Cultural depictions

The red-and-white spotted toadstool is a common image in many aspects of popular culture, especially in children's books (alice in wonderland), film and more recently computer games; a partly grown A. muscaria, as shown below, is clearly the mushroom upon which this icon is based:

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Art

Images dating back to 3500 BC painted in caves at Tassili, Algeria, depict mushrooms, more than likely including A. muscaria mushrooms according to scholars, although a Psilocybe species has also been suggested.

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Fly agarics have been featured in paintings since the Renaissance, albeit in a subtle manner. In the Victorian era they became more visible, even becoming the main topic of some fairy paintings, usually inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream. The waning of Romanticism and the advent of World War I reduced interest in fairies along with fly agarics, reducing them to the realm of childish fantasies.

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Literature and entertainment

Garden ornaments, and children's picture books depicting gnomes and fairies, such as the Smurfs, very often show fly agarics used as seats, or homes. Two of the most famous uses of the mushroom are in the video game series Super Mario Bros. and the dancing mushroom sequence in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia. They also have appearances in Metal Gear Solid 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

 

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And our favorite picture:

Fly Agaric Mushroom

 

Artifacts

A number of petroglyphs discovered in Asia appear to be connected with a shamanic fly agaric cult.

The Italian enthnmycologists Giorgio Samorini and Gilberto Camilla recently proposed the theory that certain Greek depictions of wine grapes (vitus vinifera) are actually epithetic representations of the fly agaric (or other psychoactive mushrooms) that were kept secret, and that these were related to the cult of Dionysos (1995).

There are a large number of anthropomorphic mushroom representations in the pre-columbian ceramics of the Peruvian Moche. The reference shamanism is especially apparent in depictions that show mushrooms growing directly out of the head of a seer.

A Mochican stirrup vessel at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University has the shape of a human head. In the middle, above the forehead, is a very realistic depiction of a fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushroom that is more or less growing out of the hat. Other example of Mochican ceramic work also appear to contain representations of the fly agaric mushrooms.

In Nayarit (West Mexico), a number of small ceramic objects have been found that depict fly agaric-like figures, beneath which a person is sitting. A ceramic piece in the Remojada style from Tenenexpan (Veracruz circa 300 A.D.) depicts an oversized object, which looks like a fly agaric, together with a human figure in the throes of ecstasy. The person is shown touching the mushroom or mushroom stone with the left hand towards the sky. In Michoacan, a small stone figure was recovered from a pre Spanish site of the Purepecha culture that Guzman has interpreted in the following manner: “the one side resembles a fly agraic (Amanita muscaria) cap, the other a death scull”.

The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is a popular figure in German literature, appearing in fairy tales, legends, songs, and poems. One German folk song about the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), "Ein Mannlein steht im Walde" (A little man stands in the forest) is quite well known and was included in a childrens opera Hansel & Gretel (1893).

Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms are common in illustrated childrens books (We're going to the land of the Dwarves, A Forest Wedding & Wichtelman's Journey and Alice in Wonderland), where they are usually the dwellings of dwarfs or elves. In one childrens book; Mecki and the Seven Dwarfs, the hero of the story smokes dried fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) together with his friends. While under the influence of the mushrooms, they realize that the seven dwarfs are actually fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) spirits:

"The dwarfs shook their heads back and forth and back and forth. As they did so, their funny hats slowly turned in red caps with white spots. Their legs and little tummies grew together or sank into the ground. At the same time, their white necks grew longer and longer, so that they finally stood there like large, strange fly agarics and stared at me."

Fly agarics (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms often appear in comic books. In the book Asterix at the Olympic Games, Methusalix, the oldest of the unruly Gauls, collects fly agarics for his soup. The Druid Miraculix tells him that the fly agarics (Amanita muscaria) should be "sautéed in butter, for only in that way will they retain their typical flavor".

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Moebius, in his comic story "A True Wonder of the Universe", transports the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) to a plant a million light-years away. It speaks to a cosmonaut, who then tries a piece of it, whereupon he becomes supernova. The volume Soluna (1996), from the series John Difool vordem Incal (John Difool Before Incal) by Janjetov and Jodorowsky, features a utopian city, the center of which is a gigantic mushroom-shaped temple.

The entire fantasy comic cycle Alef-Thau, by Jodorowsk and Arno (1986-1991), takes place in a forest of fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms.

Fly Agaric art

In the three volumes of cycle Die Gefahrten der Dammerung (The Fellowship of the Dawn), Francois Bourgeon artistically portrays a fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) trip. The second volume (The Three Eyes of the Blue-Green City), contains detailed instructions for using fly agarics and tips about their effects:

This red and white cap contains more colors than your poor human eyes have ever seen! If you dry this and chew it, you will be a ble to uncover terrible secrets in your dreams. You can go to the earliest times in the world… in the times before gods… before my gods.

The comic Fliegenpils (Fly Agaric), by Christian Farner, depics a fly agaric trip that is both haunting and oppressive.

Fly Agarics are not featured as frequently in paintings because they are too popular a symbol. The pen-and-ink drawing Die Hexe (The Witch) by Heinrich Vogler depicts a witch passing through the forest, fly agarics sprouting at her feet. In Brekkekkwakkwak, an oil painting by Johan Fabricius (1926), fly agaric mushrooms are shown alongside a fantastic pond. The illustrator Alan Lee contributed several pictures of fly agarics and elves to Da Grobe Buch der Geister (The book of Spirits) (Frond and Lee 1979).

Because the fly agarics are a symbol of good luck in Europe, they are often portrayed on greeting and congratulations cards. Fly Agaric spirits appear on many decorative items and are common motifs on Easter eggs and Christmas ornaments. Countless images of fly agarics are used for decorative purposes, ranging from plastic smurf figures with fly agarics to fireworks for New Year's Eve parties (lucky mushrooms). These pretty mushrooms are also commonly reproduced in the form of Easter cakes, chocolate and marzipan.

In the 1990's fly agaric mushrooms were frequently featured as emblems on handbills advertising raves. They are also found on the covers of CD's of psychedelic trance music (e.g. Holy Mushroom and Ironic Beat) and other music styles. The cover of the LP "Granny Takes a Trip", by Purple Gang (1968), shows fly agarics in an alchemical context. Another album, "Early One Morning", by the band Mushroom (1973), has a picture of mushroom whose colors are reversed: it has a white cap with red spots. The German combo Witthuser and Westrupp gave expression to theories of John Allegro on the cover of record (Der Jesuspilz - Musik vom Evangelium (The Jesus Mushroom - Music from the Gospels). Mani Neumeier, founder of the band Guru Guru and the godfather of "kraut rock" us depicted on the cover of his solo CD as a six armed Shiva holding a fly agaric in one hand. OM Records, a San Francisco based company, selected the fly agaric as a symbol for its series Mushroom Jazz. And the cover of the avant-garde / psychedelic CD Venus Square Mars, by Mark Naussef and Dave Philipson features a tengu "feactalizing out of" a fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).

In japan, masks of long-nosed tengus, the fly agaric spirits, are still made out of wood and other materials and sold in paraphernalia shops located near shrines. The masks are hung on houses during the Japanese New Years's festival.