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Do experiences with the fly agaric mushroom lie behind the legend of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer?
It is one thing to follow a dark and mazy corridor into a white room where rotating fly agaric mushrooms dangle from the ceiling; it is another to enter the space with a gruff guard staring you down.
Gordon Wasson, the fly agaric served also a chief ingredient of Soma, the divine drink mentioned in the Vedas, which rendered Indian gods immortal.
The Fly Agaric has been used by shamans in Siberia in small doses to induce trances but it can kill people with heart problems.
They belong to a group of fungi called agarics and, although they are edible, there are some that are either inedible or are positively dangerous, like the fly agaric, amanita muscaria, which can be found in some of our local birch and oak woodlands with its bright red cap.
He was convinced that Jesus Christ never existed but was an analogy for the Fly Agaric mushroom, around which the activities of an ancient fertility cult revolved.
Fungi doing well include fly agaric ( the familiar red and white toadstool of nursery rhythms, once chopped up in milk and used as a fly killer; the blusher, so called because it turns pink when bruised; and the ink cap, sometimes used as a writing ink.
Naturalist Gordon Simpson, who will be leading the walks, said fungi doing well this year include fly agaric, the familiar red and white toadstool once chopped up in milk and used as fly killer, the blusher so named because it turns pink when bruised, and the 'ink cap', which eventually turns into a mushy black liquid, sometimes used as a writing ink.
For example, where I see blueberry bushes and red-and-white fly agaric toadstools growing together, I can feel pretty sure I'm going to find cepes.
But Patrick Harding, of Sheffield University, argues the traditional image of Santa and his reindeer owes a lot to what he claims is the most important mushroom in history - the fly agaric - the dancing toadstool in Disney's Fantasia.