Altered States

altered_statesJust re-watched the 1980 Ken Russell film Altered States, and there was my old friend Amanita muscaria. Supposedly being gathered in the desert of Mexico and used in indigenous rituals, then made into some sort of liquid that the doctor transports back with him and continues taking, with insanely psychedelic effects.

Wrong climate and growing conditions, wrong preparation, wrong effects and wrong cultural usage. Typical for Amanita portrayals but still always a little disappointing. Interesting, though, how this mushroom keeps being selected as the classic trippy fungus, despite many other more suitable candidates.

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4 Responses to Altered States

  1. Debbie Viess says:

    That’s Hollywood for ya! The rest of that movie was fantasy based too, ya know …
    other than the fact of those isolation chambers, first used by psychonaut John Lilly, he of the cooperative dolphin research.

    Remove all external stimulation and your mind goes wild in an attempt to entertain ya; no entheogens necessary!

    Speaking of folks gone wild, I noticed you had a link to the 2008 paper by Rubel and Arora on Amanita muscaria and supposed “cultural bias” against eating this toxic mushroom as a “safe” and formerly “commonly eaten” edible species.

    I spent four years researching their references and found many more that they ignored. A long list of references (over 100 in their case) is meaningless if one doesn’t read (or carefully analyze) the entire article or ignores what goes against their hypothesis. Cherry picking “facts” that suit your purposes and ignoring those that don’t isn’t science but rather propaganda.

    One can be “biased” towards something as well as against it.

    You can read my far more balanced rebuttal to the Rubel/Arora paper in “Mushroom, the Journal of Wild Mushrooming,” in the Fall/Winter 2012 issue, or online here:

    Best to you, and with fondness towards our lovely Fly Agaric,

    Debbie Viess aka Amanitarita

    • Kate Winter says:

      Thanks so much, and I have added your article to the Resources page right under theirs. While I agree that Amanita muscaria isn’t exactly a deadly poison the way it’s often labeled in guidebooks, it’s hardly something I’d recommend to anyone as an edible species, no matter how well they prepared it. And I think it’s clear, as you point out, that the world traditions associated with A. muscaria primarily treat it as either a poison or a sacred (but potentially dangerous) entheogen, but not as just another edible mushroom.

      • debbie viess says:

        Hi Kate, Glad to hear that you agree. My point in writing this article was to put out a much more balanced analysis of the actual data out there, both pro and con, concerning the consumption of muscaria as an edible species and its well known toxic effects. I love amanitas and study amanitas and even eat amanitas (the known safe edible species), but I never ever downplay the dangers of amanitas.

        To do otherwise is a huge public disservice.

        BTW, love your site! Muscaria is a fascinating fungus, but hardly a safe and unassuming edible.

        Debbie Viess aka Amanitarita


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