Amanita muscaria is a mushroom that can be found growing in forests throughout much of Europe Asia and North America. The easily recognized species has a white-flecked red cap with white gills and sits on a white stem. The fungus grows at the base of many species of trees living in harmony with the roots of the trees in an underground symbiotic soil community.
In Northern Europe Amanita muscaria has a rich history in shamanic traditions. The US Forest Service notes that pre-Christian cultures of the region incorporated it into their celebrations of Winter Solstice. The brightly colored mushrooms would appear at the base of trees including fir and spruce in the weeks leading up the seasonal celebration and were collected for use in holiday rituals.
Amanita muscaria has the potential to induce a strong psychedelic effect that some say was an inspiration for Alice’s trip "beyond the looking glass." It is sometimes confused with psilocybin mushrooms as "magic mushrooms". However these two mushrooms have completely different active compounds pharmacological effects and appearances.