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Mushrooms and ancient cultures

Posts: 91
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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This is a question for Peter McCoy, author of Radical Mycology, who is visiting the forum this week.

Without wanting to go TOO tangential to permaculture, I'm interested about your take on how important mushrooms were to ancient cultures. I've read here and there about how important certain mushrooms have been to world's religions, but don't know much about their more mundane (and more important?) use as food stuffs and medicines.

To give some context, the most recent place I heard about mushrooms as an inspiration was in Robert Graves' The Greek Myths - he mentions consumption of, I think, Fly Agaric, as a religious practice in ancient Greece. There are also theories, many of them arising in the 1960s and 70s, about how important 'holy' mushrooms were to proto-Christian groups like the Essenes (John Allegro wrote books about this), the Vikings (there are theories their berzerkers took mushrooms just before battle), and I'm pretty sure there are references in ancient Indian texts too to use of psychedelics.

Anyway - my question is more on what we know about everyday use of mushrooms in ancient cultures. Feel free to answer in any way that makes sense, as this is a really open question.
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Hi Rob,
This is a great question and one that I could spend hours on. In short, fungi have been incredibly important throughout all of history and have intersected human cultures in a wide variety of ways.

Along with mushrooms being a vital (at many times almost sacred) food and medicine for many traditional cultures, micro fungi (molds, yeasts, fermenting fungi) have influenced cuisines around the world. Mycorrhizal and endophytic fungi support all plants and animals, leading to a more subtle human connection. And, yes, psychoactive fungi have been valued and worked with by many cultures around the world and have influenced the development of many major world religions.

This topic of ethnomycology is something I love and thoroughly explore in my book.

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