Amanita Muscaria. Field notes.

Что такое Мухомор?

Это вечности простор,

Путешествие прямо в центр,

Это с Богом разговор.

Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria, is one of the last bastions of legal and widely available Sacred Medicine for the people. At least for the people that are not afraid of wild mushrooms, and go beyond the first door on the way to it, the door that says – «Danger! Keep out!».

I, like most people, grew up with the ubiquitous images of Fly Agaric around me – illustrations in children’s books, sand boxes in playgrounds, teapots, tea towels, notebooks and stuffed toys. We all have seen the red cap with white dots so many times. And we have all learnt to never touch the original, because of its poisonous nature.  
In my explorations of the entheogenic medicines I have tried many of them – Psilocybin mushrooms and Ayahuasca, Iboga and San Pedro, Salvia divinorum, Yopo and Sapo. And I did come across a few different accounts of the psychoactive properties of the Amanita mushrooms, but in between the multiple references to its poisonous nature, they failed to produce much of an enthusiasm in me to try it for myself.

That is until I returned to my native lands – Russia – about two years ago. As none of the familiar to me entheogens were available here, or at least the risks of procuring them were too high for my liking, Fly Agaric came back onto my radar.
I did a bit of reading, and podcasts listening. The stories were fascinating, hilarious, scary and often contradictory. The more or less general consensus was that microdosing was therapeutic and safe but macrodosing was extremely risky. The piece of advice that most of them shared was to never attempt trip doses alone. The presence of a trip sitter is a must – was a universal verdict. Hmm, I thought. Not really an option in my present situation, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

After a few weeks of my research, I felt that I was ready to meet the mushroom. It was winter so looking for it in the woods was not a viable option and I bought some dry caps through a friend of a friend and got them mailed to me. In a few weeks 100 grams of it was  in my possession and I decided to start slow and steady.

Round 1. From 10 February to 26 July I took it about 20 times, gradually increasing the dose from 0.5 g to 12 g. I took the mushroom straight up, unground, chewing it; usually a few hours after a meal as to avoid nausea. The most notable physical effects were initially acrid taste in mouth, one-time nausea when taken on an empty stomach, stimulation of appetite within a few hours of ingestion, diminishing of physical strength and balance while doing yoga, but tirelessness with walking. The most notable psychological effects – drowsiness, with occasional restlessness; decreased emotionality; creative thought, increased sense of presence. Communication with others while under the influence was easy and enjoyable. There were no scary effects, uncontrollable behaviours or loss of awareness even at higher doses, although I suspect that because I didn’t store the mushroom in an air tight container, as it lost its crispiness, it also lost some potency and the 12 g dose that I took (considered to be a trip dose) was in fact lower than that in its action.  There was some noticeable tolerance build up with daily use, and it appears that 2-7 days of break in between is needed to feel the effects fully.

Round 2. I acquired 100 grams of the new season, freshly dried Fly Agaric through an internet seller. I had read that it takes about 2 months of storing the dried mushrooms to have ibotenic acid (more toxic) convert to muscimol (less toxic), so I was a bit weary of starting with the mushrooms right away. However, the seller, in response to my wonderings, answered that soaking the ground mushroom in lemon juice prior to topping it with hot water helps with the conversion, and decreases the likelihood of potential adverse reactions like nausea. He also mentioned that initially, while the body is “cleansing”, nausea and adverse reactions might occur, but later they will subside. So with that I started on my next batch.

From 20 August to 11 October I took it 3 times at medium doses (4g – 9.5 g) and  6 times at high doses (12 g – 14.2 g).  There were some physical effects – once of severe nausea after smoking tobacco and occasional increased salivation, also some clumsiness; at higher doses appetite stimulating effect was not present. I experienced some strong effects of altered states of consciousness  – changed perception, visual changes, entheogenic effects as in God search/presence,  thoughts dwelling on perennial questions and poetic inspirations. When communicating with others – alcohol like inebriation, difficulties with focus and memory, honesty.   

Round 3.

A new batch of dried caps, picked and dried in a dehydrator on a low temperature by a family member. Sticking to the same prep – grind to powder, lemon juice soak prior to toping up with hot water, let steep.

From 18 October to 9 May I took high doses 29 times (12 g – 16 g), 4 times medium doses (4g -11.2g), 2 times small doses (2.5g-3 g). Prep mostly with lemon, one time with cranberry juice, one time – just hot water. The duration of the effects varied substantially, from 3 hours to 12 plus hours, with higher doses predictably producing longer lasting effects. Physical effects – there were a few incidents of nausea and increased salivation, especially with the first few doses of the batch, and once possibly triggered by prior drinking of black tea on empty stomach; one episode of vomiting at 16 g at 40 min after ingestion, which made the effect milder but still present. A couple of times at the end of the session there was a slight headache, possibly related to caffeine withdrawals; there was not much noted weakness or clumsiness. At the onset of action (60-90 min in), the need to use the toilet for a bowel evacuation usually happened. There was often sweating which led to a wish to take a bath most of the times. Yoga and Wim Hof breathing exercises often became a part of the session, and occasional cold showers – with less reaction/ aversion to cold than in a usual state.

Small and medium doses had marked anxiolytic effect. Higher doses, while repeatedly triggering paranoia type thoughts, had no fear/anxiety associated with that. I often engaged in singing and playing a musical instrument, feeling rather uninhibited; initially video conversations with a friend played a big part in the journeys – they were joyful, light, philosophical and playful. Later I preferred to watch Eckhart Tolle and Kim Eng recordings, noticing that being guided by their narration didn’t produce much of paranoia type content and made me savour the truth and presence of these spiritual teachers to the fullest. When listening to randomly selected songs and audio books from MP3 player, there was often a prophetic effect – lyrics or the story seemingly narrating the current reality. A few times I had the perception of reality from a point of view of yet unborn (possibly being birthed) or dying (of having just died) consciousness, altered perception of time, and a couple of times a very strong feeling of “enlightenment” – coming to and through the central point of truth. At the onset of action, usually 60-90 min after ingestion, there were often visual changes present – waive like patterns, glass like, brighter colours, sometimes reminding of a video game type of graphics. Occasionally, I had perception of sharing the mind space with someone else, which felt like a RPG video game type of reality. Even though I spent most of my sessions in my apartment, a few times I felt a rather unexpected wish to go outside which I followed through. The interactions with the people I had during those times were within acceptable range, although perhaps somewhat even more daring and unorthodox than my usual self. My coordination and steadiness was acceptable. I also felt the urge to clean the outdoor area where I was by collecting and disposing of garbage – not something unusual for me though.   

 During one of the sessions I decided to quit tobacco for 1 year and have been sticking to that decision for 7 months now, with one exception of using tobacco within the ceremonial Temazcal environment. What I label as “entheogenic” effect – God manifesting or searching for God was almost always present at high doses. In between Fly Agaric sessions I did not have lower depressive states and had normal socially acceptable functioning, working full time and engaging in occasional social activity. However I did use most of my free time to further explore the Amanita space, as I felt that every session cleansed my psyche, brought me closer to presence and deepened my relationship with this mushroom.     

Round 4.

I acquired 300 grams of dried caps from a new to me internet seller. The caps were much lighter in colour, yellowish to pale orange, which made me think they were either old or had been stored inappropriately. I started with a small dose 3.5 g increasing it to 30 g in 12 sessions (from 23 May to 23 June). The effects of this batch are much much weaker, so even at 30 g I don’t get the full effect of a regular 12 g, but possibly approximating it (+/-=9-11 g of normal potency).  There have not been any adverse physical effects like salivating, nausea/vomiting, clumsiness or lack of coordination, there has been some sweating. Mind effects included some visual changes, some paranoia/global conspiracy  type thoughts, some interest to costume work, engagement in arts, increased sensitivity to people’s state to presence/mind in real life interactions and videos. Because of the lighter effects and better control I have been more daring with trying the mushrooms in different settings – e.g. on a train, before and during work, going to a bike service, shopping, walks and hairdresser’s while under the influence.  Despite the mildness of the experiences, the entheogenic effects have been present, time did stand still and random MP3 tracks were meaningful. Having a batch of low potency mushrooms makes the supply ran out much faster, of course, but it has led me to experience it in many more different settings, also providing an easier ride with no challenging physical or psyhological effects to note.

Summary.

For an experienced psychonaut, Amanita muscaria (at least the variety found in European Russia) is a valid choice of an ally helping to explore altered states of consciousness. To decrease the occurrence of unwanted effects and minimize risks, I would advise starting from a low dose of 1-3 g and gradually increasing the dose to the desired potency (Usually 12 g dry weight of good quality mushroom caps is considered a trip/entheogenic dose, but it might vary depending on your body weight). I have found that thoroughly dried mushroom caps (cracker crispy dry)  are best stored in glass jars in a dark cool place. They can be ground in a coffee grinder prior to consumption, soaked in freshly squeezed lemon juice for 3-10 minutes (optional in mushrooms you have stored for 2+ months after drying) and mixed with hot but not boiling water, and steeped for another 3-10 minutes. You can experiment with how long the interval between the last meal and your mushroom ingestion should be, but I would advise 4+ hours to start with. Pay particular attention to your setting and the choice of audio/video content you engage with during the session. Spiritual teaching is perhaps best. The usual importance of Set and Setting remains. Be respectful to the mysteries you are seeking to engage with. Journey well.