I always have my best dreams in the Forest. In one dream this week there was a wedding on:
The Bridge had 29 bridesmaids (the number of the lunar cycle) and I was one of them. Perhaps we all represented one specific day of the lunar cycle. Instead of a flower corsage, we all had a (different type of) mushroom pinned on our dress. We all lined up in a large mushroom formation, with Bridge and Groom at the centre. This meant they were standing in the vulva-shaped place where the gills of a mushroom are. In the dream I understood that this formation (or constellation) represented the sacred marriage of Life and Death. Any union has its shadow side: the seeds that will be wasted, the children they won’t have, the people they did not marry because they chose each other. Any sacred wedding therefore needs to honour the Death principle, the doors that close, the opportunities and people that will not be.
In another dream I had this week, the traditional triad of Maiden-Mother-Crone had been replaced by a triad consisting of a Maiden, a Crone and Father (not Mother):
They all wore forest foliage in their hair, and they all had decided to embrace Death as a sacred initiation and process of transformation. The dream took place at a crematorium. These three people were my students and in my dream I had a panic attack: I do believe in taking serious students of ancestral wisdom teachings through initiations – this is part of a larger process of being rewired allowing people to truly live their lives in service to Spirit. However, ending up at the crematorium felt like taking things a stage too far, I was relieved to wake up in my own bed, with no students arriving for class or ceremony that day!
When I was a child (perhaps 6 – 7 years old) I would lie in bed at night and dream of painting a forest on the walls of my bedroom. There were many Fly Agaric mushrooms in that (imaginary) forest and every single one of them acted as a portal I could step through and enter an “Other World”, a parallel world or universe.
Some people have cool skills! I have always felt envy for people who could look up at the night sky and know what star constellations they are looking at. In a similar way I envy people who can walk into the Forest with a basket and pick mushrooms with confidence, telling Chantarelles from False Chantarelles or picking some Parasol Mushrooms and saying “dinner for tonight is sorted!”
Sunni Alemneh, my assistant on the 2 year Seidkona and Seidmadr program currently running in Sweden (pictured) did just that a few weeks ago! That was the moment I decided I was going to make it my business to “learn mushrooms”, just as I learned the night sky ten years ago when our family was sailing around the Caribbean and Central America.
Therefore this blog is about mushrooms, written by a complete if passionate beginner! While I am in Sweden (I am here for two weeks), I have made a commitment to going on a daily “mushroom walk”, where the mushrooms themselves are my teachers. I bring a camera and try to capture the otherworldly quality of mushrooms: the way they stand as sentinels on the boundary between the Land of the Dead and the Land of the Living.
I find myself giving names to mushrooms. Today I found large green-blue mushroom with two tiny oval shaped leaves stuck on (like eyes). I took it home and have called it The Alien Mushroom or ET.
Other mushrooms I have encountered are Embracing Mushrooms, Married Mushrooms, Scrambled Egg mushrooms and Trickster mushrooms.
Here are some things I have observed and learned on my hikes
- Mushrooms come and go in an ever-changing landscape. One day they stand in all their splendour and the next day they have been nibbled by deer or trampled by wild boar
- Deer especially seem to like nibbling on fly agaric mushrooms
- They are neither plants nor animals, they are Other
- When you are sincere about meeting mushrooms they whisper to you on the wind and blow a few spores in your direction
- It is entirely possibly to walk past many mushrooms without even seeing them, the possess the gift of camouflage
- Mushrooms engage in the art of deception, they play tricks on our perception of the world: often to see them we have to start off by believing and trusting that they will show themselves
- Some bright orange specimen positively demand to be seen and the Fly Agaric isn’t shy either (they are the movie stars of the mushroom community!), but others hide in plain sight and look at you long before you see them!
- They all have different indwelling spirits and this creates a special mood or atmosphere around them
- Mushrooms do essential work: the practice the sacred art of decay, they are nature’s “binmen”, through decay and decomposition they free up the building blocks locked into material manifestations for new creations
- All of them together form the body of the Mushroom Mother, the Divine Mother in her devouring aspect
- All mushroom species together form a constellation in the way that the entire human family forms a huge constellation. Just like the human family there are compassionate members and psychopaths among them
- Some help the dying (by showing them glimpses of the continuation of consciousness) but others kill, this is the medicine-poison continuum
Some other curious facts about mushrooms
It is easy enough to pad out my own hard-earned information with facts found online. Let me mention a few …
- Eating Amanita mascara (the Fly Agaric mushroom, red with white dots, found in many children’s books) will turn you temporarily into a giant or a dwarf: they will either make you feel larger or they will make the world around you feel much larger!
- Mushrooms create their own wind, by causing water to evaporate quickly. They do this to spread their pores more widely.
- Scientists say that “tripping” is experiencing a hyper-connected brain, where communication occurs between regions that do not communicate in the normal state of consciousness
- Over 75 mushrooms species are bioluminescent: they glow in the dark! (Sadly I have not managed to observe this yet in the forest behind my house)
- There is one mushroom in Hawaii that creates an instant orgasm in women (but apparently it smells awful to men!)
- Ancient Egyptians referred to mushrooms as the Plant of Immortality, they were eaten exclusively by pharaohs and royalty
- No one knows how many types of mushroom exist exactly. The estimate is that the 10,000 species we have catalogued may only be 30% or even 20% of what exists on Earth!
- Mushrooms are more closely related to humans in terms of DNA than most plants
Roughly speaking mushrooms are:
50% inedible but harmless
20% will make you sick
4% is tasty or even excellent
1% will kill you
I hope that this blog will inspire you to pay attention to any mushrooms growing in your location! Please listen for their whispers riding on the wind, stay curious but above all keep safe!
Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 29 October 2019
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of sacred art, Seiðr and the ancestral wisdom teachings of Northern Europe. Her first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) was published in March 2019. Imelda has presented her work on the Shamanism Global Summit and as a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.
Imelda divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her third book “Medicine of the Imagination: Dwelling in Possibility” will be published in 2020. Imelda is currently working on her fourth book, about the pre-Christian spirituality of The Netherlands. She recently appeared on a Mystic Britain TV programme filmed for The Smithsonian Channel, talking about Mesolithic site Star Carr and arctic deer shamanism, (and modelling a Stone Age antlered headdress!)
Imelda dreams of being a full-time forest witch!