Thursday, 3 July 2014

Snow White Decoded

Folk tales and fairy tales somehow survive. They're a remnant of our old oral story-telling, and often contain information that you wouldn't expect. But this is how communities used to pass on all the important information from generation to generation. Far from being simple stories to while away the darknesses of the winter, folk tales and fairy tales can contain some astonishing information.

I propose that the tale of Snow White encodes information about different plants, and possibly holds clues to an ancient initiation rite.

In the original Grimm brothers' tale, Snow White is actually called Snowdrop. That was fairly easy to decode. So we're looking at the snowdrop, and why its powers and properties might be hidden away in a story. This ties in very well with Homer's Odyssey, in which Ulysses is given a plant now generally accepted to be snowdrops. This is to overcome the sorcery of Circe, who has taken away the will of Odysseus' men and turned them all to swine.

Circe it would seem has enchanted Odysseus' men by the use of thornapple. This plant is an anticholinergic and has the effect of making unavailable the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary to thought, memory and movement. The snowdrop contains an antidote to this, galantamine, which stops the neurotransmitter from being used up, leading quickly to a return to normality. Indeed, in the Odyssey, after consuming the moly, Ulysses is able to rescue his men.

Snow White appears to encode the same plant activity. Our heroine is bewitched by a poison apple - which matches thornapple, the intoxicating plant of Circe. She falls into a deep sleep. Paralysis and inability to think and communicate are amongst the effects of thornapple - as is death, since it is highly toxic. It is not a plant to be messed with. The snowdrop is an antidote to this.

So if Snow White is actually a snowdrop, what are the seven dwarves? It's possible that they might represent mushrooms, as these are often encoded as elves or pixies, especially if they have a psychoactive effect. In modern times, the fly agaric is still often pictured with an elf or pixie sitting on the top of it. It's possible that the seven dwarves represent magic mushrooms, which contain psilocybin, which mimics serotonin in the brain and would make the galantamine more effective.

So the story seems to encode information about the snowdrop, thornapple and possibly magic mushrooms. Perhaps it is more than just a herbal though, and could provide an insight into an ancient rite. Perhaps as an initiation or similar, people are paralysed by the thornapple, stripped of their will and even their thoughts. They are subsequently "brought back to life" by the snowdrop, perhaps with a few magic mushrooms to increase the effect, though not enough to cause hallucinogenic experiences.

It's possible that a similar practice existed amongst the Celts. Their method of reanimation was likely being dunked into the Cauldron of Immortality. It's possible that this contained fly agaric in water or alcohol. The muscarine in the fly agaric, soluble in both water and alcohol, would have a very similar effect to the snowdrops, as it is also a cholinergic.

This decoding shows that our ancestors had an intimate knowledge of plants and their effects. Indeed, in rural areas of Bulgaria, there was still folk knowledge of the properties of the snowdrop. This led to an investigation by Bulgarian and Soviet doctors, and galantamine was discovered. It was used to treat polio in the 1950s, and no one treated with it ended up with paralysis, unlike on the western side of the iron curtain. In addition to galantamine, the snowdrop also contains snowdrop lectin, which inhibits protein synthesis and shows promise as an antibiotic.

So next time you're reading a folk tale or fairytale, keep an eye open for any hidden meanings within it. If you find any, please let me know.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


King Bran of Britain, Rialobran, Royal Oberon, King of the Fairies, the king who is a bridge for his people, whose head has the gift of prophecy, sleeping giant who protects us yet from within the earth, grail king, warrior king, lord of mysteries, of immortality, is fly agaric.

I propose that King Bran, ancient British giant and king, is actually fly agaric. The thinking behind this is as follows:

  • Mythic and Legendary Characters can be Encoded Plants

    John Marco Allegro puts forward a compelling case in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross that Jesus was a mushroom, a god made flesh in the same way as Teonanácatl is in the native South American pantheon.

    The poison apple in the story of Snow White (originally called Snowdrop in the German tale) is probably thornapple. The paralysing neurotoxic effect of consuming the thornapple is remedied by the galantamine in snowdrops. This would mean that the snowdrop plant has been encoded as Snow White.

  • The head of Bran is used for prophecy

    In the tales of the Mabinogion, Bran's head is purposefully severed and taken away by his men. It is thereafter renowned for its powers of prophecy. Similarly, the head (or cap) of fly agaric has been used for prophecy through the ages.
  • The head of Bran is buried at the Tower of London

    Bran's head, upon his own request, was buried at White Hill, where the Tower of London now stands. Burying the fly agaric head or cap will, under the right circumstances, start a new fly agaric colony.

    Bran intended to continue to provide prophecy, and to protect the people of Britain from invasion. Indeed, it was said that as long as Bran was inhabiting White Hill (where the Tower of London now stands), the kingdom would be safe; but if he were not then it would fall.

    Sound familiar? Bran is Welsh for raven. The legend has mutated into ravens being the guardians of the kingdom.

    But how can fly agaric protect a nation?

    Certainly militarily. In small amounts, the muscarine in dried fly agaric increases strength and stamina (by mimicking acetylcholine in the brain and body's muscarinic acetylcholine receptors). It also protects against the cold and removes fear. It is widely accepted that fly agaric is the berserker mushroom of the Vikings. There are also rumours of the ancient Britons battling whilst under the influence of mushrooms. Fly agaric would seem the likeliest choice.

  • Raven's Bread

    The connection between fly agaric and ravens has survived in one form - the folkname for fly agaric of "raven's bread". Since the Welsh for raven is bran, this folkname is equally "Bran's bread".
  • A Giant's Accoutrements

  • Peter Lamborn Wilson shines the light of fly agaric on ancient Irish culture in the wonderful Ploughing the Clouds. Sharvan the Surly is given the task of guarding the magical quicken tree with its heavenly red fruit (likely a guise for fly agaric). Sharvan is a giant, like King Bran. He is described as having a great club tied by a chain to an iron girdle around his waist. In its mature and harvested form, the leg of the fly agaric looks very much like a club. There is a girdle around the fly agaric's waist, the remnants of the universal veil that covers the mushroom when it is first erupting from the earth. Bran is a giant who fits this description of the protector of the fly agaric.
  • Rialobran = King Oberon, King of the Fairies

    There is an inscribed standing stone - or Men Scryfa - near the Men-an Tol in West Penrith, Cornwall. Around the 5th or 6th century, someone carved RIALOBRAN CUNOVAL FIL into it.

    Rialobran can be translated as variously King Bran and Royal Raven. It is also considered synonymous with the Ryall, or Royal Obran, Obreon or Oberon, King of the Fairies (Harold Bayley in Archaic England: An Essay in Deciphering Prehistory from Megalithic Monuments, Earthworks, Customs, Coins, Place-Names and Faerie Superstitions P315). Talk of fairies, elves, dwarves in myth and legend is often a secret code referring to plants with psychoactive effect.

    Out of interest, CUNOVAL FIL is generally translated as Son of the Prince of Glory, or as Son of Cunoval, an unknown character. It may also be a colloquial or vulgar Latin translation of Big Gana, or Big Ring. The Men Scryfa is very close to Men-An Tol, which features a giant stone ring. The mother of Oberon is Morrigan, also known as Morgana le Fay and Big Gana. (Guerber, H. A., Myths and Legends of the Middle Ages, p. 219). Thus we may see here mother and son together.

  • Let a King be a Bridge

    One of King Bran's most famous sayings is to let a king be a bridge. In the Mabinogion he uses his body as a bridge for his people to cross an unpassable river. Similarly, fly agaric provides a bridge between the land of people and that of the otherworld. By eating fly agaric, the king provides the bridge to the benefits of the fairy world, including prophecy, insight and wisdom. These qualities also help protect a nation and are just as important as battle and war.

    It's possible that this practice of the king consuming fly agaric is hinted at in the Mabinogion. Pwyll exchanges kingdoms for a year and a day with a character who appears to be King of the Underworld (Oberon). This character, known as Arawn in the tale, can be considered Oberon because of the colour of his dogs. Dogs are often encoded fly agaric in these myths, especially where the colours red and white are mentioned: Arawn's dogs are white with red ears. Arawn rules Pwyll's kingdom with the greatest wisdom and honour.

  • Association with the Cauldron of Rebirth

    The cauldron of rebirth belongs to Bran. Warriors were dunked in the cauldron and brought back to life to fight again. The Gundestrupp cauldron (pictured) perhaps illustrates this practice.

    Experiments have shown that an exhausted body can be greatly revitalised by immersion in the muscarine of fly agaric. It also adds strength, stamina and bodily warmth to an unexhausted body. Again, this is due to the effect of the muscarine on the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors found throughout the body and necessary for movement. Muscarine is soluble in both water and alcohol, so the liquid in the cauldron could be either of these.

    The muscarine of the fly agaric would also act as an antidote to the nerve toxins of thornapple. Thornapple is one of the plants that Don Juan gives Carlos Castaneda. Its effect is to diminish the acetylcholine necessary for the neurological signalling of thought, memory and movement. Perhaps there was an ancient rite that involved making people into zombies with thornapple, then bringing them back to life in the cauldron of immortality. It's certainly chemically feasible. Perhaps this would create a zombie army.

  • King Arthur Gets Rid of Bran's Magic and the Land becomes an Invaded Wasteland

    King Arthur famously declares that the land does not need Bran's protection any more. He kicks Bran's magic head out into the water. He says that his own strength should be enough. Unfortunately this is not the case, and before long the Saxons are invading and the land has become a wasteland.

    Arthur is said to be a direct heir of Bran, using both the Celtic matrilinear system (a man's heirs are his sister's boys) and the new patrilinear one, in which the heirs are his own sons. Many of the tales told of Arthur were originally told of Bran. It doesn't seem as simple as Arthur being a Christianised Bran, as Bran is sometimes said to be the first British Christian, in his guise as Bran the Blessed. Indeed, early Christianity was itself a fly agaric cult, according to the findings of John Marco Allegro in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. It is perhaps more likely to be the land with and without fly agaric.

    King Arthur's solution to the ruined land was the Grail quest. There is a growing body of opinion that the Holy Grail is actually fly agaric. In its mature form, the sides of the cap rise up, forming a goblet. Rain water collects in the cup. Muscarine from the mushroom dissolves in the rain water. It is possible to twist the base of the mushroom and lift the goblet from the ground. A drink from this grail will immediately stimulate muscarinic receptors throughout the brain and nervous system. This can have a profound effect, as if waking from an enchanted sleep, especially if suffering from certain illnesses.

    The word grail was originally graal, which does sound suspiciously like the sound a raven makes. Bran is Welsh for raven.

  • The Fisher King

    King Bran is associated with the figure of the Fisher King in the Grail quest. "The immediate prototype of Chretién’s Fisher King has been recognized by a long line of scholars as Bran the Blessed, son of Llyr." R S Loomis, The Grail, p.55-56) Both are wounded in the foot or leg (perhaps because the mushroom is picked either at its foot or thigh). Bran is known as Pierced Thighs, receiving a mortal wound in his thighs before his head was cut off. The mushroom is picked and then its cap is removed.
  • A Giant Sleeping in the Earth

    In Celtic lore, hills and mounds are often taken to be the bodies of gods and goddesses. What more natural place, then, for the sleeping giant to lie in his mycelium form? Giants are often symbolic of immense power in British lore. Bran is considered especially powerful, as indeed is the fly agaric.
  • Otherworldly Heritage

    Bran's mother was the Morrigan, triple aspect of the crow goddess, governing war, fate and death. Her name can be translated as "Big Ring". Bran's father was Llyr, a giant and sea god. Put the two together and you have a whirlpool, still in modern times considered a portal to otherwhere.
  • No House can Hold Him

    It is said of Bran that no house can hold him. This is generally considered to be because of his size, since he is a giant. It is possible that this is a reference to the impossibility of domesticating fly agaric. Even today, how fly agaric forms a union with the roots of certain trees is still a huge mystery. It still has not been possible to achieve this in the laboratory. Fly agaric is wild and untameable.
  • Some Final Thoughts

    Perhaps it's the head of Bran - ie fly agaric - that inspired the great Celtic tradition of head hunting.

    It's said that in prehistory, people would come to Britain for the quality of their dogs. As we have seen, dogs can be a guise for mushrooms, especially when they have red and white colouring. The evidence seems to suggest that the British Isles were the spiritual centre of a mushroom cult.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Was the Swineherd of Stow a Druid?

Upon the north-west spire of Lincoln Cathedral stands a stone character, blowing into a horn. He is known as the Swineherd of Stow, and there's a tale about how he offered his life-long savings, a hornful of silver coins, to help build the cathedral. This tale was made into a poem by Thomas Cooper in 1846, and is reproduced at the bottom of this post.

Beyond this sketchy legend, nothing is known about the swineherd. Yet Stow itself is somewhat better known. It's a village to the northwest of Lincoln, with a minster that is more like a cathedral than a village church. The earliest part of the minster dates back to Saxon times, but the site is likely to have been hallowed ground for much longer than that. "Stow" is of Old English etymology, meaning "sacred meeting place", and is likely to have been held sacred in pre-Christian times. There are two underwater rivers that cross underneath the church. Also, there was an annual fair held there, (not to be confused with the Midsummer fair in the south of county at Stowe Green Hill) a likely relic from pre-Christian times. Clearly, Stow was an important sacred site in pre-Christian times, when the druids walked the land.

stow - Old English - (holy) place (of assembly) eg Stow-on-the-Wold, Padstow, Bristol, Stowmarket
(from )

The word stow invariably means a 'holy place' and is found throughout England.
(from )

But what is the connection between a swineherd and the druids? Well, druids were commonly referred to as "swineherds" in myth (ref ), in much the same way that Christian religious leaders are known as shepherds. The horn that the swineherd blows could perhaps even be a carnyx, a cross between a bugle and a didgeridoo, that often carried the bronze head of boar as an amplification bell, and was used in both war and ceremony.

And what of the swineherd's offering, his hornful of silver coins to help in the cathedral's construction? At the time the cathedral was being built, Stow minster was still the most important place of worship in the area, and is often called the "mother church" to the cathedral. Silver is in Indo-European tradition symbolic of otherworldliness, the moon and the old ways. The Druid of Stow offering this powerful symbol would demonstrate the blessing of the pagan gods in the inauguration of the cathedral. The Lincolnshire folk at this time would still have depended on the old gods of fertility to survive a rural, farming existence, and their religion would likely have been a blend of ancient and Christian lore, in much the same way that Christianity merged with the local panoplies of gods in Central and South America.

A lot of ifs and a lot of maybes, but there's a thread that runs right through the supposition that the Swineherd of Stow was a druid, offering a symbolic blessing and a bridge from the old centre of worship to the new one.

The Swineherd of Stow

I sing of a swineherd in Lindsey so bold
Who tendeth his flock in the wide forest fold
He sheareth no wool from his snouted sheep
He soweth no corn and none he doth reap
Yet the swineherd no lack of good living doth know
Come jollily trowl
The brown round bowl
Like the jovial swineherd of Stow

He hedgeth no meadows to fatten his swine
He renteth no joist for his snorting kine
They rove through the forest and browse on the mast
Yet he lifteth his horn and bloweth a blast
And they come at his call blow he high blow he low
Come jollily trowl
The brown round bowl
And drink to the swineherd of Stow

He shunneth the heat mong the fern stalks green
Or dreameth of elves neath the forest treen

He wrappeth him up when the oak leaves sere
And the ripe acorns fall at the wane o the year
And he tippleth at Yule by the log's cheery glow
Come jollily trowl
The brown round bowl
And pledge the bold swineherd of Stow

The bishop he passeth the swineherd in scorn
Yet to mass wends the swineherd at Candlemas morn
And he offereth his horn at our Lady's hymn
With bright silver pennies filled up to the brim
Saith the bishop A very good fellow I trow
Come jollily trowl
The brown round bowl
And honour the swineherd of Stow

And now the brave swineherd in stone ye may spy
Holding his horn on the Minster so high
But the swineherd he laugheth and cracketh his joke
With his pig boys that vittle beneath the old oak
Saying Had I no pennies they d make me no show
Come jollily trowl
The brown round bowl
And laugh with the swineherd of Stow

So merrily the chorus rose
For every guest chimed in
That had the dead been there to doze
They had surely waked with the din
So the rustics said while their brains were mellow
And all called the swineherd a jolly good fellow

Come hearty Snell said the Baron good
What sayest thou more of the merry greenwood

I remember no lay of the forest now
Said Snell with a glance at three maids in a row
Belike I could whimper a love lorn ditty
If Tib Doll and Bell would listen with pity

Then chaunt us thy love song cried Baron and guests
And Snell looking shrewd obeyed their behests

by Thomas Cooper (Chartist) 1846

Drawing by David Vale

Monday, 11 February 2013

Stalwort: a lost folk name for fly agaric?

The fly agaric is such an iconic mushroom, instantly recognisable, with a long relationship with the human race. Yet we have no English folkname for it. I propose that stalwart is a forgotten folkname for fly agaric.

The word "stalwart" is of largely unknown etymology. The Online Etymology Dictionary has:

stalwart (adj.)
late 14c., Scottish variant of Old English stælwierðe "good, serviceable," probably a contracted compound of staðol "foundation, support" (from P.Gmc. *stathlaz, from PIE root *sta- "to stand, set down, make or be firm;" see stet) + wierðe "good, excellent, worthy" (see worth). Another theory traces the first element of stælwierðe to Old English stæl "place," from P.Gmc. *stælaz.

It is clearly made up of two different parts, "stal" and "wart".

  • "Wart" could easily be a corruption of "wort", the old English word for "plant" - seen, for example, in St John's wort. Stalwart was often spelt "stalwort" historically.
  • "Stal" could easily be a shortening of the old Germanic word for mushroom, surviving into Dutch, for example, as "paddenstoel". Although this sounds more like toadstool than mushroom, it is a generic word for fungi with a hat and a stem. This word actually has the same etymology as the stal above - meaning a foundation, support. It is also the origin of the word "steel".

The word "stalwart" is usually used to describe a warrior or a hero, someone who stands strong. This perhaps suggests a connection with ancient fighting forces. It is widely believed that Viking berserkers - and perhaps other warriors, notably Celts - made use of the fly agaric in battle. Therefore a fighter would be considered "stalwart" because they had partaken of the stal wort, the mushroom plant.

Having performed a little archaeological experimentation regarding this, I would posit that the warriors would cover their skin in fly agaric juice, and probably take a bite also. Strength and stamina are increased, and fear dissipates. There is a feeling of immortality. All these are qualities likely to make a warrior stand firm and fight for glory in battle.

Thus the berserker is shielded by the mushroom, which he also takes a bite from. Perhaps this is what the Isle of Lewis chesspiece berserker here is telling us as he bites his shield.

Pictorial extract from An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language: Volume 2 By John Jamieson, Edinburgh University Press 1808.

Within the Saxon Chronicles there is the word "staelwort", with a meaning of "to carry away clandestinely". It is likely that any fly agaric mushroom sect would - like those written about by Wasson and Allegro - have secret means of obtaining the mushrooms, carrying them away in a process known only to initiates, and probably subject to much ritual.

Indeed, Wiktionary has "stæl" as meaning "theft", akin to the Old English "stalu", all from the same Indo-Germanic root. This is suggestive of another very interesting possibility, that "stalwart" could be "the stolen plant".

Part of the mythology of the Vedic soma is that the plant be stolen from its guardians. Theodora, from A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Strassburg, 1897), explains:

The first soma is supposed to have been stolen from its guardian demon by an eagle, this soma-bringing eagle of Indra being comparable with the nectar-bringing eagle of Zeus, and with the eagle which, as a metamorphosis of Odin, carried off the mead.

In summary, if stalwart is a lost folkname for fly agaric, it is of Germanic/Scandinavian origin, arriving in Britain with Saxon and/or Viking settlers, and could mean:

  • mushroom plant
  • strength plant
  • foundation/support plant
  • secretly-carried-away plant
  • the stolen plant
and could even provide another clue that perhaps fly agaric does equate with the Soma of the Rig Veda, and is indicative of an ancient entheogenic practice surviving in Indo-European Britain and Ireland. Such is investigated in PL Wilson's excellent Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish soma.

It is, of course, possible that more than one of these meanings could also apply, in a play on words, for example, "the stolen plant that makes strong", even providing "foundation" for a whole culture.

Bouncing Rubbery Balls in Ancient Britain

This is an experiment to see whether a rubbery bouncing ball can be made of comfrey root (boneset). If it works, it shows that the simple technology of bouncing rubbery balls would have been available to western civilisations before the conquest of South America, and subsequent western discovery of true rubber.

Comfrey (also known as knitbone and boneset) is a large leafy plant (see illustration) that favours wet places such as riverbanks and ditches. It's native to Europe, and widespread in the British Isles. The whole plant has been used medicinally since ancient times. The root is still used to speed up the healing of broken bones, and is believed to be one of the plants used by Indian bone setters.

The peeled comfrey roots (see photo) resemble bones. The structure of the root is highly mucilaginous.


1. The roots were washed and peeled.
2. The roots were finely grated.
3. The roots were pounded with a pestle and mortar.
4. The pounded root material was placed in a spherical mold (7cm diameter) and left to set for three weeks.
5. A leathery cover was made for the ball, in the style of an Irish sliotar or American baseball.
6. The ball was thrown against a wall to determine its bounciness.


1. The mucilaginous root material set well. It was found that in a warm or sunny location the material would swell and force open the spherical mold. It was therefore kept in a cool, well ventilated area out of direct sunlight.
2. The ball weighs 164g (between 5 and 6 ounces).
3. The ball bounces really well. It's not as bouncy as a ball made out of rubber, but it's a well bouncing ball.
4. The comfrey root has kept its shape perfectly so far, and not broken up inside the leathery cover.


1. Comfrey root is an excellent material for making a bouncing ball.
2. Ancient peoples would have had everything they needed to make a bouncing ball out of comfrey root.
3. The ball greatly resembles the sliotar, used in the ancient Irish game of hurling. These are currently made of cork, but were made of various different materials historically. There's no record of them being made of comfrey root, but rather rope, horsehair, wood and even hollow bronze.
4. Experiments are needed to compare the comfrey root ball with a modern sliotar (currently made of cork in a leather cover). There were experiments with rubber sliotars in the early 2000s, but rubber was found to be too bouncy. Perhaps the comfrey root ball, with less bounciness, might prove perfect. The comfrey root ball is of a similar size (7cm diameter) to a sliotar, and only slightly heavier (164g compared with 110-120g). Before modern improvements, the sliotar weighed around 200g.
5. Perhaps refinements to the process could create an even bouncier ball.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Berserker Mushrooms: Experimental Archaeology

The Berserkers were Norse warriors renowned for their ferociousness in battle. The name "berserker" literally means "bear shirt", and the warriors wore bear skins in battle. Berserkers were known to wear wolf shirts as well. It's possible that the warriors were required to kill the animal in single combat in order to join these elite units.

There are various theories on how their battle frenzy was induced, but amongst them is the idea that some drug or narcotic was consumed. Leading the candidates these days is Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, the red mushroom with white spots so familiar to fairy tales (Howard D. Fabing. "On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry." Scientific Monthly. 83 [Nov. 1956] p. 232).

So how did the berserkers administer the fly agaric? Experimental archaeology offers an alternative to academic theory.

Eating 1-3 mushrooms, shaman-style

Eating the mushroom in large doses (1-3 mushrooms), a method still in use amongst indigenous peoples in remote areas of Siberia and other northern regions, induces a shamanic trance rather than a battle frenzy. The ibotenic acid and muscimol overpower the ingester, who becomes literally "away with the fairies".

A bite of mushroom

Eating a smaller dose, for example a bite-sized piece of mushroom, does give an energy boost and a clearer mind. In fact, a folk name of the Amanita muscaria is "raven's bread", suggesting that Odin's ravens, Huginn and Muninn (literally "thought" or "cognition" and "memory"), were partial to a raven-sized bite. A human taking a bite-sized piece receives noticeably increased stamina and imperviousness to cold. The berserkers were known to travel long distances through the snow. In these amounts, the ibotenic acid and muscimol are not as apparent, and it is rather the effects of the muscarine in the mushrooms that stimulates the ingester.

Rubbing mushroom juice all over the skin

The method of application that delivers the greatest effects is direct application onto the skin. Again, it is the muscarine that is the active chemical. It excites the muscarinic receptors (acetylcholine receptors) that send electrical signals from the brain to the muscles. The messages become amplified, giving the recipient greatly increased strength and stamina.

Muscarine is soluble in water, and even more so in alcohol. It is likely that the berserkers would have stored the whole mushrooms in a cauldron or vat, perhaps underground, the mushrooms covered in alcohol or perhaps even salt water, to combat putrefaction. When the time came, they would take out a mushroom and rub it over their naked skin, covering every part of themselves. They would then have replaced the mushroom, maybe taking a bite out of it first.

The berserkers were said to bite their shields - illustrated by the berserker chess piece from the Isle of Lewis set. Perhaps this was symbolic of their biting the mushroom shield that covered their bodies. Maybe this is also where the phrase "bite of the cherry" originates. Fruit and nuts were often cited in folk tales in place of the fly agaric, most notably the apple in the garden of Eden, and the hazelnuts of wisdom of Irish lore (Wilson, Peter L. Ploughing the Clouds. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1999. Print.)

Fear and Immortality

Eating small amounts of fly agaric and administering it externally also both remove fear and invest one with a feeling of immortality. These of course are useful qualities to have when going into battle.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A 5300 year old treatment for Lyme disease?

Twenty years ago, Ötzi the iceman's mummified body was discovered in the Italian Alps, close to the Austrian border. His skin was tattooed with likely acupuncture points.

L Dorfer et al in A medical report from the stone age? suggest that the acupuncture points correspond with treatment for arthritis and the urinary, digestive and hepatic systems. Radiology revealed that Ötzi was suffering from moderate arthrosis in the hips, knees, ankles and lower back. The study concludes that the treatment is suggestive of arthrosis and also digestive tract pain caused by a whipworm infestation in the gut.

Last week the results of a new autopsy were published in the National Geographic. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease were discovered in the iceman. Is it possible that the soot-tattoo acupuncture markings could be evidence of an ancient treatment for Lyme disease?

Of the different Lyme disease bacteria - or borrelia - variants, Ötzi was infected with burgdorferii, more generally found in North America nowadays. Lyme arthritis is a typical feature of infection with burgdorferii. By contrast, the European species afzelii and garinii are more likely to cause neurological and connective tissue problems.

The acupuncture treatment for Lyme disease includes clearing and balancing the urinary and hepatic systems, for detoxification purposes, as well as treating specific symptoms such as arthritis. Some illustrated points are also suggestive of immune system support, the other major area targeted in acupuncture therapy of Lyme disease or borreliosis.

The act of tattooing these points would enable anyone to apply acupuncture or acupressure to the iceman, giving him relief without the need for a specialised practitioner.