When the subject of hallucinogenic mushrooms is mentioned, an host of images immediately comes to mind, specifically, images of tripped-out hippies and tie-dye, and also a word, psylocibe.
The use of magic mushrooms, however, did not begin in the 60's, and was not unique to this era. Many ancient cultures, including the American Indians, and certain African tribes used hallucinogenic plants and fungi in religious ceremonies.
Currently, our society rejects the use of such chemicals, and views them as somewhat evil. This is also the view of many Christian denomonations, but perhaps, it is not so farfetched to think that this culture may have also been the fruit of some magical substance.
In biblical accounts of the journey of Moses and his people through the desert, there is reference to a substance called manna. The story of Exodus describes this food from God to be very similar to a fungus.
Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will vain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no (16:4). And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground (16: 14).
And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning (16:19). Notwithstanding they harkened not unto Moses. but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms and stank: and Moses was wroth with them(16.20). And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating. and when the sun waxed hot it melted...(16:21).
Another allusion to mushroom use in Christianity deals with the mushroom Amanita Muscaria. This large red mushroom with white scabs perhaps spawned some of the current symbols and traditions associated with the holiday of Christmas.
First, this mushroom can only survive if there is a symbiotic relationship with the roots of specific trees, that is, only pine and birch. These mushrooms then only occur in a very near proximity to such trees.
Early pagan cultures, which celebrated yule, often used these mushrooms as medicine, and viewed their appearence as a gift. This idea may be the basis to the traditon of having gifts under a Christmas tree.
The colors associated with the mythical Santa Clause show a strong resemblance to the mushroom as well. The bright red and white colors of the mushroom can also be seen in traditional dress and decoration of the season.
Christians may or may not deny the existance of such relationships, but the fact remains, that many cultures were once based on such magical beliefs, and it is likely that this one, in part, is too. Myths do not just pop into a culture, but rather, often have a root in stories and legends that get handed down through the ages. These stories, at one point in time, held a certain truth or wisdom, but, through time, they become no more then tradition.