Palette of Narmer

Chevalier and Gheerbrant have written that among certain Bantu-speaking peoples of the central Congo, the mushroom is viewed as a symbol of the human soul. Among the Lulua, people speak of the “courtyard mushroom” and the “bush mushroom” to signify the worlds of the dead and the living. A sage explained that a mushroom growing in the yard or a mushroom growing in the savanna are one and the same.

The same authors relate that among the Dogon of Mali, mushrooms are symbolically associated with the stomach wall and with musical instruments. The skins of drums are rubbed with a powder of carbonized mushrooms to “give voice” to the instrument.

Mushrooms seem to be represented on the slate Palette of Narmer, from Egypt around 4000 B.C. The plaque, which is in the British Museum, was made to commemorate the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Image and excerpt from Adrian Morgan's Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Folklore, and Cultural Oddities of a Strange Association, (1995, p. 170).

For more on hallucinogenic mushrooms and their history, see:

Palette of Narmer