Theatricum Botanicum—Wikipedia on Psilocybin makes reference to a “foolish mushroom…

[Wikipedia on Psilocybin makes reference to a “foolish mushroom,” mentioned in John Parkinson’s 1640 herbal, suggesting it was a Psilocybin-containing mushroom and that its effects were recognised in the mid-seventeenth century England. The reference Wikipedia offers says the same thing. Going directly to Parkinson’s herbal it still isn’t clear on a quick perusal if it’s Psilocybin, despite Parkinson’s being an herbal.]

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

“English botanist John Parkinson included details about a ‘foolish mushroom’ in his 1640 herbal Theatricum Botanicum.”

Pasted from <>

[…But the reference isn’t directly to Parkinson’s Theatricum Botanicum. It’s a reference to a brief mention of Parkinson’s work]

[Following is that brief reference – This is all the Wikipedia reference (Gartz (1997), pp. 10–2.) says:]

‘Similarly, in England, John Parkinson’s “Theatricum Botanicum” (1640) includes details about a ‘foolish mushroom. ”

Pasted from <>

[So we go to Theatricum Botanicum. This is the Theatricum Botanicum image and reference (the mushroom “7” under discussion is not actually illustrated):]

Page 1321 [1345/1776]

See the source: Theatricum Botanicum”foolish”&pg=PA1322 (back up a page for the image).]

Google “foolish mushroom” (thinking that a name could be kept over hundreds of years). and we get:

Amanita verna

See <>

[But A. verna is bigger than Parkinson’s half-inch, and he doesn’t mention the veil or vulva. It’s also clearly white, not “whitish.” What Psilocybin-containing mushroom is “whitish?”

Psilocybe semilanceata.

P. semilanceata is widely distributed and was reported to have poisoned/intoxicated a family in an English park in 1799, at which time the effects of the mushroom had not been realized. [1]]

[Perhaps the “Boletus” referred to in Parkinson’s text was something other than a member of the Boletus genus which was only defined in 1753. Amanita caesarea was once called Boletus, although it does not grow in England. It is more similar to A. verna than P. semilanceata. Still, P. Semilanceata pretty much fits the description apart from “boletus,” which needs explanation. It seems Wikipedia is correct—and so is Parkinson. We can see – kind of – that in 1640, a mushroom which we know as a Psilocybin-containing mushroom was already known in England for its effects. Notably, being called a “foolish” mushroom – and being listed among Parkinson’s “dangerous” mushrooms, indicates they were less impressed by its effects than people today! Incidentally, at the top of the Theatricum Botanicum page see that Parkinson notes that he hardly has to warn his fellow Englishman to beware of the bad mushrooms since they don’t care much for the good ones. Clearly the English of the time weren’t inclined to sample any mushrooms, allowing the entheogenic ones to go un-noted.]

(Our analysis is pretty rough and loose, we know, but we see the dim shape of a succubus coiled just outside of the pool of light cast by the lamp, and we must go and chastise the wicked beast.)


  1. The Medical and physical journal: containing the earliest …, Volume 3 at []

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