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International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms
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ISSN Imprimer: 1521-9437
ISSN En ligne: 1940-4344

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International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms

DOI: 10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v3.i2-3.1670
22 pages

New Data from the Ethnomycology of Psychoactive Mushrooms

Giorgio Samorini
Museo Civico di Rovereto, Rovereto, Italy


The author presents his research on ethnology of psychoactive mushrooms developed during the last 20 years. In the core of the Sahara Desert, on a group of rock paintings, dating back to 9000-7000 B.R., mushroom effigies are represented repeatedly. The polychromic scenes of harvest, adoration, and the offering of mushrooms lead to suppose we are dealing with an ancient hallucinogenic mushroom cult. Another significant documentation refers to an old mushroom religious cult located in the Kerala State, India. It belongs to a megalithic, pre-Indoeuropean culture dating back to the 1st millennium B.C. The so-called kuda-kallu ("umbrella stone") may resemble a large mushroom. In Europe, an effigy of a mushroom, very likely fly agaric, inserted in a scene with shamanistic connotations, is carved on a rock engraving of Mount Bego, France, dating back to 1800 B.C. Further important archaeo-ethnomycological documentation is to be found in the Greek culture. In particular, in a 5th century B.C. bas relief from Pharsalus, the two goddesses of the Eleusinian Mysteries, Demeter and Persephone, are represented, showing each other objects, two of which have a mushroomlike shape. This bas relief takes us to the very heart of the controversial issue of the Eleusinian ethnobotany. Finally, various examples of the so-called "mushroom trees" to be found in early and medieval Christian artwork from a number of churches are discussed. These works of art are considered from the point of view of the possible esoteric intention of the artists in their inclusion of the mushroom motif. The typological differentiation among the "mushroom trees" would appear due to a natural variation among psychoactive mushrooms.

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