“I met R. Gordon Wasson several times in the late 1970s, the man whose massive contribution to bettering our understanding of the importance of psilocybin and amanita mushrooms is well known,” says renowned American mycologist Paul Stamerts.
What is less known is that none of his achievements would have occurred without Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, his wife and an accomplished pediatrician, who was the true inspiration for their collective journey.
Tina Pavlovna hailed from Russia, a country with a history of ‘mycophilia’. Gordon Wasson was an American, and like many Americans had been instilled since childhood with ‘mycophobia’.
“In fact, these terms were invented by the couple to describe their respective mushroom upbringings, says Stamerts. “ Tina had collected, studied, and consumed wild mushrooms from an early age. Gordon, on the other hand, was initially appalled by Tina’s enthusiasm for fungi; he associated mushrooms with death, decomposition, and the dark, dank, dangerous underground.”
Gordon and Tina’s first joint encounter with the mushroom came while they hiked the Catskill Mountains of New York State on their honeymoon. They immediately learned of their cultural biases. After comparing their reactions, the pair agreed to embark on a collective lifelong journey studying ethnomycology—the cultural use and history of mushroom lore among a variety of cultures, from Russian to Mesoamerican, North American to Indian...