Let me start by saying that I am neither a connoisseur nor a mushroom hunter, but I am always enchanted by the beauty and profusion of shapes and colors that nature can express. Walking in the woods, I was very struck by the encounter with this unknown "creature", which I later discovered to be a curly mushroom (Hydnum repandum), also known by the uninviting name of "wolf's fart", encountered while walking in the autumn beech forests of the upper Modena Apennines. And taking this photograph as a pretext, the opportunity is tempting to say a few words about this mysterious kingdom.

You will now expect me to tell you about mushroom hunting, to reveal some secret to finding fat porcini mushrooms, to provide you with some geographical indications, perhaps a GPS track, or to suggest some succulent recipe, but I'm sorry to disappoint you, none of this .

But yes, I can reveal a great secret to you, the secret of secrets, taken from none other than the good mushroom man's bible: you don't need to get out of bed at four in the morning, grind kilometers of asphalt, and take exhausting walks in the woods full of insidious dangers to find these delicacies, you can easily get up at half past eight and, after a healthy breakfast, the supermarkets usually open at nine: there in complete comfort and safety, by taking an excursion among the shelves, you will find something to fill up with!

Jokes aside, I understand all passions, but when you talk to someone and say that you like the mountains, the first thing you hear is "yes mountains, mushrooms, polenta, roe deer" and they probably don't even know that polenta and the roe deer they eat in the high altitude refuges is made in factories in the large cities of the plains, and brought up there with a great waste of fuel! I don't comment on mushrooms, I work in transport, and I read bubbles...!


Everyone talks about mushrooms with their mouths watering and their eyes shining with greed, but few talk about the charm that these creatures manage to exude, with their sinuous and elegant shapes, and their phantasmagoric colours, some even luminescent in the dark, not case mushrooms are always included, even as symbols and images, in illustrations that have to do with fairy tales, legends, fairies, gnomes or supernatural worlds, the most subtle dimensions, intermediate realities.

Rightly defined as the "mushroom kingdom", because it is a kingdom, these creatures do not belong to plants, even if they are often mistakenly lumped together with them, nor to animals, much less to minerals, they are a kingdom in themselves, a form that lies in medium, we can say a form of intermediation between different realms, which allows interchange and communication.

Mushrooms in fact differ from the vegetal world for some factors, primarily that of not producing chlorophyll, and unlike plants which feed on inorganic substances, mushrooms feed on organic substances, i.e. produced by other living beings, sometimes by themselves still living beings or other fungi, and this links them to the animal kingdom. The fungus therefore also carries out an important activity of recycling and regenerating dead matter, returning inorganic elements to the soil which serve as nutrients for the trees. They are therefore a very important link in the unfolding of the cycles of life: they actively participate in a fundamental principle of physics: nothing is created and nothing is destroyed, "but I transform everything" a mushroom would say if asked!

But like any form of energy, here too there is a dark side, everything in nature is counterbalanced, and there are harmful fungi and parasites, which end up killing their host. But there are also mushrooms that can also offer humans precious medicinal, invigorating and energetic substances, substances known since ancient times, the famous ganoderma lucidum is a good example. If these mushrooms have healing and beneficial abilities on the human organism, nothing prevents us from thinking that they could have the same effects on animals and trees, I would venture that they could therefore also have some similar function in the forest ecosystem.

This is a mysterious kingdom and yet to be discovered, if only because the existence of approximately one and a half million fungal species is approximately estimated, of which eighty thousand have been studied and known, or only a paltry 5 percent!

Well, these spectacles that come out of the ground, that make a beautiful display of themselves, that strike us with their elegant and sinuous beauty, are in truth only a small part of much larger organisms that extend beneath the ground, the real mushroom and in fact it is an organism, called mycelium, which lives underground and is made up of a myriad of filaments called hyphae, what comes out of the ground and which we call mushroom, is the fruit-bearing apparatus of this being, it is the reproductive apparatus , it is its evident "erection" that comes out of the ground to spread its spores, to reproduce, and mushrooms can do this in many different ways, for example by puffing a cloud of spores into the air, a real aerial ejaculation, other species emit odorous substances that attract insects which will then transport the spores that have stuck to them far away, as flowers do with bees, still others exploit the wind, water or other animals.

In this beautiful image, which I found on the web, you can clearly see the true shape of the mushroom, it is a mushroom grown in a glass bowl containing a natural gelatinous agar-agar solution, this spectacular image shows the true shape of the mushroom, very different from the one that emerges on the surface and to which we are accustomed, thinking that only what we see is the mushroom!

The analogy with the male human reproductive system is not even that veiled, putting decency aside for a moment, we can say that mushrooms are the cocks of the forest! In other words, the mushrooms we see in the woods are a manifestation of that omnipresent divine energy that the ancients called Eros, the god of love and vital energy, the creative and destructive engine of the universe. If you pay attention, every energy in the universe has this double value, creative and destructive, vital and mortal, it is all a process in constant evolution, indissoluble and unstoppable!

The enormous filamentous tangle that lies beneath the ground constitutes a dense network, and could be used by the trees to communicate. We can perceive the forest not so much as a community of trees, but as a unitary organism, with its own conscience, and the network filamentous underground, the fungi constitute the connective tissue. Recent scientific studies confirm that trees can communicate with each other, and do so, exchanging information through the fungi themselves and regulating their diffusion, in this way the trees are aware of the arrival of a danger or an adverse event, and however possible they try to react, even collaborating with each other, they behave or adapt on the basis of this information, for example by secreting particular substances rather than others, and also seeking collaborations and alliances with other living things, such as fungi themselves or insects. Mushrooms therefore contribute to this vital exchange of information, but not only that, in addition to being part of the communication process, they also actively collaborate with trees to appropriately deal with the problems that arise.

And in everyday life, mushrooms act as intermediaries between the various vegetal, animal and mineral kingdoms, in fact they break down and transform into food resources those substances which for others are just waste, such as dead wood, and at the end of this process they return to the soil some mineral elements essential to trees for their growth, therefore a real symbiosis often arises between trees and fungi, where the latter literally envelop their roots, and in a certain sense "predigest" the soil for the needs of the tree itself.

The forest therefore, far from being just a group of trees, is an organism that behaves as if there were a conscience that tunes and orchestrates all its vitality! The forest has its own energy, it has its own spirit, and when we enter the forest, the trees perceive us, and according to some thinkers and scholars, not only do they perceive us and react to us, but they "read" us inside, they understand our nature, they feel our soul, perhaps better than we know how to feel ourselves, and if we are disposed in the right state of mind, they dialogue with us.

A beautiful image above by Gwynedd Hudson from 1922, created to illustrate "Alice in Wonderland". Where there is magic and wonder, where we want to represent another world, where there is a "door" to cross the dimensions or limits of the "real", we often find beautiful illustrations of mushrooms.

Different kingdoms, different realities intersect and interact in the forest, which is why it has always been considered, and is, a magical place, and mushrooms are part of this magic, also by virtue of the hallucinogenic and visionary properties of some species: many populations past and present tribals, shamans, druids, witches, know how to use these substances, these mushrooms, which allow us to have phantasmagorical visions and experiences, it is ultimately a matter of coming into contact with other realities, with other dimensions, with other entities , and mushrooms, if adequately known and expertly used, constitute the keys to open the doors, to build a bridge between dimensions, between kingdoms, and here too their character of interchange, connection, communication is revealed.

The mushroom can also be taken as an example of virtuous behavior, a sort of small spiritual master of life and freedom, the mushroom is in fact an artist of metabolism, a master of transformation, and all esoteric and spiritual doctrines assign great value to transformation, our very lives should be a process of transformation which, starting from vile matter, from base instincts, leads us to conquer the heights of thought and spirit, to reach understanding, to revelation. The mushroom gives us a small, silent, elegant example: it escapes all our classifications, neither vegetal, nor animal, nor mineral, and despite all the great progress in the scientific and technological fields, we still have not managed to domesticate it, they are very few. in fact, the species that can be cultivated, the majority of mushrooms do not grow in captivity, they are free and rebellious beings and do not submit so easily to our logic.

Advanced studies and experiments are underway that use mushrooms to obtain materials for the most varied uses, ranging from water purification, to the elimination of toxic substances, up to the creation of materials with properties and uses similar to plastic, leather , paper and cardboard, and can be used in construction, flooring, packaging and in countless other fields, with a unique characteristic: these fungal materials, being alive, have the extraordinary ability to self-repair and self-regenerate! In short, a future yet to be imagined, a future in harmony with nature which seems to be possible thanks also to these unsuspected allies: mushrooms!

We must look up to these little beings because, no matter how small, they do great things and have a lot to teach us. This is why I don't understand the systematic destruction of every inedible mushroom that unfortunately comes under fire from certain obscure characters who wander through the woods: you immediately understand that a mushroom picker of the worst kind has passed by from the myriad of mangled mushrooms that you see scattered all around! It almost seems like a desperate outburst of repressed existential anger, a disfigurement of beauty, an affront to nature's design, or perhaps a stupid spite towards what one cannot understand, in short, a display of ignorance. This makes me a little internally ashamed of belonging to the human race!

After everything we have said about mushrooms and the forest, which are basically just inputs to be explored further, now just a small question: do you really believe that all this was born by chance from an explosion?

Click on the image above to access the mushroom photo album >>>


I saw with my own eyes muddy mountain roads raped by a myriad of mega cars, with their polished bodywork, strutting around as if they were on display in Via Cavour; I have seen with my own eyes hordes of possessed people moving in the woods like zombies, staring into space, and when you meet them the first thing they say to you, if they deign to look up, is not good morning, but "did you find anything?" .... yes I would like to answer, I found myself! Because I always find myself in the woods, it's my dimension, getting lost in the intrigue, getting lost in the silences, in the rustle of the wind or in the babbling of a stream, at least until you meet someone who abruptly brings you back to the sad reality! I don't go to the mountains to look for or do something, I go just to feel good, because I like Nature, and the forest is my element, I always find myself there. But luckily the forest has a great resource: vastness! It's big, there's room for everyone, and with a bit of luck you can even walk for whole days without meeting anyone! They are regenerating dives, they are needed, like air to breathe.

I have seen with my own eyes people greedily pounce on a small berry found in the woods, as if they hadn't eaten for days! Not that there's anything wrong with this (maybe), it's not the gesture itself that leaves me a little dumbfounded, but the psychology behind it. Some scholars say that primitive men were hunters and gatherers, and then there was "evolution", they always say rumors, but I rather see an involution: I believe that ancient men had a religious and natural respect for nature, a duty, but a duty that doesn't weigh on you because when you enter a forest, if you are connected, you perceive this sacred energy, and you perceive it as an extension of you, as an encounter with your deepest self. But today's men are misled by an obsessive media and cultural brainwashing, and they see nature and the forest only from a utilitarian perspective, as places to be plundered, both materially and spiritually, reducing everything to a sort of park entertainment (the much infamous sport has a fundamental role in this, it is the place where the pernicious competitive spirit nests, preparatory to the functioning of this foolish social model).

Man has not evolved, he has devolved, transforming himself from a spiritual hunter/gatherer into a soulless marauder, history should be rewritten!

I saw, and that was enough!

And please, don't read my words in a polemical way, I only tell my way of being, I often look at the world of humans and I don't recognize myself in it, that's all. As the opposite is certainly true, whoever looks at me probably sees a somewhat strange animal, everyone is free to be what they believe, and freedom is sacrosanct for everyone. This site is my personal space that I have carved out for myself to express my ideas, it is not my intention to please or criticize anyone, I aim to please everyone, on the contrary...!

When I go into the woods, I never go to look for something, and when I find mushrooms, I never stop to think about whether they are edible or not, I admire their beauty, and that's it, at most I photograph them, if the conditions allow it, as a gesture of admiration.

I always enter the woods with respect, on tiptoe, being careful not to disturb, hoping to be kindly accepted into that community of ancestral energies and souls. I feel I have entered a sacred space, where it is right that the logic of the human mentality is forgotten outside, at least we modern people who can afford it, not being driven by looming material needs. I don't go into the woods to do or seek, I just go to "be", because I like it, because I feel good there, and I always linger. As evening falls, the atmosphere becomes more mysterious and seductive, almost palpable, on the way back each step I take becomes slower than the previous one, as if the forest was magnetically trying to hold me back, as if I didn't want to leave it, I always take advantage of the last minute of light, and even beyond.

The photographs I take are my personal form of thanks for everything I receive.

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Free Wild Spirit - You will never have me - by Andrea Franchi - all rights reserved