Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Mmmm, Mushrooms


When I first heard about magic mushrooms as a teenager in the late 1970s, the news that psychedelic drugs were sprouting freely across the nation's playing fields and golf courses seemed like a plot device from some science-fiction fantasy. According to the lore that spread by word of mouth, at festivals and in the photocopied and stapled sheets of the underground press, the mind-altering properties of the Liberty Cap mushroom had been known since time immemorial. They were referenced in the trippy spirals on ancient megaliths, and had formed the core of the Druids' priestcraft. After they had been driven underground by Christianity, their presence continued to be signalled in coded forms, from the gnomic hints in Alice in Wonderland and Victorian fairy lore to the figure of Santa Claus, whose iconography was a folk-memory of the red-and-white toadstool-eating shamans of Lapland. The counterculture of the 1960s had amplified these subterranean rumbings in anthems like Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, and now I had become the latest in a lineage of mushroom initiates that stretched back to the dawn of humanity.


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