Hope I Get Some Of These On My Buche De Noel*


  The mushroom pictured above is an amanita muscaria, also known as fly agaric.  The variety has an etomycorrhizal (a specific sort of symbiotic) relationship with conifers (of which  more later) and are hallucinogenic.  Some believe that they and their relatives played a role in the evolution of human consciousness.  

  At the end of the last ice age our ancestors left the jungle for grasslands and began to pursue the animals they found grazing thereupon.  Growing on and around the animals’ dung were varieties of hallucinogenic mushrooms which great great (etc) grandpa also consumed.

  The presence of this fun stuff in the early human diet led to important neurological manifestations chief among which was synesthesia, a blurring of the boundaries of the senses.  This opened the door for the development of language and the flowering of humanity nature.

  About 10,000 or so years ago, the climate changed again, drastically reducing the geography upon which mind altering foodstuff could thrive.  The party over (but not lost to our collective unconscious), our ancestors reverted to the innate brutality of primate society.

  Why is this pertinent now?  As I mentioned above, certain sorts of mushrooms often grow near coniferous (Christmas!) trees and thus and otherwise have been linked to atavistic traditions of the holiday season.  Possibly, original catalyzing agents in fact.

   More recent of our forebears would watch reindeer find them by the trees, eat them, and then prance about euphorically.  Village shaman would enter a yurt dwelling at night through its smoke-hole and leave some of the fungi in stockings by the hearth for later employment in religious practices. 

  That the amanita natural design scheme is similar to Santa’s is obvious.  The white gilled, white spotted, and usually (but not always) deep red mushrooms appear widely throughout popular culture.  Including Christmas cards, Christmas tree ornaments, and, well, Disney’s version of the Nutcracker in Fantasia.

  Finally, “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose.  And if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows… [O]ne foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say, Rudolf with your nose so bright won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”. 

  Who could make this stuff up?  Rest my case.  On Prancer!

*Yule log.  A rolled holiday cake upon which are placed mushrooms made from meringue.

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