COMMON NAMES: hombrecitos ("little men" ), las mudMitas ("the little women"), los ninos ("the; children"), magic mushroom, mushroom, noble princess of the waters

The mushroom: Thirty-eight thousand varieties exist, hidden in dark, musty corners of the world like the gold of Midas.

Outstanding among this panoply of edible and poisonous stalks is the mystical magic mushroom. Not until recently was . it discovered that the magic mushroom is not one species, but many -- all containing the hallucinogen psilocybin.

At least twenty mushrooms contain the psychoactive ingredients psilocybin and psilocin, including Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe mexicana. Native to Mexico and parts of the southern United States, psilocybin mushrooms are often confused with several poisonous species, resulting in about one hundred deaths a year. The Amanita group--including Amanita virosa, A. yerna, and A. phalloides- is particularly dangerous. A close cousin, Amanita muscaria, contains the hallucinogen muscarin, rather than psilocybin (see Amanita muscaria).

Before stalking the wild mushroom, certain precautions are , essential: -A method of botanical identification, as well as a procedure for testing before ingestion, are necessities. One common method is to break off a piece of fresh mushroom. If the broken area turns bluish within an hour, it may be a psilocybin mushroom, although some poisonous species ; have been known to react in a similar manner. Analyses made with chemical reagents are more reliable and advisable.

Some mushrooms sold on the street as psilocybin may actually be the innocuous grocery-store variety spiked with LSD. To test, mash a mushroom and soak it overnight in methanol. The following day, hold it up to a black light. If it gives off a blue glow, you have an LSD-doctored mushroom. The psilocybin mushroom grows in the temperature range between 65 and 85 degrees, and only on the manure of farm animals such as cows, pigs, and goats. The need for such selective growing conditions means that the fresh psilocybin mushroom knot often available; however, psilocybin can be manufactured as well. It is difficult and expensive to produce synthetically and store properly, and only one in a thousand street samples is genuine. The rest are either acid or an LSD/PCP combination. True synthetic psilocybin is a crystalline white powder, sold in the form of tablets, capsules, or liquid.

Organic psilocybin can be obtained in capsules containing powdered spores" or dried, ground mushrooms. The mushroom itself may be ingested fresh or dried at room temperature. Dried mushrooms remain potent for years. Psilocybin can be extracted by drying and grinding the mushroom to a powder, soaking it in methyl -alcohol for several days, and, permitting the resulting clear liquid is evaporate in a flat dish until a residue remains. Resoaking and re-evaporating the residue will increase its potency.

Some prefer boiling the mushroom, skimming the residue from the water's surface, and combining with Kool-Aid or orange juice to create a Fungus Delight. Psilocybin may be sniffed or smoked, if you like the taste and smell of burning plastic. Injection is possible in liquid form.

Psilocybin dosage is from 1 to 5 grams dry weight, 10 to 50 grams fresh, or five to fifteen of the rancid-tasting whole mushrooms, depending on size and species. Effects appear within fifteen to forty-five minutes and last three to six hours, the length of time increasing with dosage. If the drug is injected, tripping begins more rapidly, within five to ten minutes.

Albert Hofmann, the father of LSD, was the first to extract psilocybin and psilocin from the magic mushroom. Relatively unstable, psilocybin is converted to psilocin by the body. The LSD-like-effects attributed to psilocybin are actually the work of psilocin. Known formally as ortho-phosphoryl-4-hydroxyN-di-methyltryptamine, psilocybin chemically resembles LSD and produces a similar but less intense trip.

Experimental medical use of psilocybin has been conducted in the fields of psychotherapy, criminal rehabilitation, and chronic alcoholism. Some feel psilocybin opens a door to the subconscious, permitting a view of the conscious world from a different perspective. Although it is scientifically classified as a hallucinogen, its effects are more illusionary than -hallucinatory, since the tripper is aware that the sensations he is experiencing are drug-induced.

Like those of other hallucinogens, psilocybin's effects are determined by set (emotional and psychological makeup) and setting (surroundings and environment). Initial reaction is mainly physical: nausea, pupil dilation, and increases in deep tendon reflexes, pulse, blood pressure,' and temperature. Shivering, anxiety, facial numbness, and dizziness are not-uncommon. Within an hour, these discomforts' are replaced by heightened sensory awareness. Colors take on dives of their own, objects are perceivable in minute detail, patterns and designs kaleidoscope rainbow colors across the field of-vision. Sound becomes sight; time and space are suspended as the tripper soars beyond reality. Unable to concentrate or communicate, he slurs his speech and giggles excessively. Some claim objects take on a purple aura; others claim a new spirituality.

Disorientation, paranoid reactions, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, intense anxiety and panic, or depression are symptomatic of bad trip. "Talking down" is the preferred method of coping with a psilocybin bummer. Comfort, assurance, and a soothing environment, free of bright lights and loud noises, are more successful than tranquilizers, which may potentiate, rather than alleviate, bad effects.

While tolerance develops with psilocybin, there is no physical or psychological dependence, overdose potential, or possibility of addiction. Psilocybin has a cross-tolerance to LSD and mescaline, meaning the use of one will add to the cumulative tolerance of the other.

Legally classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, possession carries a sentence of imprisonment for not more than one year and/or a fine of not more than $5,000. Manufacture or - sale could can a maximum sentence of five years and/or a fine of not more than $15,000.

The road to mushroom heaven was paved by the Indian cultures of Mexico and Central America centuries ago, "Teonanacatl," or "food of the gods," was consumed by Mayans in Guatemala over 3,500 years ago. Magic mushrooms were the basis for cults of worship which flourished in secret for centuries.

The Aztec, Mazatec, and Oaxacan Indians denied the existence of the mushroom until 1953, when R. Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna, rediscovered the ancient Oaxacan mushroom ritual. They promptly smuggled some of the mushrooms to Roger Heim, a French expert, who identified them as members of the genus Psilocybe.

The first recorded use of psilocybin mushrooms was at Montezuma's coronation in 1502. Unprepared for and frightened by the drug's effects, the, Spanish conquerors experienced a wave of mycophobia-fear of mushrooms. As a result, they attempted to demolish the Indians' religion and drove the mushroom underground until it had achieved the status of a myth.

Until recently, hallucinogenic mushrooms were virtually unknown in North America. During the late sixties and early seventies, the younger generation discovered psilocybin and used it as a "safe" substitute for LSD. Popular, exotic, and difficult to obtain, psilocybin became a new hallucinogenic object to worship.