UFOs, Mushrooms, Mandalas: The Aesthetics of Charisma

dont eat the ufo metcalfe

“Don’t Eat UFO Off the Sidewalk” by David B. Metcalfe – see more of his work here


The idea and function of charisma weaves in and out of the paranormal and other liminal elements of society (cults being a big example). I address pure Weber-style charismatic authority in my previous post “Atlas Charisma”, but here I will discuss charisma emanating from consciousness-altering objects

I recall reading many accounts where the witness is mesmerized, transfixed, enchanted by (especially) the lights emitted by ufos. They often seem captivated and unable to tear their attention away from the object/light, and may fall into altered states of consciousness. My sense is that this effect goes beyond a reaction to a compelling aesthetic experience, that there is somehow a type of informational transfer occurring or trying to manifest.

I got to thinking about this recently because of David B. Metcalfe’s “Don’t Eat The UFO” drawings. One in particular reminded me of another instance of charisma exerted by  non human intelligences. My husband Anthony and I were hiking around Cosumnes River Preserve one early spring when there was a bloom of mushrooms – numerous and large blooms of Amanita muscaria and Boletus edulis all through the park.

These fruiting bodies were huge – 10-14” in diameter in many cases – and incredibly striking. A. muscaria is the Christmas mushroom, red capped with white dots and renowned as leading shamans and reindeer on epic sky journeys. B. edulis is one of the choicest culinary mushrooms, and in this instance there’s no mystery as to why people would try eating them – the fruiting bodies that day resembled nothing so much as huge, delectable brioches just laying there for the munching.

In fact, in shape and color the caps looked a lot like the saucer in Metcalfe’s drawing, minus the cupola but orange-toned, lying around at ground level and very tempting.

More interesting than all these mushrooms was the reaction of every person in the park. Everyone was talking about them, pointing them out, asking if we knew what they were, if they were edible, etc. Anthony and I even had to try to talk down a group of 4-5 people who were off trail, gathered in a circle around a brightly colored group of A. muscaria. We kept telling them that those were poisonous and deadly, while they would nod their heads and say, “…yeah…” they could not take their eyes off of these mushrooms. We finally gave up and left them entranced (happily no instances of mushroom poisoning hit the news, I assume they managed to break the spell).

In both instances, saucer and mushroom, some people experience a strong attraction to interact with the intelligence which is associated with the outer manifestation. In many cases, this intelligence seems to be pushing for a physical merger – eating the mushroom, entering the saucer – which will allow intimate communication between the human and non-human consciousnesses.  This attraction seems to emanate from pure charisma. It’s telling to see it manifest in non-human intelligences from earth and sky through the same shape, that of the mandala.


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3 thoughts on “UFOs, Mushrooms, Mandalas: The Aesthetics of Charisma

  1. Hi! Nice read about the intersection of fungi, UFOs, and enthrallment…

    Quick clarification: Amanita muscaria is not usually deadly (unless consumed in large quantities) but it *is* toxic – in the same sense that alcohol is toxic – and the typical effects of a small amount are not death or illness so much as a kind of woozy inebriation. The active toxin can also be boiled out.



    1. Hi Eric! Thank you so much for reading and providing further info on Amanita muscaria effects. In the moment, we were pretty much trying to move people out of their fixation – in the delta area where we were even woozy inebriation could be dangerous, with tule fog and deep canals making the roads hazardous.

      It’s great to see the link to BAMS, an outstanding organization! I’ve been to a couple of their fall shows at the Oakland Museum, a true high point for nature lovers!


      1. Yeah: anecdotally I’ve heard that a small 1” square chunk of muscaria cap is roughly equivalent to a glass of beer in its effects, but it ramps up quickly from there into unfun side effects like extreme lethargy or convulsions. Yikes! Luckily nowhere near as poisonous as its invasive cousin Amanita phalloides though (thought to have been introduced to America via cork trees imported a century ago for the nascent wine industry.)

        Happy to hear you’ve attended some of their myco events – wish I’d seen this post a week ago so I could hype the MSSF Fungus Fair in Golden Gate Park last weekend. No UFOs but a few spacy looking people for sure. 😉


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