2 December 2018
It’s been a good autumn for fly agaric, the white-spotted scarlet mushrooms found in all the best children’s stories and birch woods. (Why don’t we call them toadstools anymore?) Older field guides say they’re poisonous but actually they just contain hallucinogenic chemicals (muscimol and ibotenic acid) and are happily eaten by spaced-out slugs. In humans, they can inspire dream-like states and euphoria or, on a bad trip, muscle spasms and comas.
Magic mushrooms (shrooms) come from a different family and contain psilocybin, which inspire hallucinations, euphoria and feelings of spirituality, with an optional side-order of paranoia and anxiety. However, recent research has, with a number of successes, tested psilocybin on conditions such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol dependence and smoking.
Scientists are also testing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for its therapeutic qualities. LSD’s effects are similar to those of mescalin which inspired Aldous Huxley to write his fascinating book ‘The Doors of Perception’, first published in 1954. (Anybody interested in my personal experience of LSD could read the notes I wrote 40-something years ago after the only trip I took) (if I only knew where they are.)
A friend who lives in America asked what was happening with Brexit because, from over there, it all looks very confused. I assured her it looks just as confused over here but, on the international front, there was some light relief this week when 20 of the world’s leaders wandered around at a conference like a bunch of primary school children trying to remember who was talking to whom this week.
Did you know that a bunch of Satanists recently settled their claim against Netflix and Warner Bros? The Satanic Temple had claimed that its image of Baphomet, a goat-headed demon, had been used in four episodes of a TV series called ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ without their permission. (Sabrina is apparently a young person who is “half witch, half mortal”, not a blonde model from the 1950s with an unusually high centre of gravity.) You’d have thought that making some wax models and sticking pins in them would have been cheaper.
The Satanic Temple says it doesn’t worship Satan but “encourages benevolence and empathy among all people”. Of course, silly me, and there I was thinking that one needed an evil Satan to provide a comparator for the good gods – if there weren’t any evil, how would you know what was good?
I was inevitably tempted into googling at this point and found that the Satanic Temple is a trademark name used by the United Federation of Churches which is based in Massachusetts whose website says “This organization primarily operates in the Churches, Temples, and Shrines business / industry within the Membership Organizations sector. [It] has been operating for approximately 4 years … and employs approximately 2 people.”
Isn’t the ‘approximately’ sweet! It’s a business (you can buy Baphomet-themed pendants, mugs and T-shirts) and it can’t count (Well, Lilith, I made it 2 staff, what did you make it?).
Characters in Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy have their own personal daemons who appear as animals that reflect and complement the person’s inner qualities. I wonder what mine would be. I’d like to think she was a raven with shining feathers, great intelligence, an uncanny skill with tools, just like I’m not, and one of the few birds that seem to enjoy flying and do aerobatics just for fun. However, I’d probably end up with a sloth that spent its life seeing the world the wrong way up and moving so slowly that moss grows on its fur.
Being clumsy (doesn’t dyspraxic sound more dignified?), I break things from time to time and, when a cafetière fell apart as I was washing it, I bought a new one. Untypically, I read the instructions, one of which said “So your freshly brewed coffee lands straight into your mug, take care when pouring and don’t overfill”.
Despite being clumsy, I’ve never actually done this (though I did once squirt a lot of hot coffee up my sleeve as I was pressing the plunger down) – is this Health and Safety taken to extremes? Actually, it didn’t say “Do not pour coffee straight into your lap” so perhaps it isn’t. Incidentally, why is it described as a “3 cup cafetière” when you can only get one mug’s worth of coffee out of it?