Creative writer and herbalist, Sera Ghaly, based in Melbourne Australia. She is a lover of all things plant-related, and her passions lie in the ethnobotanical use of plants. Having travelled to South America, India, and the Middle East, she has encountered a number of ethnobotanical plants in their natural habitats and traditions, both psychedelic and non-psychedelic. Her mission: to encourage and educate on the power of herbal medicine and ethnobotanical use of plants — to remind us that everything we seek exists in its whole, complete form in nature.
I came to the world of magic mushrooms pretty deep into my “substance” experimentation, so I’d already had a lot of experience being intoxicated on things other than alcohol. I’m not saying that having a prolific substance-using background prepares you for taking mushrooms. I’m just saying that I wasn’t altogether unfamiliar with what it feels like to trip. I don’t know exactly what that means for those of you reading — it’s just a disclaimer about the many strange and wonderful feelings that accompany a magic mushroom journey.
Buddha in the sky.
I had taken magic mushrooms before in the cosiness of my home with friends and enjoyed lots of giggles and trippy visuals. But this experience felt like the first real psychedelic journey I’d ever had. You know, those cerebral expansion psychedelic stories everybody talks about where suddenly, the answer to all life’s questions comes exploding out of the void.
I wasn’t in the habit of counting grams at that stage in my experimentation, but I probably took somewhere between 2 and 4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms. In Melbourne, Australia, we usually find Psilocybe cubensis or Psilocybe subaeruginosa. Subaeruginosa is the wood-loving species and it’s more common, so I’m going to hazard a guess that Psilocybe subaeruginosa is the mushroom variety I consumed that day.
A handful of friends and I were heading to the beach to enjoy a summer afternoon. Just me and one other person committed to the magic mushroom extravaganza while the rest decided to sit at a beachside bar.
I was actually there with them at the beachside bar until Buddha appeared in the sky and I realised I was tripping. From that point onwards, I had to leave my friends at the bar and go consult the ocean because I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
The come-up on these mushrooms was so strong, I was feeling extremely nauseous. It wasn’t like the poisoning sensation that alcohol gives you — it felt like I had sea sickness. Everything was moving way too fast — and being surrounded by hordes of people at a busy Melbourne beach bar wasn’t helping the situation.
You know when you smoke too much weed and the concept of standing or even sitting feels like way too much for your body to deal with? It was just like that. So I took to a horizontal position on the sand, staring at the sky.
So there I was; lying on a beach because my legs felt like jelly, feeling nauseous, a little anxious, and my visual field had well-and-truly become the psilocybin visual landscape.
To explain what I meant when I mentioned Buddha appearing in the sky; it was as though I could see thousands of different beams of light intersecting in the sky to create a hologram of Buddha. The way I saw it, he was made out of photons.
Now, if you were lying on a beach feeling wobbly as hell and Buddha was right in front of you, you’d probably use that moment to ask some questions. It felt like the only reasonable thing to do, even though I was fully aware that there was nothing reasonable about a Buddha hallucination.
I can’t remember the exact conversation between Buddha and I. I just remember that it didn’t take long for the giggle fit to arrive. It all felt very absurd. And that absurdity very quickly became humorous. Then it felt like Buddha was just a bro, hanging out, laughing together and forgetting about our apparent wobbliness or the fact that one of us might actually just be made out of light rays.
I felt totally safe and comfortable. My heart was exploding with love for my new found friend (Buddha), and I had for all intents and purposes, forgotten that I had an entire group of friends at a bar just a hundred metres away.
Conversation gets tough.
It could have been a minute. It could have been two hours. There will never be a way of knowing. At some point, my friends joined me on the beach after finishing their beers at the bar. I remember being a little confused at their arrival seeing as I had forgotten that we all came here together.
I was still very deep in physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and visual effects. But most of my friends were kind of tipsy, so everyone was really in the mood for talking. I wasn’t and that bothered me a little bit. I was so wrapped up in my conversation with Buddha and the universe that verbal conversation seemed… well… boring.
I felt uncomfortable by the pressure to engage socially. I didn’t want to talk, especially about mundane things like gossip. I secretly wished I could be on the beach alone so that I didn’t feel any pressure to be socially involved with anyone around me.
You can imagine how long this mental loop went on for (another thing about taking magic mushrooms). After a while, I realised that my friends didn’t seem to care if I was “in another world” — it was me that was uncomfortable with the fact that I wasn’t in their world.
In any case, it just seemed impossible to string a sentence together. It also seemed like a waste of time seeing as a sentence couldn’t possibly describe what was happening to me. I let the entire concept of conversation evaporate — gladly.
Walking didn’t come back until the next day.
The mushroom experience on the beach was more esoteric than I was bargaining for. At that point in my experience with psychedelics, no such religious phenomena had ever occurred to me. Brand new creativity in the way I could understand different abstract concepts seemed to emerge from… myself? You could say that for the first time I could see the potential in drugs other than just having fun.
When it was time to go (I was not operating the vehicle, by the way), I physically couldn’t get up. It wasn’t the loose drunkenness that makes you flop about and trip over things. I literally could not generate a neuronal connection between my brain and my legs. While my mind was saying “walk”, my legs just weren’t responding.
Whatever — my friends found it funny so I didn’t feel the need to try and explain my sudden paralysis. I remember getting dropped off at my door, taking one step in and completely face planting into my carpet. It was all super strange and a little bit scary. Any connection between my brain and body had completely fried out. I crawled into my bed and had a very long sleep.
The next day, I hadn’t regained full control over my muscles yet. I got online to see if anybody else in the world had suddenly become paraplegic while on psilocybin. I came to learn that Psilocybe subaeruginosa, the wood loving species, for unknown reasons, can cause short-term paralysis. I’ll admit that I was definitely less scared after hearing that it had happened to others before… and that it was short term.
But nonetheless, it was pretty frightening not being able to properly coordinate any movements for at least 12 hours. I remember catching up with my dad the day after this mushroom trip and he asked me to roll him a cigarette. I literally couldn’t and I had no logical way of explaining that to him. I could only answer with “I literally can’t do that.”
The end of chemical drugs for me…
I didn’t go into this mushroom journey expecting any revelations or life-changing events. As I mentioned, I had experimented with a lot of substances before magic mushrooms and for me, it was just all about the fun of getting high. I was experimental, I used a lot of drugs, and my body was definitely paying the price.
But something happened after this journey. After understanding the potency and power of using psychedelic substances, I suddenly decided that chemical drugs were boring to me. I’d had a lot of fun using ecstasy and speed and party drugs, but I’d never had an experience like what mushrooms had given me. The urge to use lots of drugs just seemed to melt off me without me having to give it much conscious thought.
I entered a whole new world of curiosity for psychedelic substances. I somehow thought and believed that there was more potential in them for what I, Sera, was personally looking for in drugs. All the “experiences” I had been waiting to have with other drugs all of a sudden manifested in one magic mushroom experience. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I found what I was looking for.
Me since then.
This sparked the beginning of a 6-year-long journey that I took around the world seeking out the world’s traditional peoples and their practises of using psychedelic and non-psychedelic substances as entheogens. I travelled to South America, India, and Egypt, and grew, harvested, helped prepare, and used entheogenic plants native to their traditions in their traditional settings. Throughout my journey, I encountered and participated in traditional entheogenic uses of Ayahuasca (the Caapi vine), tobacco, San Pedro, peyote, magic mushrooms, cannabis, tulsi, coca, and so many more.
Now, I’m an herbalist. I’m free from chemical drugs. I love to use cannabis regularly and I use psychedelics 2 or 3 times each year as bonafide, self-guided psychotherapy.
If I could describe the mushroom experience in a handful of words…
Presuming you could only fit about 7.5 words in a handful, these are the words I would choose:
- LOL (is that technically three words?)
We want to hear who from our audience has tried magic mushrooms and what it felt like for them. We know it's different for everybody, and that's why we thought it would be nice to share a personal account. We would love to hear yours! Share your mushroom experience with us in the comments.