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Liberty cap: the surprising tale of how Europe’s magic mushroom got its name

It’s the perfect season to be a mushroom hunter. In particular, magic ones are getting attention. Research is proving that psilocybin the principal psychoactive ingredient found in magic mushrooms, is a potential remedy for treating mental disorders such as addiction, depression and PTSD. Oregon is the state that Oregon has recently approved legalizing the use of mushrooms for therapeutic purposes as the first in the US first.

Of the more than 200 species that are psychedelic mushroom that have been discovered around the globe, only one species of them – Psilocybe semilanceata is found to be in abundance throughout northern Europe. As with many other species of mushrooms Psilocybe semilanceata has been recognized not through its scientific name however, but rather by its more common or folk name, which is the liberty caps mushroom.

For a long time, this annoys me for a long time. As an Roman historical scholar, I have come to know this liberty cap (the pileus as it is known in Latin) as an hat that was given to the Roman slave to mark the occasion of their release. It was a conical , felt cap, with the appearance of a smurf and it has a distinct likeness with Psilocybe semilanceata’s distinctive, pointed cap.

What exactly happened to an unorthodox Roman social norm get its name to a contemporary psychoactive drug? As I discovered, the answer is an assassination, several of revolutions, a little in poetry and a smidge of xenophobia and a extremely unusual discovery in science.

The liberty cap was actually a cap worn by slaves who were free during the Roman world to indicate their status as not property anymore however, they were never really “free” and tainted by their past. For the freedman it was a symbol of shame and pride.

In the year 44 BC the hat became the status of a new currency in the culture after Julius Caesar was famously murdered on the Ides of March (March 15). In order to promote his role in the murder, Marcus Junius Brutus (of “et tu, Brute” fame) issued coins, the obverse of which carried the legend EID MAR under daggers in a pair, along with the obvious liberty cap. The message of Brutus was clear: Rome herself had been liberated from Caesar’s oppression.

The use of this symbol by Brutus transformed it from a low social status marker to an emblem of elite status which enjoyed an extended life span than the shorter-lived Brutus himself. Through the rest period of the Roman period, the goddess Libertas and the liberty cap were frequently used shorthand for Emperors eager to highlight the freedom their total rule granted.
Caps of revolution

After the fall of Roman power in Europe during the 5th century AD The liberty cap went unnoticed. Then, in the sixteenth century when the fascination with and explicit emulation of Roman antiquity began to grow across the continents of Europe The liberty cap returned to the people’s awareness.

Books such as Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1593) discussed the meaning of the hat for educated viewers and the hat was then again able to be utilized as a symbol of power. When the Dutch removed the Spanish out of Holland around 1577 in the year 1577. Coins with that liberty cap was made as well as William of Orange likewise minted liberty cap coins in honor of his bloodless retake of the English throne in 1688.

However, it was during two of the major republican revolutions of the 18th century , the French and the American revolutions which made it an iconic symbol. The aesthetics of the old Phrygian cap liberty cap (bonnet rougue in French) became popular not only as a symbolic device but was actually a piece of headwear or a decorative item.

In France in France, on the 20th of June 1790, a mob of armed men attacked the royal apartments at the Tuileries and forced Louis XVI (later to be executed by revolutionaries) to put on his liberty cap. In America the revolutionary movements protested in opposition to British rule by putting the liberty cap on a pole on the squares of their cities. In 1781, a gold medal created by none other as Benjamin Franklin to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Libertas Americana (the personification of American Liberty) is depicted with wild, flowing hair, a cap and pole of liberty draped over her shoulder.

From headwear to from headwear to

The revolutions that took place in France along with America were watched with a lot of anxiety from Britain. However, the pole and cap of liberty certainly affected young poets under his name: James Woodhouse, whose 1803 poem, “Autumn and the Redbreast an Ode” is an impressive tribute to the diverse beautifulness of mushrooms.

Whose tapering stemsare robust or light
Like columns, like columns are able to catch the eye,
To make a claim to remark on where I am;
Each dome is supported by a shaped;
Fair umbrellas like fair furl’d or spread
Have their heads painted in a variety of colours;
Yellow, grey, purple or brown
Shap’d in the shape of War’s shield or the crown of Prelate—
As Freedom’s cap or Friar’s cowl
Or China’s sparkling bowl that is inverted

This is the first time that we have ever seen a connection between the cap’s physical shape and the unique pixie cap of the mushroom. It was not used as it was a known name (note his imaginative imagery in some of the shapes that he mentions) It was rather invented by Woodhouse to express his poetic flair.

The metaphor caught the eye of a well-known writer, Robert Southey, who had analyzed the volume that the poem was included in at the time of 1804. It was in 1812 that Southey as well as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published Omniana the two-volume collection of table conversation and musings on various topics that were intended to instruct and inform the aspiring conversationalist. Within the book, among the attacks on Catholic practices and notes on the early English meters was this observation about”The Cap of Liberty. “Cap of Liberty”:

It is a common fungus that so precisely represents the liberty pole and cap that it is regarded by nature itself as the proper symbol of Gallic republicanism. the mushroom patriots, adorned with a cap made of a mushroom, liberty.

There was no way that Woodhouse nor Southey or Coleridge recognized the exact mushroom that they were thinking of using the idea of the cap of liberty. However, the field of mycology, the study of fungi – began grow during the late 19th century driven by the same kind of scholars who would keep a copy Omniana on their bookshelf and the name was immediately and widely connected to Psilocybe semilanceata.

In the past it was an small and insignificant little mushroom that was not the focus of attention for anyone but dedicated mycologists. As the common names for mushroom were introduced into mycological books, Psilocybe semilanceata was routinely named the liberty cap.

The first such instance was Mordecai Cooke’s 1871 Handbook of British Fungi. The year was 1894. Cooke wrote the book Edible as well as Poisonous Mushrooms in which he shrewdly described Psilocybe semilanceata, in quotation marks in the form of “cap of liberty” precisely the phrase that was used by Coleridge and it appears that Cooke was conscious of using to quote. In the 20th century, the name had been established.
A mushroom can be magical

The tale could, possibly not end there however, it does have an enthralling conclusion where this liberty cap mushrooms was able to rise out of obscurity, being one of hundreds of harmless LBMs (little black mushrooms) only known by scientists and experts to be one of the most well-known European mycological species.

Through the works written by Europeans on the traditions and religions of the indigenous peoples in Central America, there existed reports of a mysterious food item that Aztecs called Teonanacatl (“the sacred the divine mushroom”). The rumours were for a long time dismissed as mythological nonsense and not worthy of consideration than the shape-shifters of Norse and Icelandic mythology. However, in the beginning of 20th-century the mythical mushroom captured the imagination of the most unlikely person on earth, Robert Gordon Wasson, vice-president of JP Morgan, a Wall Street banking firm JP Morgan.

Since the 1920s Wasson was obsessed with his interest in ethnomycology (the study of human-human cultural relationships with mushrooms). Through studies that would result in an extensive bibliography, Wasson went to Mexico and, after an exhausting and lengthy hunt, finally came across the woman who was eager to teach him the mysteries of the sacred mushroom. He was (perhaps) perhaps the only white man to deliberately take a hallucinogenic mushroom and published his experiences in the year 1957 in a Life piece, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom”.

Wasson’s discovery caused an instant sensation. In 1958, a team headed by Swiss chemical scientist Albert Hofmann – the man who created the first synthetic (and consumed) LSD – was able to identify the primary psychoactive substance found in the mushrooms. It was named psilocybin to give an homage to being the mushrooms belonging to the genus Psilocybe that had the chemical. Although the hallucinogen-producing species of fungi are most prevalent throughout Central America, they began to be discovered throughout the world. A 1969 article from Transactions of the British Mycological Society confirmed that no other than the benign small liberty cap contained psilocybin.

Although the psychedelics aren’t all that common, there is a variety plants that thrive within Britain (including the distinctive white and red Amanita fly agaric, a muscaria which is a muscimol-based fungus, and not Psilocybin) the liberty cap has earned its place as the symbol for the country’s psychedelic fungal species. The current generation of “shroomers” aren’t able to resist putting their spin about the liberty cap’s name, owing to its ties with that transcendental “liberation” provided by psychedelics and the grassroots organizations like The Shroom Liberation Front attest to this fact.

However this liberty cap’s picture is no connection with psychologists and psychoedelic advocates for drugs Timothy Leary (“turn on, tune in, and then quit”) as well as the counter-culture of the 1960s. More likely, and even a little bizarre it trace a route through the political revolutions in the early modern era and the execution of the ruler Julius Caesar, to a conical cap worn by the slaves of Rome’s past.