Welcome to the first installment of my new project, the Myconomicon. We all know the benefits that psychedelic mushrooms have on magical practice and general health and wellbeing. I feel that we are leaving a lot on the table, however, by not exploring the esoteric / alchemical powers of the rest of this vast kingdom. That is what the Myconomicon will seek to do, to explore the kingdom of mushrooms and to reveal the archetypes and magical tech inherent in the vast majority of non-psychedelic fungi.
This is an anti-imperialist exercise, at its core. Take, for example, this quote from the introduction of Chanterelle dreams, amanita nightmares:
“Our [mycophobic] beliefs have deep roots in British culture, in the words of British mycologist William Hay in his 1887 book — British Fungi, ‘the individual who desires to engage in the study of wild mushrooms must face a good deal of scorn. He is laughed at for his strange taste by the better classes, and is actually regarded as a sort of idiot… No… hobby is esteemed so contemptible is that of the fungus Hunter or toadstool eater.” (Marley, xxi)
Mycophobia is a disease of the intellectually colonized.
The Myconomicon is a grimoire, and a grimoire needs spirits, such as the Russian King Borovik, the ruler of the mushroom kingdom (Marley, 6). Borovik isn’t our principle daimon, however. The top spot is reserved for the Old Woman of the Woods, herself, Baba Yaga. ‘Chantrelle dreams…’ (among many other texts) cites her influence when it states that:
“In one [folktale], Baba Yaga captures and intends to eat a hedgehog sitting atop a mushroom and eating another mushroom. The hedgehog convinces Baba Yaga that he can be more useful in other ways, and changes into a small boy who leads the hag to a magical sunflower… In another legends, Baba Yaga puts the hero in touch with magic creatures (spirits), Lesovik and Borovik, who live under a mushroom and provide the hero with magical gifts… Whether depicted as benign or malevolent, Baba Yaga often appeared with mushrooms.” (Marley, 7)
Russia, as a nation, is one of the most mycophillic people on the planet. It is safe to assume that Baba Yaga, their High Empress of the Dark Arts, is not only concerning herself with a psychedelic toadstool but with the entire spectrum of useful mushrooms. For this quality alone, we can heretofore assume that Baba Yaga is the principle spirit of the Myconomicon.
Mushrooms can be communicated with. The ancients whispering to them and asking where their brothers and sisters might be hiding (Marley, 72), as one example. Mushrooms are spirit-forms. Mushrooms are, in fact, the perfect spirit-form for chaos magic. Anna Tsing, cohort of Donna Haraway and the author of the book, The Mushroom at the End of the World, states that:
“The uncontrolled lives of mushrooms are a gift and a guide when the controlled world we thought we had fails.” (Tsing, 2)
Mushrooms are a model for exploiting chaos. She goes on to note that:
“When Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945, it is said the first living thing to emerge from the blasted landscape was a matsutake mushroom.” (Tsing, 3)
Making it clear that if we are to survive the swift approaching apocalypse of dominant Western culture and adapt well to the new surroundings, that mushrooms are our best guide.
I was once chastised by a powerful wizard for taking what he viewed as a ‘devotionalist’ approach to mushrooms. I would like to counter any further arguments in that vein with a few notes from our recent past as cultural beings. Our ancestors, those that we already pull so much of our magical tech from, gathered around mushrooms and treated them with much devotion. Elio Schaechter, in his work, In the Company of Mushrooms, points out that some of the earliest human settlements around the Lascaux caves in France — those brought to the masses through Werner Herzong’s documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, are in areas that are still today rich in wild mushrooms. He goes on to assert that all European countries attribute magical and spiritual powers to mushrooms (Schaechter, 4), and again, that is all mushrooms, not just the Amanitas. The author also states that:
“Mushrooms and truffles (pitriyot and kemehim in Hebrew) are mentioned together several times in the Talmud… According to the Babylonian Talmud (Berakoth 40b), eating mushrooms is not to be preceded by reciting the blessing reserved for vegetables; rather, a more generic prayer is called for: ‘Blessed art Thou O Lord, our God King of the universe, by whose word everything is created’ The reason for this difference is that mushrooms are not ordinary plants because ‘they do not draw their nourishment from the ground but from the air,’ which explains why they possess no true roots and ‘are fed by other plants.’” (Schaechter, 5)
What this says to me is that the prayer to mushrooms addresses God directly, and not the ‘spirit’ of the plant. Another interpretation for this could be the mushrooms are a direct extension of the divine or the cosmic. Meanwhile, traveling from Babylon to Michoacan, we find the belief that mushrooms aren’t plants, or of the plant kingdom, but are instead considered ‘flowers of the earth’ by the indigenous peoples there (Schaechter, 6). This is a similar sentiment, that mushrooms are a physical manifestation of the creator, of Mother Earth. Further South, the Yanomamos have one word for eating meat and mushrooms and another for eating all other things (Schaechter, 24). The mushroom is flesh, it is, like the jaguar, an entity possessed of a spirit.
Our first spirit form is a princess and a direct descendant of Helios. She is commonly referred to as Agaricus blazei Murrill, the Royal Sun Mushroom of Brazil. The princess has, until relatively recently, enjoyed an existence free from human contact. Brazil is by-and-large a mycophobic country. The consumption of mushrooms being restricted to small ethnic enclaves (typically Japanese) or sometimes to those of higher status whose cultural education has exposed them to mycophilia (Dias et al, 546). This Princess is from a place where mushrooms and their consumption are connected directly to class. Further, it is stated that there is no use of mushrooms in Brazilian traditional medicine (Dias et al, 546) and that what interest there is now, is directly related to our spirit-form and her work. With Mycophobia in Brazil extending into traditional healing rituals and their vast herbal lore, which could be due to class and colonialism, as the indigenous peoples of the area no doubt had some mushroom lore, we see that the colonized mind often has mycophobia as one of its more overt symptoms. Agaricus blazei positioned herself to be carried to the mycophylic culture of Japan (there being a great number of Japanese, both foreign and native born, in Brazil) where she could continue her journey to heal the world with her magic and, in turn, come back and break the colonized minds of her home.
She was discovered in Piedade, in the state of São Paulo, by the Japanese researcher Furumoto and when arriving in her adopted home of Japan, she was given the name Himematsutake. Research into her properties only continued while Furumoto was alive, however, and after his death the spirit-form found her journey stalled until she was able to find more suitable subjects in the form of Japanese businessmen, who then funded research into her anti-tumor magics (Dias et al, 546). Her Japanese name, ‘Himematsutake’ breaks down to ‘Hime,’ meaning Princess. We can infer that the Royal Sun Mushroom (her common name in Brazil [and also a brand name with capitalist interests attempting to control her journey]) is regal, female and youthful in her characteristics. The later co-opting of her journey by several business interests connect her, archetypally, to the exploitation of young women by capitalism.
The Princess of the Sun King evolved inexplicably during her journey. It is known that the original mushrooms found by Furumoto had an aroma and flavor that was so strong that they were difficult to consume. Somewhere in the journey to Japan, however, they developed a more pleasant smell and a lighter coloration and grew to a larger size (Dias et al, 546). This is evidence that the Princess of the Sun King evolved to match the tastes of her new chosen home and culture, Japan. How else do you explain her shedding of her feralness and matching the aesthetic and culinary tastes of the Japanese, so that her popularity could spread?
Today, Agaricus blazei Murrill is produced at a rate of 660,000 lbs of dried body annually and is consumed by at least 500,000 individuals daily for her antitumor, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, liver protecting, antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic, antiatherosclerosic, antiallergic and immunomodulating effects (Wang et al, 1-2)
She is, in true princess fashion, an expensive mushroom to grow and so research continues to find a way to provide her with her optimum environment (Firenzuoli et al, 4). When she lived in the wild, she was a litter-decomposing fungus that was often found on forest edges and in manures. Today, as we will see in a bit, her journey continues on enriched composts and various pasteurized substrates (Firenzuoli et al, 4). She also enjoys being young and has engineered her gifts to only come forth once she has aged. Once her cap has opened and her fruiting body is more mature, the nutraceuticals contained inside of her have the strongest concentrations of ‘beta-glucans’ (Firenzuoli et al, 5), sugars found in her cell walls.
Remember back when we mentioned that after her chosen human, Furumoto, joined her in the spirit world, that her journey paused and was only picked back up due to a thirst for anti-cancer medicines? It is reported that originally, her beta-glucans were not toxic to tumors and only through further cultivation did tumorcidal properties evolve (Firenzuoli et al, 6). This is more evidence of the spirit-form evolving to meet the expectations of the humans studying it, learning their needs and meeting them. Moreover, these antimutagenic effects can be accessed by us through as simple a method as leaving the dry fruiting body in water at room temperature for a couple of hours (Firenzuoli et al, 6).
If you are interested in assisting the Sun King’s Princess with her journey, and in turn, receiving the benefits of her magic for yourself, you can easily obtain your own culture of Agaricus blazei Murrill. Research has shown that she can be moved to fruit using the same composting method that is used for the cultivation of the common button mushroom, but as a ‘devotionalist,’ I would council you to work to give her the offerings that she prefers. She has been reported as happily colonizing the spent mushroom substrate where Oyster mushrooms had previously grown, and that vermicompost is preferable to her (Gonzalez, Abstract). She has also been shown to prefer at least a 30% mix of nyjer seed in her substrate (Gonzalez, 1332). She might take awhile to spawn, 60 days in some cases, so be prepared for a long petition for her manifestation. The Princess of the Sun King rewards patience, however, and is known to produce a second flush some 110 days after spawning, as well (Gonzalez, 1336). She also has been shown to enjoy a bed of rice straw as her primary substrate with additives such as calcium carbonate, rice bran, diammonium phosphate and gypsum. Most importantly for this subtropical royalty, is the temperature that you keep her at, for both mycelia and fruiting bodies prefer a temperature of 77˚F with a relative humidity of at least 90%.
As the daughter of the Sun King, Himematsutake is the sister to Circe — and all of the other daughters of Helios. Any rituals or incantations proper to her can be adapted for this spirit form as well. If one is interested in pulling this spirit-form into one’s life and doesn’t know where to begin, the Myconomicon provides the following sigil to assist with her manifestation:
Her sigil is good for the banishing of capitalist enslavement of young girls either through trafficking or corporate branding campaigns. It is also beneficial for bringing oneself into alignment with her healing properties and for mentally preparing the way for fighting cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, viruses, and general allergies and inflammation.
Sigil courtesy of Ghostly Harmless’ Sigilizer
Dias E S, Abe C and Schwan R F (2004) Truths and myths about the mushroom Agaricus blazei. Scientia Agricola (61, 5). pp 545 - 549
Firenzuoli F, Gori L and Lombardo G (2008) The medicinal mushroom Agaricus blaze Murrill: Review of Literature and Pharmacy-Toxicological Problems. eCAM (5, 1) pp 3 - 15.
Gonzalez Matute R, Figlas D and Curvetto N (2011) Agarics blaze production on non-composted substrates based on sunflower seed hulls and spent oyster mushroom substrate. World Journal of Microbiological Biotechnology. (27) pp 1331-1339.
Jatuwong K, Kakumyan P, Chamyuang S, Chukeatirote E and Hyde K D (2014) Optimization condition for cultivation of Agaricus subrufescens hybrid strains. The 26th Annual Meeting of the Thai Society for Biotechnology and International Conference. pp 244-252
Wang H, Fu Z and Han C (2013) The medicinal values of culinary-medicinal royal sun mushroom (Agaricus blaze Murrill). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine pp 1-6
The mushroom Image is from Linda Bryan Sears and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License