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Ethnomycology is the study of the historical uses and sociological impact of
fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full ...

fungi
and can be considered a subfield of
ethnobotany at work in the Amazon (~1940s) Ethnobotany is the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people. An ethnobotanist thus strives to document the local customs involving the practi ...
or
ethnobiology] Ethnobiology is the Science, scientific study of the way living things are treated or used by different human cultures. It studies the System dynamics, dynamic relationships between people, Biota (ecology), biota, and environments, from the distan ...
. Although in theory the term includes fungi used for such purposes as
tinder Tinder is easily combustible material used to start a fire. Tinder is a finely divided, open material which will begin to glow under a shower of sparks. Air is gently wafted over the glowing tinder until it bursts into flame. The flaming tinder i ...

tinder
, medicine (
medicinal mushrooms Medicinal fungi are fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typicall ...
) and food (including
yeast Yeasts are eukaryotic Eukaryotes () are organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory). Organisms are classifie ...

yeast
), it is often used in the context of the study of psychoactive mushrooms such as
psilocybin mushrooms Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms, mushrooms or shrooms, are a polyphyletic, informal group of fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of ...
, the ''
Amanita muscaria ''Amanita muscaria'', commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a basidiomycete Basidiomycota () is one of two large divisions that, together with the Ascomycota Ascomycota is a phylum of the kingdom Fungi that, together with the B ...

Amanita muscaria
'' mushroom, and the
ergot Ergot ( ) or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungus, fungi of the genus ''Claviceps''. The most prominent member of this group is ''Claviceps purpurea'' ("rye ergot fungus"). This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids t ...
fungus. American banker Robert Gordon Wasson pioneered interest in this field of study in the late 1950s, when he and his wife became the first Westerners on record allowed to participate in a mushroom ''
velada Velada is a municipality located in the Toledo (province), province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. According to the 2006 census (Instituto Nacional de Estadística (Spain), INE), the municipality has a population of 2,436 inhabitants. Topo ...
'', held by the
Mazatec The Mazatec are an indigenous people of Mexico who inhabit the Sierra Mazateca in the state of Oaxaca (state), Oaxaca and some communities in the adjacent states of Puebla and Veracruz. Language family The Mazatecan languages are part of the Popol ...
''
curandera A ''curandero'' (, healer; grammatical gender, f. ''curandera'') or ''curandeiro'' (, grammatical gender, f. ''curandeira'') is a traditional Indigenous peoples of the Americas, native Folk healer, healer/shaman found in Latin America, the United ...

curandera
'' María Sabina. The biologist
Richard Evans Schultes Richard Evans Schultes (''SHULL-tees'';Jonathan Kandell ''The New York Times'', April 13, 2001, Accessed April 26, 2020. January 12, 1915 – April 10, 2001) was an American biologist. He may be considered the father of modern ethnobotany. He is ...
is also considered an ethnomycological pioneer. Later researchers in the field include
Terence McKenna Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American ethnobotanist and mystic who advocated for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic plants. He spoke and wrote about a variety of subjects, includin ...

Terence McKenna
,
Albert Hofmann Albert Hofmann (11 January 1906 – 29 April 2008) was a Swiss chemist known best for being the first known person to Chemical synthesis, synthesize, ingestion, ingest, and learn of the Psychedelic drug, psychedelic effects of lysergic acid die ...

Albert Hofmann
,
Ralph Metzner Ralph Metzner (May 18, 1936 – March 14, 2019) was a German-born American psychologist, writer and researcher, who participated in psychedelic research at Harvard University in the early 1960s with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later named Ra ...

Ralph Metzner
,
Carl Ruck Carl A. P. Ruck (born December 8, 1935, Bridgeport, Connecticut Bridgeport is a historic seaport File:PorticcioloCedas.jpg, The Porticciolo del Cedas port in Barcola near Trieste, a small local port A port is a maritime law, marit ...
,
Blaise Daniel Staples (Blaise) Daniel "Danny" Staples (13 July 1948 – December 2005Obituary ''Boston Gl ...
, Giorgio Samorini,
Keewaydinoquay PeschelKeewaydinoquay Pakawakuk Peschel (1919 – July 21,1999) was a scholar, ethnobotanist, herbalist Herbal medicine (also herbalism) is the study of pharmacognosy and the use of medicinal plants, which are a basis of traditional medicine Tradi ...
,
John Marco Allegro John Marco Allegro (17 February 1923 – 17 February 1988) was an English archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a bran ...

John Marco Allegro
,
Clark Heinrich Clark Heinrich (born 1945) is an Americans, American author living in the coastal mountains of California, specializing in comparative religion and ethno-botany since 1974. He has reportedly studied with masters of yoga and Western mysticism. He is ...
, John W. Allen,
Jonathan Ott Jonathan Ott (born 1949 in Hartford, Connecticut) is an ethnobotanist at work in the Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amaz ...
,
Paul Stamets Paul Edward Stamets (born July 17, 1955) is an American mycology, mycologist and entrepreneur who sells various mushroom products through his company. He is an author and advocate of medicinal fungi and mycoremediation. Early life and educatio ...
, and Juan Camilo Rodríguez Martínez. Besides mycological determination in the field, ethnomycology depends to a large extent on
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
and
philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languag ...
. One of the major debates among ethnomycologists is Wasson's theory that the
Soma South of Market (SoMa) is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California San Francisco (/Help:IPA/English, ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish language, Spanish for "Francis of Assisi, Saint Francis"), officially the City and County of San Fr ...
mentioned in the
Rigveda The ''Rigveda'' or ''Rig Veda'' ( ', from ' "praise" and ' "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, ag ...
of the
Indo-Aryans Indo-Aryan peoples refers to both the pastoralist Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern I ...
was the ''
Amanita muscaria ''Amanita muscaria'', commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita, is a basidiomycete Basidiomycota () is one of two large divisions that, together with the Ascomycota Ascomycota is a phylum of the kingdom Fungi that, together with the B ...

Amanita muscaria
'' mushroom. Following his example similar attempts have been made to identify psychoactive mushroom usage in many other (mostly) ancient cultures, with varying degrees of credibility. Another much written about topic is the content of the
Kykeon Kykeon (, ; from , "to stir, to mix") was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period ( ...
, the
sacrament A sacrament is a Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ...
used during the
Eleusinian mysteries The Eleusinian Mysteries ( el, Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια, Eleusínia Mystḗria) were initiations held every year for the Cult (religious practice), cult of Demeter and Persephone based at the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Eleusis in ancien ...
in
ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era wa ...
between approximately 1500 BCE and 396 CE. Although not an ethnomycologist as such,
philologist Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languag ...
John Allegro has made an important contribution suggesting, in a book controversial enough to have his academic career destroyed, that ''Amanita muscaria'' was not only consumed as a sacrament but was the main focus of worship in the more
esoteric Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society. These ideas a ...
sects of
Sumerian religion Sumerian religion was the religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange ...
,
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion ...
and
early Christianity The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religi ...
.
Clark Heinrich Clark Heinrich (born 1945) is an Americans, American author living in the coastal mountains of California, specializing in comparative religion and ethno-botany since 1974. He has reportedly studied with masters of yoga and Western mysticism. He is ...
claims that ''Amanita muscaria'' use in Europe was not completely wiped out by
Orthodox Christianity Orthodoxy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
but continued to be used (either consumed or merely symbolically) by individuals and small groups such as
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...

medieval
Holy Grail The Holy Grail (french: Saint Graal, br, Graal Santel, cy, Greal Sanctaidd, kw, Gral) is a treasure that serves as an important motif in Arthurian literature This is a bibliography of works about King Arthur King Arthur ( cy, Brenin ...

Holy Grail
myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the ca ...
makers,
alchemists File:Aurora consurgens zurich 044 f-21v-44 dragon-pot.jpg, Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Aurora consurgens'' (15th century), Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland Alchemy (from Arabic: ''al-kīmiyā''; from Ancient Gree ...
and
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
artists. While Wasson views historical mushroom use primarily as a facilitator for the
shamanic Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner who is believed to interact with a spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance Trance is a state of semi-consciousness in which a person is not self-aw ...
or spiritual experiences core to these rites and traditions, McKenna takes this further, positing that the ingestion of psilocybin was perhaps primary in the formation of language and culture and identifying
psychedelic Psychedelics are a subset of hallucinogenic drugs whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary states of consciousness (known as psychedelic experience A psychedelic experience (known colloquially as a trip) is a temporary altered state ...
mushrooms as the original " Tree of Knowledge". There is indeed some research supporting the theory that
psilocybin Psilocybin ( ) is a naturally occurring psychedelic Psychedelics are a subset of hallucinogenic drugs whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary states of consciousness (known as psychedelic experience A psychedelic experience (kno ...

psilocybin
ingestion temporarily increases
neurochemicalA neurochemical is a small organic molecule or peptide that participates in neural activity. The science of neurochemistry studies the functions of neurochemicals. Prominent neurochemicals Neurotransmitters and neuromodulators * Glutamate is t ...
activity in the language centers of the brain, indicating a need for more research into the uses of psychoactive plants and fungi in human history. The 1990s saw a surge in the recreational use of
psilocybin mushrooms Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as magic mushrooms, mushrooms or shrooms, are a polyphyletic, informal group of fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of ...
due to a combination of a psychedelic revival in the
rave A rave (from the verb: ''wikt:rave#English, to rave'') describes a dance party at a warehouse, club, or other public or private venue, typically featuring performances by Disc jockeys, DJs playing electronic dance music. The style is most asso ...

rave
culture, improved and simplified cultivation techniques, and the distribution of both the mushrooms themselves and information about them via the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

Internet
. This "mushrooming of mushroom use" has also caused an increased popularization of ethnomycology itself as there are many websites and Internet forums where mushroom references in
Christmas Christmas is an annual festival commemorating Nativity of Jesus, the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people Observance of Christmas by country, around the world ...

Christmas
and
fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or ''Märchen'' is an instance of European folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common ...

fairy tale
symbolism are discussed. It remains open to interpretation what effect this popularization has on ethnomycology in the academic world, where the lack of verifiable evidence has kept its theories with their often far-reaching implications shrouded in controversy.


References


Sources

* Oswaldo Fidalgo, ''The ethnomycology of the Sanama Indians'', Mycological Society of America (1976), ASIN B00072T1TC * E. Barrie Kavasch, Alberto C. Meloni, ''American Indian EarthSense: Herbaria of Ethnobotany and Ethnomycology'', Birdstone Press, the Institute for American Indian Studies (1996). . * Aaron Michael Lampman, '' Tzeltal ethnomycology: Naming, classification and use of mushrooms in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico'', Dissertation, ProQuest Information and Learning (2004) * Jagjit Singh (ed.), ''From Ethnomycology to Fungal Biotechnology: Exploiting Fungi from Natural Resources for Novel Products'', Springer (1999), . * Keewaydinoquay Peschel. ''Puhpohwee for the people: A narrative account of some use of fungi among the Ahnishinaubeg'' (Ethnomycological studies) Botanical Museum of Harvard University (1978),ASIN: B0006E6KTU


External links


"Aboriginal use of fungi"
''
Australian National Botanic Gardens The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is a heritage-listed botanical garden A botanical garden or botanic gardenThe terms ''botanic'' and ''botanical'' and ''garden'' or ''gardens'' are used more-or-less interchangeably, although ...

Australian National Botanic Gardens
Fungi Web Site''.
R.G. Wasson
- Harvard University Herbaria

- Boston University Department of Classical Studies
Albert Hofmann Foundation
- Official site
John M. Allegro
- Official site
Jan Irvin and Andrew Rutajit
- Official site
Dan Merkur
- Official site
Michael Hoffman

Visionary Mushrooms
Studies in Ethnomycology with Contributions by Gaston Guzman and Albert Hofmann {{Ethnobiology Ethnobotany Branches of mycology