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The Essential Psychedelic Guide
by D.M. Turner



INTENSITY: 3 to 7 for most experiences.  

    There are dozens of species of mushrooms which contain the psychoactive alkaloids psilocybin/psilocin in active amounts. 99% of the psilocybin mushrooms I've seen sold on the underground market are the variety known as Psilocybe cubensis (also called Stropharia cubensis), and dosage levels discussed below pertain to this variety. Some species of psilocybin mushrooms contain up to 10 times as much psilocybin by weight as cubensis, producing an equivalent experience at a much lower dose.  

    The use of psilocybin mushrooms can be traced back thousands of years. In Plants of the Gods, Schultes and Hofmann trace the use of these mushrooms to numerous locations and Indian cultures in pre-Colombian Mexico and South America. The Indians held the mushrooms with such reverence that the Aztecs named them Teonanacatl, meaning "flesh of the gods" or "divine flesh." Sacred objects relating to mushrooms, such as the mushroom stones shown above, have been found dating back as far as 1000 B.C.  

    Terence McKenna suggests that hallucinogenic mushroom use may be much older than 3000 years, with the mushrooms being consumed and worshipped by early forms of humankind. He even suggests that mushroom spores arriving from outer space may have been some of the earliest forms of life and intelligence on our planet. Many scientists feel that life could not have developed on this planet during the 200 to 400 million year period from when Earth's crust cooled until evidence of the first living organisms were found. The theory of "panspermia" has been suggested to account for this. Studies conducted by astrophysicists at the University of Leiden in Netherlands have determined that certain mushroom spores could survive up to 45 million years in interstellar transit. (see Nature - Aug 1, 1985).  

    Although some users eat just one gram of "shrooms," dried weight, I find this produces little more than threshold effects. Two grams should produce a mild psychedelic high, five grams should produce an experience of similar intensity to a 250 mcg. LSD trip. (Five grams of dried Psilocybe cubensis typically contains about 15 mg. of psilocybin/psilocin.) At 10 to 14 grams I've had experiences which are quite incredible. The potency of different batches of mushrooms varies, usually within a range of +/-10%, although I've come across some strains that were nearly twice as potent as standard. Mushrooms lose potency with age (about 25% in six months.) They will keep much longer if stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Fresh mushrooms should be dried at a low temperature, around 95 degrees F, to preserve their potency.  

    Mushrooms produce an experience similar to LSD but with a different signature. The mushroom high tends to be dreamy and drifty in comparison to the penetrating brilliance and lucidity of acid. Users report feeling more relaxed on shrooms, sometimes even drowsy, rather than the speedy, edgy feeling common with acid. The average shroom trip lasts five to seven hours, with the most intense and visually hallucinogenic part of the experience taking place during the first two hours.  

    The content of a mushroom trip is also a bit different than acid, and as with all psychedelics, each trip is a unique experience. Frequently users claim that shrooms put them more in touch with the "mystery," feeling acid to be cold and linear in comparison. With mushrooms I've often felt that I'm in the presence of an ancient teacher, whereas with LSD, it can feel like I'm simply traversing my own mental pathways.  

    Mushroom visuals can be magnificent on large doses, especially in a pitch black environment. Many people find the mushroom visuals to be more "organic" than acid visuals. The mushroom visuals tend towards rounded forms, and images congruent with nature, while acid visuals are usually more angular, with kaleidoscopic or abstract imagery.  

    A large dose experience with mushrooms can feel quite similar to N,N-DMT, (dimethyltryptamine) but with much less intensity. The visuals tend to have the same character as DMT visuals, and I find that I easily go into trance, which is frequent with N,N-DMT. The similarity in experiences is not unexpected since mushrooms actually contain long-lasting tryptamines. The chemical formula of psilocin, the active component of the mushroom, is 4-OH-DMT. See the chapter on DMT for more information on this fascinating substance.  
This 16th century Aztec statue depicts Xochipilli, the Prince of Flowers. His face stares towards the heavens in a state of ecstasy, and his body is adorned with several psychoactive plants, including the morning glory and psilocybe mushrooms.  

Photograph © 1992-1994 Marc Franklin 
    I also find some negative qualities in comparing the experience of mushrooms to acid. The mushroom experience moves a bit slower than an acid high and tends to be less intense. I find it more difficult to break through to a full-on psychedelic state with mushrooms. And the trip can not be guided as easily as an acid trip.  

    I've used LSD more often than mushrooms because it's suitable to more diverse environments, and almost always produces the expected results. I've felt mushrooms to be more "sacred," and have reserved them for occasions when a more significant, mystical experience is desired.  

    HARMALA ALKALOIDS - Harmala combines beautifully with mushrooms to produce a very mystical experience. When harmaline was first discovered it was named telepathine because of its reputation for producing telepathic experiences. These telepathic experiences are supposed to be especially likely to occur when Harmala is combined with psilocybin. I personally haven't experienced telepathy, although I've found the combination quite enjoyable. Following is a report of a friend's Harmala plus mushroom expenence.  

    "The most beautiful and refined interlocking patterns covered the floor, walls, and ceiling of my room. These visuals were so astounding that I would have been more than content with them, but the experience grew even more incredible. I began to feel as though my room was filled with the "spirits" of musicians, artists, and visionaries whose genius had most strongly affected my life. And I felt as though I were amongst friends. This filled me with elation twice as strong as anything I'd felt on ecstasy, and for a while nothing seemed impossible anywhere in the world. Things gradually deconstructed into a slowly swirling astral whirlpool, and beyond. It was by far one of the most amazing psychedelic experiences I've had, and was all there simply by adding the Harmala."  

    Psilocybin can also be combined with LSD, DMT, or Nitrous Oxide. See the Multiple Combinations chapter.