Psychedelic Lichen

by Erix!Psychedelic compounds can be found throughout a range of different groups of flora. With this thought in mind it is surprising to think that so few of these plants are actually discussed or experienced within drug circles in the Western World. It doesn’t stop at plants either, what with certain fungi and animals also producing mind bending chemicals. For instance, one quick dabble with the process known as  ‘doing Kermit’ can convert huge chunks of one’s time and energy  into ‘toadishness’. Having said this, plants and fungi are the foremost natural industries within this particular biochemical venture, and it is upon these types of organism that I will focus here.

It is generally considered that plants and fungi have two evolutionary strategies to choose from; either give a benefit to those that try to eat you, or instead, try to fend them off with spikes, stings or latent toxins within their cells that poison aggressors internally. The pleasant eating strategy allies itself most notably to the agricultural development of humans. ‘Taste nice and prosper’ is the maxim here, and certain species have conquered the world in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without humans facilitating the action. Zea mays (Maize), Solanum tubersum (Potato) and Malus domestica (Apple) being the most notable achievers. The second evolutionary tragedy of ‘don’t touch me or I will defend myself and hurt you in the process’, is less agreeable than the previous one discussed, but still it is a very profitable. Just look at the way Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken) poisons the soil as it grows, dominating vast patches of Great British wood and scrubland as it endures. More pertinently, just think of the way numerous plants in the UK try to fend you off with barbs and resistive incisions.

Now, it is my thought that the psychoactive plants and fungi fall into a third, undisclosed, category that borrows from both of the two groups previously mentioned. This thought can be mirrored in the polarisation of public perceptions of opium.  On the one hand there are opinions that state that psychoactives are inherently dangerous  and are to be controlled and avoided (don’t touch me or I will poison you), or conversely the increasingly more logical opinion that, if used in the correct manner, psychoactives can aid people in numerous ways. So, in short, substances, from chocolate to opium, contain compounds that may have started off, in evolutionary terms, as defensive in nature. It takes the evolution of a primate (in this case ourselves) capable of understanding and enjoying allegories to come along and shift the boundaries of what constitutes a poisoning and what constitutes a beneficial expedition.

The subject of psychoactive fungi is most commonly centred on Amanita and Psilocybe varieties. Both utilise different biochemistry to produce their own particular psychoactive compounds, and have been analysed scientifically and socially in volumes of literature. Yet there are numerous other species of fungi that contain psychoactive compounds. One of the most intriguing of the ‘apocryphal’ species is  part of a symbiotic lichen called Parmotrema menyamyaense or ‘Rock Blooms’, as they are found growing on rocks in the Arctic. Lichen are a symbiotic relationship between a fungi and another, autotrophic (‘self-feeder’), organism – usually a cyanobacetria or an algae.  A trip report from a difficult to obtain article ‘’Stoned on Stones’’ on the Vice blog makes for an interesting subjective report. It is, however, one of the only examples of journalism reflecting the existence of this new known psychoactive:

“It was the most intense hallucinogenic experience that I’ve ever had, and I’ve done every trip there is,” says Icelandic writer Smari Einarsson. “DMT, peyote… you name it. We have these magic mushrooms here that grow wild. I’ve eaten those more times than I can count. They cannot even come close to the effect of these rocks.” Volcanic rocks, which cover the Icelandic landscape, have been getting local kids high for five years now, ever since a local artist did a performance piece called Rock Soup. Jon Sigmundson’s art piece was meant to make a commentary on Icelanders’ high standard of living, which he believes relies on taking for granted third-world suffering. He made Rock Soup, he said in a written statement, to “try and live on nothing.” The serendipitous discovery he made is that these rocks get you fuggin’ wasted.

It is actually the lichen that lives on the rocks that gets you off. You take a few stones, boil them in a pot of water, strain it all through a colander, and drink it down like tea. Some people add ginger and honey, but it supposedly has a nice taste undiluted. It’s very earthy. People, who have ‘taken stones’, as it’s called, share strikingly similar stories. “Trolls,” says a young Icelandic girl who was interviewed at the local Reykjavik bar Sirkus. “Every time we do stones, we see the same group of trolls. They are no unkind, but they aren’t overly friendly either,” she says. “Mostly what they do is advise you. You always come away from a stones trip with a question that you had on your mind answered. You also have the most vivid colours ever. It’s like living in Fantasia!”

Alex Shulgin also references to psychoactive lichen, in PiKAL (1991), as a source of synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Shulgin, however, is talking about a different species of lichen to the one referenced in Stoned on Stones. Shulgin, in this case, is referring to lichen known as Evernia prunastri. The different psychoactive effects of Parmotrema menyamyaense and Evernia prunastri would be detectable upon reflection after reading both the quoted trip report above and Shulgin’s reference to THC within PiKAL. THC is not generally known for giving experiences deeper than DMT or peyote, so a misalignment must be present here between the biochemistry of the two species.

There is also a reference to an ‘unidentified lichen’ located around the south-western US in a book called By the Prophet of the Earth: Ethnobotany of the Pima by L.S.M Curtin (1984), however, that location is a sizable distance away from the Arctic Circle. This means that the lichen mentioned by Curtin is more likely to be the lichen Shulgin alludes to in PiHKAL, over the one referenced in the Stoned on Stones article. It will be interesting to find out exactly how many psychoactive lichen species there are out there, clinging to barren rocks in exposed territories. It does prove one point however; that the more you look at psychoactive compounds the more nature provides a new avenue for investigation. It is humbling to be taught more about the frontiers of one’s ignorance via symbiotic lichen.

These two following verses from William Wordsworth poem Leech–Gatherer (1802) serves as an useful allegory here, in respect to the intriguing details around a concept akin to psychedelic lichen found growing on Arctic rocks:

Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befell that, in this lonely place,
When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
Beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven
I saw a Man before me unawares:
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.

As a huge Stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a Sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself.

The environment of windswept desolation encapsulates the wise old lichen clinging to a rock. If prepared correctly, for consumption, such lichen tea can allow for ‘the eye of heaven’ to be seen through. Yet the rock itself seems to betray the hallucination as it ‘is sometimes seen to lie’. As the effects take hold we are given the chance to ‘wonder’ at the mind bending qualities that produce feelings and predicaments which are so palpable to our senses, ‘‘So that it seems a thing endued with sense: Like a Sea-beast crawled forth…’’ is upon us.

The existence of a psychoactive compound within Parmoteema menyamyaense, and numerous other lichen species, is another example of how certain chemicals can have emergent or secondary effects if prepared correctly. Such levels of complexity only hint at the vastness of the threads with which nature weaves its tapestry. If the report is to be given some credit then there is a deeply profound psychedelic study waiting to be undertaken in the northern hemisphere, which can only provide us with more information on the subject of psychoactives as a whole.

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30 Responses

  1. Interesting……..
    Funny thing is, the Inuit people are connected to this item: as I understand it, they are about the only indigenous people who do NOT have access to entheogens, or so we are led to believe………
    So, there would perhaps then indeed be plants which the Inuit could have used to enable communion with the divine?
    I had been kind of expecting this, or, indeed, the news that there are sea species which contain entheogens, which could have similarly be used?
    So, perhaps, now we will be able to say one day that every single grouping on the planet seeks altered states of consciousness………………………. much to the politicians dismay: fuck ‘em, they are both redundant and irrelevant.

  2. Jim says:

    These lichens do have a long history of use in shamanic circles.Its the west that is a bit slow on the uptake.

    • Ha, could not agree more on the “west is a bit slow,,,,,” remark Jim, lol.
      A truly fascinating subject: it just strikes me, time and time again, just how morality destroys any meaningful discussion in the West regarding drugs, drug use, and the concept of entheogens.
      The wish to experience altered states of consciousness is NORMAL, always has been and always will be, and if this was accepted, perhaps then the states suppot for alcohol as the only legal substance to enable altered states would be, er, questioned……………….. which of course it is not, which I believe is one of the reasons for so little progress since the insanity of prohibition came to focus upon “drugs”.

  3. BPA says:

    “A trip report from … the Vice blog … is … journalism reflecting the existence of this new known psychoactive: ‘It was the most intense hallucinogenic experience that I’ve ever had …’

    This seems a pretty gullible perspective. The story may be ostensibly about a ‘new known psychoactive.’ But such a ‘trip report’ resembles a sensational anecdote sounding a note of excitement to a certain wide-eyed audience, that wouldn’t know one lichen from another if it bit them in the patootie.

    A rigorously uncritical standard of rumor, posed as information, and its eager dissemination in the underground psychedelic press – is the only thing the feature in Vice, is ‘reflecting the existence of.’ Its uncritical presentation here as if somehow substantiated, likewise reflects. There’s a long history of this stuff, resonating throughout the psychedelic broadcast system. There are so many examples, enough to choke a horse. Nor is the mortality theme inappropriate.

    In 1980′s, for example, it was HIGH TIMES blaring about ‘Florida’s New Super Shrooms.’ A Lepiota hitherto unknown to science, with novel compounds not yet characterized – as coverage avowed. The sprinkling of factoids and pseudoscientific literary style, very comparable. This type sensationalism is merely customary and usual in counterculture ‘news and information.’ It was no surprise when it turned out the ‘new super shrooms’ excitedly announced by HIGH TIMES (cover story, Nov 1983 ish) were actually a non-psychoactive species, known to specialists (if not mushroom hippies) since the 1940′s. Neither new, nor super – although, it was a mushroom so that much was accurately. Fortunately, a harmless non-toxic type, considering the reckless encouragement irresponsibly given to highly uninformed, defiantly carefree readers – to go out and see if they can find it, get stoned.

    Alas, some look-alike species might not be so non-toxic. And sure enough, a fatal poisoning from a wild mushroom in 1988 involved just such a species. It was a dead ringer for the mushroom fallaciously reported by HIGH TIMES, as with the lichen in this feature, for some ‘new known psychoactive.’ Based on a flimsy claim in some ‘trip report.’

    Tuning in to psychedelia’s circus tent show carnival barking – PT Barnum -type flimflam proves the rule, not the exception Its merely a well-established subcultural pattern, that almost any kind of pseudo-mycological/botanical nonsense, wrapped in species talk and etc – is touted and welcome, cheered and believed wholesale. Its just the ‘customary and usual’ complete with window-dressing – ‘trip reports’ equated with data, positioned like words of knowledge, as if to inform. The lack of reasonable doubt, intelligently informed question and skepticism at the likely truth behind these ‘facts’ – evokes the phrase ‘hook, line and sinker …’

    But don’t let me cast doubt on that ‘trip report,’ as an article of faith I wouldn’t want to question anything. I’m biased, from having a phd in plant / fungal biology, and having directly investigated and found some sobering realities involved in this kind of snake oil ‘infomercial’ …. or lichen oil.

    I submit, the existence of flimflam and bs, not some new known psychoactive – is the only thing reflected in evidence here. Kind of ridiculous.

  4. BPA says:

    “A trip report from … the Vice blog … is … journalism reflecting the existence of this new known psychoactive: ‘It was the most intense hallucinogenic experience that I’ve ever had …’

    This seems a pretty gullible perspective. The story may be ostensibly about a ‘new known psychoactive.’ But such a ‘trip report’ resembles a sensational anecdote sounding a note of excitement to a certain wide-eyed audience, that wouldn’t know one lichen from another if it bit them in the patootie.

    A rigorously uncritical standard of rumor, posed as information, and its eager dissemination in the underground psychedelic press – is the only thing the feature in Vice, is ‘reflecting the existence of.’ Its uncritical presentation here as if somehow substantiated, likewise reflects. There’s a long history of this stuff, resonating throughout the psychedelic broadcast system. There are so many examples, enough to choke a horse. Nor is the mortality theme inappropriate.

    In 1980′s, for example, it was HIGH TIMES blaring about ‘Florida’s New Super Shrooms.’ A Lepiota hitherto unknown to science, with novel compounds not yet characterized – as coverage avowed. The sprinkling of factoids and pseudoscientific literary style, very comparable. This type sensationalism is merely customary and usual in counterculture ‘news and information.’ It was no surprise when it turned out the ‘new super shrooms’ excitedly announced by HIGH TIMES (cover story, Nov 1983 ish) were actually a non-psychoactive species, known to specialists (if not mushroom hippies) since the 1940′s. Neither new, nor super – although, it was a mushroom so that much was accurately. Fortunately, a harmless non-toxic type, considering the reckless encouragement irresponsibly given to highly uninformed, defiantly carefree readers – to go out and see if they can find it, get stoned.

    Alas, some look-alike species might not be so non-toxic. And sure enough, a fatal poisoning from a wild mushroom in 1988 involved just such a species. It was a dead ringer for the mushroom fallaciously reported by HIGH TIMES, as with the lichen in this feature, for some ‘new known psychoactive.’ Based on a flimsy claim in some ‘trip report.’

    Tuning in to psychedelia’s circus tent show carnival barking – PT Barnum -type flimflam proves the rule, not the exception Its merely a well-established subcultural pattern, that almost any kind of pseudo-mycological/botanical nonsense, wrapped in species talk and etc – is touted and welcome, cheered and believed wholesale. Its just the ‘customary and usual’ complete with window-dressing – ‘trip reports’ equated with data, positioned like words of knowledge, as if to inform. The lack of reasonable doubt, intelligently informed question and skepticism at the likely truth behind these ‘facts’ – evokes the phrase ‘hook, line and sinker …’

    But don’t let me cast doubt on that ‘trip report,’ as an article of faith I wouldn’t want to question anything. I’m biased, from having a phd in plant / fungal biology, and having directly investigated and found some sobering realities involved in this kind of snake oil ‘infomercial’ …. or lichen oil.

    I submit, the existence of flimflam and bs, not some new known psychoactive – is the only thing reflected in evidence here. Kind of ridiculous.

  5. @BPA

    It was a piece of journalism, and as any links in regards to ‘psy lichen’ are sparse & at best via word of mouth (yet definitely out there, if one wishes to find out more, as i have read several other books, since writing this piece, that reference a ‘psy lichen’ amongst their pages), I think the piece serves a purpose of providing something interesting to think about. In no way was it supposed to be an objective piece of scientific writing, and if you went into reading it with that idea in mind then i can only apologise to you for somehow misleading you.

    • BPA says:

      Thanks Jim, and please, no need to apologize – nothin’ personal. No more than 1983 HIGH TIMES editors.

      All I’m addressing is a general issue of responsibility. Underskilled, over-eager beavers can do some pretty stupid things in their quest for ever-new highs, and without meaning to be stupid per se. Likewise for editors and authors of such stories with no soundly informed content – an absence of better intention, not presence of bad per se, is all it takes. Some of the worst harm inflicted by our species has originated merely from carelessness, lack of reflection.

      These stories, and the penchant for appealing to uncritical, uninformed sensibilities too easily enticed into doing stupid things – abound in psychedelia. If snake oil were merely harmless and ineffective, a fool and his money soon parted – concern would be minimal. But some things are toxic, and do active harm beyond mere rip off or time waste. And the fact exhibitors don’t mean for anyone to be hurt, only to cash in (or whatever) – sell magazines, for example – doesn’t alter the fact of culpable irresponsibility. I’m sure the HIGH TIMES editors didn’t know about species like Lepiota subincarnata, when they sounded the gospel about a ‘new psychoactive’ out there. That they didn’t explicitly suggest their naive readers go out and try to find it, get high on it, is no mitigating factor. Even a disclaimer (“please don’t try this at home”) wouldn’t justify it – if they’d printed one.

      I don’t know what the heck someone’s doing with rocks in Iceland. Nor does this report, as a ‘told story,’ change that. Indeed, it sounds pretty dubious. There’s no verifiable basis to such tantalizing word as reported here, but the idea that some tripped story as told “no really, its true” isn’t data. The confusion there is just part of a social pattern, that unsubstantiated anecdotes are somehow equivalent to, or a substitute for observations or evidence such as would hold up to cross exam.

      If I’m wrong, if there really is some such lichen up there as described – fine. But there’s nothing to suggest its true. And on the other hand, this type ‘factually premature’ story has a long and sordid history in the psychedelic broadcast system – with consequences up to and including injury and serious death.

      Stories like this have all the familiar earmarks of psychedelia’s tabloid exploitation format. As usual, the question this one raises, contrary to appearances – isn’t about a lichen. Its about journalistic purpose. Not the letter but the spirit. Exploitation’s intent is to excite and sensationalize with no regard to considerations from mere journalistic accuracy, integrity of info factual truth – to possible consequences – is one interest. On one hand, such crass purposes don’t reflect on any other considerations that might impinge. On the other, they forcibly exclude, resist and deny, with oppositional determination, any such notion. Its about washing hands, holding itself blameless for how any ‘stupid tripper out there’ takes it, as cue to do whatever, life and limb or no. The more of this goes on, the more it just becomes run-of-the-mill, customary and usual. It proliferates. And there are so many examples.

      How about this ‘fly agaric elixir’ recipe being sold (recent/current years) – inviting people to make at home. And drink – no idea what the hell it is they’re imbibing, on a misinformed story of what it is and what it contains. There seems to be no conviction as certain as that of sheer ignorance. Human intelligence and conscientious clue apparently have limits. But human stupidity and cupidity – boundless, it seems.

      There are good purposes in presenting responsible perspectives about this type stuff, in sensibly informed perspective. Let us not exchange apologies for imagined offenses, please. Let us encourage each other, and all to a more street-smart, less unwary attitude that knows better, not worse — a sadder but wiser, not more excitably misinformed perspective, on clear understanding of the issues that can’t be dismissed or trivialized. Such as life and limb. Here in USA, our first fatalities from hunting wild magic didn’t require misinfo or hoaxes. All it took was word there were magic mushrooms out there. Lack of adequate skill telling one species from another – even with reliable myco info – was all it took to incur the first death I know about (a lady from Spokane, early 1970′s). Add misinfo, tall tales etc, to the mix … and issues get worse.

      If there’s anything I can ever say, to encourage you and others in your reach, to take a more sensibly aware approach to the reality of these type stories, and the tradition of passing them around as if ‘words of knowledge’ that might prompt excitement, etc – please let me know. As I’ve learned looking into the ‘scene’ and all its facets, there is a great deal not realized by folks who often feel they’re in the know, and whose interest may greatly exceed their understanding, informed as is, for better or worse. No bad wishes, please, only notes of interest and better prospects.

      • Scott says:

        Oh look, it’s the information police saying “You shouldn’t know things because you don’t know enough about the risks…” FUCK YOU.

        If some teenager scrapes gunk of a rock, eats it or smokes it and dies because he saw an article in High Times saying it could get him high, it’s Darwinism at work. Everyone should know not to ingest an unknown substance until it’s been researched thoroughly. Everything we know if fatally poisonous, is only known because at least 1 person died. If you don’t want to be that person, wait for scientific literature of bioassays in animals & humans. Your argument is invalid.

  6. @BPA. I do appreciate what you are saying in regards to people dabbling with toxic flora. However, as i said in my post and article, there are strong links to say that are some mind expanding lichen out there. Even if they are in the same category as, for example, Datura they would be still worthy of scientific scrutiny. Alex Shulgin has mentioned it, amongst other well regarded writers, and there is a history of shamanistic usage of the particular species of lichen. My piece doesn’t in anyway urged people to go out and hunt down the lichen in question, as all it gives in the form of information is a possible species name & which hemisphere it could be found in (if it exists). I will also concede, as you said, that the Vice article could be phony. But the article was merely a springboard for me to allow some throat clearing on the subject. In regards to me giving a disclaimer to people in case they decide to grab the nearest bit of gravel and start licking it; i have slightly more respect for the readers of psypress than this, personally. I don’t feel that patronising them in this way would do anything positive to the article. Obviously I dont want people to take huge risks in this respect, but then again I also dont feel as if im in any place to tell them not to be so stupid. Its one of those unwritten rules I suppose, yet there must be an element of danger in life to give it a certain edge, if you know what I mean? All in all, i appreciate your passion on the subject, but I feel that your worries would be better aimed at a different target maybe? But good lord no, absolutely no hard feelings on the matter. I’m actually quite touched that my article caused such a stirring in you. It is, after all, why I write them.

    • BPA says:

      Well, thanks. I’m not sure what to tell you about all that. Doesn’t seem responsive to what I brought up. You may not have read too closely or carefully, seems to me. That’s okay, you’re not obligated. And I certainly should say thank you for permitting expression of a voice of critical question (mine in this case).

      Specific to the lichen biz, ostensible subject – from somewhat informed background: there seems to be no significant evidence whatsoever – especially botanical and/or anthropological (Shulgin, please correct me, is a chemistry/pharmacology specialist, not …) – for some psychedelic lichen species. Same applies for claims about shamans tripping on supposedly psychedelic lichens. A two-word soundbite to imply or suggest otherwise: ‘strong links’ – doesn’t alter that. If words had such power, situation’d be otherwise. What a world it would be, if phraseology determined factual truth, over-ruling evidence.

      I do however find abundant, evidence aplenty, for a literary tradition of stories in various news and broadcast media, based on tantalizing misinfo – and a corresponding reader appetite, for sensation. Its not limited to the psychedelic networks, but it does take distinct forms therein. And it has racked up quite a history of fanfare and flimflam. With consequences up to and including – but not limited to – life and limb.

      On the whole I gather my post, and the less tantalized sadder-but-wiser (somewhat well informed, btw) perspective I present just isn’t very welcome. That you’re touched, or appreciate it – nice things to say. Alas I don’t feel such in your reply – doesn’t come across that way.

      For example: to suggest a reply (mine for example) to any piece (e.g., this one) should be posted somewhere-anywhere else, than to the piece itself, in reply column as provided for. … doesn’t make good sense, or suggest appreciation in any meaningful sense. Again, that’s okay, if that’s your piece – nobody can say it for you, and you have only your own pov to express, like any of us.

      Maybe I’m wrong to comment. Maybe you’re right. Perhaps there are no considerations of journalistic veracity, integrity or responsibility for information presented as such. Maybe journalism has no such function or obligation – especially to readers. Maybe its just all about a good story – not letting facts get in the way? PT Barnum said “Give the public what it wants.” I’m sure HIGH TIMES editors would say much as you’re telling me, in reply. Along lines you present, maybe it was merely ‘respectful’ of them to their readers’ intelligence and critical faculties, to let the buyer beware on their own. Goods need not be fit for sale, and ‘words of knowledge’ need not be true or accurate – caveat emptor. If that’s the standard you espouse (or psypress uk in general?), ok.

      My only point is – if there’s ever, in any millenium or future horizon – anything you can think of, that I might say to you, that’d encourage you to at least reflect a little deeper, on considerations of which one can be quite unaware (certain factual information, not necessarily well known, or even in possession) – or which one may simply prefer not to acknowledge, due to problematic status as ‘inconvenient truth’ – I hope you will kindly advise and let me know. Thank you for allowing me to at least offer that, merely as a request, strictly on invite, with you.

      • I get your point BPA, as tautologous as you have made it. My point about posting elsewhere was thus: i dont get how you managed to flare your nostrils over my piece so much? Hence why you insist on referencing High Times to make your comments ring true. So, in effect, what i was saying was maybe its High Times you should be picketing, and not me? I wish not to make my points again (which did relate to the article in question, ie the one on this page, and not some latent piece in High Times which i haven’t & care not to read), so i can only refer you back to my article and shrug my shoulders at you.

      • PsypressUK says:

        This is an example of information dissemination, eh? Once something is proposed it is up to people with PhDs in Biology to go and find out the truth – surely? Go and do the testing before attacking the validity – and certainly go and do the testing before starting a debate about the difference between scientific writing, journalistic writing, and popular writing – unless perhaps there’s a PhD in critical writing being debated as well? Moreover – and I would not have bothered commenting at all on this bizarre tract were it not for the PsypressUK comment – PsypressUK aims at producing interesting information for people to go and research… you say ‘words of knowledge’ as if you can give them some standard or ‘truth’ that can measured against the written word – as if there is some predetermined epistemological theory that validates or otherwise… is there one? Or has there been a several thousand year debate that has never been satisfactorily concluded. Perhaps you would answer with the phrase scientific truth? Then do some testing and publish your results – we’d be glad to publish it here. Do we have to protect people who can experiment by not talking about it as you seem to suggest? The War on Drugs currently does that – it is part of the mainstream discourse, not the counterculture one.

        Moreover, these are blogs… not books… you seem to be expecting a journalistic piece to give the same depth of information, and this is a failure in understanding genres and audiences.

        T&A

        Rob

  7. @BPA. I do appreciate what you are saying in regards to people dabbling with toxic flora. However, as i said in my post and article, there are strong links to say that are some mind expanding lichen out there. Even if they are in the same category as, for example, Datura they would be still worthy of scientific scrutiny. Alex Shulgin has mentioned it, amongst other well regarded writers, and there is a history of shamanistic usage of the particular species of lichen. My piece doesn’t in anyway urged people to go out and hunt down the lichen in question, as all it gives in the form of information is a possible species name & which hemisphere it could be found in (if it exists). I will also concede, as you said, that the Vice article could be phony. But the article was merely a springboard for me to allow some throat clearing on the subject. In regards to me giving a disclaimer to people in case they decide to grab the nearest bit of gravel and start licking it; i have slightly more respect for the readers of psypress than this, personally. I don’t feel that patronising them in this way would do anything positive to the article. Obviously I dont want people to take huge risks in this respect, but then again I also dont feel as if im in any place to tell them not to be so stupid. Its one of those unwritten rules I suppose, yet there must be an element of danger in life to give it a certain edge, if you know what I mean? All in all, i appreciate your passion on the subject, but I feel that your worries would be better aimed at a different target maybe? But good lord no, absolutely no hard feelings on the matter. I’m actually quite touched that my article caused such a stirring in you. It is, after all, why I write them.

    • BPA says:

      Well, thanks. I’m not sure what to tell you about all that. Doesn’t seem responsive to what I brought up. You may not have read too closely or carefully, seems to me. That’s okay, you’re not obligated. And I certainly should say thank you for permitting expression of a voice of critical question (mine in this case).

      Specific to the lichen biz, ostensible subject – from somewhat informed background: there seems to be no significant evidence whatsoever – especially botanical and/or anthropological (Shulgin, please correct me, is a chemistry/pharmacology specialist, not …) – for some psychedelic lichen species. Same applies for claims about shamans tripping on supposedly psychedelic lichens. A two-word soundbite to imply or suggest otherwise: ‘strong links’ – doesn’t alter that. If words had such power, situation’d be otherwise. What a world it would be, if phraseology determined factual truth, over-ruling evidence.

      I do however find abundant, evidence aplenty, for a literary tradition of stories in various news and broadcast media, based on tantalizing misinfo – and a corresponding reader appetite, for sensation. Its not limited to the psychedelic networks, but it does take distinct forms therein. And it has racked up quite a history of fanfare and flimflam. With consequences up to and including – but not limited to – life and limb.

      On the whole I gather my post, and the less tantalized sadder-but-wiser (somewhat well informed, btw) perspective I present just isn’t very welcome. That you’re touched, or appreciate it – nice things to say. Alas I don’t feel such in your reply – doesn’t come across that way.

      For example: to suggest a reply (mine for example) to any piece (e.g., this one) should be posted somewhere-anywhere else, than to the piece itself, in reply column as provided for. … doesn’t make good sense, or suggest appreciation in any meaningful sense. Again, that’s okay, if that’s your piece – nobody can say it for you, and you have only your own pov to express, like any of us.

      Maybe I’m wrong to comment. Maybe you’re right. Perhaps there are no considerations of journalistic veracity, integrity or responsibility for information presented as such. Maybe journalism has no such function or obligation – especially to readers. Maybe its just all about a good story – not letting facts get in the way? PT Barnum said “Give the public what it wants.” I’m sure HIGH TIMES editors would say much as you’re telling me, in reply. Along lines you present, maybe it was merely ‘respectful’ of them to their readers’ intelligence and critical faculties, to let the buyer beware on their own. Goods need not be fit for sale, and ‘words of knowledge’ need not be true or accurate – caveat emptor. If that’s the standard you espouse (or psypress uk in general?), ok.

      My only point is – if there’s ever, in any millenium or future horizon – anything you can think of, that I might say to you, that’d encourage you to at least reflect a little deeper, on considerations of which one can be quite unaware (certain factual information, not necessarily well known, or even in possession) – or which one may simply prefer not to acknowledge, due to problematic status as ‘inconvenient truth’ – I hope you will kindly advise and let me know. Thank you for allowing me to at least offer that, merely as a request, strictly on invite, with you.

      • PsypressUK says:

        This is an example of information dissemination, eh? Once something is proposed it is up to people with PhDs in Biology to go and find out the truth – surely? Go and do the testing before attacking the validity – and certainly go and do the testing before starting a debate about the difference between scientific writing, journalistic writing, and popular writing – unless perhaps there’s a PhD in critical writing being debated as well? Moreover – and I would not have bothered commenting at all on this bizarre tract were it not for the PsypressUK comment – PsypressUK aims at producing interesting information for people to go and research… you say ‘words of knowledge’ as if you can give them some standard or ‘truth’ that can measured against the written word – as if there is some predetermined epistemological theory that validates or otherwise… is there one? Or has there been a several thousand year debate that has never been satisfactorily concluded. Perhaps you would answer with the phrase scientific truth? Then do some testing and publish your results – we’d be glad to publish it here. Do we have to protect people who can experiment by not talking about it as you seem to suggest? The War on Drugs currently does that – it is part of the mainstream discourse, not the counterculture one.

        Moreover, these are blogs… not books… you seem to be expecting a journalistic piece to give the same depth of information, and this is a failure in understanding genres and audiences.

        T&A

        Rob

  8. BPA says:

    Sorry you feel that way. I’m sure its easier, and more rule than exception, to feel defensive in a brush with the truth and reality of issues.

    Objection to factual info, denial of reality – unless it serves partisan interest or appeals to taste – is merely convention, established practice and policy in tripperdom. Observers have witnessed psychedelia devolve more and more, recent decades, into a hardening, narrowing oppositional subculture – defiantly carefree and self-justifying – doggedly determined in its lack of boundaries.

    From mere factual info about lichens (and more), to ethical issues of exploitainment, propaganda, etc – the popular psychedelic press has come to embrace a concertedly uncritical standard of ‘research’ and ‘infaux.’ The lichen motif here is more symptom than cause; one tiny lesion among many. Its not the basic underlying problem, merely another example.

    And not to repeat anything. I feel we’ve voiced our concerns. The one and only plausible credit I find to psypressuk here is that it has even posted my reply – allowing readers, rather than ‘sparing’ or ‘protecting’ them from my words – considering how upsetting (as I gather). True, I can’t say much, or extend any awards, for substance and form of objections by the author(s). But the apparent refrain from censorship – OKA ‘moderation’ (in website euphemese) – does no dishonor. Perhaps one small flag planted. Just as often, I’ve found ‘message control’ overrules freedom of expression in the ‘lively discourse’ of psychedelic ‘infaux’ dissemination. That you didn’t stoop to that is, I suggest, no discredit at least.

    I’m glad we’ve had this talk. Thank you again for even allowing a broadly informed, and unenthralled voice to address this piece of journalism, or blog, or whatever. The objection to more informed and less sensational word about this ‘lichen’ thing etc – without sound principle (as I can only conclude) – may not be responsive, in my view. But it is noted, at least. Please know however, I truly find no purpose or greater potential in power struggling with defensive reactions (as I read here). I might suggest we be satisfied with our own perspectives.

  9. BPA says:

    Sorry you feel that way. I’m sure its easier, and more rule than exception, to feel defensive in a brush with the truth and reality of issues.

    Objection to factual info, denial of reality – unless it serves partisan interest or appeals to taste – is merely convention, established practice and policy in tripperdom. Observers have witnessed psychedelia devolve more and more, recent decades, into a hardening, narrowing oppositional subculture – defiantly carefree and self-justifying – doggedly determined in its lack of boundaries.

    From mere factual info about lichens (and more), to ethical issues of exploitainment, propaganda, etc – the popular psychedelic press has come to embrace a concertedly uncritical standard of ‘research’ and ‘infaux.’ The lichen motif here is more symptom than cause; one tiny lesion among many. Its not the basic underlying problem, merely another example.

    And not to repeat anything. I feel we’ve voiced our concerns. The one and only plausible credit I find to psypressuk here is that it has even posted my reply – allowing readers, rather than ‘sparing’ or ‘protecting’ them from my words – considering how upsetting (as I gather). True, I can’t say much, or extend any awards, for substance and form of objections by the author(s). But the apparent refrain from censorship – OKA ‘moderation’ (in website euphemese) – does no dishonor. Perhaps one small flag planted. Just as often, I’ve found ‘message control’ overrules freedom of expression in the ‘lively discourse’ of psychedelic ‘infaux’ dissemination. That you didn’t stoop to that is, I suggest, no discredit at least.

    I’m glad we’ve had this talk. Thank you again for even allowing a broadly informed, and unenthralled voice to address this piece of journalism, or blog, or whatever. The objection to more informed and less sensational word about this ‘lichen’ thing etc – without sound principle (as I can only conclude) – may not be responsive, in my view. But it is noted, at least. Please know however, I truly find no purpose or greater potential in power struggling with defensive reactions (as I read here). I might suggest we be satisfied with our own perspectives.

    • PsypressUK says:

      “reality of issues”? Hehehe – like addressing points, or avoiding them for the purpose of rhetoric? I suppose that’s bad journalism though, eh? Thanks for you input – I’m always glad to let people read comments.

      Rob

  10. This article is very interesting! it’s funny because before finding this i had just finished reading a post about this subject with a list of psycoactive lichen :)
    (if you want to see the list, with pictures!, go here -> http://entropyverse.blogspot.pt/2014/04/list-of-psychoactive-lichen.html)

  11. This article is very interesting! it’s funny because before finding this i had just finished reading a post about this subject with a list of psycoactive lichen :)
    (if you want to see the list, with pictures!, go here -> http://entropyverse.blogspot.pt/2014/04/list-of-psychoactive-lichen.html)

  12. BPA says:

    Thanks Jim, and please, no need to apologize – nothin’ personal. No more than 1983 HIGH TIMES editors.

    All I’m addressing is a general issue of responsibility. Underskilled, over-eager beavers can do some pretty stupid things in their quest for ever-new highs, and without meaning to be stupid per se. Likewise for editors and authors of such stories with no soundly informed content – an absence of better intention, not presence of bad per se, is all it takes. Some of the worst harm inflicted by our species has originated merely from carelessness, lack of reflection.

    These stories, and the penchant for appealing to uncritical, uninformed sensibilities too easily enticed into doing stupid things – abound in psychedelia. If snake oil were merely harmless and ineffective, a fool and his money soon parted – concern would be minimal. But some things are toxic, and do active harm beyond mere rip off or time waste. And the fact exhibitors don’t mean for anyone to be hurt, only to cash in (or whatever) – sell magazines, for example – doesn’t alter the fact of culpable irresponsibility. I’m sure the HIGH TIMES editors didn’t know about species like Lepiota subincarnata, when they sounded the gospel about a ‘new psychoactive’ out there. That they didn’t explicitly suggest their naive readers go out and try to find it, get high on it, is no mitigating factor. Even a disclaimer (“please don’t try this at home”) wouldn’t justify it – if they’d printed one.

    I don’t know what the heck someone’s doing with rocks in Iceland. Nor does this report, as a ‘told story,’ change that. Indeed, it sounds pretty dubious. There’s no verifiable basis to such tantalizing word as reported here, but the idea that some tripped story as told “no really, its true” isn’t data. The confusion there is just part of a social pattern, that unsubstantiated anecdotes are somehow equivalent to, or a substitute for observations or evidence such as would hold up to cross exam.

    If I’m wrong, if there really is some such lichen up there as described – fine. But there’s nothing to suggest its true. And on the other hand, this type ‘factually premature’ story has a long and sordid history in the psychedelic broadcast system – with consequences up to and including injury and serious death.

    Stories like this have all the familiar earmarks of psychedelia’s tabloid exploitation format. As usual, the question this one raises, contrary to appearances – isn’t about a lichen. Its about journalistic purpose. Not the letter but the spirit. Exploitation’s intent is to excite and sensationalize with no regard to considerations from mere journalistic accuracy, integrity of info factual truth – to possible consequences – is one interest. On one hand, such crass purposes don’t reflect on any other considerations that might impinge. On the other, they forcibly exclude, resist and deny, with oppositional determination, any such notion. Its about washing hands, holding itself blameless for how any ‘stupid tripper out there’ takes it, as cue to do whatever, life and limb or no. The more of this goes on, the more it just becomes run-of-the-mill, customary and usual. It proliferates. And there are so many examples.

    How about this ‘fly agaric elixir’ recipe being sold (recent/current years) – inviting people to make at home. And drink – no idea what the hell it is they’re imbibing, on a misinformed story of what it is and what it contains. There seems to be no conviction as certain as that of sheer ignorance. Human intelligence and conscientious clue apparently have limits. But human stupidity and cupidity – boundless, it seems.

    There are good purposes in presenting responsible perspectives about this type stuff, in sensibly informed perspective. Let us not exchange apologies for imagined offenses, please. Let us encourage each other, and all to a more street-smart, less unwary attitude that knows better, not worse — a sadder but wiser, not more excitably misinformed perspective, on clear understanding of the issues that can’t be dismissed or trivialized. Such as life and limb. Here in USA, our first fatalities from hunting wild magic didn’t require misinfo or hoaxes. All it took was word there were magic mushrooms out there. Lack of adequate skill telling one species from another – even with reliable myco info – was all it took to incur the first death I know about (a lady from Spokane, early 1970′s). Add misinfo, tall tales etc, to the mix … and issues get worse.

    If there’s anything I can ever say, to encourage you and others in your reach, to take a more sensibly aware approach to the reality of these type stories, and the tradition of passing them around as if ‘words of knowledge’ that might prompt excitement, etc – please let me know. As I’ve learned looking into the ‘scene’ and all its facets, there is a great deal not realized by folks who often feel they’re in the know, and whose interest may greatly exceed their understanding, informed as is, for better or worse. No bad wishes, please, only notes of interest and better prospects.

  13. Scott says:

    Oh look, it’s the information police saying “You shouldn’t know things because you don’t know enough about the risks…” FUCK YOU.

    If some teenager scrapes gunk of a rock, eats it or smokes it and dies because he saw an article in High Times saying it could get him high, it’s Darwinism at work. Everyone should know not to ingest an unknown substance until it’s been researched thoroughly. Everything we know if fatally poisonous, is only known because at least 1 person died. If you don’t want to be that person, wait for scientific literature of bioassays in animals & humans. Your argument is invalid.

  1. December 23, 2012

    [...] [...]

  2. January 4, 2013

    [...] [...]

  3. January 31, 2013

    [...] also included in PiHKAL (1991) and other sources, are references to certain species of lichen, or Rock Blooms, which have been documented to contain hallucinogenic compounds, and so too certain species of [...]

  4. June 6, 2014

    […] and links to further discussions on the subject. Also check out the Jim McAllister’s article Psychedelic Lichen, published by Psychedelic Press UK in […]

  5. June 6, 2014

    […] and links to further discussions on the subject. Also check out the Jim McAllister’s article Psychedelic Lichen, published by Psychedelic Press UK in […]

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