Magic mushrooms – mushrooms that contain the psychoactive tryptamine psilocybin – are going mainstream. Once the sole preserve of hippies and a psychedelic underground, now they’re helping us understand the inner machinery of the brain; they’re being used as a potential cure for depression and other mental illnesses; and they may even bring us into closer relationship with the non-human world, at a time of profound ecological crisis. But how did this happen?

In this talk Dr Andy Letcher takes a critical look at how an innocuous mushroom came so dramatically to affect modern culture. Did the ancient Druids trip out at Stonehenge? Which Oxford Professor of Poetry had a magical mushroom ride? And who were the freak brothers who conversed with a UFO and cracked the secret of how to cultivate magic mushrooms at home? All these questions and more will be answered!

Speaker Bio:

Dr Andy Letcher is a Senior Lecturer at Schumacher College, where he is programme lead for the MA Engaged Ecology. He is the author of Shroom. A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, as well as many papers on subjects as diverse as fairies, eco-magick, psychedelic experience, mysticism and animism. He is currently researching the use of psychedelics by contemporary Druids, and the use of the Fly Agaric mushroom in contemporary culture.

Andy portrait


This Psychedelic series is Curated by Maya Bracknell Watson and Dr David Luke

Maya Bracknell Watson is an interdisciplinary artist, poet, performer, retired cult leader and psychedelic and parapsychology researcher. Having just graduated from Chelsea College of Arts, her work over the last six years has been informed by her concurrent shamanic training, work with the Wixárika (Huichol) tribe from Mexico, and role as a research assistant under Dr David Luke of Greenwich university in the study of the psychedelic compound N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and other worlds. Walking between the worlds of the arts, science and the occult, she combines media and investigative techniques from each to inform and articulate one another in the exploration of ontology, consciousness and altered states, mytholopeia and mythology, ecology, the human condition and its relation to the environment, otherness and mortality. She describes her practise and research as contemporary Memento Mori (‘remember you will die’), and explores what that means in a time of mass ecocide and species extinction.

Follow her on the crooked path on Instagram @maya_themessiah

Dr David Luke is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich, UK, where he has been teaching an undergraduate course on the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience since 2009, and he is also Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Psychedelic Research, Imperial College London, and Lecturer on the MSc Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology for Alef Trust and Liverpool John Moores University. His research focuses on transpersonal experiences, anomalous phenomena and altered states of consciousness, especially via psychedelics, having published more than 100 academic papers in this area, including ten books, most recently Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience (2nd ed., 2019). When he is not running clinical drug trials with LSD, conducting DMT field experiments or observing apparent weather control with Mexican shamans he directs the Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness salon at the Institute of Ecotechnics, London, and is a cofounder and director of Breaking Convention: International Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness. He has given over 300 invited public lectures and conference presentations; won teaching, research and writing awards; organised numerous festivals, conferences, symposia, seminars, retreats, expeditions, pagan cabarets and pilgrimages; and has studied techniques of consciousness alteration from South America to India, from the perspective of scientists, shamans and Shivaites. He lives life on the edge, of Sussex.

This Psychedelic series is Curated by Maya Bracknell Watson and Dr David Luke