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Soma

April 4th, 2011

Pardon a short hiatus from the Guatemalan ramblings while I dig myself out from under this pile of work. In the meantime….

The word “soma” came into Sanskrit from some even more ancient Indo-European root tongue. I’ve seen it translated as “flesh of the gods”; it referred to a sacred ritual drink of the Vedic culture in the third millennium B.C. Little is known about it except that it was made from an eponymous and equally unknown plant, but I think it can safely be assumed to have been a psychotic doom hallucinogen of some sort. Occasionally I’ve come across the titillating but unsupported speculation that soma might have been Amanita muscaria. The Olmecs held a certain mushroom sacred too. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night. Or at least give me interesting dreams.

And sometimes they work their way into my fiction. This month’s Apex Magazine #23, edited by the fabulous Catherynne Valente, features a rather dark story of mine about the beginning of time, “The Eater”, in which soma plays a passing role. Should you care to try it out, there’s a teaser here on the Apex site. Get the whole thing in print through the Apex store or in ebook form from none other than Weightless Books.

   Fungi, HM, Writings | 4 Comments »



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4 Comments »

  • Krista says:

    Oh it’s dark, but it’s a good ‘un. Passing reference to soma included.
    Congratulations, you!

  • mjd says:

    Thanks very much! Glad you liked it!

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I much admire your writing. 🙂

    Robert Graves rambled about soma and mushrooms. He thought the strange reference in one of the old Irish poems to the “jewel in the head of the toad” (IIRC) had some connection to it – and maybe to the toad images in Neoamerican iconography. I think he thought it was Amanita.

    I’d be more specific about the reference if I weren’t so spring-fevery, and involved in trying to draw frogs. Northern Green ones, Rana clamitans (why they’re called “clamitans” when all they utter is an inoffensive “blng”, I don’t know). No one photographs them from the front, showing just how their doubled thighs meet their bodies, hence my illustration problems. But you can look it up (the toad/amanita thing, not the frogs) in The White Goddess, if you like.

    • mjd says:

      Thanks! I will totally go look up that reference in Robert Graves…I wonder if that might have been where I originally read the thing about it being Amanita muscaria. I have not looked through The White Goddess in a long time. But I will!

      Good luck with your frog illustrations. 🙂

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