|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,
The French mycologist Roger Heim identified the
following fungi as nonda (Heim 1972; Heim and
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).
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 (Schultesand 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
Gellert, E., B. Halpern, and R. Rudzats. 1973. Amino
acids and steroids of a New Guinea boletus.
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.
Reay, Marie. 1959. The Kuma: Freedom and
conformity in the New Guinea highlands.
[Carlton]: Melbourne University Press.
---. 1960. ((Mushroom madness" in the NewGuinea highlands. Oceania 21 (2): 137-39.