It wasn't until I had moved to Europe that I gained experience in the gathering of psilocybin, more commonly known as magic mushrooms. Where I had grown up, this psychedelic drug was rare and seldom made an appearance. When it would appear, it would do so in little plastic bags bought and sold on the black market. I had of course taken mushrooms hundreds of times before moving to Europe but it was somehow divorced from its natural source. It was the same with grass for I had never cultivated it in Canada. It was, like mushrooms, just another substance bought and sold on the black market. To be sure I was interested in their effects but, as strangely as it sounds, I didn't really appreciate the fact that they were raw products of nature. I had once had the opportunity to go mushroom picking in Nova Scotia but it had turned out sour. We wasted the entire day looking for the wrong kind of mushroom. We were both novices and had no idea where or what to look for. I didn't go mushroom picking again until I had moved to Czech. That next time I was more successful but then, because of my companion's experience, I knew exactly where and what to look for.
Picking mushrooms is a national pastime in Czech. Many people enjoy strolling about the forest looking for mushrooms of an edible kind.. There are other Czechs, though, who harvest a different kind of mushroom that is poisonous when eaten and also constitutes a tradition of sorts. Every year the psychedelically inclined take numerous trips to the forests around Brno, and elsewhere, and stock up for the year. A good day can yield 500 or so finger sized mushroom, 20 of which are sufficient to produce a potent buzz. Most of my friends would make upwards of 10 trips during the growing season which lasted for just over a month. For some, it was their only way to procure weed for mushrooms could be used in trade. L.S.D. was a scarcity and when available, expensive, but with a large supply of mushrooms this "problem" was made irrelevant. There seemed to be a year round abundant supply at least among the people I knew. At my house, in any case, this was so.
It was the first year picking them that I remember most vividly. We were sitting in the rock club when a friend of ours appeared before us with wet and heavily soiled mushrooms. We knew then that it was high time to do some of our own harvesting for the season was short and we wanted to make multiple trips. It was then late October shortly after the first freeze. The mushrooms would now grow until the first snow fall. My friend made arrangements for a car and we went early the next morning. The drive took about an hour and a half before we came to some hills to the north of Brno. We had come prepared with joints, beers and containers in which to collect our treasure.
That day I spent most of my time by the side of the road in a ditch for I found a steady supply from which to fill my bag. My friend had first shown me what to look for by way of example. From then on it was obvious which ones to pick for they exhibited a dull greenish blue colour and were about the size of my index finger. Of course their size ranged dramatically but all were supposedly effective so all were harvested. On this occasion I collected some 200, enough for perhaps 10 sessions, and not without little effort. In fact it was quite unpleasant for it was raining and cold and I constantly cut my fingers in the brambles as I searched for hidden patches of magic mushrooms. At home though this was counterbalanced by the very pleasant feeling I had while I was laying them out to dry. I took 20 or so and realized too that they were very strong.
Making tea with mushrooms was a foreign concept to my Czech friends as was filtering joints. They preferred to cook them in with soup or eat them with yogurt. Czech mushrooms tasted just as bad as the mushrooms I had bought years earlier in Canada so it was always just as much of an effort to get and keep them down. In Czech, I got into the habit of grounding the mushrooms into a powder and then mixing this powder with a bowl of plain yogurt to facilitate a smooth journey down my throat. Some of my Czech friends were accustomed to taking huge amounts-50 or 60 caps-but I always demurred from such audacity. Most of the time I'd throw up about half an hour after I had ingested them. Mushrooms are technically poisonous to humans and it is partly for this reason that we get stoned from them. The first hour or so was always unsettling as one made the transition from straight to high. It felt almost like an illness and I often wondered why we put ourselves through it. After the first hour I'd always realize why. The Czech mushrooms were of a strong variety.
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been in use for thousands of years by different races and people. The psychedelic(psychoactive) effects have been given religious significance by some of these peoples. I suppose that mushrooms became popular again, in the West especially, in the mid sixties when it, along with L.S.D. which produces similar effects, was very much in vogue. As I've said, mushrooms were a bit of an oddity where I grew up but they did occasionally appear on the black market. I suppose that this was largely due to the geographical area in which I lived. They do grow in Canada but, as far as I know, only on the two coasts. We often spoke of making a business trip out west, for the money would have been good, but these plans never came to fruition. In all fairness it was a 6 hour airplane journey for Canada, as you probably know, is a very large country. It was thus in Czech that I was first presented the possibility of mushroom picking and I jumped at it. The mushrooms grew very close by to where we were living so that part of Czech has, to a certain extent, a mushroom culture. It was fortunate and necessary that they had such access to a psychedelic drug for L.S.D. was simply unavailable during the communist years and now, even when it did appear, it was very expensive. No, the psychedelic aspects of Czech culture were developed on mushrooms not acid.
Magic mushrooms produce a very strong effect when taken in sufficient quantities. All the senses of the individual are effected including those of a metaphysical and existential nature. Between head rushes, a sort of flushing of the mind, one can experience hallucinations of varying degrees. The hallucinations can take the form of altered objects up to and including the appearance of imagined realities. This, I believe, is heavily dependant not only on the amount ingested but also on the sensitivity of the person doing the ingesting. Some of my friends never report the experience of hallucinations while still others describe completely imagined fantasies and realities. I have always been quite "visual" so I've experienced a myriad of hallucinations. The middle of a forest or a living room with a stereo provide the perfect places for shrooming. Indeed it is ideal when you can combine both spheres-the artistic and the natural. A portable cassette deck can send you shrooming off into outer space. And what better place than beside some pristine lake or Medieval castle?
The most magical experience I've had picking mushrooms happened our last day of harvesting that first year I moved to Kyjov. Once again we made an early start and by noon hour I'd gathered some 150 mushrooms into a small canvas bag. I thought it was going very well and thus moved through the forest pleased with myself. We always returned to the same place for it was known to be rich in the spores that turn into mushrooms. One has to look very carefully to find them for they do not grow everywhere. Usually the presence of one or two leads to the discovery of a patch which can contain as little as 10 or as many as a thousand mushrooms. There are likely places, small valleys for instance or by woodpiles, but mostly it depends on luck. As a Czech friend of mine had aptly put it; The woods give or the woods don't give. Well, the forest had been fairly generous, I thought, till that point but that was before I came across a veritable field of the little darlings. The woods must of liked me, I had to figure, to be so generous.
It's of course an amazing experience to find yourself in a patch of magic mushrooms. You don't realize it right at first because you are concentrating on the few you have just found by your feet. But as you look up you see more and upon further observation, you see that they are growing as far as your eyes can see. It's then like picking gold, literally for remember there is a black market, and you go with mad vigor. In the space of a half hour I'd collected more than a thousand-more than I'd collected in the sum of the 4 earlier outings. I then decided to call my companions so that they could share in what was left of the treasure which was substantial. That night when I got home, and after I had cleaned and spread them on a newspaper, I made a rough count of how many I had gathered. There were more than 1500 all of varying sizes. Needless to say I felt very satisfied and delighted in the knowledge that I could very easily get high whenever I wanted.
My companions too had done well. One of them had collected substantially less than us so we gave him some of ours. Back in Kyjov too, people benefited from nature's gift to me and the effort I expended in opening it, for I passed a number of them out to those who didn't have any. That was the way things were done in Kyjov in those days. Times have now changed but the tradition remains amongst some of us and we never talk of money when we share our drugs.
It was November and that would be the final excursion for the very next day, it snowed. That signaled an end to another mushroom season. I had the same feeling a farmer must have when the harvest is in for the winter and he can sit back in his rocking chair and warm his feet by the fire. I particularly enjoyed the hallucinations I had looking at my glass jar now very full of dried up mushrooms and sitting in full view on my bookcase. The grass I had stashed under the bed for there was simply too much of it at that time. It also gave me a warm and pleasant feeling knowing that I had well over a kilo and a half of top quality, seedless Moravian bud-or gold as I was fond of calling it. I suppose that we were like psychedelic farmers. We had successful years and unsuccessful years but we always planted and we always harvested. Now the scene in Czech is more similar to the scene in North America which is rather unfortunate. Of course not completely unfortunate I must add for I am presently making good money smuggling drugs into the country.
Now I live in Holland where I must, once again, pay for my drugs. Not that I'm complaining for, let's face it, Holland is a drug user's paradise. It is even possible these days to buy magic mushrooms legally in what are called "smart shops." Peyote and other drugs are also available. I can't wait until opium comes on the market. Any other kind of drug is easily obtained in The Netherlands.