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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas the Great Inclusion; PART FIVE

Christmas; The Great Inclusion
Part five - Amanita Muscaria

The fly agaric (amanita muscaria) with its fiery red cap and white “stars” is one of the most spectacular of our forest fungi. Down through the ages it has been compared to bull testicles and male genitalia and worshipped as sthe earthy incarnation of infinity, divinity and virility. It’s characiature appears on common objects from key chains to lawn furniture. It is unusual to find a societal icon to be, in fact real. This species is named the “fly” agaric from the old practice of using the mushroom mixed with milk to stupefy flies. It is also notable for its ability to concentrate vanadium – a rare, malleable, ductile metal used to add tensile strength to steel. (paraphrased from Mushrooms Demysitified by David Arora).

Amanita muscaria is a member of the same family of other well known but seldom recognized mushrooms such as the death cap and the destroying angel. Yes, they carry toxins which can be deadly. But it is commonly known that it has hallucinogenic properties. Before I continue, let me reiterate, that consuming this mushroom can be deadly. Do not eat them.

Now where am I going with this mushroom that is prone to maggot nurseries? You are going to love this.

A Russian folk tradition puts our muscaria as a central character in a Christmas story of sorts. You see, many years ago, Russians hanging out in a snow soaked frozen wilderness of the mother country’s famous nether lands had nothing to do. The winter freeze forced them inside. So what to do in those cold winter nights but eat, drink, and get high. The muscaria was considered food, a recreational food of sorts. The story goes that these fellows charged up on muscarias and recycled the chemicals by consuming their urine into a hallucinogenic frenzy. Yes, hanging out with friends sharing a few good fungus was THE thing to do. The mushroom of their interest became heroic. It became their icon, a football hero of their day.

So what was to do with such an icon? Today we plaster our walls with artwork with NFL heros. Back in “the day”, good old Saint Nick was a pretty drab dude. If you look back at the old artwork, his clothes were pretty boring. These wacked out gents decided to decorate their patron saint with the bright and festive colors of their favorite fungus. Yes, they clothed good old Saint Nicholas in red and white. And to their saint, they granted him the mystical powers we are familiar with today. He was attributed magical skills divined by a group of men in a hallucinogenic state of mind.

May we give thanks to our old Russian compatriots this sacred season for the tender gifts of magic and wonder they gave to us. Yes, child, what can Santa bring YOU for Christmas?

Copyright 2006 by Cindi Jones RSS feeds allowed

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