Meet Rayne Grant
“Decurrent” Fungal Documentarian
Rayne Grant is a consummate artist, humanitarian, and dreamer. Using any medium available to her she has produced works as a painter, poet, musician, writer, filmmaker, and mother; her favorite medium being the human heart. Her Documentary, “Can Mushrooms Save the Planet,” Is the result of her dedication to shedding light on the wonderful world of mycelia and it’s misunderstood fruiting body, the mushroom. She is currently living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado where she continues her art and has begun work on several more documentary projects dealing with both diverse and complementary subjects such as: The De-Desertification Movement, Medicinal Marijuana, Traditional Folk Medicine, and The History of Midwives in the United States.
Interview with Rayne Grant
FF: The most recent article on your website is about the infamous Hawai’in mushroom that causes women to orgasm upon inhaling its potent scent. Have you actually gone in search for this mushroom?
RG: I want to so badly! I think it would be an amazing adventure, to go to Hawaii and go out with the locals to hunt for this mysterious mushroom. Specifically, it is a species of stinkhorn that grows in the volcanic soil there. One thing I read was that the indigenous women in that region of Hawaii go out looking for this mushroom, and if they have been good and they are worthy, then the gods will allow them to find it. Supposedly, if the woman smells it, she will orgasm or have euphoric feelings. John Holliday of Aloha Medicinals did a study on this mushroom where he had several men and several women smell it and all of the men thought it was repulsive while all of the women did indeed have orgasms or euphoric feelings. I want to meet John and ask him more about his findings.
FF: What other parallels do you see between female & fungi?
RG: Well, my goodness, just looking at some of the mushrooms, they appear so very feminine to me. A lot of people focus on the one’s that look masculine; the one’s that look like a penis. But when I examine mushrooms, especially the gilled mushrooms, they look extremely womanly, resembling that of a vagina. The reproduction of fungi is a huge topic within itself, but when I think of a mushroom and all of the spores held within it, I liken it to that of a pregnant female. One thing I can say is that if women were orgasiming all the time from just a little sniff of a mushroom, there would probably be a lot less war going on.
FF: How did you stumble onto mushrooms?
RG: I had lived in Telluride, CO for several years and experienced the Telluride Mushroom Festival from an outside perspective. I saw the people and the parade, which was fun and cool, but I didn’t really get it.
Then one day while I was sitting in my Louisiana home watching TED Talks, I came across Paul Stamets. I watched his video, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World. A light came on in my head and I thought, this makes perfect sense! I had a dream that night about it, and so a new passion commenced. I started researching. I am a big researcher. I mean, I research everything and I researched mushrooms like nuts for several days. I found out that there are way more ways than six ways that mushrooms can save the planet.
I had been wanting to do a documentary for a while. I had some equipment for it and I decided that this was the perfect subject and timing. I knew Art Goodtimes and some other people involved with the Telluride Mushroom Festival. So I gathered all my things, left my home in Louisiana and set off on an adventure up to Telluride. The plan was to connect with some of the people who are authorities on this subject and to gather interviews. Telluride would be a great starting point! I talked with several people who are experts in their field to get their opinions on what is going on in the world of mycology. As soon as I would talk to one person I would get more leads on contacts and information. People in the myco world are very open and giving in that way. It’s quite amazing, actually!
I have found that in general many people in the world are closed off to giving and receiving information. Specifically in the US there is a lot of mycophobia which can be a hard barrier to cross. I tell people I am doing a documentary on mushrooms, and at first they are like, “you are crazy and straight trippin,” but then after a few minutes of talking I see a light come on and they begin to understand what I am talking about.
My concept is to share as much of this information as possible and put it into a format that is appealing to the majority of people.
FF: So you were first a filmmaker who later became a mycophile. What film equipment did you start out with and how were you involved with film up until that point?
RG: My first passion is music and I was shooting music videos. I have an eye for setting up shots, and it is simply something that I like to do. I’ve also produced a few short films. So at that point I had a minimal amount of film making equipment: a field recorder, a decent DSLR camera, and a tripod. Rayneforest Films is the name of my little independent production company.
So far, it has just been me pursuing this project with the support of my partner, Forest Fagan. Now I am looking into some grants because it would be nice to have more people involved. I am actually working on 4 documentaries concurrently. This documentary on mushrooms is my first. Really, I have so much information that I could make 2 full length documentaries right now. Yet there are several people I still want to connect with, like Paul Stamets, John Holliday and the folks at Ecovative, just to name a few. There is also an art museum in New York growing a mushroom building and I would love to connect with and actually go check it out; and the people going to South America, teaching people how to grow their own mushrooms and also cleaning up toxic wastes. I think that is fantastic! This past summer I talked with Tradd Cotter from Mushroom Mountain. They just went down to Haiti to teach people there how to grow mushrooms and I thought, they are really on to something. I get all fired up when people are helping other people and the environment.
I am not an expert on mushrooms by any means. I just started delving into this topic in 2012. I have learned a lot about many different aspects of mycology but I am not an expert in any of them. People ask me questions all the time and I have to do research to get them an answer the best that I can. I am also doing a documentary on medicinal marijuana; people come out of the woodworks asking me questions about marijuana and medicinal mushrooms. I like learning as I go so I don’t mind researching and doing a bit of digging to answer their questions. What is extremely hard for me is that people come to me who are dying or who are very sick, and they think that I can save them, but all I can do is offer them information. It hurts me because I am very empathetic and I wish that I could heal them but I can only offer them the information that I find. I do hope that people can take that information and do with it better things.
One thing that I find incredible is that I have had people from Fukushima contacting me, asking me how to use mushrooms to clean up the mess over there because mushrooms do hyperaccumulate radiation. Right now mushrooms in that region of Japan are highly radioactive, and yet they are still being sold on the market. My opinion is that they should not be eating those mushrooms. People are contacting me, asking me about this topic and I send them what information I can, mostly from Paul Stamets; I want to talk with him to ask him more about that.
FF: There are several other mushroom documentaries in the works. How is your film different?
RG: I don’t know specifically about the other documentaries, but it seems that I saw something online that some folks who have talked with Paul Stamets and I thought that was really wonderful. Really, I think the more information out there the better! Mine is going to be different because I am an artist and my interpretations are just going to be different. I am going to offer a unique point of view because its just me.
FF: How many people are helping with this project and how has the mycological community supported you thus far?
RG: Last year, 2013, I went to the Telluride Mushroom Festival and I was surprised at how many people knew who I was and were shouting at me “mushrooms can save the planet!” That was very encouraging. Also, I had never talked with Gary Lincoff in person, and he was the keynote speaker at the festival. I recorded his whole speech, which was fantastic, by the way. A couple days go by and I saw him out and about. There were like 15 people surrounding him- he is definitely sought after- and I just said hi and shook his hand. I asked permission to use some of that footage and we were talking and he asked me what the name of my project is. I told him “Can Mushrooms Save the Planet?” and he was like “OH MY GOSH! I have been following you for the past year and I love what you are doing!!” That was so invigorating! Later I saw him at the parade and he asked if I was going to this one event later that night. Truthfully, I didn’t have a pass for the festival. I went to different talks to film, but I didn’t have a pass and so he takes the pass off of his arm and puts it on my arm. I felt honored that he did that and it gave me such a boost, not just an ego boost but a good feeling that almost brought me to tears. I really respect him and he was very supportive and he made me feel like yeah, I was doing something right.
FF: You mentioned that you are in the midst of planning another Indiegogo Crowdfunding campaign. When are you planning to launch that campaign? How do you see the roll of Crowdfunding evolving in the mycological community?
RG: I am in the middle of writing it and will launch it soon! It is hard to promote yourself; I have been lacking in having a team. The Radical Mycology folks helped encourage me to try again with that. They are writing a book and used Indiegogo to help fund it. I am so close to having all the information I need for the film. I may even make 2 documentaries. I would love to travel to a few more places, too. I have never been to the Pacific Northwest and I would love to go there and see Paul’s place. One of my dreams is to walk in the Redwoods and just see the nature.
I am going to get this info out regardless of funding! It is an underground knowledge still and I want this to be more common knowledge. The younger generation is a little bit more open minded to this sort of thing, and I want to keep teaching about mycology.
FF: You have talked with a lot of conservative people who aren’t so open to this topic. How do you handle those situations?
RG: Well, it’s usually something random like on the playground with the kids talking to another mother. They ask what I do and I say I am a documentarian and filming about Mushrooms. They get this look on their face that they are just horrified that we shouldn’t be talking about mushrooms at the playground. Then I explain further in detail for a few minutes that mushrooms can eat plastics and fight world hunger and their eyes start to glow. Then, I inevitably dig out one of my stickers. It’s a topic that is borderline controversial. There are people out there that are haters and this is a subject that is often chosen to hate. There are responses from those haters and also from supporters. On my last Indiegogo campaign this past Summer, I had people anonymously attacking me saying that maybe I should be putting more effort into this and that if I have as much information as I say I do that I can just put something together, anything together. I’ve also had people attacking me personally about this topic, attacking the way I look, my southern accent, and any number of things. People have been attacking me and my point of view on mushrooms as if I created these things, but really I am just a messenger trying to find the best format for disseminating this. There are always haters against the greatest ideas. So I take it as a compliment and a good sign as well.
FF: Do you think one of the main barriers causing confusion is that when you say mushrooms somebody automatically interprets that as psychedelic mushrooms right off the bat?
RG: Yeah, people do think psychedelic right of the bat. But I can really swipe people pretty easily. They first look at me like I am insane and then I tell them information, and I’m very passionate, so they get excited too. Other people say, “Don’t tell people about your idea; they are going to take your idea.” But I wonder is this really a competition? I think more people should be making documentaries and I want to just disseminate this information. I want to get this documentary into as many festivals as possible. The money I would raise would go towards these festivals. I also plan to write a book including all of the amazing interviews I have gathered, with every single word included. I don’t want to leave anything out. And there is independent music that is going to be included in the documentary which I would like to compensate those people who have contributed.
FF: When do you plan to have the documentary finished by?
RG: I would really like it to be done by this summer although I feel like there are so many more people I want to connect with that I wont be able to meet with until this summer that it may be better to release this in segments.
There are a sundry of festivals I haven’t even gone to, like the Radical Mycology Convergence and the Morel and Music Festival in the Spring. Speaking of that: I was supposed to go to the Morel Festival last Spring, but while I was working on another documentary about the desertification of our planet, I got stuck down on my desert land near Big Bend National Park. Both of my vans broke down, and I thought, well I’m supposed to be here for a reason. And sure enough I was there for a reason. The people I connected with during that time was vital to where I am today. Living in the San Juan mountains. Plus, it put me in a position to see what some of the locals there are doing to combat and reverse Desertification. I’m very excited about that project and will be allocating mushrooms to create and maintain healthy soil! I plant to create a desert oasis, of sorts, all with the help of the mighty mushroom!
Another thing I would like to do is get some hands on experience. I have talked about mycoremediation with a lot of people but I haven’t gotten my hands dirty yet because there is a debate between techniques and what not.
FF: How do you hope this documentary will impact the mycological community? And the general public?
RG: My ultimate vision is to inspire those already interested as well bring light to those who have never heard of this topic. I am doing this from a journalistic point of view, and I am becoming very passionate about it. This topic is an incredibly big one. I feel like I have just stumbled on something huge! I talk about it all of the time, and my friends and family are like, “Lord have mercy you crazy mushroom lady!”
FF: For the film, how many interviews have you conducted so far?
RG: I have done 21 interviews for the film so far. I have interviewed people at the parade in Telluride, mycologists, mycophiles, enthusiasts, traveling photographers, people who have farms or who are doing things with desertification. There are people who are into the mushroom religion, and by that I mean that there are some people who believe that jesus was a mushroom, specifically an Amanita muscaria. There is information online if you want to learn more.
FF: Do you think most mycologists believe mushrooms can save the planet?
RG: Just speaking to different mycologists you realize that each person has a completely unique point of view. Most mycologists really think that mushrooms can save the planet or at least really help but there are some mycologists that are against using mushrooms to clean the environment. I was actually surprised. I’ve heard the argument that it would take too much money to use mushrooms for remediation. To me, that doesn’t seem to make logical sense. Especially when compared to our current, extremely expensive methods of remediation. Even beyond the direct money input, it is costing our environment to use dispersants as a cleanup method. If we use mushrooms there would be a much better impact and far less of a footprint.
One thing that has been very exciting to me is that this past Telluride Mushroom Festival was heavily influenced by myco-remediation, especially when opposed to the previous years which were mostly just taxonomy. They had a special certification course for it and started a 5-year project to clean up the waterways there. I talked with both Tradd Cotter and Ja Schindler who lead the course. Both of those guys are doing awesome things and I want to learn more about mycoremediation methods myself.
Another documentary that I am working on is about Desertification. It’s pretty harsh. The desert is expanding and our planet could potentially turn into one giant desert if we keep doing what were doing. One thing I’m finding is that people are fighting desertification using methods of permaculture, with the help of various plants and fungi, to reverse the damage that is being done. After learning some of this information I decided to purchase some very inexpensive desert in Terlingua, Texas. It’s near the border of Texas and Mexico in the Chihuahuan Desert which is the most biodiverse desert on planet. There is a lot of moisture that falls from the sky but it does not seep into the land at all. I am working on remediating and greening the desert there using fungi along with permaculture techniques. I want to connect with people such as Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton, and some of the Radical Mycologists, and turn these sandy soils into something completely living. I want to make a footprint showing that it can be done, that we can take a desert and turn it into a Garden of Eden! If I can show people how to do this on my property then they can copy cat it somewhere else. People get excited when I tell them about what I am doing, but this is just beginning and these are just the first baby steps. I foresee this project taking at least 4 years before taking off.
You know, this project was inspired by my mushroom research and people are doing some amazing things in the mycoremediation world. It’s something that works and the planet does it naturally. We can choose to be apart of the ecosystem or we can kill ourselves off and fungi will clean up after us anyways.
FF: You mentioned that you just had a baby. How do you balance research and filming with a child?
RG: Right now my newest daughter is 3-months-old. I already have children and they go with me everywhere. I home school them and they have the opportunity to learn a lot of things that kids wouldn’t be able to learn in school. My eldest daughter is 12-years-old and she helps me out a lot. I haven’t done a lot of interviews since the baby was born though. What I am putting out to the universe is to have a traveling nanny, someone who wants to be a part of my family.
In the meantime, I am editing parts of the documentary so its ok with the baby. I would like help on editing, though, because I prefer to be out in the field rather than editing behind a computer. I don’t foresee being held back at all by the baby though. I want to go down to Terilinga but there is some land up in Oregon too that I am looking at and hoping to do something mushroom related projects up in that area as well, but that is a little bit further down the road.
FF: To make this documentary you have been traveling across the country interviewing and getting to know so many of the wonderful people who proudly make up the mycological community. Have you observed any gender disparity in the field? Or how have you observed peoples roles to shift based on their gender?
RG: What I have noticed in my experience with mycology is that the field seems to be very heavily male. Most of the people I have talked with are male. At one point I sought out women specifically, and there are some but I don’t know why it is that it is so heavily male. And that is in science in general, not just mycology. I think there is a shift happening right now where the feminine energy is starting to balance things out on this plane.
FF: Who have been some of your role models/mentors along the way and why?
RG: Once I started researching specifically for the mushroom documentary I found people that are doing amazing things. Tradd and Olga Cotter from Mushroom Mountain in South Carolina are so inspiring to me. When I see people hurting the planet, it hurts me, and when I know there are people out there like Tradd and Olga helping, it makes me feel like there is hope for our planet and our humanity. Larry Evans has also been a great influence on me. He goes down to South America and teaches classes on how to cultivate mushrooms. He’s also working on a project having to do with myco-remediation in Chile. Paul Stamets, definitely too. I know there is some backlash against Paul right now but still his concepts and ideas are so inspiring. And some interesting people like Donald Teeter, who has now unfortunately passed away; he was the founder of the Ambrosia Society. He had a lot of interesting things to say about Amanita muscaria specifically, and about consciousness. Also, Scott Koch’s speech during the 2013 Telluride Mushroom Festival really hit home! There have been so many inspirations!
With this particular project, the more people I talk to the more I become inspired, and its not just one person or one thing; it’s connecting with people who are on the same page. Before I started this project, I was just talking to so many people who had the mentality of, “we are all destroying the world and we are all gonna die so fuck it.” But I don’t like that perspective. There are so many people out there doing great things, and that really exhilarates me!
I am trying to think, what has really inspired me to work with film? When I used to live in Telluride, there were several individuals who taught me to pursue what I was truly interested in. I worked with video production, radio, theater, and music. There were a lot of people there who nurtured me in that way. I just think the whole idea about community is really important and I think it is something that is really lacking in our society today. I never went to school for any of this but I have been working with film and photography since I was 14 or 15 years old. People ask me what degree I have and I laugh! Life is my degree.
FF: If you had advice to give a newbie to the field, what would it be?
RG: To connect with other mycologists. Like mycelium. It’s all connected. Every mycologist is going to have a different perspective. In the last 10 years more people have been more open with their knowledge; before that in the mycological community it was more hush hush, people didn’t share as much. But now people are talking more openly and mycology is such a huge topic that I really encourage people to connect and talk to people; join a local group and get online- mycology is a large and wonderful network and community.
FF: What advice have you received from fungi?
RG: I have an intuitive calling to connect with them. That is the reason why I am doing this work. People have thought I was crazy before for saying this, but I think that there is a consciousness that they possess and that we are connected with them. They are reaching out to people who are open to work with them and to help clean this planet. I have talked with people who think chaga is here specifically to heal humans. Personally, I am a believer in plant spirits and tree spirits and mushroom spirits. There was one point that I didn’t really know what I was doing life. I felt I had lost my way. I was confused and I was looking for something more than what I was doing at the time, something that would better myself and the environment; I asked the universe to show me some sort of sign. And that is when I came across Paul Stamets’ TedTalk and something just went off in me that this just made sense. Everything else was a domino effect.
FF: If you could be a mushroom, which one would you be and why?
RG: I would be the Hawaiian stinkhorn because I would love to cause women euphoric feelings!
We want to thank Rayne for being a truly awesome interviewee and inspiration to us all!
To learn more about the documentary, “Can Mushrooms Save the Planet?” click here.
The What & Why of Honoring “Womyn of the Month”
Womyn of the Month recognizes womyn scientists, activists, community organizers, humanitarians, and other womyn that are making a difference in the field of mycology or alongside our fungal friends. If you would like to nominate a womyn for this honor, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.