It‘s fall, so let‘s collect some mushrooms. I don‘t know much about mushrooms but I do know not to pick this pretty red and white one. The Fliegenpilz (lit. fly mushroom) or fly agaric or toadstool is poisonous and will cause hallucinations. It is or was used as an intoxicant. (think magic mushrooms)
Fliegenpilz, mikezwei auf Pixabay
The mushroom also goes by
Fliegenschwamm – fly sponge
Fliegentöter – fly killer
Fliegenteufel – fly devil
Mückenpfeffer – mosquito pepper
Narrenschwamm – fool / mad person sponge
Krötenstuhl – toadstool
The names that reference Fliegen or flies probably come from the connection of flies with madness. It was said that mad people had flies in their heads. Another explanation is that the mushroom (fresh or dried) soaked in milk would lure flies and also mosquitos and kill them.
The reference to Kröte or a toad can be attributed to the resemblance of the top of the mushroom to the skin of a toad.
Good luck charm, 9883074 auf Pixabay
In Germany, the Fliegenpilz is also a symbol of good luck, possibly because of its eye catching color. The same goes for the red ladybug with its black spots. The rise of the poisonous mushroom as a good luck charm started with the shift of the meaning of the word Glückspilz. It used to describe (negatively) upstarts or parvenus; in English the word „mushroom“ was used because these social climbers shot up like mushrooms.
However, the German Glückspilz which literally means „good luck mushroom“ became an expression for a lucky person in the second half of the 19th century. We also use the Fliegenpilz as a good luck charm.
Mushroom of the Year
Pilz des Jahres 2022, Meik Schmidt auf Pixabay
The Fliegenpilz was voted “Pilz des Jahres” for 2022. Since 1994, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Mykologie (German Society for mycology) awards a mushroom the title “Mushroom of the Year” to draw attention to the mushroom and its endangerment by the changing environment or by humans.
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