Way of the Shaman


Ambrosia - Food of the Gods 1

Beneath autumn’s whispering trees, steps the “little man of the forest with the big hat".

Myth knows him under many names - dwarf, phallus, fountain, cup, fruit, fire, spotted animal (tree, pillar, sword, hammer, hat, navel, eye, sun, veil, stone, fox, snake, milk, storm cloud etc). Science sees only the fruit of an underground fungus bringing nutrients to the trees. Certainly the great tree needs its little neighbour. But round certain trees, at certain latitudes, two of the little people also bring magic to shamans of Northern Eurasia: it is Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina who tip their hats beneath oak and aspen, pine, birch and beech.

Muscaria ('fly') wears the scarlet cap with white spots of fairy-tale; Pantherina has a honey-brown cap with cream spots. These flying panthers open the door to other worlds. On a vase belonging to King Gudea of Lagash in 2000 BC (above), they guard the door to the Tree of Knowledge, which is entwined by snakes as in Eden. Here Eve is a Snake-goddess with the knowledge of Eternal Life; and her consort is Ningizzida or Dumuzi, 'Lord of the Tree of Truth'. In 2000 years, it will be Jesus ben Panther who opens the door to the forbidden fruit.

The Greeks called this forbidden fruit ambrosia, the food of the gods. For the Panther-god Dionysus, Robert Graves writes:

Ambrosia was the name of Dionysus's autumnal feast in which, I suggest, the intoxicant toadstool once inspired his votaries to a divine frenzy; and...the ingredients given by Classical grammarians for ambrosia, nectar and kykeon (Demeter's drink at Eleusis) represent a food-ogham - their initial letters all spell out forms of a Greek word for 'mushroom'.   White Goddess p334

Amanita pantherina and muscaria mushrooms have the same ambrosial or psychotropic agents. Muscaria is said to be easier to use, although some report a more gentle ride on the panther.


What is the tree whispering?

M says '...went to a huge tree, a whispering tree would speak to Ian. Important'.
Panther says look for Dione, who is the ancient goddess of whispering trees.
I look for a new axis tree to help my soul-journeying, and find the 'Whispering Tree'. It is the populus tremula, or aspen, which is a member of the poplar family. In Greek myth, poplars weep amber tears for the fall of the sun - and the Amber-goddess is again Dione.


Amber sounds like it should be related to ambrosia. Etymologists, however, tend to think it has come by mistake from anbar, an Arabic word meaning 'ambergris' (perfumed secretions of the sperm whale); while 'ambrosia' comes from the Greek a - mbrotos meaning 'not mortal' or 'immortal'. So it seems there is nothing between them. Yet they have much in common.

Honey is a key ingredient of ambrosia, and most of the world's amber comes from the Baltic which is characteristically honey-coloured. 'Likeness' rules sympathetic magic. Still in Ajan they go further saying amber is actually honey that has run down the mountain and solidified by the sea.

Honey and amber appear in tombs of Egyptian pharaohs back to 3000 BC, for probably the same reason - both are preservatives. Honey was used for embalming, as was mythical ambrosia; and amber perfectly preserves insects, like bees, in its fossilised resin from pines millions of years old.

Amber is the 'sun-stone', whose golden beauty captures the sun's rays. When Phaethon ('shining') the son of the Sun-god crashes his father's chariot in the river Eridanus, Zeus turns his weeping sisters into poplar trees, and their tears become drops of amber. Here is the amber sun-stone. But in Egypt, when Isis sends a serpent to bring down the Sun-god, the tears of Ra turn into ambrosial honeybees. This transformation is also suggested in the Weeping Tree of Deborah ('the bee'). Gary Greenberg describes the biblical story, in which Deborah helps Barak to defeat Sisera ('servant of Ra'), as echoing 'an earlier cosmological battle'. (The 'tent peg' that kills Sisera is probably the Pole Star holding up the tent of the cosmos.) So in the three myths, falling sun, weeping tree (axis), amber and ambrosia represent the end of one cycle and the start of another.

The Sun's rise and fall is watched over by Venus, the Morning and Evening Star, who is his mother, lover and killer. We have seen she is Baltis and Dione - both names having the sense of 'shining' or 'blazing'. 'Burning', as well as 'granaries', are also meanings of anbar, and seem unlikely associates until we see them again in Graves' White Goddess, Leukothea. Alexander Hislop notes that her name incorporates lukhoth 'to light or set on fire', and lukoth 'to glean', suggesting an end-of-harvest/world association. This is anbar as amber - the blazing light of Venus and the Sun: Madonna and Child.

'Burning' in fact may be the root of anbar and amber, as Joumana Medlej explains:

The modern term amber comes from this stone's flammable character: an old root br went through Old German bornsten to give German bernstein ('burning stone') and through Germanic anbernen ('burn') then Arabic anbar ('amber', but also incense and other perfumes to burn) to give ambra (Latin), ambre (French), amber

Johannes Richter agrees:

...with 'burneability' in our minds another Latin word 'Amb-urus' = 'the burning (stone)' may be much more suitable for explanation... The word 'amburus' in the sense of 'Amber' did belong to vernacular language...

The burning Sun-god falls into the Po valley, at the southern end of the Baltic trade route. Devotees of the goddess bring his immortal amber to Dodona (see Richter's pdf, pp 18, 79), along with ambrosial honey (Ra's tears), and perhaps also the fiery mushrooms growing under the weeping trees. For 'burning' has an inner meaning. Phoroneus, who first discovered how to use Prometheus' fire, was 'also the discoverer of a divine fire resident in the toadstool' - probably the same thing. Graves calls him a 'Spring-Dionysus', who built the first market-town, Argus, with its toad emblem. He notes:

Dionysus had two feasts - the Spring Anthesterion, or 'Flower-uprising'; and the autumn Mysterion, which probably means 'uprising of toadstools' (mykosterion) was known as Ambrosia ('food of the gods'). WG184

We see the burning aspect of mushrooms in the myth of its procreation by lightning. And the fiery nature of ambrosia appears in a nickname of ergot, suggested as the active ingredient in Demeter's 'kykeon' drink at Eleusis. The fungus produces a burning sensation known as 'St Anthony's fire', and contains the lysergic acid from which LSD is derived. Wikipedia describes the fungus, which grows on cereals, as 'resembling a tiny mushroom'.

The fire of the amber Sun-stone burns in the ambrosial brew. Venus kills the Sun, weeps amber and ambrosia, and opens the Panther-gates for him to the Tree of Life. Venus, as Dione, links to Di-ana, which like Anne, Inanna, Anu, Andrew, anus, anniversary, ancient, angel etc has been derived from Sumerian An, meaning 'heaven'. Now if this may be added to Aramaic bar meaning 'son of', we have another meaning for anbar: 'son of heaven'.


One tradition makes Dione the wife of Tantalus - from the generation of gods before Zeus. In the surviving Greek myth, Tantalus is the only mortal the Olympian gods allow to eat at their table. He steals the gods' food for mankind, and is punished with tantalising fruits just out of reach. But his story shows Dione, the 'Baltic' Amber-goddess, is also Goddess of Ambrosia.

In South America today, shamans use psilocybe mushrooms to connect with the spirits. They hold them first in 'fragrant purifying smoke of copal rising from the glowing coals of the fire'. Copal is tree resin hundreds or thousands of years old, with many qualities of amber but not yet the full maturity that comes after millions of years. Its South American use shows very well the amber-ambrosia connection.

Tantalus stands in the tradition of Prometheus, Phaethon, Isis and Eve. He shows the forbidden knowledge is not fire, secret names or golden apples, but ambrosia to open heaven's doors. This may be why Tantalus' son 'Broteas', loyal hunter of the ancient goddess, brings to mind the a - mbrotos etymology usually suggested for ambrosia. Broteas dies by throwing himself on a fire - 'burning ambrosia' in action, and Graves' 'divine fire in the toadstool'.

Broteas was remarkably ugly, like the Celtic son of Cerridwen for whom the goddess made a compensating ambrosia. Cerridwen's broth was stolen by Gwion, as Tantalus stole the Olympian. 'Ugly', which comes via the Old Norse word for 'dreadful', is contrasted in the stories with Broteas' brother (Pelops), who is so 'beautiful' that Poseidon abducts him, and Gwion, who is too beautiful for Cerridwen to kill. The way to the gods contains these opposites of ugliness and beauty, dread and bliss.

Graves translates 'Broteas' as 'gory', the word which Sacred Magick says is now the accepted source of 'ambrosia':

The Greeks confused nectar with ambrosia exactly as we do. Originally it was thought that this 'drink (not food!) of the gods' derived from some such word as ambrotos, that is 'immortal', similar to Hindu amrita, 'deathless'. We now know that the source is the Greek word for 'blood' or 'gore', brotos (a cognate of our word blood) referring to the blood sprinkled upon altars and idols in ancient times - as our word, 'to bless', derives from Anglo-Saxon bletsian 'to sprinkle with blood'.

This perfectly fits the family myth of Tantalus, Dione, Pelops (the cupbearer) and Broteas. Simon Buxton discovered blood is still an ambrosial ingredient in the ancient 'Shamanic Way of the Bee'. And Christ's communion cup mixes his blood with the fiery spirit of wine. In Odin's ambrosial mead, the blood of Kvasir, the most wise, was mixed with honey by dwarves. (Kvasir himself was born from the 'spittle' of the gods - a signature (side-effect) of the fiery mushroom.)

Broteas is a true son of the Goddess. Pausanias records that he carved the oldest image of the Mother of the Gods on Coddinian Crag, to the north of Mount Sipylus. And Broteas is ambrosia.


The Greeks of Ephesus associated their goddess Diana, or Artemis, with the most ancient Mother-goddess Cybele. Wikipedia describes her as:

A manifestation of the Earth Mother goddess who was worshipped in Anatolia from Neolithic times. Like Gaia or her Minoan equivalent Rhea, Cybele embodies the fertile earth, a goddess of caverns and mountains, walls and fortresses, nature, wild animals (especially lions and bees). Her title 'Mistress of the Animals' (potnia theron)... alludes to her ancient Paleolithic roots.

These roots go back to 13th BC century Hittite/Hurrian rock carvings at Yazililkaya in Anatolia (Turkey), where the goddess and her son are standing on panthers. And beyond this to the first city, Catal Huyuk, around 6000 BC, where the Great Mother Goddess sits on her leopard throne. Leopard spots seem to be a characteristic sign of the Goddess of Catal Huyuk throughout the city's artwork, and John Allegro, in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross and Gordon Wasson, in his Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, have connected the 'spots' motif with the Amanita mushroom.

Isis gains her forbidden knowledge, like Eve, with the help of the serpent. So Yahweh has some reason to fear Adam and Eve becoming like gods (and causing his fall). Serpent and Tree unite on King Gudea's vase, with winged panthers guarding the way. And on the Egyptian Narmer Palette circa 3200 BC, the necks of the panthers stretch into snakes (Serpopards). In 3114 BC, the South American Plumed-serpent and Panther god Quetzalcoatl begins the Fifth Age, 'The Age of the Jaguar' - which ends on 22 December 2012 (The Mayan Prophecies, Gilbert and Cotterell).

Joseph Campbell notes how the winged panthers of King Gudea become first 'lion-birds' and then the biblical cherubs of Eden. They show, he says, the deity appearing simultaneously in its higher and lower aspects:

For the porter at the gate, admitting or excluding aspirants, is a reduced manifestation of the power of the deity itself. He is the aspect first experienced by anyone approaching the presence; or, phased another way, the testing aspect of the god.   Occidental Mythology p12

(Whispering) tree, snake, panther, bird and God are one symbol waiting for a hero.

The earliest Panther-god of Mesopotamia may be Nimrod, whose name Hislop translates as 'Subduer of the Leopard'. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols agrees the leopard is 'in many respects...related to Nimrod' (p595). Hislop suggests Nimrod won the leopard's help in hunting, and later its characteristic spots were transferred to other divine animals, like the spotted cow of Hathor or the spotted fawn of Dionysus. But Nimrod may rather have tamed the fierce properties of 'flying panthers', and Wasson has suggested the divine properties of the spotted mushrooms were transferred to other plants that grew better in southerly latitudes. In time Nimrod's title changed from 'Subduer of the Spotted One' to simply 'the Spotted One', which was take up by the priests of Osiris in their leopard-skin garments (near bottom).

The spotted mushroom is not normally associated with South America, although a miniature statue of an Amanita muscaria c100 AD has been found in Mexico. But connections are increasingly seen between Egypt and ancient South America (bottom), and American cocaine has even been found recently in Egyptian mummies. For the Maya, the panther's spotted skin also symbolised the stars of the night sky. Their 'Jaguar Sun' made the night journey, like blinded Orion (the Greek Nimrod) walking east to regain his sight from Helios.


The role of Amanita muscaria and pantherina was to open the doors of the spirit world - for enlightenment, ecstasy, healing, hunting and problem-solving. But it was dangerous business, not only from hazards on the other side, but also here if mushrooms were picked or prepared or used unwisely. This surely contributed to the taboos. However, when it was found that much of the active ingredient passed out in urine which could be drunk with less side-effects than the mushroom itself, experienced shamans could provide this service. So it may be no coincidence that the oldest representation of a shaman, 15,000 years ago at Les Trois-Freres, wears the antlers of a stag, and deer (along with raven) have a particular liking for the spotted mushrooms. RG Wasson first suggested this may explain these verses in the Hindu Rig-Veda:

Like a stag, come here to drink! Drink Soma, as much as you like. Pissing it out day by day, O generous one, You have assumed your most mighty force. VIII 4.10

Soma, storm cloud imbued with life, is milked of ghee. Navel of the Way, Immortal Principle, he sprang into life in the far distance. Acting in concert, those charged with the office, richly gifted, do full honor to Soma. The swollen men piss the flowing Soma. IX 74 ['Soma' being the Hindu ambrosia.]

Actaeon may have been such a Stag-shaman - the story goes that Artemis turned him into a stag who was eaten by his hounds for seeing her naked. Orion, the great hunter from Hyria ('the beehive'), also fell for her. But Apollo did not approve, and he tricked the Leopard-goddess into shooting him dead. In this myth, Orion is Apollo's stand-in - the Sun to Artemis' Moon, who dies to be born again. But it is more than a sunrise story. This death and rebirth was a shamanic motif, later universalised by Jesus. To see the Divine (naked), the old self must make way for the new - and continuously, like the sun.

Orion had an unusual birth. His father was a poor bee-keeper called Hyrieus, who once gave hospitality to Zeus and Hermes (god of Thieves), not knowing who they were. When the gods asked him to name his reward, he sighed and said he would love a son but was too old and impotent. The gods asked him for the hide of a bull, and then urinated on it and told him to bury it. Nine months later a child was born, whom Hyrieus called at first Urion - 'he who makes water'. The story shows how the impotent bee-keeper, who is also the blind Orion, gains enlightenment and rebirth through the ambrosial recipe of mushrooms and honey. Orion is both the sacrificial bull-Osiris and the risen soul-bee - which share the name apis - transformed by the panther.

The gods' gift of urine to Hyrieus is repeated in Krishna's gift of soma-urine to Uttanka in the Mahabharata. But in one version of that story, Uttanka does not know the divinity in the urine and rejects it in disgust. Similarly, Sumerian Adapa rejected the 'Food of Life' from Anu, fearing it was the Food of Death. In a sense, it is both. In Eden, Yahweh says the fruit will bring death and the serpent says it brings life, and they are both right. The problem in Eden is that Adam and Eve try to deny what they have done and return to their former ways. As Pythagoras cautions:

"Having departed from your house, turn not back, for the furies will be your attendants."   Pythagoras here warns his followers that any who begin the search for truth and, after having learned part of the mystery, become discouraged and attempt to return again to their former ways of vice and ignorance, will suffer exceedingly; for it is better to know nothing about Divinity than to learn a little and then stop without learning all.

Christ is called the second Adam, but he is as much the second apple when he offers his body in the ambrosial communion. His crucifixion among thieves fits this Promethean calling. This time, he says, don't be ashamed of me.


Amber is the Sun-stone representing purity, enlightenment and spirit.
Ambrosia is the bridge from darkness to light, and earth to heaven.
Ambrosia opens the door to the amber-weeping Tree of Life.
The guardian of the door is the winged panther, who is also the feathered-snake.
But the guardian of the door is a manifestation of the highest Divinity.
And so ambrosia and amber are one. The journey and the destination unite.

The food of the gods is dangerous for mortals. The energy of the sun, captured in amber, melts into honey and is fired with the panther's spirit. Then the door to the Tree of Life opens, and those who enter must die to be born again.



Panther's call to look for Dione led to the 'flying panther' mushrooms growing under whispering trees. They understood the Language of the Birds whispered by the oracle's trees. They were the dwarves, guarded by giants, who made Odin's stolen ambrosia. And their mistress, the Amber-goddess of Dodona, was married to the hero who stole ambrosia from the gods for humankind. She was Eve to his Adam.

The flying panthers reached back through Dione, Diana, Baltis, Artemis and Cybele to the earliest known Great Mother, the Panther-goddess of Catal Huyuk; and through Dionysus, Orion, Osiris, Dumuzi and Ningizzida to the 'Spotted One' Nimrod. They became the cherubim guarding the way to the Tree of Life, and then took human form in Jesus ben Panther to bring us back to the Tree. In South America, the flying panther became Lord of the present Age.

The "little man of the forest with the big hat" interpreted Dione's words to her priestesses. At certain intervals the Goddess revealed the end of a cycle, and there was much weeping. From the tears came the golden amber and honeybees promising immortality for the soul. Dione's oracle at Dodona was established after just such a cycle, when Zeus sent his world-destroying flood against the 22 impious sons of Lycaon.

The number '22' has reverberated strangely through this enquiry. It appeared first in the Black Madonna dreams; then in the 22 chemical constituents of pollen; in the 22 letters of the alphabet invented at Byblos, the city of Dione-Baltis; in the 22-year life-span of a panther; and in the 22 times amber occurs in the Bible, as the only incense permitted in ancient Judaism. The 22 sons of Lycaon closed the last Age, and 22 December 2012 is the date Maurice Cotterell calculates for the end of this 'Age of the Jaguar'.


Alcmaeon of Croton:

Men die because they cannot join their beginning and their end.



[NB Nothing in these pages is intended to encourage experimenting with 'magic mushrooms' or other drugs. There are serious dangers, and in addition 'flying panther' mushrooms are easily confused with poisonous members of the same family.]

Links:     Next

   The Amber goddess


    brings Ambrosia

from the Tree of Life