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What Exactly Are Liberty Cap Mushrooms?

It’s the perfect season to be a mushroom hunter. In particular, magic ones are getting attention. Research is proving that psilocybin the principal psychoactive ingredient in magical mushrooms, is a potential remedy for helping treat psychological disorders such as depression, addiction , and PTSD. Oregon is the state that Oregon has recently approved legalizing the use of mushrooms for therapeutic purposes which is an US first.

Of the over 200 species that are psychedelic mushroom which have been found around the globe, only one species is known – Psilocybe semilanceata – is found in any quantity within northern Europe. As with many other mushroom species, Psilocybe semilanceata has been recognized not through its scientific name however, but rather by its more common or folk name, which is the “liberty cap” mushroom.

For a long time, this annoys me for a long time. As an Roman history buff, I recognize this liberty cap (the pileus to use Latin) as an hat that was given to the Roman slave to mark the occasion of their release. It was a conical-shaped felt cap that was shaped in the shape of a smurf and that has a definite similarity with Psilocybe semilanceata’s distinctive pointed cap.

What exactly happened to an unorthodox Roman social custom ended up giving its name to a contemporary psychoactive substance? It was my experience that the answer is an assassination, several of revolutions, some in poetry and a smidge of xenophobia and a quite unique scientific discovery.

The liberty cap was a real cap, worn by slaves who were free during the Roman world to signify their status as not property anymore but not actually “free” and tainted by their past. For the freedman it was a symbol of shame and pride.

In the year 44 BC the hat became the status of a new currency in the culture after Julius Caesar was famously murdered on the Ides of March (March 15). To commemorate his participation in the crime, Marcus Junius Brutus (of “et tu, Brute” fame) issued coins, the obverse of which carried the legend EIDMAR underneath daggers in a pair, as well as the distinctive Liberty cap. The meaning of Brutus’s coin was obvious: Rome herself had been freed from Caesar’s rule.

The use of the symbol by Brutus changed it from a lower status social marker to an elite symbol of power which enjoyed much longer lives than the shorter-lived Brutus himself. Through the rest period of the Roman period, the goddess Libertas and the liberty cap were common shorthand used by Emperors who wanted to emphasize the freedom their total rule granted.
Caps of revolution

After the fall of Roman power in Europe during the 5th century AD the liberty cap went unnoticed. However, in the period of the 16th century when the fascination with and explicit emulation of Roman antiquity grew throughout the nations of Europe the liberty cap returned to the people’s awareness.

Books such as Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1593) explained the significance of the hat for educated people and the hat was then again able to be utilized as a symbol of power. When the Dutch removed the Spanish out of Holland during 1577, coins with that liberty cap was created in 1577, and William of Orange likewise minted liberty cap coins to mark his bloodless capture of the English throne in 1688.

It was only in two of the major republican revolutions of the 18th century , the French and the American revolutions and the American revolution – that it became an extremely popular symbol. It was now incorporated into the aesthetics of the old Phrygian cap and the liberty cap (bonnet rougue in French) was not seen just as a symbol of power, but was actually a piece of headwear or a decorative item.

In France in France, on the 20th of June 1790, a mob of armed men attacked the royal apartments at the Tuileries and forced Louis XVI (later to be executed by revolutionaries) to put on his liberty cap. In America the revolutionary movements protested in opposition to British rule by hanging the liberty cap on an iron pole that was placed in the squares of their cities. In 1781, a gold medal created by none other then Benjamin Franklin to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Libertas Americana (the personification of American Liberty) is depicted with wild, flowing hair, a cap and pole of liberty draped over her shoulder.

From headwear to from headwear to

The revolutions in France along with America were seen with great anxiety from Britain. However, the pole and cap of liberty certainly had an effect on young poets under named James Woodhouse, whose 1803 poem, “Autumn and the Redbreast an Ode” was an impressive tribute to the diverse beautifulness of mushrooms.

Whose stems have tapering, strong or light
Like columns, they catch the enthralling eye,
To assert a remark about where I go;
The domes are supported by the support of a shapely;
As fair umbrellas and furl’d or spread
Have their heads painted in a variety of colours;
Yellow, grey, purple or brown
Shap’d in the shape of War’s shield or the crown of Prelate—
As Freedom’s cap or Friar’s cowl
Or China’s sparkling bowl that is inverted

This is the first time that we have ever seen a connection between the liberty cap’s physical form and the distinct pixie cap of a mushroom. It was not used as it was a known name (note his imaginative imagery in some of the shapes that he mentions) However, it was invented by Woodhouse to express his poetic flair.

The metaphor caught the eye of a renowned writer, Robert Southey, who was a reviewer of the book that the poem was included in at the time of 1804. The year 1812 was when Southey together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published Omniana the two-volume collection of table conversations and musings on various topics that were intended to instruct and inform those who aspired to become conversationalists. In the midst of attacks on Catholic practices and notes on the early English meters was this note on”the Cap of Liberty” “Cap of Liberty”:

It is a common fungus that so precisely represents the liberty pole and cap and liberty that it appears to be offered by nature itself as the suitable symbol of Gallic republicanism. the mushroom patriots, adorned with a cape of mushrooms of liberty.

It is not clear if Woodhouse nor Southey or Coleridge recognized the exact mushrooms they thought of by using the metaphor of the cap of liberty. However, the field of mycology – studying of fungi began to establish itself during the late 19th century driven by exactly the type of scholar-gentlemen who would keep a copy Omniana on their bookshelf The name was clear and widely linked to Psilocybe semilanceata.

At the time it was an tiny and obscure little fungus that was not the focus of attention for anyone but dedicated mycologists. As the common names for mushroom were introduced into mycological books, Psilocybe semilanceata was routinely named the liberty cap.

The earliest example was found in Mordecai Cooke’s 1871 Handbook of British Fungi. The year was 1894. Cooke wrote the book Edible as well as Poisonous Mushrooms in which he shrewdly refers to Psilocybe semilanceata, in quotation marks in the form of “cap of liberty” precisely the phrase employed by Coleridge who it appears that Cooke was intently in quoting. The 20th century was when the name had been established.
A mushroom can be magical

The tale could, possibly be over however it also has an enjoyable conclusion, where the liberty caps mushroom were able to rise from obscurity to become one of the hundreds of harmless LBMs (little black mushrooms) only known by scientists and experts to be one of the most famous European mycological species.

In the writings of Europeans on the religions and customs of the indigenous peoples in Central America, there existed stories of a magical food called by the Aztecs Teonanacatl (“the the divine mushrooms”). These rumours have been dismissed as mythological superstitions and not worthy of consideration than the shape-shifters of Norse and Icelandic mythology. However, in the beginning of 20th-century the mythical mushroom captivated the imagination of a most unlikely person on earth, Robert Gordon Wasson, vice-president of JP Morgan, the Wall Street banking firm JP Morgan.

Since the 1920s Wasson was fascinated by his interest in ethnomycology (the study of human-human cultural interaction with the mushrooms). Through his research that led to an extensive bibliography, Wasson traveled to Mexico and, after an exhausting and lengthy search, finally met the woman who was eager to teach him the mysteries of the sacred mushroom. He was (perhaps) one of the very first person of white descent to take a hallucinogenic mushroom and published his experiences in the year 1957 in a Life piece, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom”.

Wasson’s discovery created an instant sensation. In 1958, a team headed by Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann – the man who created the first synthetic (and consumed) LSD – was able to determine the principal psychoactive substance found in the mushrooms. It was named psilocybin in an homage to its nature. mostly mushrooms belonging to the genus Psilocybe which contained the chemical. Although the hallucinogen-producing species of fungi were found most abundantly within Central America, they began to appear all over the world. A 1969 article published in Transactions of the British Mycological Society confirmed that no other than the harmless tiny liberty cap contained psilocybin.

While it is true that there exist other psychedelic plants that thrive within Britain (including the distinct white and red Amanita muscaria , also known as fly agaric that contains muscimol, not Psilocybin) the liberty cap has gained its place as the symbol for the country’s psychedelic fungal species. The current generation of “shroomers” aren’t able to resist putting their spin on the liberty cap’s name due to its connection with an ethereal “liberation” that psychedelics provide as well as grassroots groups like Shroom Liberation Front Shroom Liberation Front attest to the fact that it is true.

However it is believed that the name liberty cap is absolutely nothing with psychologists and the psychedelic advocates for drugs Timothy Leary (“turn on, listen, then go away”) and the counter-culture of the 1960s. More likely, and even a little bizarre it traced a trail through the political revolutions in the early modern era through the assassination of the ruler Julius Caesar, to a conical cap worn by the slaves of Rome’s past.