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Agaricus muscarius Report on a presentation by Bill Mann, LAc

Third Annual Arizona Classical Homeopathy ConferenceTempe, AZ - October 3 - 4, 1998 - April 1999

Sporting a tee shirt with the brilliant red and white Agaricus muscarius mushroom on its front, Bill Mann, LAc, began his lecture on the mushroom that is the living embodiment of hallucinatory madness by noting its presence everywhere from the drug crazy 1960s back to the toadstool of Alice in Wonderland and further back to the shamanic guides of tribes in northeast Siberia. Other names for Agaricus are amanita, fly agaric or bug agaric which mistakenly implied that flies would die if put in contact with the substance. Agaricus grows in Europe, Asia and North America in dry locales, especially in dry pine and birch forests. Bill Mann, hailing from San Diego, was surprised to learn from an audience member that Agaricus has been found in the pine and birch forests around Flagstaff, AZ. 

     Bill presented a brief history and mythology of Agaricus based on the work of Gordon Wasson, an ethnomycologist at Harvard University. What was particularly interesting was the contention that Agaricus might be the "soma," the divine mushroom of the Hindu religion as well as the substance used by Siberian shamans and tribal peoples for 10,000 years as their spirit guide. Additionally, Agaricus use has been documented in some Native American tribes. According to Wasson, in all cases, the urine of the one who has eaten the mushroom is imbibed; the metabolite may be superior to the original plant because the human organism may filter out nauseating ingredients and isolate in the urine only the inebriant. The tales of the mushroom are prolific and with long history. A theme repeats over many tribes and peoples, some separated by great distances. It is that the mushroom secretly commands the host: the mushroom is the access to intoxication and becomes the deified form of the secret commands for hunting, battle, or experiencing the spiritual dimensions.

     One intriguing symbol of the amanita shaman is Santa Claus, driving a team of reindeer across the cosmos, with wild, long hair in a red and white costume, full of mirth, a jolly funster. Another aspect of the mushroom is the word "berserk," from the Viking word for an amanita-induced ceremonial intoxication state of rape, plunder, and pillage. The Viking clan would be seized by the substance and a fury ensued which was used as a popular aid for preparation for battle.

     In order to illustrate the Agaricus muscarius remedy picture, Bill presented the case of a patient he has treated since 1996. What was most interesting is that the patient exhibited both sides of Agaricus: the fearful, submissive, dependent side and the bold, warrior, adventurer side. The key elements of the case are: the patient is a 30-year-old male with unconfirmed multiple sclerosis; for the past 2 to 3 years, he has experienced twitching of the muscle groups of the upper arms, thighs and face (especially in the morning) followed by stiffness and fatigue; he has swelling of the lymph nodes mostly below the jaw; he bites his tongue involuntarily. His physical appearance is large, well-developed, with long wild hair and a general sense of wildness in his being. He describes himself as a sex addict who experiences enormous guilt and remorse about his addiction; he had joined a recovery group which was helpful to him. His relationships with women are unsuccessful; to him, women are objects to be devoured sexually. He says his twitching symptoms were brought on by being rejected by a woman he felt passionately about. He went berserk and went into a full-blown rage attack; he hated and wanted to kill the other man in her life. He has never felt well since then. He has a pathological fear of cancer and neurological disease. The sexual addiction and cancer fear are worse in the fall and winter months when he is not working. During the spring and summer months, he leads wilderness excursions in the most extreme environments and terrains in Alaska and the Canadian wilderness. The activity is dangerous and each trip he creates is more challenging than the former one. He loves the accomplishment of conquering the wilderness and he is exhilarated by the challenge this provides. He wants to be known as a fearless adventurer. His occupation ameliorates his pathological condition; when he is not working, his sexual and health obsessions take over. His dreams involve flying and floating with great exhilaration and joy, as well as being pursued by a huge ominous being whose face only can be seen; and by whom he feels suffocated while he is battling it.
     Bill said that he spent much time considering this case. At the onset, it seemed that an animal remedy might be in order but nothing seemed to fit the total picture. Even though he was initially familiar with the weak side of Agaricus (the twitching and the fear of cancer), as he learned more about the substance and remedy, he saw that it fit the total picture of the patient. After treatment, the patient's obsession with his health decreased measurably, his sexual addiction became more manageable, and his general vitality improved.
     Next, Bill reviewed a list of rubrics for both sides of Agaricus, emphasizing those he thought particularly important and noting those that applied to the case he had just presented. Rubrics for the dependent, submissive, and fearful side included: ailments from fright or fear; ailments from punishment; anxiety about health; clinging; desire for company while alone; fear of cancer; fear of impending disease; fear of being disturbed; fear of evil; fear of ghosts; fear of suffocation; irresolution, indecision; lamenting; learning poorly; necromania; twitching of the muscles. We noted the excessive number of fears and phobias, especially concerning health.

     Rubrics for the bold warrior, adventurer side of Agaricus were: audacity; talks of their exploits; courageous; dancing; delirium with exaltation of strength; delirium with raging and raving; delusion of imagining one is a great person; vindictive; destructive; ecstatic; egotism with nymphomania; egotism with reciting exploits; exhilaration; fearlessness; grotesque foolish behavior; hatred of persons who have offended; frenzy causing injury to self; desire to kill; loquacity; malicious; spiteful; revengeful plans; revelry; feasting; violence; vehemence; vivaciousness; making bold plans; runs in dangerous places; satyriasis.

     In closing his presentation, Bill tied the remedy picture to the symptoms of the drug-altered state, both from proving information and from observational anecdote. Chief among the symptoms were vertigo similar to alcohol, twitching, jerking, trembling, symptoms occurring on the diagonal, morbid thoughts of life and health, delusions and imaginations concerning the body and body parts: out of body experiences, body parts do not belong to the person, distances and objects are enlarged or smaller. Other delusions and imaginations included: floating, dancing, singing, kissing, prophesying; sees faces, obliged to confess sins at the gate of hell, fear of becoming insane, commanded by the mushroom to fall on knees and confess sins, fears has been poisoned, feels as if in a dream, dreams are anxious as if being suffocated, believes is under superhuman control; sees specters, ghosts, spirits, a mushroom.

     And so, in leaving Agaricus muscarius, the audience was reminded of Dr. Todd Rowe's earlier representation of the drug remedies and some of the characteristics we saw come into play here: polarity, shamanic and mystical experiences, flying and floating. We were grateful to Bill Mann, LAc, for having presented such a complete picture of Agaricus supported by so many interesting details.