Amanita muscaria, or "fly agaric," is a cosmopolitan mushroom, native to pine, birch, spruce, fir, and cedar woodlands throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including high elevations of warmer latitudes in regions like the Hindu Kush, the Mediterranean and Central America. Interestingly, a recent molecular study proposes an ancestral origin in the Siberian–Beringian region in the Tertiary period before radiating outwards across Asia, Europe and North America. Though generally encountered in autumn, the season can vary in different climates: fruiting occurs in summer and autumn across most of North America, but later in autumn and early winter on the Pacific coast. It is often found in similar locations to Boletus edulis, and may appear in fairy rings. It has been widely transported into the southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America, where it usually occurs under introduced pine trees.
In eastern Siberia, the shaman would consume the mushrooms, and others would drink his urine. This urine, still containing active hallucinogens may actually be more potent than the A. muscaria mushrooms with fewer negative effects, such as sweating and twitching, suggesting that the initial user may act as a screening filter for other components in the mushroom. Among the Koryak, one report held the poor would consume the urine of the wealthy, who could afford to buy the mushrooms. If a fly agaric is eaten, it is usually not fresh, but in its dried or cooked form, where ibotenic acid is converted to the more stable and far less poisonous muscimol.
John Marco Allegro argues in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross that the Christian religion is derived from a sex and psychedelic mushroom cult, although his theory has found little support by scholars outside the field of ethnomycology. In Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy (formerly called Strange Fruit) Clark Heinrich interprets A. muscaria usage by Adam and Eve, Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Jesus, and his disciples, and John of Patmos[Heinrich, Clark. Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy. Park Street Press, pp 64 - 134. ISBN 089281997-9]. In the book Apples of Apollo the mushroom is identified in a wide range of mythological tales such as those involving Perseus, Prometheus, Heracles, Jason and the Argonauts, Jesus, and the Holy Grail.