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What is Set and Setting and Why is it Important When You Take Magic Mushrooms?

Posted under: Latest News, News and Science

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at “Set and Setting”, an expression which was coined by Timothy Leary in 1964. In his book, The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, he talks about the importance of carefully preparing yourself, and your environment before setting out on any psychedelic adventure.

To the indigenous people of Central America though, this was old news. For over 3500 years, they’ve been using important “set and setting” rituals.

Let us tell you a little more about set and setting and how it can truly enhance the pleasure and safety of any mushroom trip.


What is Set and Setting?


magic mushroom tripping: set and setting


Quite simply, the “set” is your mindset and the “setting” is your surroundings. Making sure that you’re in the right frame of mind, with the right people, and in a good environment, can literally make or break your trip.

Taking the set and setting into consideration can drastically increase the probability that we have are a really good time, not taking it into account may very well the probability of having a bad experience.

Traditional indigenous cultures would use rituals lead by a shaman to enhance the psychedelic journey, it would make the experience much more than just a hedonistic trip and turn it into a healing and sacred moment.

These days, we no longer have spiritual guides readily available to us, and this makes set and setting it all the more important. 


Best (mind) Set?



The most important thing to ask yourself before taking mushrooms is “am I feeling good today?” If you just broke up with your significant other, or are feeling down and sad, angry or anxious, it is best to reschedule.

Niggling worries can surface during a trip and you really don’t want to be dealing with them intensely for six hours because psychedelics tend to blow up the state you are in when entering the experience. 

In the weeks before you take mushrooms, set an intention. Are there things you want to learn about yourself or the universe?

Traditional indigenous cultures use psilocybin mushrooms in healing ceremonies. Are there imbalances in your body that you want advice for?

There’s no guarantee your questions will be answered, but having a purpose gives you confidence as you step into the unknown.

Be open to new experiences and don't have strong expectations, they'll be torn apart, you can only expect the unexpected.

Being anxious about a bad trip is like sending one out an invite, be ready to embrace anything that comes to you, good or bad. Basically, at the time of taking mushrooms, you should feel relaxed, healthy, confident, and secure with yourself, your environment, and your company.


Best Setting for a mushroom trip?


magic mushroom trip : Setting


The setting is your physical environment and the people that accompany you on the trip. 

This being said, wherever you decide to take mushrooms, it should be a comfortable and private place where you feel secure. The same goes for your trip buddies. 

Taking psychedelics in nature connects you deeply to every living thing, you will understand where our ancestors got the idea about plant spirits as you will no doubt clearly see nature is alive in a big way! 

Our ancestors didn’t just take them in the outdoors, they also dove deep into dark caves so they could have a more reflective experience.

The same logic can be applied to us, taking them inside or outside will have different effects. Inside is a more intense, possibly a more reflective experience, whereas outside can be lighter and physically interesting.

Ideally, you should be able to go between the two as your mood and desires change.

If you don’t have the option to go outside, leave some “toys”, things that will allow you to focus on something else than yourself, like instruments and art supplies, they can be used as a distraction or to express sudden creative urges.

People are part of your environment and should also be chosen carefully, its the second aspect of the setting.  You should trust and feel comfortable with everyone you are tripping with; it also helps if you share a similar mindset.

Indigenous people of Central America will have a shaman to guide them through their journey and interpret messages.

If you don’t have a spare shaman laying around, the next best thing you can do is share and discuss your experiences together afterward.

It’s never really a good idea to do mushrooms alone unless you are experienced or have a guide or trip sitter.

During the trip, you may seek out solitude and darkness, this cuts out external stimulus and literally lets your mind do the talking.

Terrance McKenna was a big fan of this and it’s one of the ways psychedelics are studied in clinical trials.


A few last words about Set and Setting



Our western culture is relatively new to the psychedelic scene so we really should pay attention to the way traditional cultures have been using them and learn from their experiences.

Their tried and tested rituals have been passed down for thousands of years, respecting mushrooms as a sacred healing plant and not as a party drug.

It’s up to us to use them responsibly.

With the correct set and setting, so we can enjoy all the great benefits they have to offer.

Special Note: Being in a COVID-19 lockdown situation may seem like a good opportunity for experimenting with mushrooms, but you should be very cautious.

Even with the perfect set and setting, these are strange times, you may have some hidden anxiety and in lockdown, it is hard if not impossible for you to change your setting if needed.


Extra Information: 



  1. The Importance of Set and Setting in Psychedelic Therapy
  2. Beyond Set and Setting: A New Understanding of Psychedelics & Healing
  3. Set & Setting with Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris