Mushrooms have been used for centuries by traditional people and shamans or medicine men to go into altered states of consciousness and visit other dimensions. Magic mushrooms or hallucinogenic fungi such as the fly agaric or Amanita muscaria must be used carefully as they can be toxic, especially when identified incorrectly. Many species or varieties of mushrooms that may appear very similar can have vastly different properties.
Mushroom identification out in the woods or forests is a skill our ancestors acquired eons ago, but in our modern age that puts more value on science and material wealth than appreciation of nature and spirituality, being expert at identifying specific plants and knowing their applications are talents and abilities that have fallen by the wayside. Unless you are a mycologist, a mushroom scientist, or a serious student of the different kinds of mushrooms that grow in nature, you are likely to be ill equipped to correctly know the difference between, for example, an Amanita muscaria and one of its look-alike cousins in the mushroom family.
When it comes to finding any kind of mushroom out in the wild, your search will be most productive if you know not only when but also where to do your looking. Wild mushrooms are not like vegetables in a garden that are planted and harvested on a convenient time schedule. To the uninitiated observer it may seem that they have minds of their own, appearing and disappearing with very little rhyme or reason. But, like our ancestors of old who were in tune with the natural rhythms of the earth, those who closely study wild fungi know there are likely areas and seasons when one’s quest for these marvelous morsels will be most productive.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria grow as natives all through the temperate and boreal regions. In addition, they have accidentally been transported to a large number of Southern Hemisphere countries. Searches will be most productive in woodlands where birch, pine, cedar fir and spruce trees are abundant. Although they are most often found in the fall, the seasonal variations are dependant on various climate zones. Whereas in the greatest areas of North America they appear during the summer and autumn, in Pacific coastal regions they come out later, in the late fall and early winter.
In some parts of Australia, particularly in the southeast, Amanita grows like a weed, and there are concerns, especially in rainforest areas around Victoria and Tasmania that it could be pushing out some native species.
For someone desiring to plant their own garden of Amanita mushrooms, they are advised to do so in the autumn or spring. Most of the growth happens underground during spring and summer, and depends on how much rainfall there is, or, if you are watering the garden yourself, according to how much moisture the soil contains.