October 2010

Exploring the therapeutic uses of mushrooms

By Art Goodtimes


for Pablo & Dusty

Hiking alone up a morning ravine
in the wild Santa Cruz mountains.

Dappled shadows through laurel leaf
& porcupine-thick pine boughs.

Moss-skinned stones splashed with
water whispering its way to the sea.

There! Spotlighted on a bench of sun
one lone parasol of red (Hygrophorus

I would learn later). Waxy cap &
stem stunning in its phallic form

& solitary rise, as though springing
full grown from out the brow of

the creek’s bank. Miracle of fungal life
& death recycled. A mycelial mystery

that started it all for me – the Way of
the Fungophile. Tracking the hyphae

of chthonic connections from roots
to fruiting bodies. Enzymes to alkaloids.

Ekto/endo mutualism to Terence McKenna’s
entheogenic consciousness. Coming to

understand reciprocal appropriation. How
the fungal kindom is affording us

the opportunity now -- in the shadow
of the mushroom cloud – to help

heal the planet we as a viral
species have infected. Irradiated.

Baptized & globalized. One
lone ‘shroom. Revealing herself in

nature as the thousand-armed goddess.
Icon. Antidote. Our best hope.


SHROOMFEST 30… Some 250 fungophiles from all over the country flocked to Telluride’s Galaxy Theater last week to hear speaker after speaker re-affirm the mounting evidence for the therapeutic value of psychedelic mushrooms and other entheogenic substances – plant-based, animal-derived as well as chemically produced … It was the 30th year of the Telluride Mushroom Festival, and the mountains responded with perhaps the largest fruiting of edible mushrooms in a decade – boletes, chanterelles, hawkswings, sweet corals – the list went on and the tables in Elks Park filled with all manner of unusual, edible and toxic fungi. Fungal pioneer, psychonaut and researcher, Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti gave three different lectures – one on the genus psilocybe, of which he is the nation’s leading expert, one on the many ways mushrooms are providing forest remediation, insect control and oil-spill cleanup opportunities, and a third on medicinal uses of fungi, including the amazing healing of his own mother from advanced stagebreast cancer using capsules of healing mushroom blends and his work in funding the tests necessary to add turkey tail mushrooms as an accepted medical adjunct therapy for breast cancer … Gary Lincoff, former president of the North American Mycological Society, author of several authoritative texts on mycology (including his latest, “The Complete Mushroom Hunter”), and festival mycologist and keynote speaker, was in rare form. His identification class combined humor with a definitive runthrough for new collectors of all aspects of the fungal world, including slides of the most common species of edible and toxic shrooms. His keynote tracked the history of the last 50 years – from the Fifties when mycology was a backroom activity at the biology departments of just a handful of schools in this country to the Sixties when mushrooms became their own kingdom separate from plants and animals to the current era with its flourishing of mushroom research, mushroom medicinals, mushroom psychic exploration, mushroom culinary arts and mushroom remediation work in this country. His third talk was on Magic Mushrooms and he fearlessly advocated – as speakers have been advocating for the last 30 years in Telluride – for the many therapeutic and spiritual benefits that can accrue from the intentional and sacred practice of ingesting entheogenic mushrooms … The forays were phenomenal, with mushroom baskets filling no matter where one went to search for shrooms. The parade was perhaps the best ever, with a wild array of outrageous mushroom costumes, a drum circle in the park that lasted for hours, and a costume contest that saw winners in three categories and even a boobie prize for an inventive and slightly risqué pop-up shroom bra. Manny and Joanne Salzman were given the first annual Founders Award, designed by local mushroom expert John Sir Jesse, in recognition of their founding and sustaining of the festival for over two decades, until the Telluride Institute took on the management of the event … But perhaps the defining event of the festival was Saturday night’s panel discussion on Entheogens as Mind Medicine. Gary Lincoff moderated the group, although his altered state mimickry transformed him from expert talking head to shroom clown and provided a humorous sidebar to the serious nature of the discussion. Both Marie Luna and Michael Logghe spoke eloquently of the deep heart (as well as mind) value of ayuhuasca in building community – both in the past among traditional peoples for the last several thousand years and in the present as a way of uniting people on a spiritual path of self-discovery and social cohesion. Natasha Lewin of High Times magazine used her hands as wildly gesticulating birds as she told a riveting tale of a 30-something friend afflicted with cluster headaches who exhausted dozens of healing modalities in New York City only to be led to the use of Psilocybe mushrooms – which have healed her from the paralyzing pain and has allowed her to live a normal life, taking small doses of this entheogen whenever the cluster headaches start to appear. And Valerie Mojeiko of MAPS (the Multi-disclipinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) recounted her very bad experience with Ibogaine, another powerful entheogen, and how it was not suited for personal spiritual growth but how its intense effects have proven very useful for shocking alcoholics and drug addicts out of their addiction … For 30 years Telluride’s mushroom event has been one of the few places that discussion of entheogens has continued in America, in spite of several decades of fierce repression and legal sanction. Under cover of a mushroom fest, Dr. Andrew Weil and many others (from Nobel Prize laureates to alternative culture icons) have tried to provide a scientific balance to the irrational drug laws and curtailment of all scientific studies of entheogens. Now, however, the social climate has changed. New studies at John Hopkins, Yale and other American institutions (as well as studies and reports from around the world) are demonstrating that entheogens have an important and beneficial place in society, when used in the appropriate setting and with respectful intention. The social climate has changed. And after years of quietly maintaining a platform for the discussion of the real scientific benefits and dangers of entheogens, the Telluride Mushroom Festival is openly advancing our knowledge of this formerly verboten area of human activity … DVDs of the lectures and presentations from this year’s festival will soon be available through the Telluride Institute’s Shroomfest website, www.shroomfest. com

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County, Colo., commissioner.