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parallel shamanic practices between Nepal and the PNW

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by Howard Wallace, Dec 18, 2018.

  1. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    I’ve recently been researching and experimenting with local medicinal fungi. In particular the woody polypores that grow on trees and logs in this area. These fungi are part of traditional medicine in China, Nepal, and also the Pacific Northwest (PNW). It turns out that in both Nepal and the PNW these same fungi have been used as shamanic masks. See http://forestpathology.cfans.umn.edu/pdf/Fungi_Magazine_Polypore_Masks_2017.pdf

    This is peculiar because there was little (no?) contact between the cultures of Nepal and the native cultures of the PNW.

    BTW- These polypore’s are hard woody fungi, and many of them are large. They contain complex water soluble sugars (polysaccharides) and alcohol soluble triturpinoids. In order to extract these compounds the mushrooms need to be cut up into small pieces, and a khukuri is the ideal tool to do this. After cutting with a khukuri I toss them into a high powered blender to further mince them for efficient solvent extraction.

  2. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    I make CHAGA tea using a sous vide water bath - the Chaga chunks (1/2" to 3/4" or smaller) in several tall canning jars with the sous vide temperature set to 150° F (65.5° C) for 8 hours. That makes a concentrated batch to which I add another 2 cups of water. It is a delicious and healthy tea - hot or cold. Add 3 table spoons of maple syrup to the jug and some whipped cream to the top of the individual serving if you prefer a bit of sweetness. Check it out - CHAGA. As far as I know - there are no psychotropic inducing properties to chug but many health benefits.

    Currently I have a jug of Chaga/Rum and one Chaga/Rye Whiskey soaking for the holidays.
    Will be ready just in time :D

    The polypores around here are pretty small. A 10" across red belted is a HUGE example. They are pretty though and so I have a few around the house as objet. :) A favorite past time is finding beautiful rare examples and gathering them up for drying and display. Some I clear coated, others I have "bronzed" and mounted on stands, most are dry and left as they are. These need to be harvested with a stout knife. The CHAGA chopped off with a hatchet or similar controllable cutting tool. Your favorite Khukri could do it :thumbsup:

    Any excuse to go out and play in the woods. Right? :cool:

  3. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Ray, since you appreciate the beauty as well as the chemistry, you may like this Ganoderma applanatum I found in the local woods. Called the artist’s conk because when fresh, pressure on the spore surface causes it to discolor. When dried the discoloration is fixed and permanent.

    The artist’s conk also has medicinal value. Gorillas in Africa love to break G. applanatum off the trees and chew on the spore surface. They are so highly prized that if a gorilla finds one it often sparks a gorilla fight for possession, a fight usually resolved by the largest male silverback ambling over and taking the valued mushroom for himself.

    In addition to medicinal value, they have spirit value. The unusual framed spore surface on this one is a portal to the dreamworld. I spent a portion of a night contemplating it before deciding to carve a fragment from my Red Flower‘s wedding poem.


    For the khukuri aficionados, the karda and chakma make great palette knives for drawing on G. applanatum. Twigs from the forest are a different type of brush for additional effects.

    I contemplated varnishing this one but finally decided to leave it natural. I’ve seen natural ones many decades old with pictures still clear.
    RayseM likes this.
  4. ndoghouse

    ndoghouse Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 26, 2010
    Cool article! I wonder if the Bhairab mask may have been a representation of these fungi masks passed down and now highly decorated? They seem to serve the same function. I guess they dont eat the new ones tho? We get a lot of "shelf" fungi around here but I dont have a clue what they are. They look similar but no red rings. I find them on dead Pine trees mostly and they dont work well for storing embers.
  5. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    @Howard Wallace - thought you might enjoy these added to your thread. Other than the chaga mentioned above I have not ventured into learning more about our local polypores as medicine, but I am intrigued, so will try to see if some research (web browsing) reveals any info.

    Mostly I gather for their beauty. 10" across in these parts is a "monster conk" Mostly I see them in the 7" to 8" range. The two in the photos below are big. The bottom with the red belt is 11" across and the more complex one, mounted on the bowl - more than 12" across.

    BOTH OF THESE came from the exact same spot on the same 8 foot pine stump 2 years apart. The first I harvested was the bottom one. Than this fall I went back and to my astonishment - growing from the same spores was this multilevel beauty. I think these are treasures. Remarkable how differently they grew. One is clearly a red belted polypore but the one above is not so readily identifiable.

    Cool huh? :)


    Polypore-pair-3.jpg Polypore-Pair-2.jpg


    ndoghouse likes this.
  6. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Here are a few that are smaller (less than 5") and of a specie(s) that seems pretty rare. I can't identify them. Both came off pine trees. Not quite as photogenic as the 2 above but these are some of my favorites.

    I can imagine some of you forming opinions about my sanity or at the least, my artistic tastes. :rolleyes:
    Let's say the photos don't do them justice.;)

    Cold day today but nice and dry in the woods - very very minimal snow cover - so my wife and I are heading out with a good knife or two, a sharp hatchet and my pack and we just might come home with more chaga, more polypores or even some whitetail sheds. No matter, if we come back empty handed, it will be a great afternoon.

    Later. Ray


  7. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Ray, you obviously see the mysteries in the fungal kingdom. It is probably people like you, on different continents, who first created the fungal masks.
  8. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    For certain if I could find them bigger - we need a longer growing season - there are masks and other yet to be discovered art in them. Their intrinsic beauty compels me. Even some tiny ones inspire. They do not need human embellishment. I have some all over the house ;)

    Will study on local medicinal value. I love the link you provided Howard.

    Thanks. Ray
  9. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Found this interesting article while researching medicinal polypores in Maine - Birch Polypores - easily found in my local woods -

    Used as medicine, as a tinder fungus AND "in more recent times it was cut into strips and used to sharpen knives, especially by those who could not afford leather, giving it its common name, the razor strop fungus." Imagine that!

    These birch polypores are not nearly as beautiful or dramatic as the red belted or others but they still offer essential benefits - worth harvesting.

  10. Howard Wallace

    Howard Wallace . Moderator

    Feb 23, 1999
    Birch polypores, famously carried by Ötzi on his long, long journey.

    So many things forgotten or ignored in the interim.
    ndoghouse likes this.

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