History of Mushroom Use in Ireland
There is no conclusive evidence of mushroom use by our ancestors in Ireland. However, absence of evidence does not imply evidence of absence. In fact, there is unlikely to be evidence for a number of reasons. Unlike other shamanic medicines, mushrooms do not require any paraphernalia in order to prepare or consume, so no such items are likely to appear in the archaeological record. Secondly, the druidic classes passed on knowledge using the verbal tradition, so any written testimony of mushroom use during the neolithic or Celtic periods is simply not going to appear.
We have to look at art and folklore to infer mushroom use by the ancestors. The rock art in Knowth and Newgrange appear to depict “entoptic” patterns which, according to some archaeologists imply psychedelic medicine use by the cave artists.
Secondly, many traditional Irish mythologies and legends seem to cloak the psychedelic experience in metaphor. The hazelnuts cooked and accidentally ingested by Fionn mac Cumhaill which impact wisdom and pleasure are regarded as some as a reference to either liberty cap or amanita muscaria mushrooms. Similarly, the old stories of St. Brendan, of Bran, of Máel Dúin and of the Uí Corra brothers refer to islands on which they find marvellous “fruits” – some poisonous, some euphoriant and some that stave off hunger (See Lamborn Wilson, P., 2001. Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma: Soma Ceremony in Ancient Ireland).
Continue our Mushroom Tradition
It can be daunting to learn to pick the correct mushrooms. There is a lot of fear in our modern mycophobic society. The absolute safest way to learn how to pick the correct species is to accompany an experienced picker. This is the traditional method of knowledge sharing and can be a shamanic ritual in its own right. By learning to pick your own mushrooms, you learn to honour and give thanks to the land itself. The mushroom is the fruiting sexual organs of a much larger underground fungus, and you can learn and build a relationship with individual fungal networks in parts of a field or a hillside. By cultivating a healthy relationship with the fungal individual from which you are collecting its fruiting bodies you maximise the potentiality of the experience.
If you can’t find an experienced picker to teach you how to hunt, then the internet and books are the next best thing. The budding liberty cap hunter must familiarise themselves with the typical habitat, season, behaviour as well as the physical characteristics of the mushroom’s cap, gills, stem and spores. There are poisonous mushrooms in Ireland, but thankfully none of them share a similarity with the liberty cap. We have prepared a field guide to foraging psilocybin mushrooms and it is available on our website shrooms.ie.
Speak Truth to Power
Unfortunately, the legal status of these mushrooms is Ireland is that any mushrooms contain the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin are illegal to possess and distribute. This is a reactionary law designed to prohibit any degree of cognitive liberty by people who have chosen to work with these substances. The law has been in place since 2005.
In our opinion the most important thing we can do to challenge this law is to openly talk about it to as many people as possible. To speak truth to power. So many people have had life-changing and profound mystical and spiritual experiences with these mushrooms, not to mention incredible healing of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, addiction to name a few. Taking pride in the careful use of these mushrooms is key to creating an informed voting public. We advocate legal, supervised use of these mushrooms in a safe environment with trained professionals to ensure the correct preparation, treatment and integration.
Mushroom Therapy in Ireland
There are many trained professionals working in this area in Ireland. Unfortunately the legal status means that they must do most of their work underground. We have members that trained in the Irish Centre for Shamanic Studies and many shamanic counsellors have graduated from there, some of whom use the liberty cap in their healing ceremonies. Our partners at InwardBound offer Irish people legal mushroom legal psychedelic therapy retreats in the Netherlands, with trips taking place every month or so with trained professionals.
We wish you many happy and healing mushroom journeys.