Culture - Aztecs & Magic Mushrooms

Discussion in 'Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe & Amanita)' started by Smarthead, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. Smarthead

    Smarthead Gold Member

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    The Aztecs and the Sacred Mushrooms
    By John W. Allen
    (Excerts from Maria Sabina: Saint Mother of the Sacred Mushrooms)
    (Revised Edition year 2000-Raverbooks-Seattle, Washington)

    Psychoactive fungi of the genera Psilocybe and possibly Panaeolus have been traditionally used for over 3000 years. The use of these interesting fungi in magico-religious ceremonies as divinatory sacraments among several tribes belonging to the Nahua speaking Indians of Mesoamerica is well documented (Wasson & Wasson 1957; Schultes 1939, 1940).

    The Nahua are the ancestors of the once mighty Olmecs, Toltecs, and Aztecs. The Mayan cultures of Central America may also have employed the mushroom entheogens ceremoniously. The indigenous native inhabitants of Mesoamerica currently employ several entheogenic mushrooms for the purpose of healing and curing through divination via magico-religious veladas.

    Jim Jacobs, a renown investigator of the sacred Mexican "magic mushrooms" claims that "their use in a magico-religious ceremony is correct, but that their use is much broader" then one could possibly imagine.


    To began with, what do we know of the existence of the sacred mushrooms? Were they always with us and why did they just recently resurface into the 20th century of entheogenism? And why did it take over four hundred years of mystery shrouded in silence and secrecy before the mushroom entheogens resurfaced into our modern world? We must remember and never forget that it was the Mazatec curandera Doña María Sabina, the wisest of sabio's who shared her secrets with R. Gordon Wasson and photographer Alan Richardson and made it possible for all of us to experience her ecstatic and sacred knowledge.


    Many of the early Spanish chroniclers (which included naturalists, botanists and members of the clergy) sailed from far across the Atlantic. They were the first to explore this brave new world of ours. They traveled here under the fear of God, leaving behind them the terrors of the dark middle ages, leaving behind them a world they were just learning to crawl out from under.


    More than 500 years have passed since España triumphed over 700 years of Moorish rule. In 1469, 17-year-old Ferdinand V, ruler of the kingdom of Aragon met and married 18 year-old Isabella I, queen of Castile and Leon. This was an important step in making España a single kingdom. They had fought the Moors, the Mohammedan invaders who had ruled much of España for hundreds of years (700). In 1492, after more than twenty years of fighting, Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the city of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in what is now Spain. It was also, at this point in their history, that Spain began to expel most Jews from their country, forcing several hundred thousand Jews to migrate to other countries, except for those who converted to their religion of Christianity.


    After the war with the Moors was over, Ferdinand and Isabella gave court to a navigator, who was also a map-maker as well, a man who claimed to know the "secrets of the winds." This man was Christopher Columbus. A man who had dreamed of sailing west for more than twenty years. At first, Columbus tried to get help from the King of Portugal, but that failed. Then in 1485, he turned to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who at that time, were fighting to drive out the Moors from their country, so Columbus had to wait.


    Finally his orders arrived, given to him by Ferdinand and Isabella, the royal degree directing him for his first voyage. These documents claimed that Columbus would be sailing to "certain islands in the sea" which he knew existed. Interestingly, Columbus had once sailed to Scandinavia and may have even heard stories about the travels of Leif Ericsson, thus presenting him with an incentive for finding shorter sailing routes to the Indies.


    After the war between the Moors and Spain was over, it appeared that it was very important for the merchants of Spain to find a new route to India and Asia. After their defeat in Grenada, the Mohammedan Arabs had shut off all of the eastward land routes to Asia and Portugal's explorers had not yet completed their passage around Africa, so new sailing routes were often discussed by the merchants yet no one was enthusiastic about attempting to find newer sailing routes to increase the trade of the country.


    The purpose of Columbus' voyage and subsequent ventures across the Atlantic was to increase the resources of Spain with new avenues of commerce and trade. Eventually, they accidentally stumbled upon this brave new world, landing first at what is now El Salvador and later setting up the first colony in Haiti. Eventually Columbus explored most of the South American Coast, and Central America as far west as Panama.


    In 1519, the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortez landed with his men in Mexico and set up a new town, Vera Cruz, and then marched toward the capital city. Within two years Cortez had conquered the country. Cortez also began the task of ordering his clergy to convert the Indians into Christians and stopped them from worshipping demonic idols and from performing their rituals which sacrificed human beings to the gods. While these human sacrifices must have seemed very cruel to the invading Europeans, it would be more reasonable to assume that Cortez turned out to be more cruel in his conquest of the native peoples and the way he conducted his conquest than what he was trying to destroy or change. Not only did Cortez destroy many of the Aztec temples but he also brutally put down all resistance. At the time of the conquest it was believed that there were more than 100,000 Aztecs who lived in the capital and over six million Indians living throughout Mexico.


    Imagine the fear which the native population held towards their conquerors. Here was an enemy who had greater powers than their mighty Gods. Weapons of mass destruction, more powerful than their spears and arrows. Muskets, rifles, cannons. Armored suits, mighty vessels which breached the sanctity of the waters.


    Once the conquest had begun the invaders immediately began to build their churches, the base core of their spiritual imaginations. Then they began to strip the native inhabitants of their heritage, culture and resources. The many treasures they collected and cataloged were sent back to their homeland. They carried these precious cargoes to Spain in the name of God and King. Interestingly, many treasure vessels sank or sunk soon after their embarkation; mainly because their precious vessels were too heavily laden with treasure and ironically it was surely their greed which caused their ships to sink; remember that these were seasoned seamen. They were definitely good at their skills and they knew how to sail their ships. Furthermore the Spanish invaders were also seeking such treasures as the Coronado's "Seven Cities of Cibola" (the lost city of gold) or "El Dorado" as it later became known; the "fountain of youth" and even aphrodisiacs to seduce young women.


    During this period of conquest, they proceeded to rape the land of its many resources and strip away the native peoples of their culture, heritage and religion. Soon they thus began their indoctrination of their way of life into that of the native population. This was achieved largely through the fear of death; thus the conquerors began to civilize the heathens of their pagan like rituals practices and converted many Aztecs to Christianity.


    An interesting observation which has not before been under discussion is about one of the rewards given to all Indians who converted to Christianity. This meant that if any Indian was attacked, beaten on or in danger, it was the honored duty of the soldier or conquistador, all loyal to the King of Spain, to defend, with his life, any Indian who was of the same faith. This is why the Moors were repelled and expelled from España; so that the Catholic church could exist. In fact, one of the titles of Ferdinand, King of España, was "Protector of the Faith" or "Keeper of the Faith."


    In contrast to this above noted observation, in the American colonies, where the English missionary breakaway protestant laymen imposed their harsh religions doctrines and dogma on the native populations whom they encountered, were able to convert only small populations of the native inhabitants into their religions. However, English attitudes towards people of a different skin color was obvious (India is an example) and the Indians who became christianized were probably not even allowed to sit at the same table with their white brothers even though they were of the same faith.


    Eventually, the conquerors had succeeded in their endeavor to devour the land they now lay claim to. Now the botanists and clergy began to initiate the long and somewhat tedious task of cataloging and recording on paper all that they had discovered in the new world.


    During the initial conquest of Nueva España from the Caribbean throughout Central America to México, the use of inebriating intoxicants (including fungi) was a dominating factor in the culture and peoples of the Aztec empire. These sacraments were frowned upon by the Spanish invaders, who observed the Aztec priests and their followers being served the sacred fungi at festivals and coronations. It should be pointed out that the Spanish were very mycophobic and they were repulsed by the mere mention of any type of mushroom. They also deplored the pagan like rituals and the priests who employed mushrooms and other magical herb/drug plants as divinatory substances. They wrote in their histories that Teonanácatl (Teunamacatlth), a term used by the Nahuatl speaking Aztec priests in describing the sacred mushrooms may have implied "God's Flesh or Flesh of the Gods." However, many historians wrote of the mushrooms in a negative view. For example: one author described the mushrooms as "Hongol demonico ydolo" (for more terms and names of the sacred mushrooms, see Allen, 1997c). According to Wasson (1980), "teo" meant awesome or wondrous and "nanacatl" implied mushroom or even meat.


    Teonanácatl or "magic mushroom" was one of the most important of the many narcotic drug/herb plants described in several codices written after the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century. The mushrooms were often administered among the common people, merchants, visiting dignitaries; and even the wealthy were known to have consumed them.


    Other plants were also employed in the treatment of different ailments, divinations and for healing or curing and were also used during different seasons. Additionally, several other minor plants were also employed when the more popular remedies were not available.


    Many plants used in these magico religious ceremonies more than 400 years ago by the Aztecs and as much as 2000 years earlier by their ancestors the Olmecs and Toltecs, and quite possibly the Mayan people, are still in use today. These include peyote (mescaline), ololiuhqui/tlitlitzin (morning glory seeds = ergine alkaloids), Salvia divinorum ("Leaves of the Shepherdess" a member of the mint family), datura (jimsom weed, also known as torna loca, toloache or tolatzin), mescal beans (cytisine), puffballs (Lycoperdon mixtecorum) or (Lycoperdon marginatum). The former is referred to as "gi-i-wa" and means "fungus of the first quality" and the latter implies "fungus of the second quality." It has been reported that they cause auditory hallucinations. Use of these alleged puffball inebriants occurs primarily among the Mixtec shamans.


    Second only to peyote are the sacred mushrooms referred to by the Aztecs as teonanácatl. The majority of the sacred mushrooms of Mesoamerica belong to the genus Psilocybe, and a few quite possibly belong to the genera Panaeolus and Conocybe.


    Although indigenous use of many psychotropic plants in Mesoamerica is not uncommon today, the ritualistic or ceremonial use of the sacred mushrooms and other drug/herb plants can be traced back to approximately 1000 BC.


    The numerous descriptions recorded by the clergy and historians concerning the effects of these drug/herb plants and their uses among the Aztec people are molded in fear and plastered in bigotry and false heresy. The effects of the mushrooms on those who had experienced them were often reported in a negative vein, most probably by the botanists and historians who were eager to appease their masters back in Spain. The Spanish historians often described the effects of these plants on native peoples as leaving their users in uncontrollable fits, claiming that the native people would even commit violent acts towards themselves and each other. Many would fall into rages as if in a stupor. These descriptions could very well describe contemporary societies description of an alcoholic syndrome.


    The Spanish persecuted, often murderously, those who did not adhere to the catholic ways. Below and on the following pages are several references regarding the use of these sacred mushrooms by Indian people who inhabited Mesoamerica. It was because of the persecution which the native population faced from their conquerors that cause them to hide the use of these mushrooms from their Spanish peers. Thus they remained a secret to most of the west until R. Gordon Wasson found the Oaxacan Shamaness María Sabina and wrote of his rediscovery regarding the existence of the sacred mushrooms (see Allen, 1997a, 1997b).


    Here then is an example, as recorded by the clergy concerning the effects of the mushrooms upon some users in pre-Colombian México:


    "The native people would pick these little mushrooms and some were small and yellow, and some were black. They had small round heads and slender stems. They were sometimes mixed and eaten with honey or with chocolate, and when they were eaten they would make one see many things which or would not make them much afraid, or even laugh. Some would dance or weep, others would merely sit and dream. Some had visions of death, or of falling in battle. Some believed that they were being eaten by a wild animal and others believed that they would become very wealthy. All forms of good or evil could become a reality under the influence of the fungus which the natives referred to as teonanácatl, teo implies divine, and nacatl, means meat or mushroom, hence the term `flesh of the gods'...


    "When the effects of the inebriation of the mushrooms were past and all had returned to normal, the Indians would then consult with each other in regards as to what they each had experienced while under the influence of the mushrooms...


    "The mushrooms might make one lose his senses or give one pleasure. Some would predict the future or see a thousand or more serpents or jaguars and some believed that their arms or their legs were being cannibalized by worms or spiders. The use of the mushrooms could ward off evil or cast charms and spells to insure success, and they were thought to cure all kinds of diseases." It should be mentioned that the Franciscan monk Sahagún (1950-1959), a converted Jew, mentioned that the mushrooms were used to cure fevers and rheumatism.


    It would appear that the use of divinatory mushrooms among the native inhabitants shocked the Spanish clergy. To their users these fungi gave vision giving powers to heal through divination. The natives respected the mushrooms and held their vision giving properties in awe and reverence. The mushrooms apparently projected concepts of divinity which provided visions and keys for unlocking doorways into the mind. It also allowed one to divinate an illness or find lost objects. They were sacred, they were respected and they were medicinal. They also allowed one to achieve a sacred communion with their Gods. The Aztecs even had a god who protected the mushrooms who was known as Xochipelli (Prince of Flowers).


    The native people felt that the new religion of the Spaniards offered them nothing comparable to what they already had. Imagine how disappointed the Aztec converts were when they compared eating the mushroom to the agape of the Christian Eucharist. It must have been shocking to those seeking a similar experience from the taking of bread and wine and comparing it with their inebriation from the taking of the mushrooms (Pike, 1960; Pike & Cowan, 1959).


    In the eyes of the Spaniards this religion was blasphemous and this heathen pagan practice most assuredly had to be stamped out. The attitude of some of the conquerors, especially the clergy, probably originated due to the fact that for 1500 years since the death of Christ, they had been trying to communicate with God and he had not responded. Yet here were these common idolaters who could communicate with God and apparently the Spaniards most likely believed the native people were actually communicating with the devil. The conquerors really felt that if God would not respond to their prayers, why would God then answer the low-life indigenous peoples prayers. Because of this the Spanish continuously persecuted the native population until they felt that the use of these drug/herb plants by the native-people no longer existed.


    Remember that it was because of the severe persecution by their Spanish conquerors that many shamans, medicine men and priests moved their ritualistic practices into hiding; thereby keeping secret, their ancient rituals from the eyes of their enemies. As the conquest proceeded in the domination of the Aztecs, along came the Holy Order of the Inquisition, who after establishing an office in Mexico, attempted to control the native population through the fear of their vengeful but loving God. No matter how hard the Inquisition tried to put an end to the use of the inebriating intoxicants by their conquered subjects, it seems that they failed in regards to the use of peyote and the sacred mushrooms. Eventually many Aztec priests and their followers began to incorporate into their own religion, certain aspects and concepts of the religion of their conquerors (LaBarre 1970).


    Pagan and Catholic traits were soon blended and incorporated together into the Aztec religion along with catholic images such as pictures of the Virgin Mary and statues of Jesus Christ. For instance, many contemporary Mazatec Indians believe that where Christ's blood fell to the ground or where Christ's saliva appeared on the ground, that is where the mushrooms sprang from.
     
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    1. 5/5,
      Excellent paper, thank you.
      Jul 8, 2009
  2. Smarthead

    Smarthead Gold Member

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    The Aztecs and the Sacred Mushrooms
    Revised May 1, 2002 and August 29, 2007
    Copyright 1998-2007 by John W. Allen

    PART II

    HISTORICAL REFERENCES


    Presented below are several descriptions, as recorded by the clergy, of some of the effects which the sacred mushrooms allegedly had upon the Aztec people who consumed them. They were first found in the texts of the following historians and clergymen: The Franciscan Friar and chronicler Bernadino de Sahagún, author of the Florentine Codex. Motolina, Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon, Jacinto de la Serna, Francisco Hernandez and the Dominican priest, Diego Duran. As previously noted, many of these clergymen and historians were previously jews who through the threat of death or expulsion from Spain, were converts to the Catholic religion.
    Sahagún wrote:
    "The natives consumed small black mushrooms that were known as teonanácatl or nanacatl. They grew under grass, in the fields and in pastures, and visions were seen when ingested.


    In book 9, Chapter 8 of the Florentine Codex we find two epithets referring to the sacred mushrooms: nanacatl (mushroom) and honguillos negros (little black mushrooms).


    In book 10, Chapter 29, we are presented with a description describing nanacatl as "hongos malos que emborrachan"(evil mushrooms that inebriate).


    And in book 11 Chapter 7 we are told that "hay unos honguillos en esta tierra que se llaman teonanácatl." (there are some little mushrooms in this land that they call teonanácatl).


    In another portion of the codex, Sahagún, a devote catholic, informs us that the mushrooms "aun provocan a lujuria" that they "even provoke lust." Wasson (1980) believed that Sahagún may have been responsible for adding these words and wondered why they were inserted. He inquired if they were meant to either "excite the sixteenth century readers seeking always the Fountain of Youth and new aphrodisiacs? or to incite his pious readers against the mushrooms?" Another historian, Francisco Flores, also made the suggestion that the sacred mushrooms were but "one of the many aphrodisiacs found in Nueva España."


    During the past twenty years the author has communicated with numerous adults and young couples who have experimented with psilocybian fungi. Many couples have reported that their sexual appetites were definitely increased during their inebriations on the sacred mushroom. In fact, most of the male subjects who were interviewed mentioned that they were able maintain an erection and to hold back orgasm for several hours. On the other hand, their female counterparts claimed to experience nothing but multiple orgasms during the entire sexual encounter while under the influence of the mushroom inebriation (Allen, personal files).


    It should be noted that no shaman, curandera, brujo or sabio in modern Mesoamerica or those seeking advise from the mushrooms have sex for three days before, during and/or after a mushroom ceremony (Pike & Cowan 1959). According to the shamans and sabios this experience would cause permanent madness; suggesting that one would go crazy from the experience. However, many westerners who have experienced intercourse while under the influence of inebriating mushrooms have claimed that it is the finest madness they have ever experienced. What is interesting is that there are no documented studies done in regards to this aspect of one of the many effects attributed to this type of intoxication. Additionally, Albert Hofmann (1980) also observed what he believed to be were erotic sexual effects in two female participants (María Sabina's daughters Apolonia and Aurora, prospective curanderas) during a ceremony held in the home of María Sabina which occurred while Albert Hofmann was under the influence of Salvia divinorum: "Blissful, yearning, moans of Apolonia and Aurora, between singing and prayer, gave the impression of the young women in the drug inebriation was combined with sensual sexual feeling." Furthermore, Leary (1983), who with his lady companion Malaca, had also wrote on the sexually euphoric aphrodisiac effects reported as common in many psilocybian experiences; describing his observations of these effects by claiming that "We were two sea creatures. The mating process in this universe began with the fusion of moist lips producing a soft-electric rapture, which irradiated the entire body. We found no problem maneuvering the limbs, tentacles, and delightful protuberances with which we were miraculously equipped in the transparent honey-liquid zero-gravity atmosphere that surrounded, bathed, and sustained us...
    "This was my first sexual experience while under the influence of psychedelics."


    Several days after Leary had experienced the euphoric sexual properties of these powerful mushrooms, he asked Aldous Huxley "what he thought about the erotogenic nature of the psychedelic drugs which were slowly becoming popular among the undergraduates at Harvard. Huxley seemed agitated at Leary's query by saying that "of course this is true, Timothy, but we've stirred up enough trouble suggesting that drugs can stimulate aesthetic and religious experiences." Huxley further stated "I strongly urge you not to let the sexual cat out of the bag."


    At this time, the author of this paper would like to propose a new term to be applied for describing these effects experienced by those, who under the influence of these mushrooms, have the most orgasmic and cosmic sexual experience of their life. This term is to be known as "psilophoria." "Psilo" for the chemical substance within the mushrooms and "phoria" extracted from the word euphoria. Gartz (1996), wrote about numerous occasions where several innocent collectors in Germany who were foraging for edible mushrooms had accidentally consumed specimens of a newly discovered psilocybian mushroom known as Inocybe aeruginascens. All those involved reported nothing but euphoric reactions during their intoxication. These occurred on numerous occasions in and around Potsdam and outlaying regions of Germany.


    Other reported effects were presented by Sahagún who undoubtedly provided some of the best descriptions and effects of these mushrooms. The following descriptions are from the Florentine codex:
    In book two, page 130, Sahagún wrote that:
    "Teonanácatl grows on the plains, in the grass. The head is small and round. The stem is long and slender. It is so bitter and burns; it burns the throat, it makes one besotted; it deranges one, troubles one. It is a remedy for fever or gout. Only 2 or 3 can be eaten. It saddens, or depresses one; it is known to make one flee, frightens one, makes one hide. He who eats many of them sees many things which make him afraid, or makes him laugh [incessant laughing is one of the more pleasurable effects of a psilocybian intoxication]. He flees, hangs himself, hurls himself from a cliff. Cries out, takes fright. He eats it with honey. Of him it is said, he `bemushroomed' himself."


    In book nine we find a the mushrooms being served at a State dinner for visiting dignitaries, traders and merchants. At this feast we find that the merchants have been served teonanácatl:
    "At the very first, mushrooms were served. They [the merchants] only drank chocolate during the night. They also ate mushrooms in honey. When the inebriation started they danced and wept. Many though of and saw horrible monsters and things."


    And finally in book ten, page 49, Sahagún provides us with an incident of abuse by a noblewoman who used mushrooms for pleasure rather then healing or curing:
    "The bad noblewoman [is] infamous, very audacious, stern, and proud. Very stupid, brazen. besotted, and drunk. She goes about besotted; she goes about demented; she goes about eating mushrooms."


    As one can see, the Aztecs also had what appear to be drug related problems in their society just like we have alcohol related problems in our society.


    Other reports from Sahagún tells us of "the Harlot; the Carnal Woman is who is described at length. Put briefly, she is the whore of the itching buttocks. She lives like a bathed slave, acts like a sacrificial victim, goes about with her head high--rude, drunk, shameless, eating mushrooms" [Ibid P 55].
    "The Lewd Youth is a drunkard, foolish, dejected; a drunk, a sot. He goes about eating mushrooms" [Ibid P 37].
    "The One of Noble Lineage when he is a bad nobleman is a flatterer--a drinker, besotted, drunk. He goes about eating Daturas and mushrooms. He becomes vain, brazen" [Ibid P 20].
    "The Bad Youth goes about becoming crazed on both kinds of daturas and mush-rooms; he is dissolute, mad; he goes about mocking, telling tales, being rude, repeating insults" [Ibid P 12].


    The above descriptions written by the Spanish clergy and historians regarding the effects which the Sacred Mushrooms had on those who consumed them definitely explains their (the historians) animosity regarding the Aztec use of the mushrooms.


    In 1481, Diego Duran wrote the History of the Indians of New Spain. His documents were based on an historical text refer-red to as Cronica X. An early reference in this lexicon occurred during the coronation of Tizok.


    40. "Comieron todos de unos hongos monteses, que dicen hacen perder el sentido, y asi todos muy aderezados al baile."
    40. "They all ate some woodland mushrooms, which they say makes you lose all your senses, and thus they sallied forth for the dance."


    Duran noted that mushrooms were served at the coronation of Moctezuma and other important functions such as festivals and ritual ceremonies. It would appear that the sacred use of teonanácatl was an integral functional part of the Aztec culture. The mushrooms obviously held an important role in determining the structure of their society.
    According to the text of Cronica X (11 cap LIV 24), at the coronation of Moctezuma, Duran wrote that:
    "de alli iban todos a comer hongos crudos; con la cual comida salian todos de juicio y queaban peores que si hubieran bebido mucho vino. Con la fuerza de agellos hongos, veian visiones y tenian revelaciones de lo venir."
    "They all went to eat raw mushrooms; on which food they all went out of their minds, worse then if they had drunk much wine. With the force of those mushrooms, they would see visions and have revelations of the future."


    It was known that Moctezuma provided great feasts for his enemies and their Kings and Lords. Here then is an account of one such feast recorded as the "Feast of the Revelations."
    Cronica X (11 LXV 26):
    "(Moctezuma) hacia comer alos viegos y sacerso tes antiguos, hongos verdes y otros brebajes super-sticiosos, qui les hacia bebar, para que supiensen en aguellas embriagueces que aguellas comidas y brebajes les causab-an, de tener victoria o no."
    "(Moctezuma) made the old men drink and the former priests eat green mushrooms and other superstitious potions that he made them drink, so that they would learn in those drunken states that were caused by those foods and potions whether he would win victory or not." The green mushrooms noted above by Duran probably belonged to the genus Psilocybe and that the color green as well as blue are indications of the oxidation of psilocin.


    Another reference from Cronica X follows:
    "Sino solo los hongos monteses, que los comian crudos, con los cuales, que se alegraban y regocijaban y salian algo de su sentido. Solo hace memoria, de la abundan-cia de cacao que se bebia en estas solemnidades."
    "But only the woodland mushrooms which they ate raw, with which, they would rejoice and grow merry and become somewhat tipsy. Mention is made only of the abundance of chocolate that would be drunk on these exalted occasions."


    As previously earlier, by 1519, Cortez had conquered all of Mexico and by 1541, an office of the Spanish Inquisition was permanently established in Mexico. Documented records of the Office of the Holy Inquisition indicate that several reports exist documenting the persecution and prosecution of native inhabitants; including a priest who used mushrooms in the year 1574. In these files were lists of charges brought by the clergy against several Indians for their use of the sacred mushrooms (see Wasson, 1980).


    In 1581 Fray Juan de Cordoba wrote about the Zapotec indians who had words for "mushrooms that they say give one visions."


    One ancient manuscript "Papeles of Nueva España" dated April 15, 1580, reported that: "they would worship the devil and sacrifice dogs and slaves to their idols and after their sacrifice they would dance and get drunk on some mushrooms and then see many visions and fearful figures."


    Francisco Hernandez, personal physician to the King of Spain, viewed the Aztec's use of inebriating mushrooms as `causing madness, but not death'. Hernandez believed that the all night vigils which he observed were `awesome and terrifying'. In his Historia Plantarum Novae Hispaniae Volume II, published in 1790, he described several mushrooms. One mushroom was referred to as Chimalnanacame meaning "yellow orbicular mushroom." This could be a reference to a species of Panaeolus or possibly Psilocybe caerulescens Murr. Another term in use at that time by the Aztecs for teonanácatl was the epithet teyhuiti nanácatl meaning intoxicating mushroom.


    In 1615, a guide for missionaries on how to deal with the Indians who used inebriating mushrooms shows that "when they are eaten or drunk, they intoxicate, depriving of those who partake of them, of their senses and come to make them believe of any one of a thousand absurdities." Just how powerful were the mighty empirical Aztec wizards in their knowledge of medicinal plant lore? And how had the ever powerful catholic church and their clergy come to fear these innocent natives who would not give up their heathen pagan ways to a Christian God and a new way of life.


    Numerous documentation by the clergy on the ritual use of nanacates (mushrooms) among the Aztec native peoples during the fifteenth and sixteenth century represented a most negative view. This was especially true of the church and those who wrote for their King in Spain. They distorted the truth in order to appease their leaders and the Holy Catholic Church. It would appear that the clergy probably dictated to the historians and botanists what they could or could not put to paper. The clergy and historians apparently only wrote exactly what the Holy Office of the Church and Inquisition needed to read and wanted to hear. Wasson (1980) claimed that this kind of totalitarianism by the church was a dominant factor in controlling every person under the churches jurisdiction; including the doctrines of the mighty conquistadors as they conquered the new world. Wasson claimed "here then is Odium Theologicum."


    While modern anthropologists, botanists and historians ignored and/or denied the existence of the sacred mushrooms in Mexico, written documentation on the subject since the recent rediscovery by the Wassons' and others has proven otherwise.


    As the Spanish Inquisition prevailed on the European continent, so did the persecution of the Indians in Mexico. The conquistadors and the missionaries found great satisfaction in their ambivalent and somewhat derogatory persecution of these poor Indian idolaters. This caused the native inhabitants of Mesoamerica to hide their use of these magical plant substances from the church and their conquering masters. Eventually the native peoples hid their use of the mushrooms in near darkness and secret for over four centuries. No matter how well hidden their so called gatherings were, the fact that these practices survived total annihilation by the church shows the strength the mushrooms provided their users. The Aztec priests, along with their followers, believed that the mushrooms were a sacred gift from God. This belief still persists among several groups of Indians who reside in Mesoamerica today. These mushroom rituals and other drug/herb plant use still exists in contemporary Mexican society, although many of the Indians became devote Catholics once they became converted to Christianity.


    In 1970 Ralph Metzner suggested that during the early part of the conquest that "a negative view of mushroom worship prevailed and the secret practice of it went into hiding as Spanish myco-phobia succeeded in stamping out a major force in ancient Aztec culture."
     
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  3. Smarthead

    Smarthead Gold Member

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    The Aztecs and the Sacred Mushrooms
    Revised May 1, 2002 and August 29, 2007
    Copyright 1998-2007 by John W. Allen

    PART III

    FIELD RESEARCH ON TEONANACATL


    Today, in Mexico, only a handful of remote mountain area tribes still preserve and utilize the customs and rituals of what once must have been a splendid and powerful system of worship and empirical magic. So complete was the neglect and ignorance in this western world of the botanical aspects of the Aztec and Mexican religions, that in 1915, William E. Safford, a reputable and distinguished American Botanist, who was an expert on the subject of many native American psychotropic plants, believed that the mushrooms and their ceremonies recorded in the codices were non-existent. Safford claimed that the Indians of Mesoamerica had never used any mushrooms prior to the conquest or after. Disregarding the noted valid testimony of the Spanish historians, and of his peers, Safford paid little attention to the well documented evidence written by the historians and clergy which described the rituals (mushrooms) and their effects upon those who consumed them.


    Obviously Safford was anti-drug orientated in his beliefs and so once again the mushroom endemic lay hidden from the world until the middle of the late 1930's when it was once again brought to the attention of the scientific community.


    In the early 1900's, Austrian born Blas Pablo Reko, an ethnobotanist, received several reports that certain groups of Indians living in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, were consuming mushrooms and holding secret ceremonies involving ancient rites. These rites were performed only for the purpose of healing and divination. Reko published his findings in a book entitled El México Antiquo. Subsequently, Reko discussed these events with his colleagues. However, they paid little attention to his mushroom ramblings and showed no interest in following up on his information regarding the suspected use of inebriating mushrooms by the Indians of Mesoamerica.


    In 1936, a Mexican engineer, Roberto J. Weitlaner collected several mushroom specimens and forwarded them to Reko. Reko in turn sent the specimens to Harvard University for botanical identification. However, the specimens spoiled before they arrived, thus further delaying their existence to the scientific community.


    Later that same year, Weitlaner, became the first white man in modern times to observe an actual sacred mushroom ceremony. Two years later in 1938, his daughter Irmagard, her fiance Jean Basset Johnson and two friends became the first westerners to witness an actual mushroom ceremony. The velada was held in a home in the tiny mountain village of Huautla de Jimenez.


    The actual discovery of the first mushroom specimens of teonanácatl occurred when a young Harvard botanist, Richard Evans Schultes, made a trip to Huautla de Jimenez and along with Blas Pablo Reko (Schultes, Pers. Comm. 1989) collected several specimens of mushrooms which were suspected as being the mushrooms used in magico-religious ceremonies. So it would appear that the Indians, in their defiance and defense were able to hide their use of the mushrooms until the late 1930's when their use began to reemerge into the western hemisphere.

    Schultes (1939, 1940) presented the scientific community with numerous references describing the use of inebriating mushrooms by the Aztec priests and their followers. Schultes, in his 1939 and 1940 papers, reported that several codices mentioned the existence of the sacred mushrooms, thereby providing a reading audience with information about the mushrooms. Thus Schultes eventually paved the way, so to speak, for the Wassons' and others to follow in his footsteps when he published his findings to the world (Schultes 1939, 1940). The actual rediscovery of the Sacred Mushrooms and their ceremonies can be read in Volume I, II and VII of the Ethnomycological Journals Sacred Mushrooms Studies (Allen, 1997a, 1997b, 2000).
     
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  4. Smarthead

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