Posts Tagged ‘ibotenic acid’

Fliegenpilz – Iconic Toadstool Brings Good Luck

Monday, December 25th, 2017

 

The Amanita muscaria, also called Fliegenpilz in German, is the most iconic of all mushrooms. It has long been considered a symbol of good luck, and in many European cultures it is intertwined with the Yuletide Season. In Germany, there is a long-standing tradition of bringing symbols of good luck to friends and relatives during the month of January. Aside from the Fliegenpilz, these classic bringers of good fortune and success include the four-leafed clover, chimney sweeps, horseshoes and piglets.

When did the Fliegenpilz become a symbol of good luck?

With its white-spotted, bright red cap, the Fliegenpilz is the most illustrated mushroom in the world. In many European countries, especially in Germany and Austria, Christmas decorations often feature the bright red mushrooms. Since the early 1900s, clay, cork, chocolate and plastic versions of the mushroom decorate Christmas trees, advent arrangements and festive serving trays.

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) as a bringer of good luck during the Yuletide Season. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) as a bringer of good luck during the Yuletide Season. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Is the Fliegenpilz poisonous?

The Fliegenpilz is classified as a toadstool. That means it is a poisonous or inedible mushroom. Although classified as poisonous, reports of human deaths resulting from the mushroom’s ingestion are extremely rare. But the Amanita muscaria does contain powerful compounds that produce altered states of consciousness upon ingestion. In the mid-1960s and 1970s, these mood-altering compounds were identified as ibotenic acid and muscimol, two substances that produce muscle twitching, dizziness, visual distortions and altered auditory perceptions.

The Fliegenpilz has been consumed across much of Eastern Europe and Eurasia as part of religious and spiritual events when altered states of consciousness were desired. In addition, after parboiling, Amanita muscaria is eaten without apparent ill effects in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. Apparently, parboiling weakens the toxicity of the mushroom and breaks down its psychotropic substances. Archaeological evidence traces use of the Fliegenpilz back for more than 3000-6000 years. http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/flyagaric.php

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) in the wild with its distinctive white-spotted red cap. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) in the wild with its distinctive white-spotted red cap. www.walled-in-berlin.com

How did the Fliegenpilz get its name?

The German name for Amanita muscaria is Fliegenpilz (fly mushroom). The name refers to the mushroom’s ability to attract and kill house flies. Small pieces of mushroom placed in milk or water attract flies. The flies quickly become inebriated, crash into walls and die. Initially, it was thought that a solvent, such as milk or water, was required to release the mushroom’s fly-killing compounds. New studies have shown, however, that thermal and mechanical processing lead to even faster extraction of those compounds.

 

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