ancient Nordic Warriors through Natural History". 1784.
  7.   Grassi B. "Il Nostro Agarico Moscirio Sperimentato Come Alimento Nervoso". 1880.
  8.   Ott J. "Hallucinogenic Plants of North America". Wingbow Press. 1976.
  9.   Keewaydinoquay "Puhpohwee for the People: A Narrative Account of Some Used of Gungi Among the Ahnishinaubeg". 1978 (as cited in Ott J. Pharmacotheon. 1993. pg 333.)
  10.   Navet E. "Les Ojibway et l'Amanite tue-mouche (Amanita muscaria). Pour une éthnomycologie des Indiens d'Amérique du Nord". J Soc Améric. 1988;74:163-180.
  11.   Heinrich C. "Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy". Park Street Press. 2002.