Think of any fairy story illustration of elves or goblins sitting on or under a toadstool, and most likely the cap of such a fungus will be bright red with white spots. The autumnal excess and vibrant colors of the magic mushrooms make it probably the most generally recognized of our fungi. As the name implies it was formerly used as an insecticide, with pieces frequently floated in milk, to intoxicate and kill flies drawn to its aroma. In a similar way the majority will be wary of its deadly reputation (though fatal reactions are rare), and appreciation of these magic mushrooms will mostly be limited to the aesthetic. It has been recommended that northerly Europeans' wariness of magic mushrooms may originate from long-established taboos associated with the utilization of magic mushrooms containing mind expanding substances. These would originally have been reserved for those shamans or clergymen who used to serve as intermediaries between the common folk and the unseen worlds of spirit.
Magic mushrooms could have been the earliest source of entheogens, that's hallucinogenic substances used for non secular or shamanic purposes, the use of which date back potentially over ten thousand years. Fly agaric has been put forward as the most probable candidate for the mysterious Soma, mentioned in around 150 hymns of the Hindu Rig-Veda, which was written between 1500 - five hundred BC by Aryans in the Indus valley. Soma was a moon god, as well as a related plant and a holy brew which were also worshipped. Though there were many recommendations as to the identity of the plant, magic mushrooms fits many of the Vedic references as a substance with which to contact the gods.
Magic Mushrooms contains two toxins, ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are in charge of its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects. To reduce its damaging complications, magic mushrooms would be processed in some way (e.g. dried, made into a drink, smoked or made into ointments). Care in its preparation and ritual were paramount. The Celtic Druids, as an example, purified themselves by fasting and meditating for 3 days, drinking only water. Amongst the Koryak folk of North-Eastern Siberia, the ceremonial use of magic mushrooms concerned the shaman eating the sorcery mushroom itself, after which others would drink his pee to partake of its entheogenic effects. Though this sounds clearly unpleasant to modern ears, if the shaman had been fasting, the pee would've been mainly water containing the hallucinogenic compounds. The body absorbs the magic mushrooms' hallucinogens first, and then expels the toxins from the stomach. The hallucinogenic chemicals then exert their influence on the body and are expelled unaltered in the piss. Reindeers in Northern Europe are also attracted to the magic mushrooms' euphoric effects and Siberian people would spot the pissed behavior of such animals and massacre them to get the same effects from eating the meat.
Modern research has shown the two active ingredients' effect on the brain can inhibit fear and the startle reflex. This would corroborate concepts the ferocious Viking Berserker soldiers used magic mushrooms prior to going into battle, bringing on the rash rage and fearlessness for which they were renowned.
Magic mushrooms have been a popular icon for the Midwinter and christmas festivities in central Europe for a long while and is found on christmas cards and as replica decorations for tree and wreath. Our existing idea of Father Christmas can be traced back as an amalgamation of many characters of well-liked european folklore,eg a more pagan Scandinavian house imp who offered protection from malevolent spirits for a banquet at midwinter, and the fourth century Byzantine Archbishop who became St. Nicolas and was known for his kindness to youngsters. More lately it's been suggested that the Siberian use of magic mushrooms might have performed a part in the development of the legend of Santa Claus too. At midwinter festivals, the Shamans would enter the yurt through the smoke hole and down the central supporting birch pole, bringing with him a bag of dried magic mushrooms. After conducting his ceremonies, he would leave the same way he had come. Ordinary people would have assumed the Shamans could fly himself, or with the help of reindeer which they also knew to have a taste for magic mushrooms. Santa is now dressed in the same colours as the magic mushrooms, carries a bag with special gifts, comes and goes thru the chimney, can fly with reindeer and lives in the "Far North".