Chapter Twenty Two – The Phoenix and the Return to Isis

As the winter solstice approached I knew the time was coming to enter into communion with the only other entheogen that has directly called me, that has been spiritually insistent that we meet, the mushroom amanita muscaria. Of all the entheogens this is perhaps the most mysterious and the original shamanic path through the wood to find this mushroom has other paths leading off towards such unlikely places as the medieval Christian church and the oldest work in the Hindu tradition, the Rig Veda. Far more capable authors have done first rate academic research into the vastness of this mushrooms influence on culture and religion all over the world. It is one of those almost unbelievable secrets hidden in plain sight and anyone interested in the bigger picture should read John Allegro’s, ‘The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross’ and Wasson’s, ‘Soma-Divine Mushroom of Immortality’. Here, I am concentrating on shamanism and kundalini and so I will just touch only briefly of some these amanita muscaria mysteries as they relate to these subjects and my own direct experience.

This is the classic red and white spotted toadstool, the image of which is deeply ingrained in the western subconscious. We see it in fairy stories as children, surrounded by gnomes, elves, and other magical creatures. It is associated with the wildwood, the dark forest, the world of faerie that entices us, yet of which we are also afraid. It’s the dark side of the fairy story, the place that if we go there we may never come back from. Certainly one of the reasons it is so deeply embedded in our psyche is that it may be a relic of an ancient shamanic past; of practices perhaps brought to Europe by our Siberian ancestors and in Siberia to this day it is still used for ritual purposes. Further contributing to the importance of this mushroom in our subconscious is the connection with Christmas, as virtually all the associated popular symbolism of this festival connects directly to shamanic practices in Siberia and other northern shamanisms. First of all, Santa Claus is red and white just like the mushroom. In England he is known as Father Christmas and has origins going back to the Norse god Odin. Odin was a shaman god that hung upside down from the Tree of Life to acquire his powers. The Tree of Life in the Norse myths was a birch, this being one of the trees that the mushroom lives in symbiosis with. It also lives in symbiosis with various conifers and it is from here that we get the Christmas tree. Underneath the tree we put our presents, which at one level are really the mushroom. On top of the tree is often placed a star, which is really the Pole Star, also a vestige of Siberian practice. In Siberian ceremony the shaman would climb through a hole in the roof of the yurt and from here we get Santa coming down the chimney. Traditionally the mushrooms would be dried over the fire and from here we get our tradition of the Christmas stocking. The idea, that whether you have been a good, or a bad little boy or girl, will effect the presents in your stocking, relates to how you approach the mushroom and what kind of experience you might have. Writing a letter to Santa telling him what you want relates to the shamanic practice of having firm intention before embarking upon a journey with a plant teacher. Then there is the reindeer connection. These animals are of utmost importance for northern peoples like the Sami. It is said that the shamans would observe the reindeer eating the mushroom and afterwards collect the urine and drink it. All toxins would have been filtered through the reindeers system leaving the shamans free to work with the mushroom with no ill effects physically. Hence Santa flies through the air pulled by reindeer.

So even if we don’t realise it, most western people are intimately familiar with amanita muscaria. One thing that everyone knows about it is that it is deadly poisonous. Only the thing is, it isn’t. There have in fact been very few recorded deaths from this mushroom and most fatalities occur from ingestion of misidentified species. Amanita muscaria contains ibotenic acid, which the body must convert to muscimol which is the psychoactive component found in this mushroom. The main problem is that eating the mushrooms raw can make you feel quite sick and be very hard on the liver but that said you would have to ingest quite a lot of them before you would get seriously ill. This mushroom is not like the better known, psilocybin magic mushrooms. These can be taken in large quantities and are used very disrespectfully like a party drug by many people. Amanita muscaria is not like that. Like ayahuasca, with which there are many parallels, it will never be used recreationally, it is far too strong and unpredictable. Those who approach it with anything less than total respect, usually swear they will never go near it again in their lives.

Northern forests are predominantly green places; there are not many other colours that catch the eye. Amanita muscaria with its beautiful orange-red cap and white spots stands out like a flashing neon sign saying, come on in, have a bite to eat, we provide all night entertainment! It is quite clear that amanita muscaria wants to be eaten. If it didn’t want to be eaten it would be green or brown and disappear into the forest background. So how did it come to pass that amanita muscaria came to be regarded as a deadly poisonous mushroom. Perhaps certainly prudence may have played a part due to the possibility of mistaken identity. Then again, country people would have been familiar with their local flora and fauna and there would certainly have been those quite expert in picking and identifying mushrooms. Perhaps the activities of the Inquisition and later the genocide of the European witches was a contributing factor. Certainly the threat of torture and a horrendous death would have deterred people from having anything to do with the older ways of spirituality. Perhaps also they made up stories so that their children stayed away from the mushrooms, to protect them not so much from the fungi but from the dangers of association with them. Certainly the ‘War on Drugs’ has been going on a lot longer than is commonly thought. There is an intriguing theory that whilst on the one hand the medieval church was burning anyone with even a hint of shamanism about them, they were at the same time knee deep in it themselves through their own use of amanita muscaria. The religious aspects of amanita muscaria are explored in depth in John Allegros, ‘The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross’. Allegro was one of the world’s leading philologists and the curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls and therefore a man whose opinions cannot be easily dismissed. It is certainly worth entertaining the intriguing possibility that within the higher echelons of the church there was a secret amanita muscaria cult where the mushroom replaced the host as the body of Christ. The host used in the Catholic mass does resemble the cap of a mushroom and with its beautiful orange red cap the amanita muscaria can certainly be seen as a suitable metaphor for the sun. As a boy I remember in mass that the priest himself would have a much bigger host than those given out to the congregation. This was placed in an object called the monstrance. When this was held up, the rays of the sun could be seen emanating from the host. This theory I agree does sound far fetched but there are numerous pieces of evidence from all over medieval Europe showing amanita muscaria mushrooms encoded into divine iconography. We will return to this later as it is particularly revealing concerning the connection between amanita muscaria and kundalini.

My personal experience with amanita muscaria can be seen as three-fold. First, the mushroom making contact via dreams and then making itself physically available to me. Secondly, my ingestion of the mushroom and thirdly, interaction with the spirit of the mushroom, post-ingestion, in the following days.

Again I had a trinity of dreams but this time they were widely spaced. In my first dream I travelled back in time and met a Cistercian monk in a pure white habit. He gestured to a clump of amanita muscaria, they were glowing. We each picked one and walked and talked. I took out a camera to photograph the mushrooms but the monk said no, that no one must know I was from the future. The mushrooms then disguised themselves by shape shifting into butterflies. The monk then said to me, your current pope in the future, will resign his membership of the human race. Pope Benedict did in fact resign and I successfully predicted that the name of his successor would be Francis. I sensed a secrecy here, a member of a religious order revealing something to me, but which must be kept hidden. This dream came about two years before I actually took the mushroom.

In another dream I found myself in a quaint English village. I went for tea and cakes in a cottage. All the cakes were decorated with little amanita muscaria.

Finally I dreamed Michèle and I were walking down a garden path and in the middle of the path was a glowing clump of really huge amanita muscaria. They morphed and shape-shifted covering the whole garden in a carpet of red geometric patterns. A few days later Michèle went to Ireland where to her amazement under the birch tree outside our sons house were lots of amanita muscaria. In all our years in Ireland we had never seen them before, they are just incredibly rare. This was too much of a coincidence to ignore, so with prayer and intention Michèle harvested them, dried them in the oven, preserved them in honey and brought them home to me. By the time of the solstice they had been resting two months in the honey.

Closer to the solstice I had a very strange experience. I sensed the presence of amanita muscaria. I felt what I can only describe as ‘amanita kundalini’ moving deep inside me and strange kriyas manifested. Wiping my hand across my face down to my heart I saw a beautiful bird sitting on a branch, with three different colours of light on its chest. I experienced myself as energy within the bird, as the kundalini of the bird. In Siberian shamanic tradition the upper world soul is said to become a bird and rest in the branches of the World Tree, in-between incarnations. I sense that this bird and the pink spirit bird that came when I was making my drum may represent this aspect of myself.

Coming up to the solstice had been very sad as Dougal had left us, but I was gifted with some beautiful and meaningful dreams. Reminiscent of my first amanita muscaria dream, butterflies returned. I dreamed of two large blue butterflies flying high above me. It seemed I was in a way flying them like a falconer does with a bird. I gestured with my hand, one came down and landed on my heart. In a second dream I heard the song, ‘Love is like a Butterfly’ then a huge pale green butterfly landed on my head. Butterflies are of course all about transformation and seeing mushrooms become butterflies and butterflies become flowers further emphasised this message. With me I feel that the butterfly and the amanita are intimately connected and that like ayahuasca, amanita knew I was coming and this was the chosen expression for communication.

I have to say that I was very nervous about taking this entheogen. The individual mushrooms all vary in strength and each person reacts differently. It can be a fine line between a spiritually beneficial experience and waking up in hospital in a strait jacket, not knowing why or how you got there! The day before the solstice I journeyed, I asked should I take the amanita muscaria. Then that night I had a serious of intense dreams and visions all concerning the mushroom. First I saw it being picked, then cooked over a barbecue, I could hear my stepdaughter singing in the background. Then I found myself running down a country lane. I could see a flying saucer sitting in the woods surrounded by trees and flowers. A woman pointed at the flying saucer and told me, THIS is the advanced meditation. I remember seeing a woodcut of witches dancing in a circle next to a fairy knowle. The knowle had windows in it and bore a remarkable resemblance to a flying saucer. I suspect there may be a connection between UFO’s and amanita muscaria. In my final dream I heard a voice say, let’s take amanita now! My third eye then opened into visions of swirling orange light.

On the morning of the solstice I went out with my reindeer drum and some dried amanita muscaria and sat under the oak tree. The recommended dose for a mild experience is three milligrams of dried mushroom. Due to the variation in individual mushrooms, it is wise to build up slowly, until you find the dose that is best for you. Having found myself very sensitive to ayahuasca I erred on the side of caution, as in this case I would be my own shaman. Although Michèle was to keep a watchful eye, there was no one equivalent to an experienced curandero to monitor the situation so I was conscious of safety issues. It has been suggested that the berserkers ingested large quantities of amanita muscaria before entering into their legendary rages and I did not want Michèle to have to deal with that!

I opened sacred space, thanked the mushroom and prayed over it. Then I began slowly to eat it, it tasted delicious still coated in honey. I didn’t eat it all at once; I took things slowly, drumming in between bites. The day was stunning, the sun was rising and the fields were covered in frost. I thought a lot about Dougal whose grave was close by, but on the whole I kept a positive state of mind and felt honoured to be where I was, doing what I was doing. A lot of people report feeling some nausea after ingesting this mushroom but I felt no ill effects at all. Problems may arise if not enough of the ibotenic acid has not been converted to muscimol during the drying process and this can be hard on the liver. As a precaution, at the same time as eating the mushroom I ate some raw garlic and took some milk thistle tablets. The garlic neutralises any excess ibotenic acid and the milk thistle eases any liver difficulties. After about an hour and a half I began to feel drowsy so I lay down to sleep. The sleep was strange; sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was asleep or awake. I constantly had visions of the mushroom in my third eye, I saw the T-Rex standing behind a line of amanita muscaria, I saw orange light-energy spiralling down from the sky. I had dreams that were so vivid that I wasn’t sure if the dream was reality or my sleeping state the dream. This wasn’t like a lucid dream when within the dream you become aware you are dreaming and can control it. This was like a reverse of dimensions. After several hours in this state I felt fine, lucid and had no problems walking. This is where we get to the part about shamanic use of amanita muscaria, the drinking of urine. Just as the reindeer would act as a filter for the toxins in the mushroom, so could the shaman. Sometimes the shaman would eat the mushroom and then others would drink the shaman’s urine. In fact amanita muscaria can be filtered through the urinary system up to five times. Now personally I would rather drink my own urine that that of a reindeer or somebody else’s for that matter, and that is what I did. In fact this was no problem for me at all as I have been drinking my urine for years as part of my yogic practice. I shall return to this in more detail later in connection with amanita muscaria and the Rig Veda. Drinking urine infused with amanita muscaria greatly prolongs the ecstatic experience. I now entered a deeply meditative state, my kundalini was highly stimulated, I was in full energetic awareness of the three chakras in my head, ajna, sahasrara and bindu, I was filled with white light. After a time I again drank my urine and the meditative state continued. By early afternoon I was up and about but was not fully back in the world till the following day.

During the night the spirit of amanita muscaria came in a dream. In the dream I was looking out of my bedroom window when a large bird appeared. It was the orangey-red colour of the mushroom. It then transformed so that its feathers were white with black flecks. Then it walked over to my cement mixer, which is also orange and mixed its colours. One half of its body remaining orange-red, the other half pure white. It then changed back to its original colour and walked off. After some research I realised that the mushroom was showing me its life cycle. Amanita muscaria emerges from the ground with white flecks of soil on it. Then the cap becomes orange with white spots and the stalk remains white. Eventually the white spots may wash away leaving a pure orange cap as the mushroom melts away. By starting and finishing orange-red before disappearing it was showing me the cyclic nature of existence. The next morning I awoke fully refreshed and energised with great clarity of mind and so impressed with how communicative the spirit of amanita muscaria had been.

The most ancient of the Vedic texts of India is the Rig Veda; it was preserved in oral tradition long before being committed to writing. Within it are contained over one hundred hymns to a mysterious substance called Soma. Soma seems to be simultaneously a god, a plant and a substance. It is possible that all these aspects combined in the form of an intoxicating, hallucinogenic drink. A great deal has been written speculating that Soma was in fact amanita muscaria. The theory goes that Aryan peoples came down from Siberia into what is now Iran (where the Rig Veda was composed), bringing their traditional use of amanita muscaria with them. Being neither a scholar of Sanskrit nor early Asian culture I do not feel qualified to offer an academic opinion on this matter. However, there are, on a spiritual level, certain intriguing connections and confusions concerning yoga, soma, shamanism and amanita muscaria that I’d like to explore.

The word soma is not only to be found in the Rig Veda, it also occurs in yogic tradition. In a kundalini-awakened person, digestion plays an important role in the process and many mysterious alchemies occur in the stomach. Here, soma refers to a substance produced in the gastro-intestinal tract. This substance is drawn up the spine into the brain where further mysterious processes transform it into a substance called amrita. This flows down the back of the throat and is either caught by the tongue or goes back down into the body to be recycled as I described earlier. In yoga this is referred to as the nectar cycle. Soma is mentioned and praised in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika in connection with kechari mudra. In yoga, the terms soma and amrita are used interchangeably, amrita can also refer to soma. I have already related my experience in the ayahuasca ceremony where I tasted what is sometimes referred to as ‘the divine nectar of immortality’, and its full body bliss inducing effects. The flow of amrita has continued long after its initialisation in the ayahuasa ceremony. So here we have the reality of a bliss inducing substance called soma whose production in the body is induced through kundalini awakening but may also be brought on through shamanic entheogenic use, in this case ayahuasca. In the Rig Veda we also have a bliss inducing substance called soma, which may be a plant. Is it possible that the soma of the Rig Veda is both the amrita of yoga and a plant? In my case it was kundalini combined with ayahuasca that stimulated amrita/soma flow, what about kundalini combined with amanita muscaria? What if the name soma was the word used both for the substance produced in the body and the plant or plants used to induce it? The mysterious processes going on in the stomach can be felt clearly by the awakened person. In the Rig Veda there are references to ‘churning’ the vats of soma. Before the ayahuasca ceremony that induced my soma to flow, my stomach was very active. As I lay on my back on the bed, it felt like my stomach was being stirred by a huge invisible divine spoon. Could it be that ‘churning the vats of soma’ is actually referring to divine metabolic processes occurring in the stomach as a result of awakened kundalini combined with entheogenic use?

One of the main arguments supporting the idea that soma may have been amanita muscaria is that there are various references to urine drinking in the Rig Veda. As mentioned earlier this is well established shamanic practice but it is also an ancient yogic practice called amaroli. Just the mid-stream of first urine of the day is taken.

‘Discard the beginning of the stream of water because it has too much bile. Discard the end of the stream because it is worthless. Wholly enjoy the cool, middle stream. This is Amaroli in the opinion of the Khandakapalikas.’36

Apart from general health benefits it is considered particularly good for stimulating the production of amrita/soma. My own experience of drinking amanita muscaria infused urine was that of a deeply meditative state including stimulation of kundalini and the bindu chakra, which is the chakra particularly connected to soma/amrita production. In the Rig Veda the impression is given of vast amounts of soma being drunk and produced and I suspect that repeated doses of amanita infused urine would certainly be capable of stimulating amrita/soma flow to occur.

So, to clarify, we have the word soma in yoga and in the Rig Veda. In both cases it is a substance capable of inducing divine states of consciousness. In both cases the drinking of urine stimulates this state. In yoga soma is produced as the result of aesthetic practice, urine drinking and the awakening of kundalini. In the Rig Veda it may be this same substance. Or it may be a plant. I suspect it is both, a plant that induces the production of Soma. Whether this soma is amanita muscaria or not I do not feel qualified to say only that it is powerful enough to be a soma stimulator.

One of the problems concerning the identification of amanita muscaria as soma in the Rig Veda is that it is described as a ‘creeping vine’, which it absolutely clearly is not. But only in the botanical sense, spiritually it can be perceived quite differently. Both ayahuasca and amanita are kundalini plants. The energy of both these plants rises up the spine. I suspect the description of soma as a creeping vine refers to the plant kundalini creeping up the spine, which is of course the real Tree of Life. In this way both ayahuasca and amanita muscaria can be seen as the ‘vine’ in the Divine.

Of the numerous depictions of amanita muscaria and other mushrooms in medieval churches from all over Europe, I find the Garden of Eden scenes most fascinating. In St. Michael’s Church, Hildesheim Germany there is a painting dated circa 1192 AD. Here we see Adam on the right and Eve on the left. They are both holding mushrooms. In between them is the Tree of Knowledge/Life with a serpent entwined around the trunk moving upwards. The whole scene is super-imposed over the cap of an amanita muscaria. This is a perfect representation of the kundalini awakening process with Adam as divine masculine uniting with Eve, divine feminine. In between them, the tree as the spine, up which the kundalini serpent rises. Whereas in yogic practice it is through spiritual discipline that the kundalini is caused to rise it is clear from this painting, as Adam and Eve are both eating mushrooms that the amanita muscaria is the initiator of kundalini here.

At Plaincouralt Abbey in the Indre region of France there is another illustration in a private chapel of the Hospitaliers. Again we have Adam and Eve and the tree. Only this time the tree is an amanita muscaria tree, with a large mushroom cap at the top and four smaller mushroom branches protruding from the sides. Again the kundalini serpent is ascending the tree. There is a mushroom near its mouth, which it appears to be offering to Eve. Adam and Eve are covering themselves with large amanita muscaria caps. Again this is a representation of kundalini awakening. The serpent offering the mushroom to Eve represents the kundalini, the divine feminine being the initiator, Shakti seeks union first with Shiva, as does Eve with Adam via the fruit of the tree. The fact that this is to be found in a prominent position in a private chapel of one of Christendom’s elite military religious orders certainly suggests that at least some factions of the church possessed knowledge that was not disseminated to the congregation at large.

In the apse of the church of San Sadurni, Osomort, Spain there is a twelfth century mural painting. It shows Eve uniting with Adam by giving him a mushroom. Between them is the tree with six amanita muscaria branches. The serpent is absent in this scene.

The Canterbury Psalter from 1147 A.D has a really wonderful depiction with multiple layers of meaning. In the centre is the tree with the kundalini serpent curled exactly three and a half times around the trunk. The tree again is an amanita muscaria tree. With her left arm, Eve is passing a mushroom to Adam. With her right hand she is either receiving a mushroom from the mouth of the serpent or feeding a mushroom to the serpent. Both interpretations actually work and perhaps it is intended to be ambiguous. She may be feeding the serpent the mushroom to cause it to rise or the mushroom may represent the knowledge given by the risen serpent. As in my own case, it may be the awakened kundalini guiding her to take the mushroom. There is not just one tree in this scene, but three. To the left of Eve and to the right of Adam are also trees. The symbolism of these trees works on multiple levels. Each tree has branches from which various mushrooms/plants grow. The tree by Eve has six branches, the one by Adam five. Perhaps the artist didn’t have room for six, it seems strange as the other two trees have six. Five and six do add up to eleven though, so perhaps there is a message there. The top of the tree by Eve has a white mushroom on top, the tree by Adam, a black one. Thus we see Adam and Eve as opposite polarities. Looking at the three trees from a yogic perspective we can see the them as ida, the feminine moon nadi on the left hand side, the central tree as sushumna and the tree on the right as pingala, the masculine sun nadi. In yoga these are regarded respectively as sun and moon channels. These two nadis must come into balance for kundalini to rise up the sushumna. This interpretation is backed up by another depiction in the psalter showing Jesus. Below him is a green and white serpentine band, at each end of which are sun and moon symbols. Resting on the ‘serpent’ is soil from which several mushrooms/plants are growing. Eve giving Adam the mushroom symbolises this process of unification. The mushrooms/plants on the two trees may be seen as the chakras up to the third eye, ajna chakra. Both these nadis intersect the chakras up the spine in a double helix, yet neither reaches the crown chakra. Only the central tree, which also has six mushroom chakra points, has the seventh chakra, the crown chakra, the place of divine union. Here the crown chakra (sahasrara) is shown as a red amanita muscaria containing smaller amanita muscaria. It strongly resembles the sri-yantra of tantric yogic tradition, considered to be the most accurate spiritual representation of the true nature of a human being. The sri-yantra expands outward and inward simultaneously and infinitely, sometimes the bindu point is included as the union of Shakti and Shiva within every cell of the awakened individual. Here, the bindu becomes the amanita muscaria. Two equilateral triangles can be discerned within the design forming a six-pointed star of amanita muscaria. An ascending triangle, crossing a descending triangle, representing the unification of opposites. As well as representing ida and pingala the outer trees can also be viewed as the individual spines of Adam and Eve. All three trees can be viewed as spiritually awakened spines. Just as in yogic/tantric systems the various different chakras are attributed different shapes and animals, perhaps here we see an ethno-botanical mycological chakra classification system.

It is generally accepted that western awareness of kundalini is something quite recent brought into more public awareness by the spread of spiritual systems from India, particularly the various yogas. What is astonishing is that these depictions from twelfth century Europe display openly a complete understanding of the awakening of kundalini to rival anything depicted in India. In the Indian depictions we often see rather complex almost scientific representations of the chakras and the nadis with kundalini superimposed over the human being. The European illustrations place the human firmly in a natural setting using trees, mushrooms, plants and animals to symbolically convey the message. This in itself is very shamanic. What is particularly interesting is that this complete knowledge of the kundalini process is in every case also presented in partnership with the entheogen, amanita muscaria. We also see that in some cases the tree of life also becomes an ‘amanita muscaria tree’.

It is easy to see why amanita muscaria might become identified with kundalini and enlightenment. Like the kundalini at the base of the spine, the mushroom in its true form as the mycelia lies at the base of the tree. Like kundalini it is invisible. The mushroom itself is a temporary expression of the true organism; although they appear separate they are all part of the one thing. In a dream I saw amanita muscaria pushing up through dark soil, I heard my voice talking about ‘the mushrooms’ plural, but then another voice said, there is only ONE mushroom. This is the great and beautiful teaching revealed in the Sanskrit texts, shown to me first by a grasshopper and now a mushroom, that there is only the One. The mushroom after reaching ‘enlightenment’, inverting into a chalice/grail shaped cup, melts, like the Oneness returning to itself. Various authors have identified the mushroom and its associated trees as being the true origin of the Tree of Life mythos and also as the source of the Grail legends. Truly though the spine is the original Tree of Life /Knowledge and the ‘fruit’ is the kundalini waiting like the mushroom for the right conditions of fertility to rise to the light. The awakened kundalini state is the true grail as the individual is turned into a vessel that can receive the divine.

I suspect that as with ayahuasca, the doctrine of signatures may also apply to the association of amanita muscaria with kundalini. Clearly the designers of these illustrations knew the science of kundalini awakening and would have known that no entheogen is actually needed in this process. The parallels of the life process of the amanita muscaria to that of kundalini awakening are many. This must have led people to the conclusion that it may also be a catalyst or inducer of kundalini. In all the illustrations, even when there are other kinds of mushrooms and plants present it is always the amanita muscaria that takes pride of place on the tree/spine as the kundalini plant par excellence. Both Wasson and the great psychedelic plant advocate Terence McKenna reported disappointing results with their personal amanita muscaria experiences. Both were investigating it as a possible candidate for Soma and were searching for a great visionary hallucinogenic experience of the kind attributed to it in the Rig Veda. McKenna only tried it twice which I suspect was simply not enough. Ayahuasca is definitely capable of inducing the states recorded in the Rig Veda yet many people drink it multiple times with no visionary effect whatsoever. Wasson tried amanita muscaria many times in different ways but got little more than nausea and tiredness. Wasson however was not a yogi or shaman and I think this may play a part. My own amanita muscaria experience even with a minimal dose was intense, the effects of which in fact lasted for weeks after. Both McKenna and Wasson were comparing amanita muscaria unfavourably to psilocybin mushrooms, but the effects of amanita muscaria seem to be very different. I suspect that this is a mushroom that comes into its own when taken by someone with a spiritually awakened nervous system, that has engaged in the necessary spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, yoga and fasting. Then, like ayahuasca it will act as a spiritual accelerant. The visionary aspect of awakening has always been considered a distraction by adepts of yoga and I sense that the spiritual qualities of amanita muscaria reflect this, that it brings awareness of the divine less through a temporary visionary state but through the awakening of kundalini. It seems likely to me that a highly sophisticated knowledge of the use of amanita muscaria akin to that which continues today with ayahuasca existed in 13th century Europe. The appearance of other mushrooms and plants in some of the illustrations suggests that like with ayahuasca, amanita muscaria may have been combined with other plants in a shamanic yoga system enabling the awakening of kundalini.

Nearly two weeks after the solstice the amanita muscaria was still very present. During meditation or before falling asleep the mushrooms would appear in my third eye. That sense of ‘dark fairy-tale’ was there, many mushrooms glowing at me in a dark forest. After falling asleep to mushroom visions, two big dreams further confirmed to me the connection between amanita muscaria and kundalini. In one I found myself walking through a tunnel. I could see light ahead and three sets of steps going up in front of a wall. One set went straight ahead, the others right and left. As I ascended the middle steps I could see so over the wall a vast endless still ocean. I was told there were two currents, cool to the left and warm to the right, at the centre where I was, these two currents blended perfectly. The corridor was obviously my spine, the sushumna, the stairs to the right and left, ida and pingala. The two currents blending perfectly in the centre, ida and pingala coming into equilibrium for kundalini to flow up the centre. I also felt that with me there was another layer of symbolism, that of yoga and shamanism blending into the form of shamanic kundalini. In the second dream I was aware of two corridors. They were built beautifully in stone and furnished and decorated. In between these two corridors was a huge stretch of ground that was being completely dug up; it looked as if a highway was being constructed. I found myself on this highway in a car with a friend. The friend was a musician and part of the old me I have been trying to leave behind, I associate him with old egotistical behaviours of mine. My friend manoeuvred the car, to make way for a formidable machine. It was a tunnel-boring machine, cylindrical in shape with a huge round mouth full of impressive teeth. I said in the dream, ‘I wouldn’t like to get in the way of that thing!’ Again here we are looking at the ida and pingala nadis as the corridors with the road works as construction being done on the spiritual highway of the sushumna. The dream was saying get your self/ego out of the way and let the serious work continue. I suspect the building contractor behind this work to be amanita muscaria.

In January I again fell asleep to visions of multiple amanita muscaria and received yet another important dream. I found myself in a desert-like moonlit place. I came to a small lake, the water looked magical, there were different colours in it, and it was very inviting. I felt I wasn’t myself but a god-figure in a myth. I had a feeling that for some reason I wasn’t supposed to drink the water or rather ‘something’ didn’t want me to drink it. But I did, I kneeled, cupped some in my hand and drank. It was beautifully refreshing and further ignoring the feeling that this was forbidden I waded in and submerged myself fully. After this I found myself with a girl friend, she was my champion and carried a sword. Two Knights Templar came and with swords and daggers tried to kill us. We fought back and my friend with her sword defeated them both. The Templars here represent for me secret knowledge, but secret knowledge kept for the elite few. In their red and white costumes they are at once the amanita muscaria and repression of the knowledge of it. My friend as the goddess defeats them.

On Christmas Eve night the amanita muscaria bird once again came into my dreams. Its feathers were shining and beautiful, it sprayed warm drops of urine on my face (another confirmation it was connected to the mushroom) and nuzzled me lovingly. A man in the dream held open a book with pictures and names of different birds as if bringing to my attention that the identity of this strange bird was somehow important. This niggled in my head for the next few days and the word ‘phoenix’ began to become insistent. It would seem that in another great cosmic joke I had been pissed on by a Phoenix!

I was stunned at how via the phoenix and the life cycle of the mushroom that amanita muscaria revealed such a great teaching to me. I suspect that just as ayahuasca sometimes comes as an anaconda, that amanita muscaria comes as the phoenix and that rather than man, inventing the myth of the phoenix, that the phoenix is an avatar of amanita muscaria and that it has presented itself as such over millennia to those willing to undergo death and rebirth in the forest. We find an origin of the phoenix myth in Egypt with the bennu bird, associated with resurrection and the goddess. Mirroring the cyclic natures of the mushroom and the phoenix I find myself returning to the first line of this narrative, I used to think it all began the night I dreamed of the goddess Isis. Several months after Dougal had died, another Leonberger puppy was to come into our lives, his mother’s name was Isis.

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