Hallucinogenic urine drinkers & the fungi-cleaning duties of ancient priests

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach world history. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


Digging into what sorts of edible life can live in high alpine environments got me started looking into lichen, then various ways subsistence herders could use fungus in their daily lives. I ran into some pretty surprising stuff.

Fun Facts

Fungal Pouches

Agarikon fungus—a tree-decaying species of mushroom that forms in thick mats—was used in the Americas by indigenous peoples to make pouches. The fungus has a leathery texture and is also useful for bandaging wounds, preventing diaper rash, and treating tuberculosis. [Read More]

Pee Shrooms

After the first Siberian snowmelt, reindeer will dig up and eat agargic mushrooms. Herders then capture them and drink the reindeer pee to share in the hallucinogenic effect. [Here’s 7 more animals that seek out hallucinogens]

Priestly Duties

Both the ancient Israelites and Mesopotamians had rituals for how to handle a fungal infestation in a home (or person, or their clothes). Mesopotamian priests would come to an infected house, observe the color of the fungus, and scrape off the fungus with particular tools depending on the nature of the fungus. [Read More]

Meat Substitute

“Desert truffles” are tubers that are roughly 30% each of protein and carbohydrates, 13% fiber, 7% fat, and 5% ascorbic acid. They have all essential amino acids, in good quantities, and can be salted and dried for preservation. But because they were associated with nomadic raiders, the Sumerians hated them. Egyptian pharaohs, by contrast, considered them exclusive royal delicacies. [Read More]

If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my article about other jobs of ancient priests!


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