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La pócima sagrada en otras poblaciones indoeuropeas

La literatura clásica armenia no abunda en historias sobre los hongos, aunque si menciona la mandrágora y el cáñamo así como sus efectos. Una excepción es una leyenda tardía cuyo protagonista es David, un héroe que tras comer raíces, hierbas y hongos en el campo, pierde la cabeza, hasta el punto de no reconocer su fortaleza cuando regresa a ella, y adquiere la capacidad de hablar el lenguaje de los animales. Es hijo, además, de otro personaje fabuloso, Mher, un gigante (había crecido desmesuradamente) poseedor de un caballo mágico y una espada relampageante, que a su vez era hijo de Sanasar, quien tras un baño en un lago sagrado también se había convertido en gigante, hasta el punto de que su hermano Baghdasar no lo reconocía. Ambos eran hijos de Dzovinar, una mujer que llevaba los epítetos de “nacida del océano” y “flecha del rayo”, que los había concebido después de beber en el Fuente de la Leche de la Inmortalidad el Día de la Ascensión, una fecha sagrada para las plantas en la tradición armenia. Todo el relato está lleno de elementos de magia chamánica, como la fortaleza Sasun que los dos gemelos construyen en la fuente del agua mágica que hace invencible al que la bebe, el trance de Baghdasar a la orilla del lago y el descenso de su hermano a un reino encantado bajo el agua, su sueño adivinatorio en que conoce la ubicación de la espada relampageante y el caballo marino volador.

Basándose en ésta y otras leyendas, R. Bedrosian ha creído poder detectar la existencia del Soma, o su equivalente, entre los antiguos armenios a partir de la existencia de cultos originarios a árboles sagrados, algunos de los cuales, como los álamos blancos que fueron plantados por el rey urarteo Rusa en el siglo VIII a. C., están conectados en las tradiciones de la Armenia pre-cristiana con la adivinación. Supone que no es el árbol el que proporciona estas facultades de predecir el futuro, sino el éxtasis provocado por el hongo psicoactivo que, en relación micorrizal, crece a sus pies. También cree que la cabeza roja con soles por ojos del dios Vahagn, una divinidad de la tormenta cuyos atributos son el trueno y el rayo, es una metáfora de la amanita muscaria, que ha diferencia de la India o Irán, crece en las tierras altas armenias, por lo que su tradición ha pervivido durante mucho más tiempo entre los campesinos: "The myth of the birth of the god Vahagn, Armenia's remembrance of the birth of the god Soma, seems to belong to the second-early first millenium B.C., perhaps an "independent tradition from the original homeland of the Indo-Aryans" as Ananikian put it. Neither Indian nor Iranian sources has preserved a birth legend for the god Soma, though the Armenian tradition has. The birth legends and gestes of the god Mithra are also replete with Amanita imagery. The presence of a popular Mithra cult on the Armenian highlands through the early centuries of our era, with secret rites and a mysterious "sacrament" suggests that the imagery is not simply evocative archaising.

Yet by the 5th century A.D. the meaning of the story of Vahagn's birth and of the vishap-harvest was no longer understood by Armenia's clerical writers. One suspects that members of the numerous pagan and Christian cults and sects which thrived across the highlands may have understood things differently and may have made use of the abundant ethnobotanicals readily available to them, including the Amanita muscaria mushroom, for magico-religious and sexual purposes. A surviving Armenian magical text also suggests this.

The 9-10th century epic, David of Sasun, not only contains the classical markers of Amanita also found in the descriptions of Vahagn and Mithra, but has at least one figure, David, the central hero, ingesting wild mushrooms, and feeling their effects. Mushroom and soma imagery is striking and systematic in all cycles of the epic. The society which produced this masterpiece knew about the Amanita mushroom firsthand.

Unlike the Iranian and Indian societies which abandoned Amanita, Armenian societies, apparently, held it dear; though it is in folk culture rather than in the world of the priests and literary histories that this is reflected. Elements of the soma ceremony itself survived among the Armenian population of central and eastern Asia Minor until the second decade of the twentieth century. The continuing availability of the red-capped mushroom across the Armenian highlands and in the Caucasus suggests that modern residents there also may have some tales to tell, if anthropologists will listen".

Por otro lado, a partir del folklore irlandés, que, como en la India actual, ha preservado mucho del legado indoeuropeo, P. L. Wilson mantiene la sospecha de que los hongos “mágicos”, de una variedad local de psilocybe que crece en Irlanda, han podido desempeñar un papel similar al Soma, en contra de la presunción generalizada de que los celtas debieron haber perdido su conocimiento en algún momento lejano de su historia, aunque se mantiene muy prudente en sus conclusiones: "The Irish also have a one-legged one-eyed race in their past: the Fomoire or Fomorians...What interests us here, however, is not the fate of the Fomorians but their special role as one-eyed shade-foots -- i.e., their role in folklore. Whatever their other qualities in history, myth, or legend, they are clearly "Arimaspeans", and hence are to be suspected of kinship with mushrooms. And if hazelnuts, or red berries, are used to "mask" the mushroom in Irish tradition, we should look for Fomorians lurking somewhere in the underbrush near the sacred tree.

Just such a conjunction occurs in the saga of Dermat and Grania, which in turn forms part of the Finnian Cycle. The hero and heroine are fleeing from the jealous wrath of Finn himself. Their flight takes them all over Scotland and Ireland, where many dolmens are still called "beds" of Dermat and Grania. At one point they come to the Forest of Dooros (a name containing the Celtic word for "oak" and thus identifiable as a druid grove) in the district of HyFicra of the Moy (later known as the barony of Tireagh, in Sligo). At this time the forest was guarded by Sharvan the Surly, a giant of Lochlann.

...The tale of Sharvan the Surly is just that, a tale, not the text of a ritual. Nevertheless folktales have been known to "mask" myths, which in turn may serve as aetiological legends for certain rites, which in turn may derive in part from earlier myth, ritual, or lore. This particular tale seems to contain such ritual elements. The structure of the tale and many of its details might well pre-date its inclusion in the Finnian Cycle; any hero might experience such an adventure. And the Finnian Cycle itself seems to have roots in a past so distant that agriculture has not yet appeared, a world of pastoralism and hunting/gathering. Finn and his "merrymen" are anachronisms, free forest guerrillas held by only a slender link of reciprocity with settled society, and perilously close to that taboo realm of sorcery and alien otherness, the Forest. The world of Sharvan the Surly seems an archaic one indeed, ancient enough to contain traces of the soma ritual once common to all Indo-European people, as well as to the Semites, the Siberians and the New World Indians, etc.

That's my hypothesis. I wouldn't even begin to argue that we have "detected" an Irish soma. What we have here is a mere suspicion, not a case. I'm looking for support and/or refutation. A number of queries must be directed to specialists. From philologists we need exhaustive comparisons of mushroom and soma/haoma vocabulary from all the relevant languages, such as that which Allegro carried out for the Semitic languages in The Mushroom and the Cross. Celtic, Persian, and Sanskrit should be the main candidates for word-sleuthing. The Vedic soma ritual needs to be compared in detail with all texts and fragments from Celtic sources relevant to magic substances.

Ethnomycologists should investigate Irish (and insular Celtic) mushroom lore. Does Amanita muscaria grow in Ireland, and might it have grown in Ireland in ancient times? I've never come across any written material on this, but during my last trip to Ireland (May, 1993) I made a few discoveries. At least one magic mushroom grows in Ireland, the "Liberty Cap," a type of psilocybe; I saw it grown at a mushroom farm in County Cork, but it is also found wild. Subsequently, in a village on the coast of the province of Munster, I interviewed a certain well-known shanachie or traditional story-teller, who must remain anonymous here due to his involvement in gun-running and pot-farming (neither very successful). "Mick" is said to speak the purest Irish in the southern Gaeltecht--and (somewhat magically) is reputed to live on nothing but pigsfeet and Guinness. In response to my query, he stated that magic mushrooms were known in Ireland in the time of the druids, and he agreed with me that "this explains a lot" about the druids! Since I'd been introduced to Mick by an old friend of his, I doubt he was trying to pull my leg; certainly he failed to elaborate on his statement, which he appeared to think was rather unexceptional."


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