The W.I.S.E. islands, that is Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England, are of the most deprived of natural medicines of any place I have traveled thus far. It is shocking what an ancient Mesopotamian creature, the sheep, imported to a country once covered in medicinal and shamanic plants, and rainforest species trees can do to a culture, a people, and a land. During my explorations here, I began to grow very dull, from always observing the same type of landscape, rolling cropped grass, thistles, thorns and gorse. The culprit, the sheep of course, thousands of dirty mongrels with their heads down. Though I think the sheep can be a beautiful animal, and I would not kill one, I grew tired of seeing them quickly, and each day seemed to discover a new reason why I don’t like them. Living in Wales and Scotland, trying to forage for edibles, or medicines became almost impossible. Returning back to Northern Europe, although nothing to compare to the Amazonian vastlands, the Mexican jungles or the Australian desert in terms of available flora, I am finding a re-uniting of an old relationship with the flora, fungi, and fylgja.
Particularly, these new encounters, with the mosses and lichens of the Icelandic countryside, there are not nearly as many sheep here, and they are not confined to one area, so the grasses and flowers also have a chance to flourish. It is with particular interest, that I have also discovered that at least four of the native lichens contain psychedelic compounds or thc containing alkaloids. A walk in a national park called Heidmork yielded a foraging mission on the side. Purple moss campion, crowberries (krækiber), birch bolete, slippery jack mushroom, wild dandelion (túnfífill), and blueberry leaf(bláber), and soon the ‘flying saucer’ mushrooms, the potent Semilanceata variety will be in every graveyard, roundabout, and cowfield in Iceland. The crowberry is also used to make a black wine called Kvoldsol, and is especially sweet when picked raw. There are several other edible flowers even as far north as this. The Icelandic fylgja, as is described as animal, female spirit and geometrical shape also intrigues me, as I believe this last reference has something to do with magical staves. I see these runic shapes and fylga in all kinds of natural patterns here, in the forms of the cliff faces, and the sculptured rock especially, everything seems to have a personality. The revival of foraging in modern times is perhaps under rated, but with the popular use of psychedelic plants, living off the land, and nature tourism, I think there is some real merit in going for walks, just for the sake of seeing what you can find. The edibles here are on the smaller scale, but this just means you don’t have to have a big area to find them. There is great joy in bringing back a few plants or mushrooms and doing some research with your afternoon, rather than wasting time online with menial things, it brings a new connection to one’s land as their home, rather than some place they are visiting. The youth and kids here in Iceland are natural born collectors, in the old days, they used to collect bones and make games with them, now they seem to collect bits of trash, why not these natural foods as well? I hope to explore more of these plants, ‘shrooms and land spirits during my wanderings in Scandinavia and Iceland, and re-generate a connection to the language of edible nature.