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The Rediscovery of Teonanacatl: R. Gordon Wasson's Ethnomycological Studies in Mexico

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by Charlie Kidder

The discipline of ethnomycology can be said to have begun with the work of R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986). 'Ethno' pertaining to people, and 'mycology' referring to the study of fungi. Ethnomycology is the study of the traditional Human use of fungi. It is a synthesis of anthropology and science, often touching upon the areas of religion, ethnomedicine, shamanism, history, poetry, linguistics, and art. So ethnomycology is a single discipline composed of multi-disciplinary knowledge.

How odd that a Wall Street banker and his wife would take up the study of mushrooms. R. Gordon Wasson began his career as a journalist before becoming Vice President of the J.P. Morgan Company. He was a business man, the perfect picture of an upper class gentleman. Many times in his writings he reaffirms the fact that he was not a professional mycologist, claiming to be nothing more than an amateur. He graduated from Columbia University in 1920 with a Bachelor's degree in Literature [Riedlinger 1990]. Having finished his formal education at the age of 22, I think Wasson was always a bit conscious of being outside the "professional" academic circle. However, most of the people with whom he collaborated in his studies were top experts in their fields. Indeed, not being "nailed down" to a single discipline of study I'm sure afforded Wasson the sense of freedom needed to develop the sort of ideas he did.

In 1926 R. Gordon married a Russian physician by the name of Valentina Pavlovna. Wasson himself was of Anglo-Saxon extraction. Finally, in August 1927, Wasson and Valentina took their belated honeymoon. One afternoon while walking along through the woods hand in hand, "a picture of bliss" as Wasson once put it, Valentina unexpectedly threw his hand down and ran off into the woods. Gordon saw that she was kneeling down, excitedly gathering up wild mushrooms in her skirt, mushrooms she hadn't seen since back in Russia [Wasson et al. 1986]. Gordon called out to her to come back to him and to leave those nasty toadstools alone. Yet her attitude appeared much different. Upon returning home she used the mushrooms she collected in the dinner she was preparing, which worried Gordon greatly. The inedible species she would set around the house as decorations, like many do with flowers. Mushrooms are like flowers come to think of it... fungal flowers, wouldn't you say? Well, R. Gordon Wasson, being of English descent as he was, did not see things this way.

This first "marital crisis" of the Wassons turns out to be the birth of ethnomycology. The Wassons both noticed a sharp contrast in their respective attitudes toward wild mushrooms. His was of a skeptical and ignorant nature, while hers was of knowledge, love, and adoration. Then they saw how this difference stretched beyond the two of them, actually representing the opposing attitudes of the cultures they were from. Russians traditionally love mushrooms while Anglo-Saxons typically fear them. So R. Gordon made his first task coining the terms mycophilia and mycophobia to distinguish this difference in people's emotional attitude toward mushrooms. However, the Wassons did not stop there. They also figured such a sharp contrast in attitude must have its origin far back in time at the very beginnings of cultural development. They did not see this phenomenon as something trivial, thinking it must have had some importance in our cultural past [Wasson 1961]. But why?

Wasson's status on Wall Street put him in the ideal position to embark on the sort of self-financed investigation he was to undertake. Gordon and Valentina started to gather all the information they could about mushroom folklore in European countries, more as a pastime than anything else. As their interests grew they began traveling around the world gathering information from different cultures about their knowledge of mushrooms. Much of this was a linguistic or etymological study, tracing different words pertaining to mushrooms back to their roots in order to track the word's historical development. They went to remote villages and asked people whose families had lived there a long time, in many cases peasants who could neither read nor write, about mushrooms. For nearly 30 years they gathered information this way. They searched the literature as well for references to mushrooms. It was from all these studies that the Wassons finally generated their "bold surmise." Their hypothesis, which they kept to themselves for quite a period of time, was that at some point in remote prehistory our ancestors worshipped mushrooms. This, if correct, the Wassons felt would explain why even today there exists this mycophilic/mycophobic division in attitude among European peoples [Wasson et al. 1986]. The Wassons knew that such a surmise needed to be backed up with convincing evidence before it was to be presented publicly. Even at this point the Wassons were not all that sure why people would have worshipped mushrooms to begin with. However, continued investigation and a bit of good fortune was to clear all this up.

There are a number of different pieces of evidence indicating that the Aztecs of Southern Mexico once made use of inebriating mushrooms in a religious context. In 1598, an educated Indian by the name of Tezozomoc wrote the following about Moctezuma II's coronation in 1502: "...they gave the strangers mountain mushrooms to eat, on which they became inebriated, and with this they entered into the dance..." Mushrooms also figure into different pieces of Aztec art, especially the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis and the Aztec Magliabechiano Codex. As well, over 200 "mushroom stones" have been found throughout Central America, suggesting that mushroom cults once flourished in Mayan regions [Ott 1993]. There is also the Aztec statue of Xochipilli, "The Prince of Flowers," which Wasson was the first to notice was adorned with engravings of various psychoactive plants (tobacco, morning glories) and sectioned mushroom caps (Psilocybe aztecorum) on its base [Wasson 1980]. 'Flowers' is now known to function as a metaphor for psychoactive plants in Aztec poetry.

Beginning with the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521, the newly formed Church busied itself with the persecution of the Aztec mushroom cults, condemning the pagan religion to the point where, by the 17th century, traditional mushroom use was driven into secrecy, only to be practiced by a few shamans in remote areas. Such was the situation for the next 300 years. There exist today scant writings by Spanish friars about the Indians' use of the mushrooms, but these bits of evidence were all but forgotten by the time the 20th century rolled around.

Science did not know of the existence of psychoactive mushrooms until the late 1930s. Ethnobotanist W.E. Safford advanced the theory in 1915 that the early Spanish writings about psychoactive mushrooms called "teonanacatl" were mistaken, and that such mushrooms never actually existed. He claimed it was the use of dried peyotl cactus (Lophophora williamsii) that the early chroniclers were mistaking for mushrooms [Ott 1993]. Wasson, however, had a bit more faith in the accuracy of the early reports and believed that teonanacatl actually did refer to a mushroom [Riedlinger 1990].

So this was the situation among ethnobotanists around the turn of the century, skeptical about the existence of psychoactive mushrooms. This was to change in the late 1930s when Blas Pablo Reko, Robert J. Weitlaner, and noted Harvard botanist Richard Evans Schultes traveled to the town of Huautla de Jimenez in the northern part of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. There they succeeded in locating and collecting specimens of teonanacatl, which were later identified to be three species of mushrooms from two genera; Panaeolus sphinctrinus, Psilocybe cubensis, and Psilocybe caerulescens. Along with these findings, in 1939 Irmgard Weitlaner and Jean Bassett Johnson witness an actual mushroom curing ceremony in Mexico, making them the first outsiders in modern times to attend such an event (although they did not participate in the ceremony and ingest the mushrooms themselves) [Ott 1993].

These initial discoveries in Mexico in the late '30s were interrupted by the Second World War. Finally, in 1952, Gordon Wasson read Schultes 1939 paper on teonanacatl, had received information from the poet Robert Graves about the survival of the shamanic use of psychoactive mushrooms in Mexico, and was sent a pencil drawing of a mushroom stone found in Central America [Ott 1993]. Seeing how this information lent support to their "bold surmise," the Wassons shifted their ethnomycological interests to focus on Mexico. They both felt they were hot on the trail of an ancient & holy mystery [Wasson 1961].

In the summer of 1953, Gordon made his first field trip to Huautla de Jimenez to begin inquiring about mushrooms with the native people. During 1953 and '54, Wasson managed to gather precious bits of information. He found that the subject of these special mushrooms was not one of casual conversation among the local people. Because of this he was most careful about only bringing up the subject with the right people in the appropriate situations. The mushrooms were only talked about in confidence when one was alone with a wise person at night, often by the light of a candle speaking in whispers [Wasson 1980]. Indeed, this indicates the deep & long lasting effect the Spanish Inquisition had on the native people of the area. The religious use and knowledge of these mushrooms had become the arcanum arcanorum, the "secret of secrets."

The big day finally came on June 29, 1955 when R. Gordon and his photographer Allan Richardson collected a large quantity of Psilocybe caerulescens Murril var. mazatecorum Heim, known to the locals as the "durrumbe" or "landslide" mushroom, a psilocybian species with relatively large fruit bodies. Incidentally, the smaller species are known as "pajaritos" or "dear little birdies." Wasson carried the mushrooms, hidden from view within a box, into town and asked one of his informants if he knew of a shaman that would perform a mushroom ceremony for them. Sure enough, a shaman by the name of Maria Sabina agreed to perform the ritual for them that very night [Wasson 1980; Ott 1993]. I can only imagine Wasson's excitement as many years of research and field work were finally building up to a dramatic climax.

First a few words about Maria Sabina and the traditional role of the shaman in general. Shamanism has been called the world's oldest profession, an art stretching far back into great antiquity. A shaman is fundamentally a healer, "a manipulator of the sacred, whose main function is to induce ecstasy in a society where ecstasy is the prime religious experience" [Eliade 1951; McKenna & McKenna 1975]. Shamans do their work by entering an altered state of consciousness (i.e. some sort of trance) so that they may better diagnose illness and receive the wisdom needed to cure it. In a way, the shaman is the prototype for both our modern day doctor and priest. The shaman's function in preliterate cultures was to master working within the spiritual realm in order to help the tribe in times of sickness, hunger, war, and spiritual needs. People would come to the shaman in search of a cure for a sick family member, to locate a lost object, or even if they needed to communicate with a deceased ancestor. The shaman is an artist, a mediator between people and the more obscure spiritual realm. Many shamans employ various psychoactive plants & fungi in their practices. Shamanic cosmology has been called the prototype for many religions to come.

Maria Sabina was a sabia or 'wise woman', a curandera sin mancha or 'shaman without blemish'. Maria was a unique example of a person in modern times, not overly influenced by modern technological culture, who still practiced the archaic customs of her people. Psychoactive mushrooms were her primary tool for entering "non-ordinary reality." She worked within a Christian framework, believing, for example, that the mushrooms grew where Christ's blood had dripped onto the ground. This shows how the original Indian belief systems that existed before the Spanish conquest were pretty much successfully erased by the missionaries and replaced over time with Christian symbolism. However, in shamanic work, the religious framework employed is of little consequence to the overall power to heal mastered by the shaman. Maria would only take the mushrooms when somebody needed help from a wise person. She would normally take 13 pairs of mushrooms and give the patient 6 pairs. She would then, under the influence of the mushrooms, begin to chant in complete darkness, slapping her hands against her body in a complex rhythm. She believed that it was the language, the words the mushrooms spoke through her, that actually did the healing. Wasson audio taped two of the veladas he attended, the first in 1956 and the second in 1958. The 1958 ceremony he released in 1974 as a book (complete with a transcription of the velada in the original Mazatec as well as its translations into Spanish & English, along with an ethnomusicological study of her singing) and four record set entitled Maria Sabina and her Mazatec Mushroom Velada. Gordon was prouder of this work than any of his others [Wasson et al. 1986]. The following is taken from a translation of the 1956 recording [Estrada 1977]:

I am a woman who looks into the insides of things, says
I am a woman who investigates, says
I am a woman who shouts, says
I am a woman who resounds, says
I am a woman torn up out of the ground, says
I am a woman wise in medicine, says
I am a woman wise in herbs, says
I am a woman of light, says
I am a woman of heaven, says
I am a woman who gives life
I am a woman who reanimates

"Says," refers to the fact that, as Maria believed, they are the mushrooms' words, not her own. She would sing and chant with the patient lying on a mat on the floor. She would locate where the sickness was coming from and what its nature was. She was able to divine whether or not the patient would live or die. If the patient was to live, the mushrooms would reveal the proper method of treatment to her. For example, sometimes the mushrooms would tell her that the patient needed to vomit to get the sickness out, so she would tell the patient that he or she must vomit. If the patient would not vomit, she would vomit for them. Afterwards, with the sickness removed and driven out & away (in a spiritual sense), she would give the patient clean clothes to wear and possibly an herbal remedy to drink. The mushrooms in this context function in concert with The Senora's performance as a form of mental and physical cleansing for the patient. This is all happening at the very edges of what science is able to explain. Interestingly, Maria did not practice curing during her two marriages, claiming that personal relationships lessen the power of a healer. After her second husband died, she gave herself over to helping people full-time, knowing that it was her fate from the time she was born. She felt that the qualities that made a person a wise man or wise woman were something given to them at birth, not the sort of talent that could be learned [Estrada 1977].

It is the night of June 29, 1955, and Maria Sabina is blessing the mushrooms over copal incense before Wasson and Richardson. A velada is about to be performed and Wasson is overjoyed when Maria presents him with 6 pairs of the mushrooms. Richardson is also given 6 pairs, although he is faced with a decision to make because he had promised his wife back home that he would not let any of those "nasty toadstools" cross his lips, but eat them he did, and then they both sat waiting. Maria Sabina ate her customary 13 pairs. The lights were put out as the mushrooms started to take effect [Wasson 1957].

What was to take place that night was nothing short of a revelation to Wasson, who knew he had finally found it... the connection between mushrooms and religion that he and his wife had hypothesized many years earlier. That evening, Wasson and Richardson became the first outsiders in recorded history to participate in a genuine mushroom agape [Wasson 1957].

Wasson witnessed several mushroom veladas or night vigils in Mexico performed by a number of different shamans. He noticed some similarities in the ritual, although every shaman has his or her own special technique. However, some of the traits common to all the veladas included the following: (1) the mushrooms are always served in pairs (one representing male and the other female [Estrada 1977]); (2) the mushrooms are always eaten fresh and raw (Maria Sabina would eat the whole mushroom, dirt and all, claiming that if she did not, the mushroom would ask her why she hadn't consumed its "feet" [Estrada 1977]); (3) a velada is held in response to a request by someone who wishes to "consult the mushrooms" about a grave family worry, they are never used for frivolous or selfish reasons; (4) the mushrooms are used to heal by helping the shaman in diagnosis of sickness and as guidance to proper treatment, their power is never used for evil; (5) veladas take place at night in the dark in a remote house where there is quiet (save the sounds of nature, the forces of which Wasson felt actually "accentuate the spell of the velada"); (6) there are always 1 or 2 people present who do not partake of the mushrooms, these "monitors" serve to watch over the participants, listen & handle any unexpected interruptions (the doors of the hut are securely fastened & nobody except The Senora herself is allowed to "sally forth into the night"); (7) participants are to fast from breakfast on until the nighttime ceremony, chocolate and coffee are allowed, but alcohol, eggs, and sexual intercourse are prohibited 4 days before and 4 days after the velada; (8) pregnant women are not allowed to take the mushrooms; (9) the liturgy is usually sung facing east, never west [Wasson 1980].

Wasson believed that this was genuine communion and that the mushrooms were the true religious sacrament carrying their own conviction without requiring faith (in contrast to the Christian sacrament of bread & wine which is "transubstantiated" into the body & blood of Christ) [Wasson 1957; Wasson 1961]. Soon after these first trips to Mexico, Wasson started writing about his mushroom experiences. He was a gifted writer and he exercised his talents when attempting to describe the subjective effects of the mushrooms. Trying to describe the indescribable is not an easy task. He published an article entitled "Seeking the Magic Mushroom" in the May 13, 1957 issue of Life magazine. This article introduced psilocybin mushrooms to the general public. Wasson obtained total editorial control over the article, with the agreement that not a word of it be altered. However, he had no control over the article's title and so, against his wishes, the phrase "magic mushroom" was coined, a creation of the editors at Life magazine. The article itself is fascinating and well worth digging up if you are interested. Gordon took great care in giving words to what he had witnessed, feeling that his descriptions needed to be as accurate as they could be.

Mind you, this was all taking place in the late '50s/early '60s, and by that time a small counterculture was starting to take form in The United States. Soon after the Life article was published, young folks with long hair started traveling to Southern Mexico in search of Maria Sabina and the mushroom experience. This despite the fact that Wasson, in an effort to protect Maria's privacy, did not use her real name in the article. However, it was not long before Wasson realized his efforts were in vain. The effects of all these foreigners traveling to the small & poor Mexican villages were hardly beneficial. The sacred mushrooms of their culture were quickly profaned into common articles of the open tourist trade. Psilocybin mushrooms were being sold openly in the market place, when before they were only collected in private by a wise person, usually on the mornings of a full moon. Postcards with photos of Maria Sabina and the mushrooms were also being sold. People were seen "freaking out" in the streets to the point that the authorities had to be called. Folks would arrive at Maria Sabina's hut and tell her they wished to find God. Maria wondered why perfectly healthy people wanted to take the mushrooms. They were not sick, but she would perform for them nonetheless being the good honest woman she was. This situation got worse as the '60s progressed. At one point Maria was even arrested & thrown into jail for giving mushrooms to these tourists! The old ways were to be no more in Oaxaca. These following words of Maria's sum it up: "Before Wasson, I felt that the mushrooms exalted me. Now I no longer feel this... from the moment the strangers arrived... the mushrooms lost their purity. They lost their power. They decomposed. From that moment on, they no longer worked." Wasson claimed these words made him wince [Estrada 1977; Ott 1993]. Indeed, it is easy to understand why.

Gordon Wasson was very aware of his role in the degeneration of this ancient religion precipitated by foreigners going to Mexico in search of the mushroom experience. We must remember, Wasson was an upper class elitist, he had no sympathy for "hippies" & "thrill seekers" searching for spiritual enlightenment [Wasson 1980]. People such as Timothy Leary made Wasson wince as well. One the other hand, Wasson knew his findings were historically important, recording the traditional use of the mushrooms before its inevitable disappearance due to the ever-increasing influence of modern culture on more fragile "less developed" ones.

About the same time the Life article came out, Gordon and Valentina published their major pioneering work in the discipline of ethnomycology. Mushrooms, Russia, and History came out in 1957 in a limited edition of only 512 copies which all sold out within the year. It is a beautifully crafted two volume work, printed on handmade paper in Italy. Wasson was a lover of fine old books and was of the opinion that presentation is every bit as important as content. Today this work is a collectors item, receiving bids as high as $2,750 in auctions [Riedlinger 1990]. I have never seen this book as ASU does not hold a copy, however it is in the special collections of both NAU and U of A. The Wassons presented 30 years worth of their ethnomycological research in Mushrooms, Russia, and History.

The French mycologist Roger Heim joined Wasson on the 1956 expedition to Mexico and on trips thereafter. Together Heim and Wasson introduced some 20 new species of psychoactive mushrooms to science. It is a shame that Heim's collaborations with Wasson on the psilocybin mushrooms of Mexico have not been translated from the French into English. Initial attempts by chemists to isolate the active principle(s) contained in the mushrooms all failed. Due to these failures, Roger Heim sent specimens of Psilocybe mexicana (which he had successfully cultivated in his Paris lab) to Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann (discoverer of LSD) in Basel in 1957. Hofmann started working right away, making fractions of the alkaloids in the mushrooms and testing them on lab animals. The results were ambiguous, prompting Hofmann to test the dried fungal material for psychoactivity on himself. Hofmann unambiguously concluded that the mushrooms were still active, and thereafter began testing his fractions on himself and his assistants instead of lab animals thus employing the "Heffter technique." This finally led to success, making Hofmann the first to isolate and characterize the mushroom's active constituents. Psilocybin was found to be 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine and psilocin 4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine. They are both indole tryptamines. Psilocin is about 1.4 times the potency of psilocybin due to its lack of the inactive phosphoryl group. Hofmann's brilliant chemical work was validated in a unique sort of "experiment." Hofmann joined Wasson on the 1962 expedition to Mexico and brought with him a bottle of synthetic psilocybin pills he had prepared at Sandoz. On the night of October 11, 1962, Hofmann gave Maria Sabina 30mg of synthetic psilocybin in place of the mushrooms for the evening's ceremony. Hofmann explained to Maria that he had come with "the spirit of the mushrooms in the form of pills." Maria later concluded that there was no difference between the mushrooms and the pills, validating Hofmann's work. Hofmann gave the bottle of pills to Maria who thanked him since they would allow her to cure people when the mushrooms were not in season [Ott 1993].

Psilocybin is psychoactive in Humans in dose ranges of 5 to 50 milligrams, with the "maximum safe dose" said to be 150mg. After ingestion, psilocybin gets dephosphorylated into psilocin which is then responsible for the psychoactivity. Psilocin subsequently is excreted "substantially unaltered" in the urine. After ingestion, entheogenic effects begin within about 30 minutes and the inebriation normally lasts 3 to 6 hours. Peak effects are characterized by auditory & visual alterations as well as profound synaesthesia. Common side effects include flushing of the skin and a slight increase in body temperature [Ott 1993]. Psilocin is thought to bind to the 5-HT receptors (5-hydroxytryptamine or serotonin receptors; subtype 2). It is interesting that these (and other) psychoactive compounds bind to serotonin's receptor. Serotonin is known to be a major neurotransmitter in mammalian brains and also serves an important role in blood clotting [Chilton 1979; Ott 1993]. The structural similarity of these indole tryptamines combined with their role in Human consciousness (or alteration thereof) is an interesting matter to consider.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a compound (closely related to psilocybin/psilocin) found in many different plant species. It is also known to occur naturally in the Human brain where it may function as a neurotransmitter [Christian et al. 1976; Christian et al. 1977; Corbett 1978]. DMT is also one of the most powerful entheogenic drugs known. It is known to be used by shamans of the upper Amazon who use it in the form of teas and snuffs made from tropical plants.

The role these compounds play in the plants and fungi (and even people) which produce them is a complete mystery [Schultes & Hofmann 1979]. So we have here a class of structurally similar compounds which have an effect on or role in, among other things, human consciousness. They occur across the board within different life forms... whether it be a fungus, an animal, or a plant. What is the connection, if any, and what role are these compounds meant to play in the organisms which produce them? Psilocybin mushrooms are only known to occur where people live... one does not find them in virgin forest. Maria Sabina's use of psilocybin mushrooms stands, in my mind anyway, as an example of a unique form of Human/fungal symbiosis. Jonathan Ott has conjectured that the "back-to-nature movement" as well as the "international ecological movement favoring tropical rainforest conservation" have a significant portion of their roots in such interactions between people and these psychoactive compounds, a phenomenon which suddenly became relatively widespread in the 1960s [Ott 1995].

Valentina passed away in 1958. Wasson retired from the business world in 1963, freeing up all his time to the study of ethnomycology. During the '60s and '70s, he would advance two major theories about the role of psychoactive fungi in past religious practices. One theory was on the identification of the Vedic god Soma, mentioned many times in the hymns of the Rg Veda (the classic Aryan text which is the foundation for Hinduism). Wasson proposed, based on the Vedic hymns themselves (which indicate that Soma was both a plant & a god), that Soma was actually Amanita muscaria, the fly-agaric mushroom... known to be employed (even today) in Siberian shamanism. There are many metaphors in the hymns which seem to support this idea. A. muscaria contains ibotenic acid and muscimol which are psychoactive compounds in a completely different class (both in structure & activity) than psilocybin/psilocin. Before his death, Wasson was to go as far as to think that the earliest religion of the world was the cult of Soma [Wasson et al. 1986].

The other theory he proposed was about the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece. The Eleusinian Mysteries were held every year for about 2000 years until the sanctuary at Eleusis was finally destroyed in 395 A.D. All Greek speaking people could attend the initiation, but only once in a lifetime. It is likely Plato and Socrates were initiated into the Mystery of Eleusis. However, once initiated it was forbidden by penalty of death to speak about the mystery. The participants were said to drink a potion, the kykeon, and behold a great vision after which they were transformed into those who had "seen the Holy." Wasson was the first to connect the potion with the visions beheld and, with the assistance of Albert Hofmann, developed a scientifically grounded theory based on the evidence at hand (most of it from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, a 7th century B.C. poem). Hofmann hypothesized that it was ergot growing on the barley used to make the potion which provided it with LSD-like alkaloids. What about ergot's toxicity? Hofmann theorized that if the priests were aware of a simple process that would separate the oil layer from the aqueous layer, they could have separated the water-soluble psychoactive ergot alkaloids from the non-water-soluble toxic peptides. Alternatively, if the priests used ergot of the wild grass Paspalum, there would have been no toxic alkaloids to worry about [Ott 1993].

Both these theories continue to stand on good ground today, although there is still much debate among Vedic scholars over what Soma really was. Many hold that it was indeed a psychoactive mushroom as Wasson so convincingly argued, however some feel that it was a psilocybin containing mushroom, not Amanita muscaria. If I had more time I would review these two theories in greater detail. The interested reader is referred to Wasson's two books on the subjects: Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968), and The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1978).


Chilton, W.S. et al. 1979. "Psilocin, bufotenine and serotonin: Historical and biosynthetic observations" Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 11 (1-2): 61-69.

Christian, S. et al. 1976. "Evidence for dimethyltryptamine (DMT) as a naturally-occurring transmitter in mammalian brain" Alabama Journal of Medical Sciences 13: 162-165.

Christian, S. et al. 1977. "The in vitro identification of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in mammalian brain and its characterization as a possible endogenous neuroregulatory agent" Biochemical Medicine 18: 164-183.

Corbett L. et al. 1978. "Hallucinogenic N-methylated indolealkylamines in the cerebrospinal fluid of psychiatric and control populations" British Journal of Psychiatry 132: 139-144.

Eliade, M. 1951. Le Chamanisme et les Techniques Archa‹ques de l'Extase. Paris, France. Translated into English, 1964. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Pantheon Books, New York.

Estrada, A. 1977. Vida de Maria Sabina: La Sabia de los Hongos. Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico City. Presentation by R. Gordon Wasson. Translated into English by H. Munn, 1981. Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants. Ross-Erikson, Santa Barbara, CA.

McKenna, D.J. and T.K. McKenna 1975. The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. Seabury Press, New York. Reprinted in 1993 by HarperCollins, San Francisco.

Ott, J. 1993. Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History. Natural Products Co., Kennewick, WA.

Ott, J. 1995. The Age of Entheogens & The Angels' Dictionary. Natural Products Co., Kennewick, WA.

Riedlinger, T.J. (Ed.) 1990. The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: Essays for R. Gordon Wasson. (Dudley, T.R., General Editor, Historical, Ethno- & Economic Botany Series, Volume 4) Ethnomycological Studies No. 11. Dioscorides Press, Portland, OR.

Schultes, R.E. and A. Hofmann 1979. Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Wasson, R.G. 1957. "Seeking the magic mushroom" Life 13 May 1957. 42(19): 100 et seq. With seven water-color paintings of entheogenic mushrooms by R. Heim.

Wasson, R.G. 1961. "The hallucinogenic fungi of Mexico: An inquiry into the origins of the religious idea among primitive peoples" Botanical Museum Leaflets Harvard University 19(7): 137-162. Originally given on 30 August 1960 as the annual lecture of the Mycological Society of America in Stillwater, Oaklahoma.

Wasson, R.G. 1980. The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica. Ethnomycological Studies No. 7. McGraw-Hill, New York. Limited half-leather bound and boxed edition of 501 signed copies. Lavishly illustrated with 139 plates, including two maps and 54 color plates. The cover features a lovely design of "disembodied eye drops" by Margaret Seeler after Tepantitla murals. Original list price was U.S.$525 and it has recently been selling for $325. Copy #146 is held in ASU's special collections.

Wasson, R.G. (S. Kramrisch) et al. 1986. Persephone's Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion. Ethnomycological Studies No. 10. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. This book was the last work of R. Gordon Wasson, and unfortunately appeared in print shortly after his death on the night of 23 December 1986.

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