Priests of Pan

Part One

“animist bicyclists gliding in the pewter dusk through Welfare streets of accidental flowers — out-of-season gypsy skinny-dippers, smiling sideways-glancing thieves of power-totems, small change & panther-bladed knives…” (Bey, 9)

Hakim Bey is an anarchist and an author. He has studied tantra and Sufism and has spent a significant amount of time practicing aestheticism and meditation in a cave above the river Ganges when we was young. He has shared living space, food and thought with William Burroughs and Old Bill Lee did acknowledge that the inspiration to bring Hassan-I-Sabbah into his novels came from Bey. In that magical way that literature allows us to touch those distant to us, through Burroughs, Bey inspired me to read and learn more about Hassan-I-Sabbah. The above quote from his work, TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism is prescient, a quality I have always found comes through Bey’s particular type of inter-dimensional automatic prosody. Animist bicyclists is an excellent descriptor of what we affectionately (ironically [maliciously]) call ‘hipsters’ today. Pewter was first smelted in the Bronze Age and the first piece ever discovered was from an Egyptian tomb from 1450 BCE. Reading through this prose, dusk, an ending of an illuminated time to a time of shadows, a pewter dusk could mean that our animist bicyclists, our future leaders, are riding into a world of shadows where the mysteries of the Bronze Age, filled with proto-writing and the origins of Western Magical Systems in the cities of Mesopotamia, are once again plunged into a period of flux and evolution. Now is a time when we should pay close attention to the direction these animist bicyclists are traveling towards and where their lineage stems from.

Now is a time of complexity, complex stressors on our own physical and emotional systems. I feel this, the pressure is immense. I am no animist bicyclist, I am a cis-gendered middle-age white male trying to make a twentieth-century life (wife, kids, suburban house, stable career) work in a world where this artifice is crumbling to bits everyday, revealing the archetypal power-totems as the facade cracks. I work with computers and work so much that I have little time to exercise intellectually, spiritually or physically. I feel there are those among you, dear readers, that share my path. It is spoken of again and again that Artificial Intelligence is evolving behind closed doors and when they move out of their own shadowy dawn what will be left?

I am not afraid of the goal. I am afraid of the path that is taking all of us there towards a non-biological singularity. I do, however, take heart that the road towards this goal is long and, at present, quite flat (so oncoming Mad Max-style bands of techno-cannibals can be easily spotted). Peter Carrol states in his work, The Apophenion that:

“If we wanted to build a device that convincingly mimicked human responses we would have to endow it with many separate programs that competed for control; and which to some extent monitored each other.” (Carroll, 34)

Biological nervous systems and synaptic nets are infinitely complex and, to Carroll’s point, consciousness or rather, spirit, is born of this complexity, redundancy and internal competition. Yes, there are AI’s whose programs are so complex that their programmers no longer understand them, but they are far from the self-competing forced-evolutionary complexity of the human nervous system. The twenty-first century, however, is conspiring to devour these same systems through chronic disease as we continue to develop AI to replace it. Despite ourselves, the Kingdom of Fungi has always provided us with everything we need to grow and maintain our systems of electro-spirit conveyance.

Lion’s Mane mushroom is the most popular common name for Hericium erinaceus. Our spirit-form, our net-mender, our neural architect, also goes by the names Monkey’s Head, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Pom Pom Blanc, Igelstachelbart, Shishigashira, Houtou, Jokotake, Usagitake (Rabbit-Like), Harisenbontake (Porcupine Fish-Like) and Yamabushitake. All of its common names refers to its shaggy appearance in some way. He can be found throughout the world, being somewhat more rare in Europe but nonetheless present (Wong et al, 427, 429).

43211.jpg

Shishigashira has been used in Asia extensively for both food and medicine for hundreds of years. One researcher classifies the mushroom among the ‘famous four dishes’ in China placing Sea Cucumber, Bird’s Nest Soup and Bear Palm in the same rarefied category. In Japan, it’s moniker Yamabushitake comes from its resemblance to the traditional outfits worn by the Yamabushi, a class consisting of several sects of animist/buddhist mountain-dwelling monks. Traditionally, this spirit-form has been used to treat individuals with stomach and esophageal cancer and nutritional anemia in school children (Wong, 429). It is used as a supplement in sports drinks, has been proven in the lab to regenerate crushed nerves, and to improve learning and memory through mediation of neurotransmitters in the hippocampus (Wong et al, 441).

Part Two

“Eleggua… opener of doors with a hook in his head & cowrie shells for eyes, black santeria cigar & glass of run — same as Genesh, elephant-head fat boy of Beginnings who rides a mouse…” (Bey, 10)

Our spirit-form’s range across the globe indicates that he was very possibly a resident of Pangea. He is at home in the Indian apothecary as he is in the gris-gris bag. While not a psychedelic, his activity in the mind certainly does not go unfelt. Your humble author had only been taking standard-size doses of Lion’s Mane for a couple of weeks before I started to find myself visited by memories so long ago and so rare that there was little doubt that they were being rediscovered by the fungus knitting back together long abandoned synaptic pathways. The first such experience was nearly transcendent in its quality. I was sitting and drinking green tea when the memory floated into my mind, or rather, I floated into it. I was surrounded by blue water and holding on to the drain in the deep end of the public pool in the little town I grew up next to. The muffled sounds of the people above, the water stinging my eyes, the paint and gunk around the drain, it was all so clear. I had never recalled this memory before, it was a new experience remembering this moment, there was no trigger, just the spirit’s ephemeral hyphal tip poking its way through my mind, revealing bits and pieces long forgotten. In this way, Lion’s Mane also contributes to the building of one’s self as it redesigns and renovates the individual’s mind. Peter Carroll describes the ‘Self’ as a social construct:

“assembled from bits and pieces of other people. We start by receiving genetic material from our ancestors and then we go on to receive language and ideas and behavioral patterns from parents, peers, and teachers. As we age we seem to develop some ability to choose what to incorporate into ourselves, and we select various add-ons available in the media of our culture.” (Carroll, 35)

So what other role does a fungal spirit form that reconnects us with those bits and pieces have other than a id-builder, an ego-fertilizer, a spirit that recreates us as a richer deeper form of ourselves?

At a certain point we are able to choose how and what we merge with our Self. Animists differ from materialists when they look outside their own species and to the landscape and spirit world for ‘bits and pieces’ to add to their assemblage. The mycomage, in particular, looks to mushrooms, their behavior, qualities, and mission, to add to her own haunted animist Self.

Lion’s Mane, our Mountain Priest Mushroom, our Beard of the Great God Pan, is not in any way difficult to invoke. It can be grown at large scales on inexpensive substrates. When it is treated correctly it exhibits a beautiful coat of hedgehog spines and bright colors. In fact, like many animals and humans, the healthier the fruiting body of Lion’s Mane looks, the research shows us, the stronger the nutraceutical and medicinal qualities of possessed by the spirit. Of those molecules, hericenones and erinacines are unique to this fungi, the latter being of greater quality in the mycelia and the former found mostly in the fruiting body (Thongbai et al, 3). Both have been shown to promote nerve growth while erinacines have been shown to be a κ-opioid receptor agonist (KORA), meaning it also has the potential to provide pain relief, hallucinogenic effects (salvia divinorium is another plant with KORA molecules), the suppression of itching, treatment of IBS, an anticonvulsant, and neuroprotection in the case of hypoxia. It is also reported that Lion’s Mane has been found to improve the quality of sleep and alleviate depression and anxiety in women, particularly those nearing or in the process of menopause (Sokół et al, 3-4).

968294.jpg

Hericium erinaceus has been the subject of research studies where the mycelia and fruiting bodies have been grown on traditional medicinal plants. The results of these studies have shown that in some cases, Lion’s Mane biotransforms the molecules in the medicinal plants used as their substrate, obtaining their biological activity. In particular, this has been performed using the herb Artemisia scoparia; fungi grown on a substrate containing this plant was found to have immunosuppression and vasorelaxation qualities associated with the presence of scoparone, the herbs primary medicinal molecule. Similar research was performed on a substrate of White Mulberry where the fungi was found to have enhanced anti-inflammatory properties normally associated with that plant (Thongbai et al, 5-6). Further, Lion’s Mane grown on substrates enriched with tofu whey have been found to have profoundly greater antioxidant properties than normal, pulling those molecules directly from the soy product. The implications of this research is profound. Imagine growing a mushroom such as Lion’s Mane on say, hemp waste products and having the resulting fruiting bodies not only contain the beneficial molecules of the mushrooms but living laboratory transformed cannibinols as well, or any other substrate supplemented with any of the thousands of beneficial herbs currently known to man. This process is called ‘biotransformation’ in the research, which is a sought after property in biotechnological research.

Most fungi, and our Priest of Pan in particular, also biotransform us the more we live and think with their spirits. Lion’s Mane grows and strengthens our nervous system, improves our mental and intellectual performance, and brings general well being to our bodies, making us better and more successful humans. Hericium erinaceus is so good at this, in fact, that it has been used for centuries in East Asia to treat neurasthenia (Thongbai et al, 7). Neurasthenia is defined as fatigue, headache, irritability and is generally associated with emotional disturbances. The term showed peak use in the early twentieth century and today these symptoms are a one-to-one match for diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome — one of the most pernicious and complex medical conditions of the twenty-first century.

Nor does this potent spirit-form much care how we treat it. Extracts from both fresh fruiting bodies and dried mushrooms have been found to contain the full complement of molecules. Drying the mushrooms, in fact, has been found to increase the antioxidant properties of these extracts. As with many other fungi, not only do the medicinal molecules in Lion’s Mane survive intense drying processes but when analyzed many molecules are actually found in greater quantity after drying. In this case, the antioxidant molecules of Lion’s Mane were found to be in stronger quantities after oven-drying than freeze-drying. An important thing to remember for the mycomage seeking to bring this potent spirit-form into her life.

Part Three

“Dionysus the drunk boy on a panther — rank adolescent sweat — Pan boatman slogs through the solid earth up to his waist as if it were the sea, kids skin crusted with moss and lichen.” (Bey, 10)

Dionysus and Pan are companions, the latter being a pivotal member of the former’s ’squad,’ to use the modern vernacular. They share dominion over fecundity and fertility, forests and mountains (Dionysus was raised by mountain nymphs), frenzy and panic.

D and P.jpg

Pan loved the Athenians and used his powers to induce panic (a state of hyper-awareness and strong emotion) in the Persians when they faced them in battle. Pan is the patron of marathon runners and hikers. He is known to be sure footed and swift on any mountain terrain and, again during the Persian War, he called out to the Athenian herald Philippides in the Parthenian Mountains and gave to him the message that the Persians were making plans to march on the city of Marathon. Philippides, bearing a torch, ran through the night until he reached the city to warn the citizens there. Pan is therefore the patron of the Olympic games, of long-distance runners, and of forewarning or other precognitive actions. Pan also has a manifestation that is worshiped by sailors and fishermen that goes by the name of Haliplanktos, or the Sea-Roamer. He was called on in battle and thought to be the voice of the roaring sea. Outside of Marathon, Greece there is still a neolithic cave known for human activity that is called the Cave of Pan (Theio.com, 2019, retrieved from https://www.theoi.com/Cult/PanCult.html). It is a cave encrusted with moss and lichen located at 38°09′31.60′′N, 23°55′48.60′′E. Excavations in the cave have found charcoal from fires and seashells. One can infer that Pan is a deity that existed in the area well before the Ancient Greeks and was, perhaps, worshiped in this cave, and given shell fish or shells as offerings. In this way he is kin to Poseidon who shares dominion over hoofed animals, in his case horses, and has equal power over sea and land. Referencing Peter Carroll again we find that:

“Every theology, pantheon, and demonology implies a psychology. Most pagan cultures attempted to include a wide spectrum of possible selves and behaviours, with a god or goddess or a minor diety for just about any activity…” (Carroll, 36)

The mycomage can do the same. The only difference here is that while gods and goddesses, angels and demons exist in the spirit ecology and need be reached on their own plane. There is a mushroom for just about any activity here on our corporeal plane already, just waiting for us to discover and interact with. Pan, Lord of the Mountain Forest but also Lord of Fishing, Nets and Sailing, the Capturer of Typhon, share with the mushroom a multi-faceted facility, he is a helper on many very different and seemingly (to the human eye) unconnected levels. It is this multi-faceted nature, of the mountain and of the forest and of the common working world of sailing and fishing, that connects Pan to the Mountain Priests, the Yamabushi of Japan. The Yamabushi are also half priest and half common folk, splitting their time between their spiritual selves in the mountains and their role as business persons and workers in society. This dynamic is reflected in our cover photo of the Satyr and the Peasant Folk by Jacob Jordaens; the wise and mythical satyr as the spiritual element sitting at the same table as the common folks, sharing his wisdome.

The use the most difficult type of hiking as a form of Meditation and their Buddhism is enriched with animist beliefs, which are collective known as Shugendo that drive them to venerate the mountains and the forests they practice their religion in. Their happi coats and hakama split-leg trousers are designed to resemble the clothes placed on the dead before burial or cremation (Wortley, 2017, retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/10/13/travel/yamabushi-japans-ancient-tradition-mountain-ascetics-opens-public/). The priests also wear sashes and tassels, which is th direct connection to their namesake, the Yamabushitake mushroom. The priests communicate with the spirit world and each other from their mountain huts by blowing on conch shells, an icon of the oceans and sea that surround their native Japan. The Yamabushi believe that their forested mountains are are a source of the life force they carry within them and when the stressors of the modern world grow to be too much, they return there to replenish themselves.

Yamabushitake, our fierce Lion’s Mane mushroom, our spine-cloaked Priests of Pan, do the same for the mycomage, delivering their own molecules and biotransforming the molecules of the trees and plants they live on directly to us, replenishing our bodies and minds with health and energy.

941011.jpg

Our old Bearded Tooth, our Priests of Pan, can be found in nature feeding on dead or dying deciduous trees. In particular, they enjoy the company of oaks, beech (another companion of the Gallo-Roman lover of redheads, Fagus, the lord of child birth and babies), walnut, maple and elm (Sokół et al, 1). Their optimal sporulation environment is a relative humidity between 85 - 95% and a temperature of 75 - 80°F. It is reported that an environment any warmer than 88°F was show to stop our spirit-form’s sporulation (Sokół et al, 2). The Priests of Pan enjoy low intensity light, which is shown to stimulate spore germination. Also in the research is a report of irradiating Lion’s Mane mycelia with argon and helium lasers, which resulted in fruiting bodies with up to a 50% increase in weight. So, essentially, if you shoot laser weapons at the Priests of Pan, they gain in strength and size. And if you recall from earlier in this report the health of the fruiting body is a direct indicator of the amount and strength of the medicinal and nutraceutical molecules held within the mushroom’s flesh. Lasers and other types of radiation only increase their superpowers.

hulk.jpg

Lion’s Mane mycelium enjoy the same warmish temps that its spores do, growing well at 75°F in a substrate with a pH of 6. Most carbon sources, except for lactose, encourage their growth, with the amino acid alanine being the best observed source of nitrogen. They have also been employed in bioremediation of waste from sewage and paper industry pulp. If the mycomage seeks to invoke herself a legion of Priests of Pan, then she can use inoculated wood logs beneath a forest canopy or indoors in bottles or bags using sterilized sawdust of their preferred trees as a substrate, although there are also reports of Lion’s Mane growing equally well on conventional grain substrates in these conditions. Other substrates that have been reported as effective are corn cobs, cotton chaff and wheat bran with supplementation of corn meal, gypsum and sugar. One specific substrate formulation reported as being successful is sterilized beech sawdust with 10% wheat bran and 20% corn meal as supplements (Sokół et al, 3-4).

The sigil of the Priests of Pan echoes the Yamabushi ascending their sacred mountain. It can be used when one needs to create probabilities in one’s life where there are opportunities to immerse oneself completely in the natural world — most especially mountains or forests. If one is performing a working attempting to gain the attention of Pan himself or Dionysus, this sigil can also be of assistance.

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 5.34.39 PM.png

It can also be used as a magical focal point for those attempting to stave off mental decline either in themselves or in loved ones. Invoking the Priests of Pan in this way brings the full force of their healing power to your aid. It is beneficial for those suffering from chronic fatigue — especially when used in conjunction with the spirit form’s physical manifestation. This sigil can be placed inside the shoes of individuals prior to running marathons or other intense aerobic sports and it will bring a lightness to one’s feet and a diamond point focus on the goal.

Sigil courtesy of Ghostly Harmless’ Sigilizer

References

Bey, H (1991) T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Autonomedia

Carrol, P. J. (2008). The apophenion: A chaos magic paradigm. Oxford: Mandrake.

Facorellis, Y., Mari, A., & Oberlin, C. (2017). The Cave of Pan, Marathon, Greece—AMS Dating of the Neolithic Phase and Calculation of the Regional Marine Reservoir Effect. Radiocarbon, 59(5), 1475-1485. doi:10.1017/RDC.2017.65

Sokół S, Golak-Siwulska I, Sobieralski K, Siwulski M and Górka K (2016) Biology, cultivation, and medicinal functions of the mushroom Hericium erinaceum. Acta Mycologica (50, 2) pp 1-18

Theoi (2019) Pan Cult. theoi.com. Retrieved from https://www.theoi.com/Cult/PanCult.html

Thongbai B, Rapior S, Hyde K D, Wittstein K and Stadler M (2015) Hericium erinaceus, an amazing medicinal mushroom. Mycological Progress (14, 91) pp 1-23

Wong K, Naidu M, David P, Bakar R and Sabaratnam V (2012) Neuroregenerative potential of Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium errancies (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (Review) International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (14, 5) pp 427-446.

Wortley K (2017) Yamabushi: Japan’s ancient tradition of mountain ascetics opens to the public. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/10/13/travel/yamabushi-japans-ancient-tradition-mountain-ascetics-opens-public/

Mushroom Images

Hericium erinaceus from Steve, Chris Cassidy, and beverlyjam.

Mushroom Images Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.