Warning: If you haven't seen Midsommar, turn back before you get spoiled.
Going on a romantic trip to the sun-drenched shores of Scandinavia with your boyfriend and his friends sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, as Ari Aster's new horror flick warns, it might not be all peaches and cream. In fact, it might literally end up being the epitome of a bad trip. Midsommar has plenty of unsettling moments that will make you shiver, but one of the most overwhelming and frighteningly realistic recurring threads is the mysterious hallucinogen which is regularly utilized by the angelic blonde haired and blue eyed cult of the Hårga.
When Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her useless boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) on a trip to a rural Swedish village for a once in a lifetime Midsummer celebration, she's quickly swept up into the strange and psychedelic community that's passionate about the cycle of life and the use of psychedelics to understand it. So just what is Midsommar's mind-bending tea concoction and what exactly does it do? Like any good horror movie, Aster's summer shocker leaves a certain level of ambiguity, but we've studied the movie and worked out as much as we can about the drug, its uses, and its wild world-warping effects.
What is the Hårga drug?
Though it's never explicitly revealed, early on in the film when Dani, Christian, Mark, Josh, and Pelle arrive in the village they're all offered magic mushrooms to help them acclimatize to the festivities. When Dani seems reluctant to join in, Pelle offers her "mushroom tea" which we can probably assume is the same stuff that the community imbibes when they drink before the May Queen ceremony. Magic mushrooms are usually from the psilocybin mushroom family and have been used throughout history by indigenous communities in ritualistic ceremonies before being appropriated by your average joe who just really loves to trip out.
What are the effects of the "tea for the dance" in Midsommar?
The effects of real life psilocybin mushrooms can range from the physical — nausea, weakness, fatigue — to the more infamous visual and aural hallucinations. It's the secondary aspect that plays heavily into the story of Midsommar, with Dani and her friends spending much of the film in a psychedelic haze that sees the world shift and shimmer around them.
At first, it seems like the trip goes relatively well for Dani as she communes with the nature around her and even visualizes grass growing from her hands. But as her thoughts turn to darker things, she quickly becomes paranoid and wanders through the pulsing landscape until she has a nightmarish hallucination and passes out. Later, during the May Queen competition, Dani's trip seems to be far more controlled, solely centering on slight visual hallucinations that make the trees and her flower crown constantly pulsate, changing shape and size. That's also likely a reflection of her state of mind which is slowly becoming more attuned the world of Hårga and the strange, unexpected freedom that she's found there.
Hårga's small community doesn't share too much about the noxious concoction, but in the film's third act one of the women reveals that the so-called "spring water with special properties" has powers that "break down your defenses and open you up to the influence." This makes sense as hallucinogens have historically been utilized as a way of making people more likely to tell the truth or share thoughts that they otherwise might keep secret. It's something that works on the young men of the tourist group with each of them slowly losing their inhibitions to fatal effect.
How long do the effects of the psychedelic drug last?
Dani's first trip seems to last for about seven to eight hours including the time that she spends passed out. That fits with the realities of taking hallucinogenic mushrooms which can induce trips that usually last around the same amount of time. In Midsommar, the length of the trips shift with the needs of the story and it can be unclear just how much time has passed. But one thing that's clear is the mixture, though not fatal itself, plays havoc with the minds of those who take it and makes them even more susceptible to the maniacal machinations of those around them.