The edge of the forest, the edge of the path, moss and pine needles and many, many mushrooms.
Recently, I stepped into the forest and found it profoundly different somehow. Usually, even when the sun is absolutely blazing, the forest is dim and shaded, haunted-looking.
On this day, it was light and bright, even though it was pouring down rain. And there were other humans about, which is also not usual to my experiences in this forest. I felt disjointed, confused.
Looking around me, I noticed that there was an amazing variety of mushrooms that had popped up, probably over the last few days of rain. My eye was drawn to a particular bunch of dun yellow mushrooms—and I found that many of them went in a straight line towards a large, dark hole in the ground.
I stood stock still as I took this in. I mentioned in my last post that death and transmutation images had been echoing out of the past into my present life and I felt that this scene, of a line of mushrooms leading to a dark hole in the earth, was no different. Such a stark image juxtaposed with the uncommonly cheerful aspect of the wood I was in. It rooted me to the ground for several minutes.
Paul Stamets calls the mycelium carpet from which many mushrooms spring, “nature’s internet”. His book “Mycelium Running” delves into all the ways that mycelium interacts with the soil, the air, the water and the trees it is often connected to. There is also the intriguing possibility of mycelium’s interaction with the consciousness of various species.
I like to call the mycelium carpet “the great neural net of the gods”. Although I have never taken mushrooms (and do not come by my liminal experiences with the help of drugs), I am well aware of their storied use as entheogens throughout history and their frequent appearance in art and folklore persisting even into modern times. Their fascinating forms, the fact that they can be used in “bio-remediation” (basically, the organic cleaning of contaminated soil), their delicious culinary uses, a long history of their use medicinally and the counter-balance that some of them can outright kill a person—what remarkable organisms they are!
As I stepped on the deep pine duff interlaced with hidden mycelium networks, I wondered—did the trees receive the message that I was there via the mushroom network? Did all the mushrooms connected to that particular mycelium carpet “know” that I had stepped in amongst them? Did the genius loci receive that message as well? Mushrooms and mycelium are intimately connected with trees—and the World Tree, especially the Norse Yggdrasil, is one of the great images of the spiritual world. While reading Raven Kaldera’s Yggdrasil page, I noted that there is “some kind of upper world in the top branches of the tree, some kind of ancestral world of the Dead at the roots”. The mycelium network entwines with the roots of the trees it is symbiotic with—which made me ponder mushrooms as denizens both of the living world and the Land of the Dead.
I followed the line of mushrooms to the dark hole in the ground and paid my respects to the shadow world. Then I stepped back into the light.