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Amanita Muscaria: History of the “Fly Agaric” Mushroom

Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric mushroom, is a poisonous basidiomycete fungus with a characteristic red cap covered with white spots. It is one of many toxic mushrooms in the genus Amanita.

It’s been around for a long time, but what exactly is it? Where did it come from?

The history of this mushroom is long and varied—and even today, there are many unanswered questions about it. But we can take a look at some of the important moments in its past to get a better understanding of how this iconic fungus came to be what it is today.

What is Amanita Muscaria?

The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is a kind of the genus Amanita, which includes various toxic and hallucinogenic basidiomycete fungi. It associates with deciduous and coniferous trees whereas its distinctive image is connected to fairies, enchantment, and classic tales. 

The Amanita mushroom is indigenous to the United Kingdom and grows from leaf litter on woodland floors. Amanita may have originated in the United Kingdom, but it is now a widespread invasive species over most of the rest of the world, including the United States, much of Europe, and the Oceanian countries of New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. Species of Amanita thrive in birch, pine, and spruce woods because their subterranean mycelial network facilitates tree communication.

The distinctive appearance of the red toadstool with white warts makes it easy to identify. It has been used as an entheogen by the people of Siberia for centuries. The main active compounds are ibotenic acid, muscimol, and muscazone. They can be found in all parts of this mushroom, but mostly in the skin and cap.

Early History

The use of
Amanita muscaria in shamanic practices, as well as its use in the art of fly
fishing, dates back to ancient times. It is believed that the use of this
mushroom was first documented by Siberian tribesmen who used it as an entheogen
(a substance that induces a spiritual experience) and intoxicant. The artwork
found in caves that are thought to have been created by these ancient peoples
shows that they were familiar with the effects of Amanita muscaria and
portrayed them in their art.

Soma, a mystery substance referenced in over 150
songs of the Hindu Rig-Veda, a sacred text composed by Aryans in the Indus
valley between 1500 and 500 B.C., has been identified as fly agaric. The moon
deity Soma had his sacred plant and drink that he was associated with. Fly
agaric, though its true identification has been
seems to be the material mentioned in the Vedas as a means of communicating
with the gods.

The common
name ‘fly agaric’ refers to its historical use as an insecticide for killing
flies. Unique applications for Amanita have ranged from medical to fly traps to
wedding feasts, depending on the context and the culture.

Amanita Muscaria Toxic

The Amanita
muscaria mushroom, which is both poisonous and psychedelic, is a species of its
kind. While it has been deemed psychoactive by experts, Amanita is not considered
a typical psychedelic since it does not contain active molecules that interact
with serotonin receptors. As an alternative, it includes muscimol, ibotenic
acid, and muscarine, all of which act in their unique ways in the brain to
create toxic and hallucinogenic effects.

The Amanita
muscaria mushroom is one of the most well-known and common types of mushrooms
in the world. Yet, there have been reports of accidental intake despite its
obvious dangers.

Since its
distinctive white plaques can be washed away by rain, Amanita muscaria is
sometimes confused for the nontoxic Amanita caesarea.

The central
nervous system is particularly vulnerable to the toxicity of the amanita
muscaria fungus, which can result in coma and even death in extreme cases of

The best
risk assessment and treatment decisions may be made with prompt and accurate
identification of this mushroom.

Legend About the Amanita

Shamans in
central Asia donned specific clothing for gathering fly agaric mushrooms. They
wore crimson jackets and slacks with white fur trim at the neck and cuffs and
wore black boots to round off their outfits. The fly agaric mushrooms were
gathered by the shaman and placed in a special sack. The shaman would go
out and gather mushrooms, then return to his village, where he would enter his
yurt (a movable tent house) through the smoke hole in the roof.

The shaman
would eat the sacred mushrooms and pass them around to the other participants
during the rite. Several visions were seen by the people via the smoke hole,
which served as a conduit to the spiritual realm. It is believed that the Sami
(Laplander) people experienced a feeling similar to that of riding in a
“spiritual sleigh” drawn by reindeer or horses during their
hallucinations after consuming fly agaric (i.e., Santa Claus setting out on his
midnight delivery mission in his sleigh).

Fly Agaric and Santa

Greeting cards and fake tree and wreath
ornaments with fly agaric have been a part of the holiday tradition in central
Europe since at least the Middle Ages. Many characters from European tradition,
who safeguarded households from bad spirits in return for a feast at

midwinter was beloved by children, were combined to create the Santa Claus we know today.

Using fly agaric in Siberia has been linked to Santa Claus for a while now. The shaman would enter the yurt with a bag of dried fly agaric at the midwinter celebrations through the smoke hole and descend the center supporting the birch pole. After he was finished with his rituals, he would just return the way he came. Those without shamanic training could have assumed the shaman could fly with his power or with the help of reindeer, which are known to like eating fly agaric.

Santa now wears a suit in the same colors as the fly agaric, has a sack full of unique presents, enters and exits the house by way of the chimney, travels the skies on the backs of reindeer, and resides in the ‘Far North.’


In conclusion, Amanita Muscaria is a mushroom that has a long history of use. It was used in shamanic rituals and for its hallucinogenic properties. It is also used as an ingredient in traditional medicines. The mushroom has been used for many different purposes throughout history, but it is still widely popular today.


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