Amanita mushroom, mushroom detail, and Siberian indigenous shaman

Common names: Fly Agaric; Beni Tengutake

Plant source: Amanita muscaria(Red and white mushrooms)

Legal status in Canada:

  • ·         Amanita muscaria – legal, unscheduled
  • ·         muscimol – legal, unscheduled
  • ·         ibotenic acid – legal, unscheduled

Risk of death: Mushrooms in the genus Amanita account for approximately 95% of mushroom poisoning fatalities, but suprisingly few deaths are attributed to the species Amanita muscaria.


Well I’m positively giddy: today I have had the pleasure of meeting a celebrity. A short character, and not much of a talker, but what a looker! Ok, I’m joking with you a little, but the aminita muscaria mushroom is arguably the biggest celebrity of all the fungi.

All you gamers out there will recognize the colouring of this ubiquitous ‘shroom from a certain game where a certain pair of brothers with a penchant for plumbing venture to save a certain princess. If you see one of these in the woods you might want to think twice before eating it – you won’t grow any taller and you certainly won’t gain an extra life. There’s a real risk you could end up losing one instead.

Ameritas mushrooms have also featured prominently in folklore explaining the origins of many Christmas traditions. According to ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson, they may even be the Soma described in the ancient Rig Veda texts of India

All pop culture references aside, I’ve made it to Siberia, where I’m learning about these sacred fungi from the shamans of the indigenous Siberian people. I’ve decided to give my body and mind a break here, and won’t be ingesting these particular mushrooms. Instead, I’ll be learning about the traditions of the shamans and will share some information with you about the traditional use of the mushrooms.

Geographic origins

A. muscaria mushrooms are native to temperate and boreal regions of the northern hemisphere.

The traditional, ceremonial use of these mushrooms can be traced back 3000-6000 years ago. It is centralized to the indigenous peoples of Siberia, and especially northeastern Siberia.

Botanical aspects and preparation

A. muscaria mushrooms form symbiotic relationships with trees including coniferous such as pine, spruce, and fir, and deciduous trees such as birch, and can be found growing near the roots of these trees. When mature, the caps are dried and then eaten, or sometimes smoked.

Chemical constituents and neural action

The pharmacological activity of amanita muscaria mushrooms is due to the muscimol and ibotenic acid they contain. These chemicals are agonists for GABA and NMDA glutamate receptors.


Although I am not consuming these myself, the shamans who are tutoring me have passed on the following knowledge of how those using a. muscaria as a medicine usually experience the effects.

Among the people of Siberia, the mushroom is used primarily to acheive a trance state for religious purposes. Other effects include nausea, drowsiness, euphoria, relaxation, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Overdose causes more severe hallucinations and central nervous system depression, which can lead to death.

The psychoactive chemicals in the mushrooms are not destroyed by the body, and the urine of those who have ingested the mushrooms is consumed by others so that they may also experience the effects.

For more info

If you are interested in learning more about the amanita muscaria mushroom and its traditional use, there is an interesting article on the Sacred Earth website.


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