Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

There are several species of mushrooms that alter a person's consciousness when ingested.  While botanically mushrooms are not classed as plants, they have played a significant role in human development, whether as a food source, a method of communing with the gods, or as an artistic muse.  Among these myriad species, one of the most infamous is the distincltly red-orange capped, white spotted Fly Agaric (Amantia muscaria L.).  This mushroom has a long and widespread history of ceremonial use in Siberia.  It was used by Siberian and Alaskan shamans to “help give them strength and to help them go into trances” (1).  Depending on the intent and necessitated concentration, the mushrooms were dried and eaten or mixed with reindeer milk, water, or plant juices.  However, they also drank the urine of reindeer who had consumed the mushrooms, as the intoxicants (muscimol) remained, having failed to break down in the reindeer’s digestive tract (1).  It is said that this was the initial foundation for using hallucinogenic mushrooms – observing intoxicated reindeer and what they had previously consumed. 


Interestingly, the name "fly agaric" comes from the mushroom's tendency to attract and kill flies (2).  Also, unlike other Amantia varieties, while consuming this mushroom might make you ill and is very likely to cause hallucinations and other mind-altering effects, it is not deadly in moderated doses.  The qualifier here is moderation.  If someone, for some inexplicable reason, decides to eat a whole bushel of them, rather than just a small piece (1-5 grams) (3), it could very well be detrimental to an individual's continued existence, depending on their particular reaction to it.  That being said, unless you are absolutely, 100% certain the mushroom is A. muscaria, stay far away from it. 

There are several other members of the Amantia that can cause unfortunate side-effects like kidney and liver damage, or death (2).  In the event that the mushroom has been properly identified, it can be parboiled (partially cooked by boiling), to remove the muscimol.  When boiled in salted water for 15 minutes, the end result is apparently rather sweet and palatable (5).  It is still ill-advised to be foraging for them yourself unless you are fully versed in mycology and Amantia varieties.  

I will likely write more on this later, as it is a fascinating subject, but for now, I'll leave it here.  Till next time,



1. Andrews, Tamra (2000). Nector & Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc.

2. Washington State University, Neuroscience for Kids: Mushrooms, "Hallucinogenic Mushrooms,"

3. Azarius: Amantia Muscaria,

4. Shaw, Hank.  "Eating Santa's Shroom,"

5. Rubel, William. The Magic of Fire: Traditional Foodways, "Amantia Muscaria,"

Images from