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Fantastic Fungi: Documentary with Paul Stamets

Posted: 01-04-2020 | Written by: Elena Sirius

For some time now, my interest in mushrooms and fungi has been piqued. It started with a few naive forest walks where I hoped to find Liberty Caps (Psilocybe semilanceata). I'd done quite some psilocybe trips already and was experienced with cultivating Magic Musrooms. Now I thought it was time to collect my psychedelic journey the oldskool way myself. This turned out to be an impossible job.

Liberty Caps are small and inconspicuous grey. The number of 'inconspicuous grey fungi' I came across was overwhelming. Every now and then I squeezed a stem to see if it would turn blue; a sign that it contains psilocybin. Time after time I was disappointed.

In the end I exchanged my obsessed search for Liberty Caps for watching lots of Youtube videos and scrolling through Facebook groups about identifying mushrooms. A world opened up to me, and especially Paul Stamets, a mycologist with incredible knowledge, became my digital teacher through the wonderful world of the fungi kingdom.

Do you want to learn about medicinal mushrooms? Medicinal Mushrooms - The Essential Guide is highly recommended!

The fungal realm encompasses everything from yeasts to mushrooms. It is an interesting fact that this kingdom is more closely related to the animal kingdom (and therefore also to us) than to plants!

I watched the new documentary Fantastic Fungi online, and I was sitting on the edge of my seat. The film is directed by Louie Schwarzberg, who is a master in creating so-called 'time-lapses'. By doing so, you see how life unfolds in acceleration. In this way it becomes clear once again that the cycle of a mushroom has a fascinating course.

Throughout the film we see various mushroom lovers, including the journalist and writer Michael Pollan (from bestseller How To Change Your Mind), but also researchers at various universities who are engaged in promising studies on psilocybin.

Wood Wide Web

The word 'mushroom' includes not only the fruiting body (for example, the red and white mushroom you see often on Christmas cards), but also the mycelium network beneath it. This network can be represented as a tree, while the visible mushroom represents the apple.

This underground mycelium network can expand enormously and is also called the Wood Wide Web by Paul Stamets. As you can see in the film, this network is connected to just about everything else in life and also seems to serve as a line of communication between different trees.

The film exposes a theory that was developed by Terrence McKenna (after whom these Magic Mushrooms are named): The Stoned Ape Theory. This theory describes how our ancestors hunted and along the way found mushrooms that liked to grow in the poop of their prey. Now it is a fact that psilocybe mushrooms prefer to thrive in cattle manure. You only have to use some imagination (and in the film it is very nicely depicted) to imagine how our ancestors were hit by lightning, so to speak, and the understanding and consciousness of the cosmos flowed in... This theory is based on the fact that the human brain has grown enormously in a relatively short time. Scientists still regularly break their heads about this.

Mycological revolution

According to the makers and participants of the film, a so-called 'mycological revolution' is taking place, which will continue to expand. As far as I'm concerned, this is completely true, and after seeing the film I get even more respect for nature. At the same time, I have a feeling of awe, and I realize that so many mysteries are still beyond our comprehension... It is of great importance that we, as humans, treat the earth and its secrets well.

This starts with taking your own responsibility and making thoughtful choices. Some tips, thanks to the documentary:

  1. Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle. These 6 r's stand for reducing your ecological footprint. This means that you put less burden on the earth and that you can give back or reuse what you use.
  2. Where does your money go? Be aware that you help determine what and who is supported in this world. Listing your expenses can make you aware if your money goes to projects that you really want to support and that can also help the earth.
  3. Think about transport. Think before you take the car or plane. Maybe you can ride a bicycle! Or stay home. Or give someone a lift, or ride with someone. That way you can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. The film shows how the mycelium network also contributes to this.
  4. Take care of others. You can do this by helping and assisting someone. Be aware that we are all part of the bigger picture.
  5. Take care of yourself. Also very important. You do this by treating and caring for yourself with respect.  You do this by making wise decisions, eating healthily and exercising. Go into nature. Mushrooms have powers that can help you make your body and mind stronger.
  6. Share your knowledge! Thanks to the internet and our amazing ability to communicate, it is possible to get others excited and spread information.


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