This month’s meeting took place in a central Nottingham Pub, on the 13th of September. We were a little disappointed with the fact the food finished an hour early, and the space in the venue was not quite as private as we would have liked, but overall the meeting went very well. For this month’s meeting, Tea-Beard (formerly known as Cyber Dragon) gave a talk on the magic of Fungi. Present were Tea-Beard, Teller of Tales, Dumbeldore, Strider, Vineleaf (formerly known as Velvet), Danceswithweasels, Locksley, Greenfingers and a surprise new member.
After a haphazard start as some of us rushed off to find food elsewhere, the talk began with just how far back in our history, mushrooms have played a part in human society, despite the revulsion that some culture may have for fungi today. Preserved fungi have been found on discoveries of mummified remains, there are cave paintings depicting mushroom shaman, and there is early linguistic evidence to suggest that early man was well aware of the intoxicating properties of some mushroom.
Then, Tea-Beard began to talk about some specific mushrooms, both edible, and noted for healing properties. He noted how as Druids we study plant lore, yet the medicinal properties of mushrooms are so often over looked. Though he also pointed out that the British Druid Order have blogged about rituals with the changa fungus. He also shared with us his insights into the relationships between fungi, the Birch tree, and ritual fire.
Next, he turned his attention to psychedelic mushrooms, and the part they (may) have played in the development of religion. First, he discussed the cultures of ancient Mexico and Central America, the archaeological mushroom effigies, the references from the accounts of the Spanish conquistadors, and recorded mythology. As the talk moved on he talked about the researchers and scientists that played a part in the discovery of these mushrooms by western society, and recounted the story of Dona Maria Sabina, the Mexican Shaman who lead the first mushroom ceremony for a westerner.
After discussions of Mexico, and Peruvian tribes, Tea-Beard began discussion of the red and white Amanita Muscaria mushroom, and its role in the traditions of the peoples of the artic circle. In particular the theories around the origin of Santa Clause, along with some of the traditional uses and stories around these fungi. He also talked of how this mushroom may have been the origin of the visionary Indian Soma drink, as well as its possible identification as the narcotic component of the Greek Eleusinian mysteries. And it did not stop there. It seems that this mushroom may also have played a part in the origin of Christianity, with it having been suggested Jesus is an analogy for this mushroom. In addition, Tea-Beard cited other research around the use of this fungi by Viking Berserkers, and how the much of Irish mythology may also contain many thinly vailed references. He particularly highlighted the story of Cu Chulainn, and this battle rages and wasting sickness as symbolic of the properties of the mushroom.
After this we discussed a little what all this might mean for modern Druids, and took the opportunity to ask Tea-Beard lots of questions. Over all, everyone seemed very happy with the talk.