You can finally feel it in the air. We are moving towards a sweet smelling, not to mention well-deserved spring! After a chilly winter season that dragged on like a bad cold, the flowers are starting to bloom, the birds are busy, and wow — it’s still light outside at 5pm?!
Spring Means One Thing…
In many countries around the world, this first tingle of Spring means only one thing. Or rather, one thing that has many different names. We’re talking Mardi Gras, Carnival, Fat Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’ (if you’re British!)
Carnival: The Oldest Party
Known as the world’s ‘oldest party’, Carnival refers to an annual festival that occurs before the onset of Lent. The storm before the calm you might say, when traditionally, people would use up the last of their winter rations and indulge themselves before the pious fasting period. We think this festival is ripe for a psychedelic twist. Afterall, it has bright colors, good vibes, and possibly rather trippy pagan origins. The cool thing about Carnival or Mardi Gras, is that every country who observes it expresses it differently, and you can too! We will explore its history, how it is celebrated across the world, and how you can incorporate magic mushrooms and their trippy powers into your celebrations.
The History of Carnival
Carnival originally took place in Roman Catholic countries in the last days before the Lenten season. The exact origin of the word is uncertain, though some trace it to the medieval Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium, which means to take away or leave behind meat. During Lent it was traditional to abstain from meat. Therefore, Carnival was the last opportunity you had for a while to eat that double cheeseburger, or whatever.
Does Carnival Have Trippy Pagan Roots?
It is believed that Carnival has its roots in ancient festivals that honored the rebirth of nature and the coming of the fertile spring. It has also been linked to the pagan festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. These took place in Ancient Rome and its settlements. Lupercalia (falling on February 15th) was said to be a circus-like celebration, with great parties, feasting, and — the pagan essential — alleged sacrifices. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were also said to hold similar celebrations around this time. Basically, once it gets to February, humans across the world and throughout history become itchy for some sort of celebration. Afterall, feeling the rhythm of nature and the growth of new life as cause for a party — the more extravagant the better!
Mardi Gras and Psychedelics- The Perfect Fit?
This connection with nature is what makes Carnival and Mardi Gras so apt for adding a psychedelic dimension. Sure, there were ancient stories of the Romans tripping on rye fungus for their mysterious ceremonies, and the Celts getting loopy with their Fly Agaric mushrooms, but the details are pretty sketchy — although it is fun to speculate. For our purposes, today, Carnival, or Mardi Gras can be a day of modern psychedelic celebration. Using magic mushrooms or truffles, natural psychedelics born from the earth, we can enhance our celebration of the changing seasons. They can help us tune in to the rhythms. Not just the rhythms of the Carnival drums, but the rhythm of the flowers, and the trees, and the growing sunlight.
Before we explore how to build our new psychedelic tradition however, let’s have a little look at how other countries celebrate Carnival/ Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday etc today:
The Difference Between Carnival and Mardi Gras
Firstly, what’s the difference between Carnival, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday?
Well, Carnival covers a much longer period and refers to the entire festival. For example, in Germany Carnival season started all the way back in November. In other countries, it begins after Three Kings Day on January 6th. Mardi Gras specifically refers to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, or, the beginning of Lent. Fat Tuesday is simply the translation to English of ‘Mardi Gras’. This has been adopted over the years as another term for the holiday. No prizes for guessing that both Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday refer to the tradition of indulging yourself silly on delicious treats, from donuts to pancakes, when the day rolls around. So while Mardi Gras is part of Carnival, it more specifically refers to the biggest party at the end of it (i.e. where all the feathers and masks come in.)
Mardi Gras first took place in America on March 3rd 1699, when French explorers landed in present-day New Orleans, Louisiana. They named their landing spot Point du Mardi Gras and held a modest celebration. Today New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations are some of the biggest in the world, and their signature colors of purple, green and gold are iconic. As well as the huge decorated floats that parade through the city, the sweet treats that accompany the New Orleans celebrations are equally famous. It is FAT Tuesday after all. Most well known is the King Cake. A brioche-like wreath covered in colorful icing, inside is hidden a plastic figurine of a baby. Whoever receives a slice of the cake with the baby inside is ‘King’ for the day — and also has to purchase next year’s cake. (Could you do the same with a magic truffle?!)
The decadent Carnival celebrations of Brazil from Rio to Sao Paulo are world famous. The celebrations were brought to the country by Portuguese immigrants in the 18th century and went through many incarnations. Today the Samba schools are a key part of Brazil’s parade, reflecting Afro-Brazilian culture. Each neighborhood or favela is represented by its own Samba school. During Carnival they go head to head, putting on a show that once seen is never forgotten.
Starting at 11:11am and 11 seconds on the 11th of November (which you might remember is the 11th month) Carnival season begins in Germany. To party in here you must be specific it seems. However, the real celebrations kick off the weekend before Mardi Gras, especially in the Rhine area. The streets fill up with floats, bands, dancers and people in elaborate costumes. A special quirk of the Carnival celebrations here is Women’s Carnival. On the Wednesday night, before carnival Thursday, the city is said to belong to the women. They are encouraged to ‘attack’ the men of the town and cut off their ties! (An argument for smart casual if ever we heard one!)
United Kingdom and Ireland
The United Kingdom and Ireland are some of the few places in Europe that do not traditionally celebrate Carnival. However, perhaps feeling left out, a culture of observing ‘Fat Tuesday’ is certainly growing (any excuse for a party, eh?). As a rule however, Mardi Gras in the UK is simply thought of as Pancake Day, when historically, you would use up your eggs, milk, and flour by whipping up a pancake feast before Lent. Although a tame celebration by Carnival standards, adding some fresh or dried magic mushrooms to your pancake batter could be a great way to amp up your festivities. Grate some cheese on top and you’re good to go!
How To Have a Psychedelic Mardi Gras with Magic Mushrooms
There are many ways you could incorporate magic mushrooms or truffles into your Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday celebrations. Here are some ideas:
- Pick a day around Mardi Gras or during Carnival when there is forecast to be some spring sun.
- If you want a group experience, more of a party say, invite some friends around.
- In the morning make your magic mushroom pancakes (Shrove Tuesday⇒ Shroom Tuesday?!) 😉 or brew some magic mushroom tea with some zingy fresh lemon.
- During your trip you can take a walk in nature, listen to traditional Mardi Gras music, dance with friends, and think about the coming year. Although you may not be observing Lent, you can consider how to apply any insights you may gain from this trip to your life going forward.
- If there are local Mardi Gras celebrations near you, it could be fun to visit them and see the parades. This probably depends on how confident you are going out and about while on magic mushrooms! It could be a total blast.
- An alternative is to take a microdose to make those Carnival colors that much brighter!
- The best way to enjoy Mardi Gras is to embrace all the colors, music, noise and magic around you. It’s a trip all its own!