Psychedelic Naturalism and Interspecies Alliance: Views from the Emerging Do-It-Yourself Mycology Movement

  • Joanna Steinhardt


Do-it-yourself (DIY) mycology is a movement that has emerged in the last decade in North America. DIY mycologists specialize in easy and accessible methods of mushroom cultivation and mycological experimentation and mobilize a discourse of alliance with the fungal kingdom. They draw primarily on home cultivation methods innovated by Psilocybe cultivators in the 1970s and on creative applications popularized by commercial mycologist and psychedelic enthusiast Paul Stamets in the 2000s. As a counterpoint to the newfound visibility and legitimacy of lab-synthesized psilocybin in clinical psychiatry, DIY mycology exemplifies an alternate history of this multispecies engagement. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest, this chapter begins with the tacit premise of the psychedelic/entheogenic movement that the use of psychedelics fosters ecological concern. Many DIY mycologists express biocentric ethics and eco-spiritual principles, but interviews revealed a diverse and nuanced relationship to psychedelics. I argue that DIY mycology is best understood as an interspecies (or cross-kingdom) engagement that is part of an emergent ecological ethics and deep ecology worldview, one that subsumes psychedelic experiences as one manifestation of that engagement. DIY mycology exemplifies how the spread of mycological know-how, fascination, and enthusiasm has fostered an engagement with fungi that extends far beyond psychedelics. To understand this engagement, I contextualize it within wider social and cultural shifts, particularly those that reformulated our practical, ethical, and conceptual relationship with the natural world. This movement attests to the existence of multiple means to enact these ethics and to foster meaningful relationality with nonhuman life in contemporary North American society and culture.


  1. Belasco, W. (2007). Appetite for change: How the counterculture took on the food industry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Binkley, S. (2007). Getting loose: Lifestyle consumption in the 1970s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Deus Ex McKenna – Terence McKenna Archive. (2011, July 24). Terence McKenna – The syntax of psychedelic time – July 1983 [Video file]. Retrieved from
  4. Drug Policy Alliance. (2017). Psilocybin mushrooms fact sheet. New York, NY: Drug Policy Alliance.Google Scholar
  5. Fairfax, S. K., Dyble, l. N., Guthey, G. T., Gwin, L., Moore, M., & Sokolove, J. (2012). California cuisine and just food. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Feinberg, B. (2003). The Devil’s book of culture: History, mushrooms, and caves in Southern Mexico. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  7. Ingram, M. (2007). Biology and beyond: The science of “back to nature” farming in the United States. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97, 298–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jarnow, J. (2016). Heads: A biography of psychedelic America. Boston, MA: De Capo Press.Google Scholar
  9. Jarnow, J. (n.d.). Why psychedelic history matters. Retrieved from
  10. Kaiser, D., & McCray, W. P. (2016). Groovy science: Knowledge, innovation, and American counterculture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kelty, C. (2008). Two bits: The cultural significance of free software. Durham, NC: Duke University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kirk, A. (2007). Counterculture green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American environmentalism. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  13. Krebs, T. S., & Johanson, P. (2013) Over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States. F1000Research, 2, 98.Google Scholar
  14. Kripal, J. (2007). Esalen: America and the religion of no religion. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Krippner, S., & Luke, D. (2009). Psychedelics and species connectedness. MAPS Bulletin Special Issue: Psychedelics and Ecology, 19(1), 12–15.Google Scholar
  16. Langlitz, N. (2012). Neuropsychedelia: The revival of hallucinogen research since the decade of the brain. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Letcher, A. (2007). Shroom: A cultural history of the magic mushroom. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  18. Letcher, A. (2013). Deceptive cadences: A hermeneutic approach to the problem of meaning and psychedelic experience. In D. Luke & D. King (Eds.), Breaking convention: Essays on psychedelic consciousness. Strange Attractor: London, UK.Google Scholar
  19. Markoff, J. (2005). What the dormouse said: How the sixties counterculture shaped the personal computer industry. New York, NY: Penguin.Google Scholar
  20. Morris, H. (2013, July). Blood spore: Of murder and mushrooms. Harper’s Magazine. Retrieved from
  21. Oss, O. T., & Oeric, O. N. (1976). Psilocybin: Magic mushroom grower’s guide. Berkeley, CA: And/Or Press.Google Scholar
  22. Paxson, H. (2013). The life of cheese: Crafting food and value in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Ruck, C. A. P., Bigwood, J., Staples, D., Ott, J., & Wasson, R. G. (1979). Entheogens. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 11(1–2), 145–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Shortall, S. (2014). Psychedelic drugs and the problem of experience. Past and Present, 222(Suppl. 9), 187–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stamets, P. (1993). Growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.Google Scholar
  26. Stamets, P. (1996). Psilocybin mushrooms of the world: An identification guide. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.Google Scholar
  27. Stamets, P. (2005). Mycelium running: How mushrooms can help save the world. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.Google Scholar
  28. Stamets, P. (2008, March). 6 ways mushrooms can save the world [Video file]. Retrieved from
  29. Stamets, P. (2014, December 1). Psychoactivity conference – Amsterdam 1999: Psilocybin mushrooms of the world: Powerful allies [Video file]. Retrieved from
  30. Stengers, I. (2015). In catastrophic times: Resisting the coming barbarism. London, UK: Open Humanities Press.Google Scholar
  31. Tsing, A. L. (2015). The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Turner, F. (2006). From counterculture to cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Worster, D. (1985). Nature’s economy: A history of ecological ideas. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Press.Google Scholar
  34. Yachaj. (2001). Mushroom cultivation: From falconer to fanaticus and beyond. The Entheogen Review, 10(4), 127–139.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna Steinhardt
    • 1
  1. 1.Humanities and Social Sciences Building (HSSB)University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

Personalised recommendations