Some 250 fungophiles from all over the country flocked to the Galaxy Theater last week to hear speaker after speaker re-affirm the mounting evidence for the therapeutic value of psychedelic mushrooms and other entheogenic substances – plant-based, animal-derived as well as chemically produced … It was the 30th year of the Telluride Mushroom Festival, and the mountains responded with perhaps the largest fruiting of edible mushrooms in a decade – boletes, chanterelles, hawkswings, sweet corals – the list went on and the tables in Elks Park filled with all manner of unusual, edible and toxic fungi. Fungal pioneer, psychonaut and researcher, Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti gave three different lectures – one on the genus psilocybe, of which he is the nation’s leading expert, one on the many ways mushrooms are providing forest remediation, insect control and oil-spill cleanup opportunities, and a third on medicinal uses of fungi, including the amazing healing of his own mother from advanced stage breast cancer using capsules of healing mushroom blends and his work in funding the tests necessary to add turkey tail mushrooms as an accepted medical adjunct therapy for breast cancer … Gary Lincoff, former president of the North American Mycological Society, author of several authoritative texts on mycology (including his latest, The Complete Mushroom Hunter
, which sold out at the festival), and festival mycologist and keynote speaker, was in rare form. His identification class combined humor with a definitive run-through for new collectors of all aspects of the fungal world, including slides of the most common species of edible and toxic shrooms. His keynote tracked the history of the last 50 years – from the Fifties when mycology was a backroom activity at the biology departments of just a handful of schools in this country to the Sixties when mushrooms became their own kingdom separate from plants and animals to the current era with its flourishing of mushroom research, mushroom medicinals, mushroom psychic exploration, mushroom culinary arts and mushroom remediation work in this country. His third talk was on Magic Mushrooms and he fearlessly advocated – as speakers have been advocating for the last 30 years in Telluride – for the many therapeutic and spiritual benefits that can accrue from the intentional and sacred practice of ingesting entheogenic mushrooms … The forays were phenomenal, with mushroom baskets filling no matter where one went to search for shrooms. The parade was perhaps the best ever, with a wild array of outrageous mushroom costumes, a drum circle in the park that lasted for hours, and a costume contest that saw winners in three categories and even a boobie prize for an inventive and slightly risqué pop-up shroom bra. Manny and Joanne Salzman were given the first annual Founders Award, designed by local mushroom expert John Sir Jesse, in recognition of their founding and sustaining of the festival for over two decades, until the Telluride Institute took on the management of the event … But perhaps the defining event of the festival was Saturday night’s panel discussion on Entheogens as Mind Medicine. Gary Lincoff moderated the group, although his altered state mimickry transformed him from expert talking head to shroom clown and provided a humorous sidebar to the serious nature of the discussion. Both Marie Luna and Michael Logghe spoke eloquently of the deep heart (as well as mind) value of ayuhuasca in building community – both in the past among traditional peoples for the last several thousand years and in the present as a way of uniting people on a spiritual path of self-discovery and social cohesion. Natasha Lewin of High Times
magazine used her hands as wildly gesticulating birds as she told a riveting tale of a thirty-something friend afflicted with cluster headaches, of how this friend exhausted dozens of healing modalities in New York City only to be led to the use of Psilocybe mushrooms – which have healed her from the paralyzing pain and has allowed her to live a normal and happy life, taking small doses of this entheogen whenever the cluster headaches start to appear. And Valerie Mojeiko of MAPS (the Multi-disclipinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) recounted her very bad experience with Ibogaine, another powerful entheogen, and how it was not suited for personal spiritual growth but how its intense effects have proven very useful for shocking alcoholics and drug addicts out of their addiction … For 30 years Telluride’s mushroom event has been one of the few places that discussion of entheogens has continued in America, in spite of several decades of fierce repression and legal sanction. Under cover of a mushroom fest, Dr. Andrew Weil and many others (from Nobel Prize laureates to alternative culture icons) have tried to provide a scientific balance to the irrational drug laws and curtailment of all scientific studies of entheogens. Now, however, the social climate has changed. New studies at John Hopkins, Yale and other American institutions (as well as continuing studies and reports from around the world) are demonstrating that entheogens have an important and beneficial place in society, when used in the appropriate set and setting and with respectful intention. The social climate has changed. And after years of quietly maintaining a platform for the discussion of the real scientific benefits and dangers of entheogens, the Telluride Mushroom Festival is openly advancing our knowledge of this formerly verboten area of human activity and celebrating the value of entheogens in science and art … DVDs of the lectures and presentations from this year’s festival will soon be available through the Telluride Institute’s Shroomfest website, shroomfest.com THE TALKING GOURD Saving Face In e-mail reply to a flaming I found a middle place, of sorts instinctual student still of grandma lily mill’s art of saving face. Behavioral relic of my early remembered animal embrace. She who spoke Japanese read tea leaves & died when I was one comes now to tease the lion out from under & instead of a whip I whisper into the wild air making my case gently across the continents of cyberspace.