The authors R. Gordon Wasson and Valentina Pavlovna Wasson spent a great deal of time and effort investigating why some cultures (such as the husband’s American culture) loathed wild mushrooms, while other cultures (such as the wive’s Slavic culture) adored them. Below, they propose a theory that Slavs came to know mushrooms while fleeing into the woods to avoid attack from invaders. It comes from their book Mushrooms, Russia, and History.
In the early Slavonic chronicles the Russians are depicted always as farmers, not traders or warriors, and their enemies habitually took advantage of this dependence on the soil to attack their homesteads and villages at harvest time.
The Slavs were already then old hands at taking refuge in the woods, just as in the recent war, and those were the circumstances under which, ages earlier, they must have first come into intimate communion with their friends the mushrooms.
Wasson and Wasson paint a picture of the Russians with no other way to keep themselves alive other than to live off of what the forest had to offer. This included the mushrooms, the possibly detestable, possible poisonous mushrooms in some dark, damp forest. This excerpt from Wasson and Wasson looks more in depth at the invaders that attacked the Slavs and how the word “ogre” came from the name for the Hungarian invaders.
The quote above is excerpted from the fantastic book Mushrooms, Russia, and History (page 44) available here for purchase on Amazon (at quite an expensive price) or here (Volume 1 and Volume 2 both as PDF files)to be read free of charge. I strongly recommend this book for those with an interest in a discussion of Slavic culture with an emphasis on Russia and also with discussion of European and world culture in general.
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.