A Fungal Education

Over at the excellent Mind Hacks blog, is what appears to be the first recorded account of a psychedelic mushroom experience in Britain, from 1799. A forty year-old father of four, JS, collected wild mushrooms in London’s Green Park and cooked them as a stew for breakfast for himself and his four young children. The apothecary Everard Brande described what happened then:

“Edward, one of the children (eight years old), who had eaten a large proportion of the mushrooms, as they thought them, was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother refrain him. To this succeeded vertigo, and a great deal of stupor, from which he was roused by being called or shaken, but immediately relapsed. […] he sometimes pressed his hands on different parts of his abdomen, as if in pain, but when roused and interrogated as to it, he answered indifferently, yes, or no, as he did to every other question, evidently without any relation to what was asked. About the same time the father, aged forty, was attacked with vertigo, and complained that everything appeared black, then wholly disappeared”

Mind Hacks comments that it’s strange this first recorded instance of a mushroom trip should be so late, considering other cultures made psychedelic plants the centre-piece of their religions many centuries or even millennia earlier. Why did the British forget their magic fungi?