There is an inextricable relationship between magic mushroom and mankind and it goes back a long, long time ago.
Magic mushrooms or psilocybin-containing fungi have been a part of human history since the early Paleolithic era. Consumed by the Greeks in secret ceremonies about 5,000 years ago, they were also central to a variety of religious rites, traditions, and beliefs happening worldwide.
Fungi have always been highly regarded for both their healing and mind-expanding properties. Fungal cave drawings found in modern-day Algeria dating about 7,000 years ago suggests early man did interact with neurotropic fungi. From the geometric pattern designs left on the walls, to the vivid depiction of mushroom shapes, it is difficult not to suspect the encounter between the two inspired such creativity.
It is said that after the melting of the last ice age, and the beginning of the Paleolithic era, the environmental conditions were perfect for mushroom proliferation, and made them exposed and available for humans to consume. Furthermore, while on hunting tracking treks, it is known that sapiens would use the animal dung they encountered to camouflage their smell, by spreading it on themselves. When we see all the varieties of magic mushrooms that grow on poo, we can easily picture the scene where the primitive men goes for a bite and a taste. Growing worldwide, in all types of habitats, did the mind-expanding magic mushroom charm the primitive men?
It is just as much about which habitats magic mushrooms favour to grow in as it about how they propagate.
To understand how magic mushrooms spread, let’s take a brief detour to discuss the life cycle of the mushroom. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of an underground network of cells called mycelium. In other views, the mycelium is like the apple-tree, and the mushroom the apple. The morphology of each mushroom is designed to optimize the dissemination of spores. Spores are like the seeds of the apple, but they are a dust of billions of them. In some areas of the world, spore charged clouds have been known to change the weather or cause “thunderstorm asthma”!
Let’s recapitulate, under the mature cap of gilled fungi resides this powerful reproductive dust of spores, ready to fly, swim, grip on to anything it can! Incredible right? And that is while leaving out the thousands of mating possibilities they have!
This is why the relationship between Psilocybe and humans is deeper than we think: we have helped spread them.
Even if the Spanish conquistadores during the Inquisition did all they could to erase the existence of the psychedelic fungi and their rituals, the torture of the Aztecs and Mesoamerican tribes resulted in nothing, the spores made a conquest of their own. They made it to Europe through the very same people who were desperately trying to extinct them, by boat, on their clothes, in their hair, in their animals, under their shoes, on their very skin!
Psilocybe cubensis, the most widespread magic mushroom out there.
Psilocybe cubensis, one of the most widespread magic mushroom strains naturally growing, is said to have been brought by boat by the Spaniards while navigating from Africa. So even if it was named cubensis in honour of Cuba where it was first documented, it is most probably indigenous to Africa, where we know exist other dung-loving neurotropic species.
Worldwide, magic mushrooms inherit the name of the land they are found; as mycologists say, mushrooms always appear where they are looked for. From the continent of Africa (African Transkei, Pan. tropicalis), to Southeast Asia (Burmese cubensis, Nepal Chitwan, Vietnamese cubensis, Allen Strain), to Europe ( Psilocybe germanica, Inocybe coelestium, Psilocybe bohemica, Wavy Caps) to the Americas (Psilocybe semilanceata, P. allenii, P. stuntzii, P. mammillata, P.azurescens), magic mushrooms thrive.
Through animals, water, air, wood, plants, soil, clothes or hair, spores have the incredible ability to travel anonymously until the conditions are optimal for them to fruit!
In this manner, wherever mushrooms exist, mushrooms spread, and whenever a mature mushroom is picked, billions of spores continue to fall from it, seeding the soil with mycelia, brewing the path for a new generation of mushrooms.
Unlike past relationships between plants and humans, mushroom have been known to adapt to our environment, not have us adapting the environment to them.
This adaptability has made them develop over the years an incredible biological fitness, an ultimate hybridization. After all, mycelium is the largest living organism on Earth, with the most humongous one reported from Oregon’s Blue Mountains occupying about 2,384 acres of soil, the equivalent of nothing less than 1,665 football fields!
Magic mushroom have over the years built an incredible biological fitness.
As we offer new ecosystems for mushrooms to better themselves, and help better the health of our environment, mushrooms also offer us powerful mind-expanding substances that allow us to better ourselves. This is yet another example of the typical trait of magic mushrooms: a mutualistic relationship.
In the meantime, we should make sure to protect them because they are vital to our survival and probably more than we suspect. If mushroom spore-charged clouds can create rainfall for the forest to protect itself from wildfires and other dangers, with a burning 2021 summer like we just had, we can only realize that clear-cuts of our forests and the overall worldwide description of nature is not the way the go. There is so much mushrooms can do to save us. When Albert Hofmann wrote: ” Mystical experiences in childhood, in which Nature was altered in magical ways, had provoked questions concerning the essence of the external, material world, and chemistry was the scientific field which might afford insights into this”, we can only hope the access to mystical experiences can help enlighten the world.
Clearly, the never-seen-before rapid destruction of cloud forests is destroying a precious collection of undiscovered fauna, flora and fungi species and precipitating the collapse of a variety of ecosystems. Because, where fungi disappear, ecosystems collapses, it is vital we protect kingdom Fungi!
Flora, Fauna and Funga, an eco-systemic view of the world.
Fungi and their mycelium are the link between plants and animals. Animals couldn’t digest and process nutrients if it wasn’t for the fungi present in their gut, while plants couldn’t survive in a soil they can’t synthetize. Fungi couldn’t thrive if it wasn’t for the nutrients provided by the photosynthesis of plants and soil wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for fungi breaking down the matter into new soil! Mushrooms are vital to the world, they are what the egg is to a cake recipe, they link the ingredients and make the cake consistent. Mushrooms are the bridge between life and death, they are the energy of life cycles.
If fungi don’t degenerate matter, matter can’t regenerate.
Funny enough, we are closer to mushrooms than we are to plants, even if we both are said to descent from a common plantae ancestor. In that sense, mushrooms are between an animal and a plant. Furthermore, isn’t it breathtaking that penicillin, the incredible antibiotic discovered in 1929 that changed humanity, is originally obtained from mushrooms! Penicillin is fungi’s natural medication against bacterial infections, and it works on us, humans! It is surely a proof that yes, fungi are closer to animals as they are to plants.
From helping treat treatment-resistant depression, to cluster headache, PTSD, addiction or anorexia, we are glad psilocybin research is back on track and hope the era of demonization of psychedelics is coming an end. So long live penicillin that allowed us to survive paper cuts! Long live the humbling mushrooms that keeps our forest healthy, and long live mushrooms as medicine!