COMMON NAMES: Bovista, Lycoperdon Bovista, Puffballs, Bolita (‘little ball), Pata de Perro (‘dog’s paw’), Pedo del Diablo (‘fart of the devil’), Hongo Adivinador (‘Fungus of Divination’), Jitamo Real de Venado (‘Royal Puffball of the Stag’), Kalamota, Ka-ka-toos (‘falling stars’), petremquilquil
Lycoperdon mixtecorum is a very small mushroom that grows to a diameter of only three centimeters. It is subglobose and a bit flattened. The surface is densely cobbled and light tan. The interior is straw colored. The spores are spherical and brownish with a tinge of violet (Hofmann et al. 1992, 48).
Most of the estimated 50 to 100 species of Lycoperdon grow in mossy forests of the temperate zones of Mexico. When hunting for puffballs, it is very important to remember that some species may resemble the fruiting bodies of Amanita spp. in their unopened ‘egg’ state, and that most Amanitas are very poisonous (Hofmann et al. 1992, 48).
TRADITIONAL USES: Puffballs (Lycoperdon mixtecorum and L. marginotum) are used by the Mixtec Indicins Of Oaxaca, Mexico as auditory hallucinogens and for divination. After eating these fungi, one is said to hear voices and echoes. There is apparently no ceremony connected with puffballs, and they do not enjoy the elevated place as divinatory agents that psilocybe mushrooms do in Oaxaca (Hofmann et al. 1992, 48)
L. mixtecorum is the stronger of the two species, and is called gi-i-wa, meaning ”fungus of the first quality.” L. marginatum, which has a strong odor of excrement is known as gi-i-sa-wa, meaning ”fungus of the second quality” (Hofmann et al 1992, 48).
In the Tarahumara region, Lycoperdon mushrooms are called kalamota, and are used in witchcraft. It is also possible that they have been used as peyote substitutes. It is said that Lycoperdon spp. is used by evil sorcerers to conceal their presence, or to make people sick. Puffballs are also used by shamans in Mendocino County, California (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
In North America, the Blackfeet call puffballs ka-ka-toos, meaning “Falling Stars” or “Dusty Stars” and use them to make necklaces. They consider the fungi to be symbols of life arising from the earth, and decorated their dwellings with images of them (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
In Chile, the Mapuche Indians refer to Lycoperdon spp. as petremquilquil, meaning “powder of the devil” or “tobacco of Chunco”. Chuncho is a bird with a human head who is thought to be a form of a shaman. It is possible that this fungi was smoked in order to assist in the transformation to a bird and to allow one the ability to fly (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
The Germans have a number of names for Lycoperdon, all of which have the prefix ‘hexen‘. This indicates a possible connection to witchcraft (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATIONS: No ritual usage has yet been verified. The fungus is generally consumed whole. The Mixtec consume them in pairs in order to enter a dreamlike state in which voices speak to them and provide answers to questions and give advice. Puffballs are also used to make amulets or other types of decorations by various peoples around the world (Hofmann et al. 1992).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1.5-6g of dried fungi are wrapped in cheesecloth and boiled for 20-30 minutes. This is taken for tonsillitis and sore throats (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
MEDICINAL USES: The spores are used as an anesthetic and narcotic through inhalation, though this can cause serious lung inflammation. Puffballs are also sometimes applied to wounds as an astringent. The Blackfoot tribe of North America sniff the spores to treat nosebleed and burn the fungi as incense to drive off evil spirits. The Cherokee use Lycoperdon perlatum to treat chafed skin. Lycoperdon pyriforme, the North American stump puffball, is said to have sleep inducing effects (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Although intoxicating substances have not yet been found in Lycoperdon mushrooms, there are reports in the literature that some species have narcotic effects when eaten. It is possible that consuming a puffball may result in effects on dreams, and that non-natives who have not been trained to explore and analyze their dreams for divinatory information would not notice these effects. Consumption of Lycoperdon fungi is said to cause auditory hallucinations and to have an effect on dreaming (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
One individual who consumed seven of the fungi experienced short acting narcosis about thirty minutes after consumption. Another individual unknowingly consumed 20-30 psychoactive English specimens, fried in olive oil and followed by spicy food. Two hours later, the individual experienced gastric distress, followed by some stimulation. This was followed by very intense dreaming and much-interrupted sleep. While awake, auditory and colour perception seemed to be enhanced. The individual experienced unpleasant aftereffects for several days. Similar narcotic effects have been reported by individuals who accidentally consumed puffballs as part of a meal (Voogelbreinder 2009, 222).
Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.