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Imbas Forosnai – Evidence for the ancestral Irish use of psilocybin containing magic mushrooms

When Ireland was colonised in the 16th century, much of what we know of the ancient, indigenous, gaelic culture was lost. However, there are glimpses through our history, language, mythology which point to the use of psychedelic mushrooms in shamanic contexts. This presentation will examine the evidence of an indigenous shamanic culture in Ireland. In ancient Ireland, there existed a ritual called Imbas Forosnai that the filídh, poets or seers, would practise to achieve visionary inspiration.

The filídh were the successors of the druids, as the old gaelic tradition was an oral one, wisdom was passed down by word of mouth. In Brehon law times in Ireland, the poets were also the law givers, as the law was sung in verse. This ancient oral tradition was partially written down by the druids of Tara, and St Patrick, in the 4th century in the Senchus Mór . The brehon law of the gaelic old order survived from time immemorial in Ireland until colonisation in the 16th and 17th century. Imbas Forosnai was a ritual used to invoke altered states of consciousness, and achieve visionary inspiration, or manifestation that enlightens.

One of the oldest written records of Imbas Forosnai comes from the Sanas Cormaic, written in 908 AD. At this time the old pagan and druidic ways were already being forced underground, or assimilated, by the emergence of christianity. Imbas Forosnai is also frequently mentioned in much older Fenian Mythological cycle, An Fhiannaíocht, from the 2nd century AD. Imbas Forosnai is described in Sanas Cormaic as a ritual involving eating the ‘red flesh’, thought to be a reference to the fly agaric, a consciousness-altering mushroom which grows in great abundance in Ireland. In shamanic rituals, it would have been combined with the liberty cap psilocybin mushroom to achieve altered states of consciousness.