It is believed that there are no poisonous mushrooms in Taimyr. This is explained by the fact that there are no toxins in permafrost soil that poisonous mushrooms absorb.
However, fly agarics in Taimyr are not a rare species. True, they say that they will not cause death, but nevertheless we do not recommend checking. The Taimyr Nature Reserves directorate’s employees note that along with climate change, the pale grebe has already been noticed in the territory. However, no one checked the toxin content in it.
At the same time, the Taimyr small peoples have never eaten mushrooms. The Nenets explained their negative attitude towards mushrooms by the fact that they are food for deer, and what deer eat is not appropriate for human consumption. The Eskimos called mushrooms ‘devil’s ears’ and considered them ‘rotten food’.
Anthropologist Vladimir Bogoraz wrote that the only mushroom that the Chukchi ever ate was the fly agaric, which had a sacred meaning for them. Here in Taimyr there are stories that fly agarics help shamans in their rituals to travel to the ‘upper world’.
Scientists explain the negative attitude towards mushrooms among northern peoples simply: a lack of enzymes that are necessary to break down polysaccharides in the human intestine.
Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive