Slippery Pete

In the Apophenion, Peter J Carroll describes the phenomenon of apophenia as finding patterns or meaning where others do not (Carroll, 8). Apophenia is a crucial concept to understanding the magic endemic to both mushroomkin and the mushroomer.

It is Carroll’s argument around how apophenia connects to ‘is-ness’ that we should pay attention to. He describes ‘is-ness,’ or our perception of ‘is-ness’ as an essence or quality that exists independent of our experiential evidence of a thing (Carroll, 19) — such as a grimoire that seeks or exudes power independent of our observations of it being a book on a shelf. Carroll asserts this perception is flawed. He asks us to look past ‘is-ness’ and instead look for patterns of ‘being-doing,’ that spirit/mind is a fundamental and amoral property of all matter — that mind/matter are the same and not separate phenomena. This is the foundation of panpsychism (Carroll, 21) Furthering his argument (and getting closer to our own) Carroll argues that this panpsychist/psueo-animist view contains an explanation of the related phenomenon of free will — which he describes as a combination of rational/emotional choice and the capitalization/optimization of random phenomenon (Carroll, 24). To quote directly from the Apophenion:

“By using a mixture of deterministic and random processes I arrive at decisions which lie within limits but which no agency, including me, could predict… what we call free will consists precisely of this kind of activity.” (Carroll, 24)

I assert that this combination of probability optimization and directed choice is one of the ways that mushroomkin exhibit free will, it is how they express the mind contained within their matter — and it is also how we discover them in the wild and engage with them domestically. Fungi begins its life after a spore finds a suitable environment, which is discovered by chance. It then begins a purposeful journey sending out hyphae and creating a mycelial net. It specifically chooses some plants and trees over others (a process that works both ways) that it encounters through capitalizing on the probability of encountering these specific symbionts. When the nutrients run low or the environmental conditions are optimum, mushroomkin send up their fruiting bodies.

Enter the human foraging in the woods. We know the potential symbiotic relationships, so this directs our movements, but discovering them (at least initially) is an exercise in probability. We then roll the dice again in discovering or not discovering the fruiting bodies of the mushroomkin. These spirit-forms that we discover, those that seek contact and congress with humans, purposefully produce molecules — very specific molecules, that humans find to be the most delicious. The mushrooms that are the best at this have been invited into a domesticated environment where the components conducive to perpetuating their own matter is then purposefully optimized by humans — yet the random nature of their life cycle keeps the elements of probability alive even on this domestic scale. Thus the lives of these spirit-forms and our congress with them are, as Carroll phrases it, a perfect ‘mixture of deterministic and random processes [that produces] decisions which lie within limits but which no agency, including [us, can] predict…’

Mushrooms and mushrooming Are a pure expression of the panpsychist conceptualization of mind/matter syncretism — a pure expression of free will.

Let’s dial our lens into one of the principle expressions of free will that mushroomkin exhibit — the production of molecules that humans and other animals find to be irresistible — in particular those molecules that contribute to the phenomenon of umami when consumed. Mushrooms do not all taste the same, their taste an expression of their personality and their animacy, as these molecules are generated through both (genetically) deterministic and random processes. Some are subtle, some cheerful, some moody and others wild (Selengut, xvi). One of the more powerful components of the gustatory power of mushroomkin is glutamic acid. Our own bodies create nearly 50 grams of glutamic acid on a daily basis and it is this substance, along with all glutamates, that is expressed on our palate as umami. Glutamatic acid and glutamate don’t express themselves in a neurally exciting and addicting taste-expression, they also metabolize directly into energy for animal bodies through the stomach and intestines. They make up our muscles, our brains as well as functioning as a primary neurotransmitter that impacts neuroplasticity — our ability to adapt and capitalize on probability (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 24-25). Umami is how life, the experience of living, tastes. Umami is how free will expresses itself on our palate.

Mushrooms will maintain their life force in the wild despite a drought or a total loss of water in their bodies. When water is reintroduced to the environment it is absorbed by the mushroomkin and they continue their life cycle, resurrected from the dead, as it were. The same is true after the mushrooms have given their bodies over to humans for consumption. When they are dehydrated for storage and they rehydrated the guanylate (another molecule that synthesizes with glutamate and glutamatic acid) and free glutamate levels increase — the expression of their life force is stronger after being resurrected from death. In a perfect conflagration of lifeways and metaphors it was Buddhist monks that discovered this when seeking a vegetarian substitute for the katsuobushi (skipjack tuna that has been fermented, smoked and dried) that is traditionally used to make dashi, a traditional (and umami-rich) Japanese soup base. The monks discovered that dried shiitake mushrooms were as good as if not better than katsuobushi for this purpose. (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 110-111).

The monks used shiitake for their purposes but there are other mushroomkin that are particularly adept at this post harvest re-animation of their umami life-force, for instance Craterellus cornucopiodes; otherwise known as the Horn of Plenty, Black Chantrelle, or Trumpet of the Dead, reconstitutes well after drying and is also easy to pulverize into a powder when dried. Sparassis crispa, the Cauliflower fungus, maintains its texture and aroma when reconstituted (Carluccio, 118). Boletus edulis are also excellent choices for drying and reconstituting when performing the gustatory alchemy required to increase the umami of mushroomkin.

Craterellus cornocopiodes

Craterellus cornocopiodes

Sparassis crispa

Sparassis crispa

Boletus eludis

Boletus eludis

Mushroomkin seem to adore being preserved, and drying is not the only method available to us. One can make a duxelles — developed in the 17th century by the chef François Pierre La Varenne, a duxelles is created by cleaning and finely chopping any one type of mushroom with a ceramic or stone blade, add in a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and brown the fungi in a pan. Once the browning begins, some minced garlic is added and the cooking continued for a short time. Duxelles can then be frozen and used to impart the medicinal and gastronomic benefits of the mushroom to any other dish (Selengut, 15). The author of this recipe actually suggests a food processor, but through the course of this research it is becoming clear that many mycophilic cultures don’t let mushrooms touch metal, and that includes the blade of a knife. There are plenty of ceramic knives, with Kyocera being a prominent brand. Another option, and one that fits the mycomagical aesthetic a bit closer, is a stone blade, such as obsidian, which is reportedly the sharpest type of blade you can have.

Mushrooms can also be salted, which is likely the oldest way of preserving food if you are seeking to authentically paleolithify your kitchen witchery. This is the traditional method of preserving mushrooms in Poland and Russia, both known as heavily mycophillic cultures. To salt mushrooms you clean them and set them in a foundation of salt in a non-metal container (earthenware crock or glass jar). you then layer mushrooms and sea salt in succession until there is approximately 1 part salt to every 3 parts mushrooms by weight. The contents are then pressed and covered. When you wish to use mushrooms preserved in this way all you have to do is extract them from the salt, rinse, and use as normal (Carluccio, 119). Pickling is another method, in oil or vinegar, that allows the mushroom to maintain their texture and appearance, but at the price of some of the aromatic subtlety naturally cultivated by the spirit-form. Two excellent recipes for pickling are offered us in ‘A Passion for Mushrooms’ by Antonio Carluccio:

“Pickled Mushrooms in Brine

2 pints good white wine vinegar

1 pint water

1 tbsp salt

small sprig of rosemary

few black peppercorns

5-6 bay leaves

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

Combine the ingredients and boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms separately in salted water for 8 minutes, drain, add to the vinegar and boil together for a further 5 minutes… Fill jars with mushrooms using a sterilized spoon, leaving room for the liquor. Let the brine cook for a further 10 minutes and set aside to cool… Cover the jars: they will keep for a long time.

Pickled mushrooms in oil

This second method, the usual one in Italy… is well worth it.

2 pt good white wine vinegar

1 pt water

2 tbsp salt

5 bay leaves

10 cloves

Bring the brine ingredients to the boil, add the mushrooms and boil for 5-10 minutes… Drain the mushrooms and spread on a very clean cloth to cool and dry for a few hours… Sterilize jars… pack a few mushrooms into a jar, pour in a little olive oil to cover them… mix gently so that the oil reachers all parts of the mushrooms. Add more mushrooms and more oil in the same way until the jar is full. close the lid tightly and keep for at least a month before use…” (Carluccio, 119)

And finally, Carluccio offers what is possibly the most magically adjacent method of preservation, the creation of mushroom extracts. The author outlines the procedure as follows:

“Clean the mushrooms, chop them finely, put them in a little water and boil until they have exuded as mush as possible of their natural juices. The mushrooms themselves will be pretty tasteless, though they could go to make up a quantity for pickling… strain off the liquor… Add to the liquor a spring of rosemary, some sage leaves, a few bay leaves, some pepper and a lot of salt, dried mushrooms and garlic. Boil until the liquid starts to thicken, then pour into a clean bottle and store in the refrigerator.” (Carluccio, 119)

All of the above are tested alchemical methods of preservation that can be used by the kitchen witch (and I assure you, mycomagery completely eclipses any of the tongue-in-cheek derision that some in the community impart to that label) that is also aligned with the mission of the kingdom of fungi to join with and enhance the lifeways of their humankin. Fungi are masters of symbiosis — we see that expressed in lichens, a symbiotic lifeforms made up of fungi and algae — and expressions of symbiosis are the last great frontier left for biologists, yet one understood by the magically operant (what is being ridden by a spirit form, after all, but a form of symbiosis). Symbiosis is an edge area largely left untouched because it dismantles the colonized mind of these same biologists. If we are to learn anything from lichen it is that fungi inhabit everything and everyone and we are all in a way symbiotic lifeforms, we are all citizens of their kingdom (Haraway, 72). Understanding this forges a deeper connection between us and the forest as well — mushroomkin are the bridge between our human lifeways and the cycles of the forest. Their mycelial net connects the forest physically, their molecules connect to us, and in living and thinking with mushrooms we are brought back to the forest. The plantation model of agriculture, of social hierarchy, is not only jeopardizing the welfare of our planet physically, but it is also divorcing us (and has been for some time) from our actual spiritual ancestors, Tolkien’s Ents (Haraway, 73). Without a flourishing mycological layer, no forest and no human society can exist. For forests to flourish, we must understand and cultivate our fungal partners. They bring us the benefit of free medicine, free food, and the wisdom that mushroomkin as spirits impart to us.

Earth needs to become an agroforested Mycotopia and the Myconomicon is the gate through which that possible future can be accessed. Umami is the first and most accessible key to this gate.

Umami is a syncretic phenomenon. Its intensity isn’t tied to how much glutamate is present but rather what other molecules are present with it, in particular the 5’-ribonucleotides inosinate and guanylate a model of complexity (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 41). Guanylate is found naturally in shiitake, enokitake (Flammulina velutipes), matsutake - as well as in pork and chicken. Inosinate is found in beef, pork, chicken and some fish such as sea bass, tuna, etc. Mushrooms not only have levels of glutamate but they also possess the substances that syngergize on the palate with glutamate, making them probably the strongest individual source of umami in nature, much more so than the animal sources listed above.

Flammulina velutipes

Flammulina velutipes

As previously mentioned, the umami qualities of mushrooms were formally discovered by Buddhist monks in search of a vegetarian version of their beloved soup stock. Shōjin dashi was the result of those experiments. The most excellent book on this subject, Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste offers a simple recipe Shōjin dashi that we can add to our Alchemist’s Cookbook:

“Rinse the mushrooms and soak them in cold water for 5 to 6 hours. To speed up the process, you can shred the mushrooms before soaking them. Strain the resulting extract and reserve it. As for first dash, soak the seaweed and then warm it to 140 F for about half an hour. Remove the seaweed and mix in the extract from the mushrooms. The shōjin dashi is now ready for use.

4 1/4 cups water - 3 1/2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms

4 1/4 cups water - 1/3 oz dried konbu” (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 47)

The way I see it, this recipe can be used with all manner of mycomedicinals, including shiitake mushrooms, to create warming and healing magical broths and soups that are irresistible to humans. Variations on this recipe are also offered, one of particular interest can be used in areas where seaweed might not be available:

“It is… possible to… create another type of dashi, resembling a vegetarian shōjin dash, using ingredients that are available practically anywhere in the world. It call for only two things — water in which potatoes have been boiled and dried porcini or button mushrooms. When unpeeled potatoes are boiled in lightly salted water, glutamate is drawn out. Older potatoes, especially those that have started to sprout, yield a stronger extract. The sprouting process causes the potato proteins to break down, therby releasing more free glutamate.” (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 47)

Umami itself is a healing magic as it helps to regulate the appetite. Umami sends signals to the brain and gut that tells it that satiation has been reached and it does so in such a way that our conscious mind finds the signals difficult to ignore (the primary cause of overeating is our ability to override these signals). Umami rich foods physically change the way the pancreas works, improving digestion and bringing about homeostatis in the body, self-regulation, an equilibrium that has been proven to help combat obesity and by extension, type 2 diabetes (Mouritsen and Styrbæk, 209). Coupling the experience of umami with other mycomedicinal molecules that actually regulate insulin and you have a kingdom of entities whose free will drives them to cure some of the most pernicious chronic diseases of the twenty-first century.

Understanding that mushrooms are spirit-forms and that it is beneficial for humankind to traffic with them is, as has been mentioned elsewhere in the Myconomicon, the oldest form of magical lore. Shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated on logs in Japan since the 17th century, the original method being the harvesting of naturally infected logs and their placement with other fresh logs of the same wood type that had areas of bark hatched out, increasing the probability that spores would find a suitable landscape to inhabit. It wasn’t until 1943 when one Dr. Kisaku Mori, the founder of the Institute of Mushroom Research in Tokyo and the author of ‘Mushrooms as Health Foods’ developed a method of inoculation that utilized wooden dowels colonized with mycelia (Yanamaka, 1)

It is this method that enabled the domestication of our spirit-form for this week, Pholiota nameko, in the 1950s (Yanamaka, 1). Currently our spirit form, also known as the ‘Slippery Mushroom,’ is cultivated at the rate of approximately 25,000 tons per year, although it has never been as popular as other mushrooms consumed in Japan, consisting of only 12% annual sales in Tokyo (Yanamaka, 2).

Pholiota nameko

Pholiota nameko

The method of cultivation has evolved from shade log culture using beech, birch, cherry and oak logs placed beneath a forest canopy to a box method using sawdust as a substrate. Today most cultivation still uses sawdust supplemented with wheat and corn bran in autoclavable bottles. It is typically purchased in markets fresh with the stems intake because that lengthens its shelf life (Yanamaka, 7). In general, Slippery Mushroom contains approximately 2 g of protein per 10 grams of wet mushroom, around 6 grams of sugar and .5 grams of fat content. They also contain around 2 milligrams of calcium, 350 mg of potassium, 14 milligrams of magnesium, 100 milligrams of phosphorus, 3 mg of iron, 1 mg of zinc, .5 mg of copper and .2 mg of manganese per 10 grams of wet mushroom (Rodrigues et al, 5). It is also reported to possess anti-inflammatory properties when consumed, like many other mushrooms (Russel et al, 362).

The ’Slippery’ in our spirit-form comes from the layer of smooth (and delicious) mucus that covers its cap — a substance rich with polysaccharides and nucleic acids (Meng, 5347) and reported to have anti-aging, anti-tumor and anti-biotic properties. ’Slippery’ is a good adjective for our spirit-form for reasons than just its physical qualities. In the 1930s, the term ‘Nameko,’ the moniker commonly applied to Pholiota nameko, was the name for several different mushrooms that possessed a glutinous pileus (the cap of a mushroom — and also a brimless felt cap worn by proto-hipsters in Ancient Greece). In 1929 the term nameko was ascribed to the aforementioned Flammulina velutipes (enokitake) but is now understood to be the distinct species Pholiota microspora (mycotaxonomists couldn’t agree their way out the backseat of a taxi, for the most part).

Our spirit-form, old Slippery Pete, also goes by a multitude of aliases in Russia depending on what neighborhood he is found in. Generally, he is referred to as the honey mushroom, unless he is found in a large group at the base of fir or pine trees in the mountain in warm weather, when he goes by the name of Summer Honeycomb (Letniy sot). In the fall, when found in a more mature state with a convex or flattened pileus, he goes by the name Autumn Tree (Osenneye derevo). In the spring, right around the time the time the ground is thawing, if found hanging out in a ditch, a ravine, in a glade or other edge areas, he calls himself Meadow Shrub (Lugovoy kust) and finally, if found along the base of spruce, beech or ash that are weak or diseased, Slippery Pete introduces himself as Thistle Leg (Noga chertopolokha). Regardless of what alias he is traveling under, however, nameko is recognized in Russia as having the ability to strengthen ones hair, improve the health of the skin or eyes, and generally tune one’s immune and hormonal systems (https://zelenyjmir.ru/opyata/).

In Japan, nameko is also known as a low temperature mushroom and has an affinity for Fagus crenata (Siebold’s beech), Fagus japonica (Japanese beech) and Quercus magnolica (Mongolian Oak) trees (Gizaw, 33). Slippery Pete can be evoked relatively easily by the mycomage through obtaining a pure culture of Pholiota nameko and transfer it to potato dextrose agar, malt extract agar, or dextrose yeast agar. It has been reported that mycelial growth should become rapid around day 15 after transfer. Malt extract agar has been reported to be the most successful medium. Nameko has been cited as preferring sorghum for a spawn medium. The aforementioned sawdust, of which poplar sawdust has been used with some success (Meng, 5348) can be utilized as a substrate and Nameko has been reported to take around 30 days to fully colonize and begin producing fruiting bodies — typically in two flushes, for a total lifecycle of around 90 days (Gizaw, 35-36). P. microspora has also been grown on corn stalks and has been reported to enjoy this substrate to a certain degree, producing greater amount of fruiting body as long as the carbon/nitrogen ratio is optimized. The higher the nitrogen content, the faster the mycelium of P. nameko grows, the fruiting stage however, prefers less nitrogen and a more carbon-rich environment (Meng, 5349). Nameko grown on corn stalks has been reported to have a higher sugar content than when grown on other substrates. Our old friend glutamic acid is also higher when Nameko is cultivated on corn waste — a phenomenon we have seen with other spirit-forms in the Myconomicon (Meng, 5350).

Slippery Pete is not averse to a bit of experimentation either. For instance, it is an established point of mushroomlore that certain fungi appear following lightning strikes. The mechanism that drives this is hypothesized to be the fracturing of hyphae or the stimulation of enzymes that cause the mushroom to fruit (Takaki et al, 953). One experiment using 100 nanosecond/120 kilovolt pulses applied using capacitance devices to logs inoculated with Pholiota nameko produced over 2 kilograms more fruiting bodies than the control logs cultivated at the same time, using the same methods. He has also shown the amazing ability to grow on a substrate made only of ceramic beads. In this experiment, Slippery Mushroom mycelia was introduced to 500 grams of sterilized one-centimeter diameter ceramic beads and around 225 milliliters of a nutrient solution in plastic bottles. The nutrient solution contained 50 grams of cellulose gum, 20 grams potato powder, 20 grams of glucose, 2 grams of yeast extracts to 1000 ml of distilled water (Huang, 855). The bottles were then cultured in the dark for two weeks and then exposed to 500-lux intensity fluorescent lights on a 12 hour cycle (Huang, 856). This method saw an increase of nearly 100 grams of fruiting mushroom as opposed to the control.

The sigil for Nameko, old Slippery Pete, resonates with this affinity for disguise and experimentation. It can be used along with a broth or other alchemical preparation of the spirit-form in workings that focus on a need to become invisible through obfuscation such as frustrating government or corporate tracking of online activity or other activity in-the-real that can be monitored via digital devices.

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Slippery Pete’s sigil is also quite useful for any workings that need to bring Jupiter into one’s life (through his clear affinity for being charged through Zeus’ lightning bolts) and any enchantments that have never been attempted before, such as a chaos magic syncretism of heretofore unpaired traditional practices. His will towards life via any means possible and his excelling at fulfilling his life cycle in the strangest of environments is an excellent embodiment of Carroll’s explanation of the manifestation of free will and P. nameko along with his sigil can be used as a booster for any type of probability enhancement the mycomage sees fit to engage in.

Sigil courtesy of Ghostly Harmless’ Sigilizer

References

Carluccio, A. (1994). A passion for mushrooms. London: Pavilion.

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

Gizaw B (2015) Cultivation and yield performance of Pholiota name on different agro industrial wastes. Academia Journal of Food Research (3,3) pp 32-42.

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Huang P and Olga S (2017) Utilization of ceramic beads for edible mushrooms cultivation. Advances in Microbiology (7) pp 853-862

Meng L, Fu Y, Li D, Sun X, Chen Y, Li X, Xu S, Li X, Li C, Song B and Li Y (2019) Effects of corn stalk cultivation substrate on the growth of the slippery mushroom (Pholiota microspora). RSC Advances. pp 5347-5354

Mouritsen, O. G. (2014). Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste. Columbia Univ Pr.

Neda H (2008) Correct name for ‘nameko’. Mycoscience (49) pp 88-91.

Rodriques D M F, Freitas A C, Rocha-Santos T A P, Vasconcelos M W, Roriz M, Rodríguez-Alcalá, Gomes A M P and Duarte A C (2015) Chemical composition and nutritive value of Pleurotus citrinopileatus var cornucopiae, P. eryngii, P. salmoneo stramineus, Pholiota nameko and Hericium erinaceus. Journal of Food Scientists & Technologists. (52, 11) pp 1-13

Russel R, Paterson M and Lima N (2014) Biomedical effects of mushrooms with emphasis on pure compounds. Biomedical Journal (37, 6) pp 357-368

Selengut, B., Pogue, A., & Barboza, C. (2014). Shroom: Mind-bendingly good recipes for cultivated and wild mushrooms. Andrews McMeel Publishing. Kansas City, Missouri

Takaki K, Yamazaki N, Mukaigawa S, Fujiwara T, Kofujita H, Takahasi K, Narimatsu M and Nagane K (2009) Effect of Pulsed High-Voltage Stimulation on Pholiota Nameko Mushroom Yield. Acta Physcia Polonica A (6) pp 953-956

Yamanaka K (2011) Mushroom cultivation in Japan. WSMBMP Bulletin (4) pp 1-10

ZelenyMir.ru (2019) Honey Agarics: How to Find, Main Types, Useful Properties + 70 Photos. Encyclopedia of the world of animals and plants! Retrieved from https://zelenyjmir.ru/opyata/

Mushroom Images

Boletus eludis from Adam Bryant

Craterellus cornucopioides from fishfoodnmuscles

Flammulina velutipes from Norty Edwards

Pholiota nameko from Vasco Fachada

Sparassis crispa from Gerhard Koller

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