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In Papua New Guinea, a number of mushrooms

from the genera Boletus, Russula, and Heimiella

are generally referred to by the name nonda. They

reportedly are consumed by the Kuma tribe and

produce a temporary state of "mushroom

madness"385 that is characterized by manic, wild

behavior (Reay 1960). The mushrooms are eaten

for culinary purposes throughout the year; it is

only at a particular time (during moderate

rainfall) that they are said to elicit these psychoactive

effects. The fruits (nong'n) of a Pandanus

sp. are said to be able to produce the same effects

(Reay 1959, 188).

The Kuma once used the effects of nonda

mushrooms to induce a wild and uninhibited

aggressiveness before undertaking acts of warfare

(Heim 1972, 170). Occasionally, the "mushroom

madness" was also said to produce hallucinations

of a terrible or pleasantly cheerful nature. Some

Papuans describe the condition as a "bad trip"

(Nelson 1970, 10).

This "mushroom madness" is strongly reminiscent

of the "wild man" behavior that is so well

known on Papua New Guinea (Newman 1964) as

well as of the Balinese phenomenon of amok.

Running amok, however, is not induced by any

psychoactive substances but, rather, appears to be a

traditional pattern of behavior within the culture

(cf. Kertonegoro 1991, 61-102). In the same way,

the "wild man" behavior, which is known as longlong,

also appears to be learned and culturally

patterned. It can appear without any pharmacological

stimuli, at least among the Gururumba:

It begins when a person simply stops reacting

to words. Because of this, he is also unable to

understand anything, and his speech consists

solely of inarticulate babbling or shrieking.

Often, this condition leads to a violent shaking

of the body, shortness of breath, and uncontrolled

movements. In this state, the afflicted

person may then take up his weapon and run

through the village. (R~itsch and Probst 1985,

305 f.)

The French mycologist Roger Heim identified the

following fungi as nonda (Heim 1972; Heim and

Wasson 1965):

Boletus (Boletaceae)

This genus includes the delicious porcini mushroom

or king bolete (Boletus edulis Bull.: Fr.), as well

as Boletus luridus Schaeff.: Fr., which is toxic when

taken in combination with alcohol, and the very

toxic Satan's mushroom (Boletus satanas Lenz).

Boletus (Tubiporus) flammeus Heim

Boletus (Tubiporus) kumaeus Heim

Boletus (Tubiporus) manicus Heim

Boletus (Tubiporus) nigerrimus Heim

Boletus (Tubiporus) nigroviolaceus Heim

Boletus (Tubiporus) reayi Heim

Boletus manicus, the largest and supposedly

most effective species of nonda, closely resembles

the Satan's mushroom (Boletus satanas Lenz) of

Europe. A powder produced by grinding the dried fruiting bodies is said to be able to induce colorful

visions. Boletus manicus has been found to contain

traces of indole alkaloids (Heim 1972, 173; Ott

1993, 422*). One Boletus species from the New

Guinea highlands that is known as namanama was

found to contain only amino acids and steroids,

none of which is known to have any psychoactive

effects (Gellert et al. 1973).

Heimiella (Boletaceae)

This genus is composed of just two or three

species and is found only in Asia. It is characterized

by long, fleshy stems and small caps.

Heimiella anguiformis Heim nonda mbolbe

Heimiella retispora Heim

To date, no psychoactive compounds have

been discovered in the genus Heimiella (Schultes

and Hofmann 1992, 44*).
Russula (Russulaceae)-brittle caps

Brittle caps are found throughout the world. Some

species are coveted as culinary mushrooms, some

are regarded as inedible, and some are attributed

with a certain degree of toxicity. The taste can be

used to estimate the toxicity of a specilnen. Species

that have a mild taste are edible, while pungent

varieties tend to be inedible or poisonous. Because

the pungent taste is often not immediately apparent,

a sample should be retained in the mouth for

at least two minutes. Two species of Russula have

been found to contain stearic acid. Some varieties

also contain ibotenic acid and muscimol, both of

which are also present in the fly agaric (Amanita

muscaria) (Schultes and Hofmann 1992,55*).

The following brittle caps have been described

for Papua New Guinea and are classified as nonda:

Russula agglutinata Heim------nonda mos

Russula kirinea Heim--------kirin

Russula maenadum Heim-------nondamos

Russula nondorbingi Singer-------nonda bingi

Russula pseudomaenadum Heim------nonda warn

Nonda mushrooms from the genus Russula are

said to induce the mushroom madness (ndaadl) in women but not in men (Heim 1972, 177).

Self-experiments with nonda mushrooms

(ingestion) conducted by various ethnographers

and mushroom enthusiasts have not detected any

type of psychoactive effects (D. McKenna 1995,

102*). It is of course possible that the nonda

mushrooms contain substances that react only in

the context of some specific chemical properties of

the Kuma (cf. Nelson 1970). All of the information

that is available indicates that the mushroom

madness represents a traditional and learned

pattern of behavior that is integrated into the

Kuma culture in a complex manner. Mushroom

madness is a cultural institution that makes it possible

for individuals to ((flip out" on a temporary

basis, thereby enabling them to undergo a social

catharsis and enact a ritual drama (Heim and

Wasson 1965).


Gellert, E., B. Halpern, and R. Rudzats. 1973. Amino

acids and steroids of a New Guinea boletus.

Phytochemistry 12:689-92.

Heim, Roger. 1972. Mushroom madness in the

Kuma. Human Biology in Oceania 1 (3): 170-78.

Heim, Roger, and R. Gordon Wasson. 1964. Note

preliminaire sur la folie fongique des Kuma.

Comptes Rendus des Seances de l'Academie des

Sciences (Paris) 258:1593-98.

---. 1965. The ((mushroom madness" of the

Kuma. Botanical Museum Leaflets 21 (1): 1-36.

Kertonegoro, Madi. 1991. Flug des Geistes: Eine Reise

in das andere Bali. Basel: Sphinx.

McDonald, A. 1980. Mushrooms and madness:

Hallucinogenic mushrooms and some

psychopharmacological implications. Canadian

Journal ofPsychiatry 25:586-94.

Nelson, Hal. 1970. On the etiology of ((mushroom

madness" in highland New Guinea: Kaimbi

culture and psychotropism. Paper presented at

69th annual meeting of the American

Anthropological Association, San Diego, Calif.,

Nov. 18-20, 1970.

Newmann, Philip. 1964. ((Wild man" behavior in a

New Guinea highland community. American

Anthropologist 66 (1): 1-19.

Ratsch, Christian, and Heinz J. Probst. 1985.

Namaste Yeti-Geschichten vom Wilden Mann.

Munich: Knaur.

Reay, Marie. 1959. The Kuma: Freedom and

conformity in the New Guinea highlands.

[Carlton]: Melbourne University Press.

---. 1960. ((Mushroom madness" in the New

Guinea highlands. Oceania 21 (2): 137-39.

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