The Amanita muscaria mushroom has had many names and been known to many cultures all over the world (or at least, in the Northern hemisphere where it is native) for centuries. It has been linked to the Viking berserker rages, identified as the elusive Vedic Soma, suggested as the catalyst for initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries, and connected with both Jesus Christ and Santa Claus (all of which, by the way, are pretty far stretches in my opinion). It has been classified as a deadly poison, and a direct line to the gods.
I began my interest in this mushroom after reading an article on the Western revival of certain traditional entheogens and over time developed an intense spiritual relationship with it. However, I also began to be intrigued by the ways in which A. muscaria had infiltrated our culture, leaving hints of its original usage. Everyone recognizes, for instance, the classic red-and-white fairy mushroom (“a shorthand signifier of otherworldliness, enchantment and the uncanny” according to Andy Letcher), although few understand why it is associated with fairies. Being a long-time Alice in Wonderland fan, I also noticed that many people imagine the hookah-smoking caterpillar’s mushroom as a fly agaric, even though none of the early illustrations (including Lewis Carroll’s own) depict it as such.
Amanita has become ubiquitous in Western culture, even as its origins as a shamanic tool are increasingly forgotten. I find this process fascinating, especially considering the American ‘war on drugs.’ So I’ve started this blog to simply document the myriad appearances of this wonderful mushroom (mostly via images, although I’ll also include some text and links when appropriate). I invite readers to play along by sending me examples via email. For those interested in a more serious discussion of its history and entheogenic use, I direct you to my Resources page.
A brief note regarding the name of this blog:
As with so many things related to A. muscaria, the name of “raven’s bread” is debatable, but comes with a wealth of interesting stories. It may be of Egyptian origin, or Koryak (Siberian), or a reference to the Norse god Odin’s sacred ravens. Whatever the case, I find the epithet (“rabenbrot” in German) to be very evocative.