"It is now thought that in early, still forested Greece, a similar fungal ambrosia, gift of Zeus, the Thunderer, was probably the original intoxicant used by Dionysus and his followers to fire up their frenzied revels. Later, the ecstatic rituals of Eleusis, attended from time to time by such luminaries as Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, were fuelled by a powerful hallucinogenic potion derived, it is thought, from the fungus ergot (Claviceps purpurea), similar to LSD in chemical makeup and effects, and perhaps the inspiration for Plato's metaphysics and Aristotle's respect for the natural world.

The belief in mushrooms as the supernatural children of storm and lightning, prevalent also in ancient Rome (Pliny, in his Natural History, credits thunder with causing the growth of truffles), invested the Fungaloids everywhere with great class, their progenitor the Thunder God, Father Zeus himself, being the supreme deity of the ancient pantheon, worshipped in sacred groves from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea.The coming of the missionaries changed all this, but long after the forest sanctuaries were chopped, the gods trashed, and the old religion driven underground, occasional whiffs of magic still surfaced, notably in Shakespeare: the supernatural agents, summoned by the enchanter Prospero to raise the thunder, lightning, fire and rain of the Tempest, were none other than the same storm spirits who amused themselves, on nights off, "making midnight mushrooms"."

In publication, Pages 16: "Reflections on the Fungaloids" by B.L. Williamson, Ottawa, 1992. ISBN 1-894572-65-3


  • Title: Zeus & Dionysus + Sheep
  • Creator: Williamson, Beatrice L.
  • Physical Dimensions: Each 29.3 x 41.9 cm
  • Type: Artwork
  • Rights: © Canadian Museum of Nature / Musée canadien de la nature
  • Medium: A pair of watercolour, colour, crayon, ink and wash drawings on card see also P1161

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