Did Vikings use magic mushrooms?


What comes to your head when you hear the word ‘Vikings’? For many of us, we picture a terrifying group of large bearded lunatics in Nordic land wearing helmets with horns covered in the blood of enemies! The word is often associated with rage and pure ruthlessness. And for good reason, too! But where did all of this rage come from? Was it something in their DNA? Was it something in the water? Not quite.

In this article we will be uncovering the source of some of the most cold-blooded acts in human history.

What was typical Viking behavior?

These individuals were without a doubt cruel and merciless. We know why they were this way- to ultimately conquer, rule and gain wealth/power.

The Vikings acted as raiders, pirates, explorers and colonizers during the 9th to 11th centuries. Most of them typically travelled by sea. They spend a lot of time and energy in a frenzy where they would take control of many areas of Europe and, eventually, beyond.

Vikings originated from the area that is now known as modern-day Sweden, Norway and Denmark. They settled in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Iceland. Eventually, they made their way to mainland Europe, Greenland and also colonized parts of North America.

During their savage scouting for new land to conquer, they quickly gained a terrifying reputation for raping and pillaging and were deeply feared by anyone who knew of them. Such stories can travel to far away lands.

These warriors ran on fumes of bravery, toughness and fearlessness. But where did these qualities come from? Like all things, there has to be a source of such extreme ideologies and Viking behaviour is no exception. Although, the source of such aggression may come as a surprise to many.


Origins of Berserk: The magic mushroom frenzy

Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘to go berserk’? Essentially, this phrase means to get yourself worked up into such a violent rage that you see red and act crazy! What if I told you not only does the word ‘berserk’ come from a specific tribe of Viking warriors centuries ago but it also has a psychedelic twist on the origins of it, too?

What many individuals do not realise is that these warriors’ fury had a trance-like nature to it. Some may even label this state as ‘inhuman’. It wasn’t the Vikings themselves that had a natural rage burning within them, it was actually assisted with psychedelics.

Meet the berserkers: an ancient Viking tribe who gained their state of frenzy and pure courage on the battlefield thanks to magic mushrooms.


Which magic mushrooms did Vikings use in battle?

Historians have known for a long time that berserkers would intentionally consume various drugs, such as magic mushrooms, to enter this rageful state. Not only did they use magic mushrooms, but many historians believe they also used a lot of alcohol, as well. This could easily explain the Vikings’ rage, force and numbness to pain. But is that enough to sustain such a rage for hours on end during battle?

For many fellow magic mushroom lovers out there, we immediately associate the blanket phrase ‘magic mushrooms’ with the Psilocybe variety. However, in this case, that particular category of psychedelic mushrooms was not what the Vikings used during battle.

Instead, they consumed vast amounts of Amanita Muscaria, also known as Fly Agaric, Panther Cap and/or Amanita Pantherina. The reason behind the name Fly Agaric is the fact that it can fill small bugs, flies and other insects. It utilizes a chemical compound called Hemolysin, which is a chemical that can break down red blood cells. In fact, until modern times, this mushroom was used as a household bug spray!

How did the Vikings use this mushroom if it was so toxic? The toxins in these mushrooms would kill a small bug with ease… A Viking on the other hand? It would take a lot more to bring one of these fearless individuals down. However, no matter how strong or tough a Viking may be, there is a limit. Amanita Muscaria is actually a highly poisonous mushroom. The primary effects of Amanita Muscaria involve the central nervous system [CNS]. In severe poisoning, symptoms may manifest with a coma and in rarer cases, possibly death. Although the chances of death are low, they are not zero.



However, these warriors found the sweet spot and would use Amanita Muscaria to trigger temporary psychosis and down-right delirium for hours on end. But how many hours? According to research, the effects of this powerful mushroom can last anywhere between 10-24 hours! We do not know exactly how frequently the berserkers would consume this mushroom.

Consuming a poisonous mushroom to initiate a psychosis to help improve performance on the battlefield probably sounds a bit counterproductive. How exactly did they benefit from adding magic mushrooms to their battle protocol?

Let’s look into that next.


Why Vikings used Amanita Muscaria on the battlefield

In ‘typical’ magic mushrooms, the compound responsible for the high is called psilocybin. Well, to be exact, upon ingesting magic mushrooms, psilocybin is converted to psilocin, which is the actual compound responsible for the famous and beloved magic mushroom high. However, there is a different compound found in Amanita Muscaria that offers rather different effects, to say the least…

The active compound in Amanita Muscaria is called muscimol. This is a GABA receptor agonist. Essentially, this means it can cause sleepy, dreamy and hypnotic hallucinogenic effects. Our brains have GABA receptors all over the place, meaning muscimol will affect neurons in many regions of the brain. These magic mushrooms have the power to influence and reach the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and cerebellum. All of these separate regions of the brain dictate emotions and decision-making.

Another active compound in the Amanita muscaria is ibotenic acid. This acid matches with the ‘brain wire’ referred to as glutamate. Essentially, glutamate acts like a stimulant in the brain and has an effect on the central nervous system.

Psychedelics are known for heightening the 5 senses to unimaginable heights. Not only were magic mushrooms used as a tool for the Vikings’ emotional state (or lack of it), but they were also used for focus, concentration, speed and fast reaction time during battle. This mushroom can also increase vision, helping the Vikings on the battlefield when using their eyesight for long distances was crucial.


Closing thoughts

When we look a how psychedelics are used in other cultures, such as Indigenous cultures, we see intentions of healing, love and light. Psychedelics have had both a beautiful and brutal history. It is pretty surprising that psychedelics, typically used for good, can be used for such devastating acts of aggression, as well.

Magic mushrooms: the Viking psychedelic weapon of mass destruction.

What do you think about the Vikings and their use of the Amanita Muscaria? Let us know in the comments below!




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