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Nicholas Spiers Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA

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Beatriz Caiuby Labate Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA
Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, USA

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Anna O. Ermakova Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA
King's College London, UK

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Patrick Farrell Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA
School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Canada

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Osiris Sinuhé González Romero Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA
University of Saskatchewan, Canada

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Ibrahim Gabriell Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA

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Nidia Olvera Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, USA
Radboud University, Netherlands

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Abstract

This annotated bibliography comprises 49 texts concerning psilocybin mushroom practices developed by Indigenous peoples. The books and articles have been selected for their academic rigor, relevance, and historical significance, and to foreground overlooked research and subject matter. This includes research on a plurality of contemporary practices and evidence of historical uses, from cultural traditions in Mexico and other regions of the world. The curated texts are sourced from various disciplines, including anthropology, history, archaeology, ethnolinguistics, and ethnomycology. Employing diverse methodological and analytical frameworks, the texts explore the diversity of ways Indigenous cultures have related with, utilized, and conceptualized psilocybin mushrooms and the effects occasioned by their consumption. The annotations include brief summaries of the texts, contextualization of the research, and more critical appraisals. The aim of this annotated bibliography is to offer the reader a diverse overview of the research to date and provide an accessible resource for further exploration of historical and contemporary Indigenous psilocybin practices. The team of psychedelic researchers behind this annotated bibliography hope it will contribute to more nuanced dialogue around Indigenous people and practices in the context of the so-called psychedelic renaissance.

Abstract

This annotated bibliography comprises 49 texts concerning psilocybin mushroom practices developed by Indigenous peoples. The books and articles have been selected for their academic rigor, relevance, and historical significance, and to foreground overlooked research and subject matter. This includes research on a plurality of contemporary practices and evidence of historical uses, from cultural traditions in Mexico and other regions of the world. The curated texts are sourced from various disciplines, including anthropology, history, archaeology, ethnolinguistics, and ethnomycology. Employing diverse methodological and analytical frameworks, the texts explore the diversity of ways Indigenous cultures have related with, utilized, and conceptualized psilocybin mushrooms and the effects occasioned by their consumption. The annotations include brief summaries of the texts, contextualization of the research, and more critical appraisals. The aim of this annotated bibliography is to offer the reader a diverse overview of the research to date and provide an accessible resource for further exploration of historical and contemporary Indigenous psilocybin practices. The team of psychedelic researchers behind this annotated bibliography hope it will contribute to more nuanced dialogue around Indigenous people and practices in the context of the so-called psychedelic renaissance.

Introduction

Psilocybin mushrooms, and their psychoactive compounds, have spearheaded the so-called psychedelic renaissance. The bulk of the scientific literature about psilocybin mushrooms mainly addresses the psychopharmacological and biomedical application of psilocybin as a prodrug compound. Indigenous uses of psilocybin mushrooms, often subsumed under traditional Indigenous entheogenic practices, are occasionally referenced as a brief prelude to such research. The continuity between practices developed by Indigenous people and the subcultures and therapeutic practices that subsequently emerged in the Global North is similarly peripheral in contemporary psychedelic research, and often mystified or romanticized when discussed in the wider psychedelic movement.

This annotated bibliography aims to bring together a diverse selection of texts to provide the reader with an accessible resource to facilitate further exploration of historical and contemporary Indigenous psilocybin practices within the framework of the psychedelic revival. It draws from multiple disciplines including anthropology, history, linguistics, ethnohistory, and ethnomycology. Each annotation includes a brief summary of the text, a contextualization of the research, and a critical appraisal. While bibliographies on psilocybin mushrooms have been published in the past (Wasson, 1963), the present paper is uniquely concerned with Indigenous practices and strives to include more contemporary scholarship, advances in ethnography, a more diverse group of researchers, and critical engagements with recent phenomena such as psychedelic tourism and industry. While by no means comprehensive, and in anticipation of further elaboration, the included texts were selected to provide a diverse overview of the research to date. The contributors to these annotations are engaged in the field of psychedelic research, from various academic fields such as anthropology, philosophy, psychedelic science, and history, each with a special interest in psilocybin mushrooms.

The bibliography is organized by geographic region, with the first section subdivided into some of the Indigenous peoples who use psilocybin mushrooms within Mexico. This was done to underscore the diversity of practices within the country and to spotlight Indigenous groups often overlooked in the research. The second section concerns literature regarding largely historical psilocybin mushroom practices in other parts of the world, including Central and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. With the inclusion of historical research in this annotated bibliography we do not wish to equate former Indigenous practices to contemporary ones, but rather to highlight the diversity and dynamic nature of Indigenous ceremonial and ritual uses over time. Inversely, extant practices do not represent “windows onto the past”; they are as much a creation of the modern age as the psychedelic renaissance, and like all traditions, will change while Indigenous practitioners continue to engage with the world.

The annotations within each subsection are ordered chronologically to facilitate a clearer visualization of the unfolding research and its theoretical developments. Additionally, this arrangement helps to highlight both lesser-known texts from the beginning of the 20th century, and the burgeoning research associated with the psychedelic renaissance.

Mexico has been given its own section because it has attracted the most academic interest, being the country by far the richest in psilocybin fungi, home to at least 20 confirmed recognized species of the genus Psilocybe alone (Cortés-Pérez et al., 2021). Several of these mushroom species are central components of the curative and ceremonial practices of Indigenous peoples from the region, including Nahuas in the states of Mexico, Morelos, and Puebla; the Matlazincs in the state of Mexico; the Totonacs in Veracruz; and the Mazatecs, Mixes, Zapotecs, and Chatins in Oaxaca (Guzmán, 2008, 2019). No less than 200 common names in Indigenous languages for psychoactive mushrooms have been recorded throughout the country (Guzmán, 1997), reflecting this biocultural diversity.

Precolonial use of psilocybin mushrooms is evidenced by the archaeological record of civilizations that existed in the region of modern-day Mexico, including the Maya, Mixtec and Aztec, which indicate religious and ritual veneration (De la Garza, 2012; Herrera, 1992; Munn, 1973). The oldest surviving written descriptions of Indigenous practices with psilocybin mushrooms and other entheogens came to us by way of Spanish chroniclers in the 16th century, most notably the Fransciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún and the Dominican friar Diego Durán. Created alongside Indigenous elders, authors, and artists, and based on interviews with contemporaries, these proto-ethnographic pictorial manuscripts documented the cultures of the Mexica and Mixtec, the Aztec Empire, and the conquest of Mexico in the early colonial period.

They ate these little mushrooms with honey, and when they began to be excited by them, they began to dance, some singing, others weeping, for they were already intoxicated by mushrooms. Some did not want to sing but sat down in their quarters and remained there as if in a meditative mood. Some saw themselves dying in a vision and wept; others saw themselves being eaten by wild beasts; and imagined that they were rich and possessed many slaves. When the intoxication from the little mushrooms had passed, they talked over among themselves the visions which they had seen. (Sahagún, 1530)

Along with the very few pre-conquest codices which survived the destruction of Spanish colonizers, these documents represent the primary sources for many contemporary texts on Indigenous psilocybin mushroom practices (Hernández-Santiago, 2017; Herrera, 1992; Ramírez, Sánchez, Hernández, & Ramírez, 2020). The suppression of these practices was also documented by these missionary chroniclers, who were ambiguously often admirers of the Indigenous cultures that their colonial religious authority was systematically destroying. For this reason their texts should be approached critically, as should much later texts on the subject of Indigenous medicinal and ceremonial traditions, in which legacies of medico-botanical colonialism persist.

Indigenous people's uses of psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico would not be the object of ethnographic inquiry again until the 20th century. This centuries-long period of silence is punctuated by references in Inquisition documents detailing the judicial processes of people accused of illicitly consuming psilocybin mushrooms (Herrera, 1992; Ramírez et al., 2020). Deemed idolatrous, sacred mushrooms had been prohibited since the 16th century as part of broader efforts to suppress Indigenous religious, medicinal, and cultural practices. The consumption of psilocybin mushrooms remains illegal in Mexico under penal law, but official recognition of Mexico as a multicultural country in its Constitution theoretically protects Indigenous practices (article 2). References to infringements in the inquisition documents, the last of which, according to Ramírez et al. (2020), was made in 1726, suggests the use of psilocybin mushrooms nevertheless continued to exist among different Indigenous groups despite Spanish colonial prohibition. Its full geographic and historic extent, however, is hard to measure. Many such practices were likely driven to extinction.

Until the early 20th century, prevailing wisdom considered that all such Indigenous practices in Mexico had succumbed to such a fate. The initial academic interest we find here consists of much back and forth between European and American scholars about the correct “botanical” identification of the enigmatic Teonanácatl (flesh of the gods), the mushroom consumed by the Aztecs as described by Sahagún and other chroniclers (Cairns, 1929; Reko, 1919; Safford, 1915; Schultes, 1940). Even the earliest of these texts tentatively suggested that these precolonial practices had persevered and were still being observed by certain Indigenous peoples in Mexico (Reko, 1919). In 1936, Robert J. Weitlaner, an Austrian-American ethnologist of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, visited the Mazatec town of Huautla de Jiménez in Oaxaca. Carrying out research on pre-Hispanic calendars, he stumbled upon information offered by a Mazatec merchant by the name of José Dorantes regarding special mushrooms consumed in divinatory rituals. Two years later in 1938, a team of anthropologists, including Weitlaner's daughter Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson, her husband Jean Bassett Johnson, and Bernard Bevan and Louise Lacaud, became the first non-Indigenous outsiders to witness a Mazatec mushroom ceremony and write about it (Johnson, 1939).

While the brujo (witch) is under the influence of the narcotic mushroom, it is the mushroom which speaks, and not the brujo. During this time, the brujo stays with his patient. They are alone in a corner of the house. The brujo sings, dances, and prays while under the influence of the mushroom. He would go mad if he took more than six mushrooms, and the patient would die. The brujo calls upon all the saints, and tells where the harm befell the patient. He then orders the egg, copal, etc., to be buried in the house, oriented east and west. Aguardiente is frequently buried with the parcel. The patient must go on a diet for fifty days, and practice continence during this time. The lack of a cure is attributed to a breach of these restrictions (p. 135).

On this very ethnographic expedition the team crossed paths in Huautla de Jiménez with the American biologist Richard Evans Schultes, famously regarded as the father of modern ethnobotany, who was also carrying out field research with his colleague, the Austrian-born medic, ethnobotanist and anthropologist Blas Pablo Reko. The texts from this period all link Mazatec mushroom use to witchcraft and divination and accompany broader observations of Mazatec curanderismo. A direct lineage was soon invented between Teonanácatl, a nahuatl word, and a Mazatec mushroom. References were also made to ceremonial uses in other parts of the Mazatec region, especially Mazatlan, and to the use of multiple species of “narcotic mushroom.” Throughout this period, various mushroom samples were collected and sent abroad to be identified, initially failing to provide definitive clarification to which species the “hallucinogenic” mushroom/s belonged. Throughout this period, Westerners looked to other intoxicants and narcotics to understand what they were experiencing. The examples of hashish, opium, and especially peyote and mescaline (both by then extracted and synthesized) served as models for the small number of researchers who first encountered the mysterious mushrooms of Mexico.

In Schultes' 1940 text, he refers to his “ethnobotanical investigations among the little known Mazatec Indians of the District of Teotitlan, Oaxaca” (p. 434). This relative obscurity which Schultes imagined the people of Huautla de Jiménez enjoyed would only last another 15 years.

There is no record that any white man had ever attended a session of the kind that we are going to describe, nor that any white men had ever partaken of the sacred mushrooms under any circumstances. (Wasson & Wasson, 1957, p. 290)

This quote illustrates the epochal importance ascribed to the sacred mushroom vigil in which one of the authors, avid amateur mycologist and J.P. Morgan banker R. Gordon Wasson, first consumed psilocybin mushrooms. The ceremony was held in June 1955 in Huautla de Jiménez and was led by the now iconic Indigenous sabia (wise woman) María Sabina. As we see from the research described above, which preceded Wasson's knowledge of the Mazatec highlands, he was not as pioneering as he often promoted himself to be. Nevertheless, the encounter did represent a significant juncture in the global history of psychedelics, the literature on Indigenous psilocybin practices, along with the Mazatec town where it took place and the life of María Sabina.

While this ceremony is described in Mushrooms: Russia and History (Wasson & Wasson, 1957), it was the simultaneous publication of a photo essay in the widely-read Life magazine (Wasson, 1957) that was most instrumental in bringing mass attention in the West, for the first time in modern history, to the psychoactive properties of psilocybin mushrooms. It was at that time also considered revelatory that such Indigenous ceremonies were contemporaneously being practiced. This sensational publication was followed six days later by a piece entitled “I Ate the Sacred Mushroom” in This Week magazine (Valentina Wasson, 1957), written by the scientist and pediatrician Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, who is credited with inspiring her coauthor and husband's initial interest in mycology. It is nevertheless R. Gordon Wasson who has become synonymous with Indigenous uses of psychoactive mushrooms. He went on to write extensively about María Sabina and Mazatec mushroom practices (Wasson, 1957, 1963, 1968, 1979, 1980, 1981). The compelling narratives he crafted, his media-savviness, his resources and extensive network of collaborators, along with his indefatigability and passion as a researcher, gave Mazatec mushrooms unprecedented global visibility. Wasson came to be considered, along with Richard Evans Schultes, to have pioneered the discipline of ethnomycology itself, and to have kick-started a wave of academic research and popular interest in psilocybin mushrooms.

Researchers from various fields descended upon Huautla de Jiménez, including biologists, chemists, ethnologists, linguists, anthropologists, and psychiatrists. Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist and discoverer of LSD, visited with Wasson and Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson in 1962 (Hofmann, 1992). Previous to this, in 1958, he had become the first person to isolate, name, synthesize and later patent the sacred mushroom's active ingredients psilocin and psilocybin.

While the research Wasson galvanized was overwhelmingly focused on the Mazatecs, for a short time afterwards researchers, often in collaboration with Wasson, turned towards analogous practices among other Indigenous peoples throughout Mexico (Escalante & López-González, 1972; Hoogshagen, 1959; Miller, 1966; Ravicz, 1961; Rubel, 1976). These texts frequently draw comparisons and contrasts between the local mycological terminology and mushroom ceremony protocols witnessed, with analogues more extensively documented in the Mazatec region. A characteristic of this research is the open-ended nature of their investigations, the inclusion of entreaties from the authors for further investigation to be urgently carried out, and a pervading sense that these practices were disappearing.

Anthropologists such as Michael Duke (1996) and Benjamin Feinberg (2003), reviewing the academic literature on Mazatec mushroom practices succeeding Wasson's research, note its initial uniformity. They make reference to the motifs of Wasson as an intrepid “(re)discoverer” of Mazatec shamanism, the centering of the researchers' own subjective experiences of ceremonial mushroom consumption, and María Sabina as an enigmatic object of study. Wasson's representation of María Sabina, which became ubiquitous with his prominence, was informed by the thesis that dictated his overarching interest in “mycolatry”: that psychoactive mushrooms played a fundamental protohistoric role in the origin of human religious life (Wasson, 1980). As Edward Abse (n.d.) points out in his critique of Mazatec shamanism studies, “María Sabina was cast as the privileged repository and conduit of a timeless primordial phenomenon” (p. 438). For Wasson, her shamanic practice with sacred mushrooms represented a remarkably intact vestige of an ancient phenomenon, which his own work helped rescue from imminent oblivion.

This archetypal depiction was disinterested in María Sabina as an individual, with agency and a life history that was severely impacted by her seminal role in Wasson's corpus of writing. She was stigmatized in her community for the dramatic changes Wasson's publications precipitated in Huautla de Jiménez, which became a countercultural pilgrimage destination for mid-1960s hippies in pursuit of “magic mushrooms.” More interest was shown in Sabina's life by Mazatec writers Alvaro Estrada (1981) and García Carrera (1986), who wrote autobiographies of this new icon of Indigenous and psychedelic culture, and who explored local accounts that offered alternative perspectives to those elaborated by Wasson. Contemporary Mazatec researchers have since critiqued the exploitation suffered by María Sabina (García Flores, Acosta López, & Piña Alcántara, 2020; García Cerqueda, 2020) and the Mazatec people at large, and made calls for reparations (Gerber et al., 2021).

Feinberg and others, meanwhile, explore how Wasson's representation of María Sabina remains stubbornly pervasive even today in the minds of outsiders interested in Mazatec shamanism:

I talked to many foreign counter-cultural pilgrims who have come to the Sierra since the ‘60s, and they often represented the Mazatecs the same way: as living fossils whose role was to present an exotic backdrop to their future-oriented utopian community. (Feinberg, 2017)

Linguistic anthropologist Paja Faudree (2015) goes on to discuss the enduring impact of Wasson's depictions and how this representational history is navigated by Mazatec people themselves. She proposes that because of the ongoing tourism around sacred mushrooms in Huautla de Jiménez, and the associated circulation of María Sabina and mushroom symbolism, Wasson's ideas persist. Much contemporary scholarship on the Mazatec, while diverging from the methodologies and conclusions of Wasson, nevertheless include a discussion of his legacy. An impetus of this annotated bibliography was to promote alternative interpretations of Indigenous psilocybin practices for a psychedelic research field in which Wasson's mid-century corpus of writing still predominates. It feels paradoxical to reference Wasson so heavily while trying to decenter his work and counter-fetishize the conceptualizations of shamanism which emerged from his oeuvre. However, it is important to recognize his legacy, without reproducing his discourse.

The competing interpretations of the texts included here (Faudree, 2015; Feinberg, 2003; Glockner, 2012; Harrison, 1998; Piña Alcántara, 2019; Quijada, 1996; Rodríguez Venegas, 2017) employ diverse theoretical frameworks to understand the wider social and historical context of Mazatec mushroom practices. Beyond healing and divination, the roles that shamans and sacred mushrooms play in Mazatec culture and identity are examined. Rather than static, insular remnants of an almost forgotten past, Mazatec Indigenous mushroom practices are treated as dynamic and fluid traditions very much engaged with the world of today.

We have also endeavored to include more contemporary research on Indigenous groups outside the Mazatec region currently using psilocybin mushrooms (Hernández Lucas & Chávez-Peniche, 2008; Hernández-Santiago et al., 2017; Herrera, 1992). This research is sparse and we hope this annotated bibliography brings attention to these research gaps and encourages further investigation. Some of these texts delve into the archeological and archival record to consider historical Indigenous mushroom practices. Ethnolinguistic studies and analysis of Indigenous taxonomy are included to consider the resilience of Indigenous knowledge around psilocybin mushrooms, even if traditions involving their ritual consumption are no longer observed.

Other regions

The psilocybin mushroom represents a powerful locus of speculative and tantalizing theories concerning the genesis of culture, religion, and even human consciousness itself (see Rodríguez-Arce & Winkelman, 2021). It is often assumed that practices with psychoactive mushrooms, comparable to the historical and contemporary ones found in Mexico, were once widespread. Wasson himself saw Mesoamerican veneration of the sacred mushroom as essentially an offshoot of a prehistoric, global mushroom cult (Wasson, 1980). His “discovery” of ritualized mushroom consumption among the Mazatecs reinvigorated his search for parallels in other countries and continents. While there is insufficient evidence to substantiate Wasson's diffusionist hypothesis, research in South and Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, while dispersed, has uncovered historical evidence of psilocybin mushroom use. Claims that mushrooms are still being used in ritualized ways by contemporary Indigenous peoples outside of Mexico is largely speculative and currently not supported by academic research.

Just as Ancient Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization in the popular imagination, it is sometimes looked to as a place of origin for a psychedelic tradition particular to Europe. The substance used during the Eleusinian rites in Ancient Greece remains a popular enigma, and it is possible that it was some kind of psychoactive fungus. Carl Ruck, professor of Classical Studies at Boston University, in his book The Road to Eleusis, co-authored by Albert Hofmann and R. Gordon Wasson, proposed involvement of Claviceps purpurea or ergot (Wasson, Hofmann, & Ruck, 1978), and introduced the term “entheogen.” Alternatively, a species of Psilocybe might have been involved, while another possible candidate is Amanita muscaria. In his book Mushrooms, Myths and Mythras, Ruck analyzed entheogenic connections to the Roman cult of Mithras (Ruck, 2011).

More controversial is the assertion that magic mushrooms are connected to Christianity (ancient or even modern), based on the references to mushrooms depicted in certain Christian art (Brown & Brown, 2016; Irvin, Herer, & Irvin, 2008; Ruck & Hoffman, 2013; Rush, 2011; Samorini, 1998) or encoded in the Bible (Allegro, 1970). Allegro's linguistics-based hypotheses of the “bible as a secret code for a fertility cult” and “Jesus was a mushroom” cost him his reputation and was thoroughly refuted even by the most psychedelically-inclined researchers (Brown, 2005; Winkelman, 2010). Irvin's book details many of the instances within Christian art, which at a first glance look like mushroom depictions, and describes the Wasson-Allegro debate. Rush (2011) takes the view that very often mushrooms are hidden behind symbols. Brown and Brown (2016), in their travelogue-like The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity, describe visiting many Christian sites and documenting mushroom presences there. In addition, they assert that the presence of mushrooms (fly agaric or psilocybin-containing species) is an indicator of the existence of the secret use of these mushrooms in Christianity (Brown & Brown, 2019).

Meanwhile in Asia, the mystery of the identity of the ancient Soma has enticed many researchers, and a variety of psychoactive substances have been proposed as a possible candidate, among them A. muscaria (Wasson, 1968) and Psilocybe (McKenna, 1992). More recently, Psilocybe has been suggested as a sacrament used in some Buddhist traditions (Crowley, 2019). In medicinal texts, the xiaojun (笑菌; xiàojùn; hsiao-ch'un “laughing mushroom”) was known to Chinese herbalists for centuries before modern botanists identified it as a type of psilocybin mushroom, most likely either Gymnopilus junonius (Laughing Gym) or Panaeolus papilionaceus (Petticoat Mottlegill) (Li et al., 1978). In Japan, both medieval and modern sources record “laughing mushrooms” (Sanford, 1972).

Reviewing the literature for the composition of this annotated bibliography, the scale of the task at hand became apparent. Getting deeper into the literature and chasing footnotes and references, an abundance of texts on Indigenous psilocybin practices revealed themselves. We have endeavored to include those which represent a range of methodologies, authors, and voices, and which show the plurality of Indigenous practices. Nevertheless, due to the limitations of writing a text of this kind, it is not possible to include all the research we would have liked, which is why we have included an extended bibliography of texts, without annotations. We encourage the curious reader to explore these contributions.

The authors of this annotated bibliography believe the knowledge of Indigenous peoples is not properly represented in the scientific literature (see Fotiou, 2020; Omágua-Kambeba 2023). With this bibliography, through the underutilized if not wholly neglected texts we have included, we hope the diverse Indigenous perspectives and practices described, translated, and analyzed, become more familiar to the psychedelic communities of the Global North. More serious consideration of Indigenous knowledge will hopefully encourage and enhance further psychedelic research, and help address challenges arising with the exponential mainstreaming of psychedelics. These include issues around best practice, sustainability, patenting, legal and regulatory advocacy, and holistic approaches to health and well-being. Where people are already turning to Indigenous individuals for guidance, and indeed psychedelic experiences, it is important that appetites for authenticity and legitimacy are not informed by the outdated and monolithic representations of Indigenous people sometimes found in the predominant literature. Moving beyond merely academic concerns, we should not underestimate how representational histories insidiously affect the way people engage with Indigenous people and communities. To address the ongoing colonial legacies underpinning the psychedelic renaissance (Negrin, 2020), including Indigenous exploitation, appropriation, biopiracy, and lack of reciprocity, undoing tropes, paragons, and misconceptions about Indigenous people and practices is a key step in the right direction. This annotated bibliography is a humble contribution to ultimately engendering more nuanced dialogue and intellectual exchange.

Mexico

General

Safford, W.E. (1915) ‘An Aztec Narcotic’, Journal of Heredity, 6, pp. 291–311.

While there are important precursors to the emergence of an interest in Mexican sacred and/or psychedelic mushrooms among European and American scholars, William Safford (1859–1926) is usually cited as the person responsible for raising the issue among a Western audience. Safford's 1915 article established the erroneous and long-running confusion that the Aztec Nahuatl term Teonanacatl was identifiable as peyote, and not psilocybin mushrooms. His claims countered the traditional narrative established in surviving documents from the earliest stages of Spanish contact, especially in volume 11 of Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún's famous Florentine Codex (1545–1590), which documented the use of numerous psychoactives in the region of modern-day Mexico, including Teonanacatl. Safford claimed that Spanish observers such as Sahagún had mistaken dried peyote fragments as mushrooms. His main argument was that it is hard to distinguish between dried fragments of plants and fungi. To the extent that there was interest in the topic, Safford's arguments were considered persuasive.

Reko, B.P. (1996 [1919]). On Aztec Botanical Names. Berlin: VWB-Verlag

The Western scholarly debates in the first half of the 20th century around what exactly the Aztec Nahuatl term Teonanacatl referred to was rather niche, but those who took an interest were highly motivated. Considered the first to dispute Safford's (1915) claim that Teonanacatl was peyote, was the Austrian physician and amateur botanist (and later controversial Nazi-party supporter) living in Oaxaca, Blas Pablo Reko (1877–1953). In this article (originally published in Spanish in 1919) and in subsequent articles and correspondence with anthropologists and botanists, Reko argued that Teonanacatl were indeed mushrooms, and furthermore, that mushrooms were still being used for religious purposes by Indigenous peoples in Oaxaca. Reko was therefore one of the first in the literature to contend that these Indigenous practices still existed in the 20th century, at a time when they were widely thought by scholars to have died out. He wrote that Teonanacatl “is actually as Sahagún states, a fungus which grows on dung-heaps and which is still used under the old name by the Indians of the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca in their religious feasts”. This article was translated into English by the ethnobotanist Jonathan Ott. The original Spanish language text may be easier to find (Reko, 1919).

Cairns, H. (1929) ‘A Divine Intoxicant’, Atlantic Monthly, 144(5), pp. 638–645.

Cairns' article in effect summarized and supported Safford's (1915) arguments, for general readership, that the Aztec Nahuatl term Teonanacatl was indeed identifiable as peyote, and not psilocybin mushrooms. According to the author it was mere botanical and etymological confusion; the divinatory concoctions described in numerous sources about Aztec customs were not mushrooms, but peyote—itself a plant well-known and studied among Western botanists. R. Gordon Wasson (Wasson, 1963) considered Cairns' piece to have been most responsible for spreading this ignorance: “In this article the Safford thesis, denying the existence of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico, received its final expression” (p. 39). Cairns' piece appeared in the popular periodical magazine Atlantic Monthly, which may have influenced Wasson, who actively sought to publish his own ideas about sacred mushrooms in a popular venue, which he famously did in Life magazine in 1957.

Schultes, R.E. (1940) ‘Teonanacatl: The Narcotic Mushroom of the Aztecs’, American Anthropologist, 42, pp. 429–443.

The emergence of a serious “scientific” interest from outsiders in Mexican sacred mushrooms owes much to the activities of Austrian doctor and ethnobotanist Blasius Paul (Blas Pablo) Reko (1996) and Austrian mining engineer Robert J. Weitlaner (1952), who both lived and worked in Mexico for much of their lives and careers. It was in no small-part due to their activities that the psychedelic mushroom came under the radar of Western researchers who had no or limited understanding of, or access to, the country of Mexico. Weitlaner had personally carried out field research in 1936 among Mazatec people in the Oaxacan town of Huautla de Jiménez, and together with Reko, had sent mushroom samples to Harvard's Botanical Museum, a leading site of the emerging field of ethnobotany, where they were identified as belonging to the Panaeolus genus.

The samples fell under the responsibility of a young ethnobotanist by the name of Richard Evans Schultes (1915–2000), whose status in the psychedelic branch of ethnobotany remains significant. However, as he notes in this landmark 1940 article published in the American Anthropologist, he had made several errors in an earlier article on the mushrooms, including mistakenly attributing their provenance to a different Indigenous group than the Mazatec, as well as omitting the participation of Weitlaner. In 1938, Schultes joined Blas Pablo Reko on a research expedition to Oaxaca (curiously coinciding in the field with Johnson, J.B. (1939) who purportedly became the first outsiders to witness and write about a Mazatec mushroom ceremony), where they collected “narcotic” mushroom samples and gathered information concerning their use, which is laid out in this article. In addition, the paper provides descriptions of Mazatec customs and ceremonies surrounding the mushrooms, including how they were eaten by “professional divinators” who were sought out by people to locate stolen property, discover secrets, and provide advice. Schultes made another trip to Oaxaca in 1939, where he noted the widespread use of sacred mushrooms among Indigenous groups neighboring the Mazatecs. Outside of the Indigenous peoples who actually used them, few if any were certain about the true identity of the Teonanácatl referred to in the earliest surviving sources on Aztec life. While a similar conclusion had been reached privately by Reko as early as 1923, Schultes' 1940 paper provided a definitive rebuttal of the Safford thesis (1915), and effectively established (again) that hallucinogenic mushrooms – what he referred to at this time as “divination-narcotics” – were indeed Teonanácatl.

Heim, R. (1957) ‘Notes préliminaires sur les agarics hallucinogènes du Mexique’, [Preliminary notes on the hallucination-producing agarics of Mexico], Revue de Mycologie, 22(1), pp. 58–79.

R. Gordon Wasson's zealous devotion to studying the mushroom was, by his own standards, amateur and even hobbyist, and he actively sought collaboration with academic experts, especially French Mycology Professor and Director of France's prestigious Museum of Natural History, Roger Heim (1900–1979). Heim was a world-authority on mycological science and Wasson contacted him directly, visited him in Paris, and took him to Mexico in 1956. Heim's write-up and study that resulted from this trip to Mexico was the first to identify the psychoactive properties of an otherwise obscure and little studied fungi genus Psilocybe. Heim gave some of his dried collection of psilocybe to Swiss chemist, LSD-25 discoverer, and leading authority on plant alkaloids Albert Hofmann, who eventually isolated two particular alkaloid compounds as key to the perceptual effects; psilocybin and psilocin.

Wasson, Heim, and Hofmann remained longtime collaborators from the 1950s onwards, producing many important and influential scientific studies. These studies include: Roger Heim and R. Gordon Wasson (1958), Les Champignons Hallucinogènes du Mexique: Etudes Ethnologiques, Taxinomiques, Biologiques, Physiologiques et Chimiques (Paris: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle); Hofmann et al. (1959) “Psilocybin und Psilocin, zwei psychotrope Wirkstoffe aus mexikanischen Rauschpilzen” [Psilocybin and psilocin, two psychotropic substances in Mexican magic mushrooms], Helvetica Chimica Acta (in German), 42, no. 5 (1959): 1557–1572. These two studies introduced the terms “psilocybin” and “psilocin” to the scientific lexicon, referring to the active psychedelic compounds in mushrooms.

Wasson, R.G. (1963) ‘The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography’ (second printing, with corrections and addenda), Botanical Museum leaflets, Harvard University, 20(2), pp. 25–73

This lengthy bibliography represents a comprehensive guide to writing on psilocybin mushrooms up to the early 1960s. The initial bibliography was published in 1962 in Harvard University's Botanical Museum Leaflet series, offering more than 350 cited references, including Spanish, French, and English sources, organized into nine sections. The bibliography was updated with corrections and addenda the following year, and again published in the Botanical Museum Leaflet series. Wasson's deep involvement with important early researchers in psychedelic mushrooms, including Roger Heim (1957), Blas Pablo Reko (1996), and Richard Evan Schultes (1940), are listed and in some cases annotated. The bibliography represents a lay-of-the-land of the initial wave of Western scholarly interest in psilocybin mushrooms, which even by the late 1950s had become complicated and much discussed, with Wasson perhaps immodestly noting that “Much has been published on our mushrooms and psilocybin in the lay press, in many countries.” While the growth in the history of the West's encounter with magic mushrooms has itself mushroomed considerably since the early 1960s, there remain numerous obscure and out-of-print sources that would likely interest curious young scholars today; as Wasson himself notes in the bibliography, “As time goes on, more will certainly be uncovered.”

Guzmán, G. (2011) ‘El uso tradicional de los hongos sagrados: pasado y presente’, Etnobiología, 9, pp. 1–21.

In “The Traditional Use of Sacred Mushrooms: Past and Present” Mexican mycologist Gastón Guzmán presents research on the knowledge and traditions which include “neurotropic” mushrooms, including A. muscaria. The paper delves into the past and present of many Indigenous practices related to the use of mushrooms. This paper also presents an analysis of the taxonomic diversity and worldwide distribution of these mushrooms.

He outlines how anthropology and history have helped identify several peoples from antiquity who were linked to cults around, and uses of, neurotropic mushrooms, both in Mexico and in other regions of the world, such as Darien (Panama), Peru, Tassili n'Ajjer (Algeria), Papua New Guinea, Spain, France, Germany, and Greece. These assertions are largely based on analyses of archaeological artifacts. He discusses the historic suppression of Indigenous practices in Mesoamerica by the Catholic church and the later christianization of surviving practices, giving rise to syncretic approaches.

Jumping to the present, Guzman cites the ethnic groups that contemporarily use sacred mushrooms in Mexico, most of which are in Oaxaca, including the Mazatecs, Chinantecs, Mixes, Zapotecs, and Chatinos, along with the Nahuas (states of Mexico, Puebla, and Morelos) and the Matlatzincas (state of Mexico). Guzman also analyzes the relatively newfound interest by outsiders in the psilocybin mushrooms of the Mazatec region following their popularization by R. Gordon Wasson in the 1950/60s, describing what he characterizes as the desecration of millennial practices. In light of this he conceives of eight Indigenous rules which should be respected when using sacred mushrooms, based on his field work in the region.

Gastón Guzmán is recognized as one of the most important in his field, both nationally and internationally. He is also considered an obligatory academic reference for students of the psilocybe mushroom genus. In this particular paper he delivers concise, comprehensive research regarding the ancient use of neurotropic mushrooms, including the descriptive accounts of Aztec practices by the 16th-century Spanish chronicler Bernardino de Sahagún, to reports of modern times (including his own accounts of these experiences). Guzman also helped to identify numerous species of mushrooms collected in the Sierra Mazateca (Oaxaca, Mexico) and other regions.

De la Garza, M. (2012) Sueño y éxtasis en el mundo náhuatl y maya. México: Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas-Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Translated as Dream and Ecstacy in the Nahua and Maya World, this book represents a fundamental contribution to analyzing from a religio-historical perspective Indigenous uses of plants and animals with psychoactive properties. Although not focused exclusively on psilocybin mushrooms and their ritual and therapeutic uses, the text permits a wider understanding of the cultural and historical context these cultural practices are part of. The text also explores how these practices relate to both ancient Mesoamerican tradition and contemporary Indigenous communities, especially the Nahua and Maya. De la Garza discusses the concept of “shaman” and uses it as a framework to analyze precolonial practices related to psychoactive plants, dreams, and other modified states of consciousness. The use of this concept has been contested by other scholars, who prefer the Maya term ajkij (the wise), not only in this specific case but in dealing with other sources throughout the book. The text is valuable because it is the first Spanish-language historical publication involving a systematic study of primary sources. The structure of the book offers an understanding of how the ritual and therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms are related with other plants and animals. It also stimulates the creation of new lines of research by including original source material, documentation, and images of archaeological evidence.

Borhegyi, C., & Borhegyi-Forrest, S. (2015). Mushroom intoxication in meso-America. In P. Wexler (Ed.), History of toxicology and environmental health. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Academic Press.

This 2015 article published in the journal History of Toxicology and Environmental Health, outlines the evidence for the wide usage of hallucinogens and entheogens in pre-contact Meso- and South America, especially Guatemala and Mexico. The authors, Carl de Borhegyi and Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest (son and widow of pioneering Hungarian archaeologist, Stephan Francis de Borhegyi), argue that Stephan Borhegyi's thesis from the 1950s, that tied the ancient mushroom stones to Mesoamerican religious customs, was resisted by contemporary archaeologists owing to their Eurocentric bias that mushrooms were solely used as poisons. The authors describe the re-discovery in 1883 of Sahagún's 16th century chronicles of New Spain and their importance as a source for the religious and ceremonial uses of teonanácatl (hallucinogenic mushrooms), and survey other early colonial documents that refer to the use of mushrooms in divination and human sacrifices. In the 1950s, a flurry of activity related to psychedelic mushrooms took place, and there was a gradual recognition that religious mushroom use had persisted into contemporary times among several Indigenous peoples of Meso- and South America. Further ethnographic and ethnomycological work is described up until the tragic death of Stephan Borhegyi in 1969—including his correspondence with missionary and anthropologist Eunice Pike, who made early observations regarding the syncretic Christian-Indigenous nature of mushroom use among Mazatec people—followed by the subsequent efforts of Peter Furst, Bernard Lowy, and Gaston Guzmán. Carl Borhegyi then recounts the development of his own interest in mushrooms in Mesoamerican religions, especially the relationship between hallucinogenic mushrooms and jaguar iconography and a religious rite he calls the “underworld jaguar transformation.”

Ramírez, G.P., Sánchez, D.L.P., Hernández, M.H., and Ramírez, R.R. (2020) ‘Revisión histórica de los hongos psilocibios’, Educación y Salud. Boletín científico del Instituto de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo. Publicación semestral, 8(16), pp. 174–186.

This article, translated as Historical Review of Psilocybin Mushrooms, presents one of the most recent historical reviews on the ritual and therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico. The text is clearly written, includes a comprehensive bibliography, and the structure follows a chronological order which facilitates its reading. The article clearly highlights the different primary sources consulted which refer to ritual, therapeutic, and cultural uses of psilocybin mushrooms. Despite offering a more general overview, and not necessarily providing detailed analyses of specific cultural traits, it does refer to a complementary bibliography of more particular, localized research. The authors take into account contributions from disciplines such as ethnohistory, ethnomycology, psychiatry, and biology. A notable aspect of this article is the inclusion of the proceedings and trials from the Holy Inquisition. The authors suggest that the final reference to psychoactive mushrooms in these judicial processes dates from 1726 with a letter, found in the General Archive of the Nation (Mexico), which references the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms in the Sierra Baja Huasteca. For the more than two centuries which followed, no subsequent archival references had been identified. Ritual mushroom use was therefore widely assumed to be a lost cult, until later research in the 20th century brought attention to Mazatec practices in Oaxaca. There are also many references to documents and codices which include information about psilocybin mushrooms, such as the 1840 edition of the Yanhuitlán Codex. This article therefore represents a useful resource to analyze and understand little-known colonial sources on psilocybin mushrooms.

Fagetti A. y González Mariscal J. M. (2023). Elementos 131, BUAP, Puebla.

Elementos, the quarterly magazine of science and culture from the Benemerita Autonomous University of Puebla (Mexico), recently published an edition dedicated to psilocybin mushrooms. The journal was edited by the anthropologists Antonella Fagetti and Jesús M. González and is a result of the CONACYT research project “Dialogue of knowledge around the therapeutic potential of psilocybin-containing mushrooms – a transdisciplinary study through neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, history and indigenous traditional knowledge”. This project involved a Mexican team of researchers and students studying psychoactive fungi within the framework of the psychedelic revival, pharmaceutical industry investment, burgeoning new research in the field, and ongoing changes in the legal status of psilocybin and other psychoactive substances. This special edition, written in Spanish and containing fourteen articles, incorporates reflections from this transdisciplinary and intercultural approach towards the therapeutic potential of sacred mushrooms and traditional practices.

The articles include reflections on the life of María Sabina, ethnographies of other Mazatec healers such as Doña Paulina Encarnación Sosa Cortés, Mazatec ritual elements, the contemporary use of mushrooms in communities on the Popocatépetl volcano in the states of Mexico and Morelos, and the commodification of sacred mushrooms in Mexico. Particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of the contemporary ethnographic mapping of both existing and historical Indigenous ritual and therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms throughout Mexico. This publication is significant for including an interdisciplinary approach, being written by researchers mainly of the Global South, and for taking a more critical approach towards the international scenario of the psychedelic renaissance.

Mazatecs

Johnson, J.B. (1939) ‘The Elements of Mazatec Witchcraft’, Ethnological Studies, 9, pp. 128–150

This article details some of the first modern ethnographic data collected on the use of sacred mushrooms in Mexico, identified as Teonanacatl in Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca, by Robert J. Weitlaner in 1936. The results of a subsequent 1938 expedition to Huautla are presented in this article. The author, a young American anthropologist named Jean Bassett Johnson, was joined in the field by a team of fellow anthropologists; Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson (the author's wife and daughter of Robert Weitlaner), Louise Lacaud, and Bernard Bevan. The team were able to collect a considerable amount of data on the mushroom rituals, as well as being the first outsiders to witness and record a Mazatec mushroom ceremony, which took place on the night of July 16–17, 1938.

The article includes a detailed description of the ceremony, the ritual items used, the intercessory prayers of the brujo (male “witch”) leading the ceremony, the deities invoked, and the “egg parcels” prepared as offerings the next day to conclude the ritual. This particular mushroom ceremony included the divinatory practice of throwing corn kernels. The author goes on to offer valuable ethnographic data, also from other regions of the Mazatec territory such as San Pedro Ixcatlan, related to local beliefs and practices. These are characterized broadly in the article as “witchcraft”. Whether this term matched local characterizations is not addressed. The author also includes information about various entities in the Mazatec cosmovision.

Johnson's 1939 paper was cited in R. Gordon and Valentina Wasson's Mushrooms, Russia and History (1957) and again in Gordon's The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography (1961), as providing the first account of ritualistic Mazatec mushroom use by white people. Johnson produced several studies of Mazatec culture in the late 1930s and early 1940s before his anthropology career was cut short when he died aged 28 fighting in Tunisia during WWII. The merits of this early paper are primarily historical, as it is among the first to have attempted to describe psilocybin mushroom use in southern Mexico from the perspectives of Mazatec people themselves.

Hausen Cowan, F. (1946). Notas etnográficas sobre los mazatecos de Oaxaca, Méx. América Indígena. Instituto Indigenista Interamericano, VI (1), 27–39

“Ethnographic Notes about the Mazatecs in Oaxaca” is a classic anthropological work that succinctly describes different aspects of Mazatec culture, including geographical distribution, economy, language, rituality and traditional medicine. Florencia Hausen Cowan was part of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), an American Protestant missionary tasked by the Mexican state to spread literacy in Indigenous communities (see Faudree, 2015). As well as missionaries the staff members were trained field linguists. With a base in Huautla de Jiménez, other SIL members such as Eunice V. Pike were instrumental in facilitating R. Gordon Wasson's first visit to the Mazatec highlands. Throughout the 1940s Hausen Cowan visited various communities in the Mazatec mountains with her husband Dr. George Cowan, carrying out anthropological and linguistic research. This article is relevant because it mentions the active use of mushrooms, which represents one of the earliest references in the literature on Mazatec mushroom use. She certainly does not delve into details about these practices, which she terms witchcraft, mentioning only the use of “certain herbs and mushrooms” in Mazatec rituality. Additionally, the text mentioned elements such as tobacco, copal, bird feathers and eggs, which continue to be used in Mazatec ritual practice. A further significant contribution from the Cowans would be their collaboration with Wasson and the ethnomusicologist Willard Rhodes in the recording, transcription, translation and textual analysis of one of María Sabina's mushroom ceremonies (Wasson, Cowan, Cowan, & Rhodes, 1974).

Weitlaner, R. J. (1952). Curaciones mazatecas. Anales de Antropología 4(32), 279–285.

From the 1930s the Austrian-American ethnologist and engineer Robert J. Weitlaner visited the Mazatec and Chinatec mountains in Oaxaca to research Indigenous communities. He worked at the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History and was one of the first professors at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. Weitlaner was one of the first Westerners to obtain information on the modern use of psychoactive mushrooms in the Huautla de Jiménez area while researching pre-hispanic calendars in 1936. The Spanish-language text concerned here, translated as “Mazatec Healing”, mainly concerns information collected later with a Mazatec individual referred to only as don. S, from the town of Jalapa de Díaz, a town in the Mazatec lowlands. It describes the political organization in this community, agricultural and rain petition ceremonies, medical practices, and “mazatec witchcraft”. In the text he describes the successful healing by a brujo (male witch) of a young man whose spirit had remained stuck in a place he had earlier suffered a fall. Based on the curative practice which followed, Weitlaner charts a direct comparison between key elements of healing in Jalapa de Díaz and the nearby Chinantec town of Ojitlán, approximately 21 km away. When Weitlaner asked his informant about the uses of mushrooms, the informant denied its use in his community, but described the use of a psychoactive plant called “Yerba de María”. Although not identified in the text this referred to the psychoactive plant Salvia divinorum. He describes the reverence reserved for this plant and its shamanic use in diagnosing illness and divination, qualities which by then were already associated with mushrooms in the literature. In the text the ethnologist curiously highlighted that knowledge of the “esoteric” use of teonanacatl was by that time well known in Huautla de Jiménez.

Wasson, R.G., and Wasson, V. (1957) Mushrooms, Russia, and History. New York: Pantheon Books.

R. Gordon Wasson (1898–1986) is, for good or ill depending on one's perspective, the seminal Western figure with regard to raising awareness of sacred mushrooms in the West. A journalist-turned-banker, Wasson dedicated much of his adult life to studying the mushroom, and is a primary driver of a strong strain within Western psilocybin circles that sees mushroom use as key to the origins of religion, and even civilization itself. His wife Valentina Pavlovna (née Guercken) Wasson (1901–1958), a pediatrician and Russian immigrant to America, had an unusual passion for mycology by any measure, influencing her husband and resulting in this privately published 2-volume work in 1957; large, detailed, filled with well-produced plates, it was certainly aimed at a small readership of the true mycophile (a more-poetic-than-scientific term the Wassons created to refer to people who liked mushrooms, edible or otherwise, and those who didn't—mycophobic.)

Originally conceived as a Russian mushroom cookbook, it became a compendium of folklore, art, history, and anthropology. While the first volume is mainly concerned with mushrooms in Russia and parts of Europe, the second covers the Wassons' experience in Mexico. Their interest in hallucinogenic mushrooms was sparked by Schultes (1940) and Reko (1919) in the early 50s, whereafter they made many trips to Mexico and Oaxaca and ultimately established a relationship with the (later famous) Mazatec sabia (wise woman) María Sabina (1895–1985), beginning in 1955. Sabina, literally reared in a mushroom-using home and community in Huautla de Jiménez, introduced the Wassons to the sacred mushrooms—what she called “saint children.” In this book the Wassons describe their ceremonies with Sabina, including vivid descriptions of their subjective psychedelic experience with the mushrooms, along with interviews with the sabia, and ethnographic observations of Mazatec mushroom use. For Gordon, as described in this volume, his encounter with Sabina and the mushrooms confirmed the thesis which dictated his overarching interest in mycology; that Stone Age religion originated with the use of psychoactive mushrooms. María Sabina therefore represented for the author a living expression of this prehistoric legacy. This controversial narrative would inform the rest of Wasson's extensive writings on Indigenous mushroom use (1968, 1974, 1980, 1981) and indeed the work of other researchers interested in psilocybin mushrooms and Indigenous practices. This first encounter remains a touchstone in the introduction of hallucinogenic mushroom use beyond Mexico, and is known to have been complicated by the coercion Sabina was under to meet the charismatic (and rich) outsiders. Her life was turned upside down in the publicity and interest from foreigners who began to trickle in, then flock, to her hometown.

Both Valentina and Gordon (his preferred name) wrote popular articles the same year as their book, which did much more to raise awareness about hallucinogenic mushrooms among a general English-speaking readership; cf. R. G. Wasson, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” Life, 49 (13 May 1957); V. P. Wasson, “I ate the sacred mushroom,” This Week Magazine, (May 19 1957).

Benítez, F. (1964) Los hongos alucinantes. México: Ediciones Era.

In a journalistic style, Benítez incorporates research on the prehispanic use of entheogens in Mexico, along with the mid-twentieth century “discovery” of existing Indigenous psilocybin mushroom use, to offer an extensive ethnographic account of Mazatec shamanic practices and customs. Along with the transcription and translation of several shamanic chants, the author discusses spiritual entities in the Mazatec worldview, and the misunderstandings inherent in cross-cultural translation of symbolic language, especially regarding the “Mushroom Saints.” He does the above largely through vivid, firsthand accounts of his experiences partaking in mushroom ceremonies with María Sabina, whereby his poetic style integrates literary references, comparative observations on world religions and “religious ecstasy,” and keen insights on the dynamics of Mazatec shamanism. The specialist subject matter throughout is made accessible through a colorful, intimate style, while losing none of its literary and scientific rigor.

Los Hongos Alucinantes (“The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms”) is undoubtedly a classic text for understanding the use of psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico from a heterodox anthropological perspective. This text was later included in Fernando's monumental anthology composed of five volumes collectively titled Los Indios de México, (1989) “The Indians of Mexico”, in which he passionately embraces a spirit of indigenismo and celebrates the diversity of Indigenous peoples in Mexico, while denouncing their systematic and historic oppression by the Mexican State. Los Hongos Alucinantes is colored by this broader perspective. Benítez had the opportunity of not only participating in ceremonies held by María Sabina, but also being able to contrast his perspectives with contemporaneous research carried out by foreign researchers such as R. Gordon Wasson (1957), Albert Hofmann (1992), and Roger Heim (1957). Los Hongos Alucinantes was seminal in being the first of its kind written in Mexico in Spanish, and part of its value lies in its grounded exploration of Mazatec ancestral knowledge and culture, less burdened by the romanticization and exotic tropes commonly found in the literature at the time of writing.

Munn, H. (1973). The mushrooms of language. In M. Harner (Ed.), Hallucinogens and shamanism (pp. 86–122). New York, NY: Oxford.

Henry Munn was an American-born writer and independent scholar who spent a considerable amount of time both among the Mazatecs and the Conibo people of Eastern Peru, studying their respective shamanic practices and psychoactive plants and fungi. He was also a poet and the text concerned here influenced the later work of Terence McKenna, being cited in the latter's Food of the Gods (1992). He also translated much of his Mazatec brother-in-law Álvaro Estrada's work with Maria Sabina into English, including Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants (1981).

In The Mushrooms of Language, a chapter in the edited book Hallucinogens and Shamanism, Munn characterizes the experience of ingesting mushrooms as not only a perceptual phenomenon, but one which has a fundamentally linguistic dimension. He argues that Mazatec people trained in the art of healing are actually “men and women of language”, defining language as an “ecstatic activity of signification.” This relates to the notion that the effect produced by consuming psilocybin mushrooms occasions such fluidity and aptness of verbal expression, that the words inspire awe. Munn describes this process as “poesis”, or creation, whereby the words themselves are the medicine. He also came to understand the mushroom experience as some sort of anthropomorphization of the mushroom by the shaman, by which the mushrooms are used to heal or resolve a specific problem. One example of this is the use of the word “Tzo” by the shaman, meaning “says,” which when used at the end of a phrase indicates that the preceding words were spoken by the mushrooms and not the shaman. Munn also explores the differences between these conceptions and those characterizing the Western “hallucinogenic” experience.

Munn also speculates that Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztecs, were capable of inventing highly developed writing systems and books precisely because of the constant use of psilocybin in analogous ritual, linguistically-inflected contexts.

Estrada, A. (1981). María Sabina: her life and chants. Santa Barbara: Ross-Erikson.

The above edition is a translation of the Spanish language original titled Vida de María Sabina: la sabia de los hongos (Estrada, 1989). It represents one of the most important explorations of the ritual use of sacred mushrooms among the Mazatecs, and arguably the most celebrated biography of María Sabina. The text is particularly noteworthy for being the first of its kind written from an insider's perspective; Álvaro Estrada was a Mazatec writer and journalist, and like Sabina, a resident of Huautla de Jiménez. A speaker of Mazatec, he conducted the interviews for his research with Sabina in her mother tongue, and could naturally understand the field recordings he made in ceremony. This was unique for a researcher in this field at the time of writing and lends the book a nuanced, immediate quality. The book describes Sabina's initial encounters with sacred mushrooms as a child and how she learned of their therapeutic uses. It also provides the cultural context in which sacred mushroom practices acquire their meaning. Furthermore, the book is particularly valuable because it contains translations of some of María Sabina's shamanic chants. This amounts to an undoubtedly rich resource that is far from exhausted, as it provides valuable information about distinctive cultural traits of the Mazatec people, and more generally the worldviews and ontologies of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. Perhaps most importantly, the book is also unique for the interest it shows in María Sabina as a human being with a unique personality and a turbulent life story. Despite her celebrity she was poorly understood, mischaracterized, and exoticized in academic literature and popular culture.

Quijada, J.P. (1996) ‘Tradiciones de chamanismo en la Mazateca Baja’, Revista Alteridades, 6(12), pp. 49–59.

In this Spanish-language text, translated as “Traditions of shamanism in the Mazatec Lowlands”, the anthropologist Juan Perez Quijada reflects on chicones—constitutive beings in Mazatec culture who between them are the owners of each topographical feature of the Mazatec region (Oaxaca, Mexico). He theorizes how via the sometimes capricious figure of the chicon, nature manifests decisions and agency, which determine how the chuta énima (a local term for Mazatec human beings) interact with the environment. This relation forms part of the “sacred geography” of the region, which has to be carefully navigated lest untoward encounters with chicones result in spirit loss and consequent illness. Perez Quijada describes how curanderos, or sinahé, can, via states of “heightened consciousness,” penetrate this level of reality and communicate with chicones to recuperate the soul of the afflicted. While this heightened consciousness can be accessed in many ways which do not involve psychoactives, Perez Quijada goes on to describe fragments of the ritualized healing of a man involving psilocybin mushrooms, led by a sinahé, which he participated in along with the man's family. He vividly describes the collective dynamic of this ritual, and the orienting role of the curandero within it.

This text is particularly interesting as it analyzes Mazatec shamanic practices in the Mazateca Baja, a lowland region of the Mazatec territory which is often neglected in the literature over the mountainous region around Huautla de Jiménez. This region represents a very different ecological area with distinct cultural practices. The text is also quite unique in exploring shamanic trance for healing as an inherently social practice, involving multiple actors simultaneously experiencing heightened consciousness. It also includes interesting reflections on the potential of the descriptive and analytical practices of the ethnographer who actively participates in such ritualized practices after having ingested psilocybin mushrooms themselves.

Harrison, K. (Summer 1998) ‘Roads Where There Have Long Been Trails’, Terra Nova: Nature & Culture.

This article by the ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison is about how Mazatec people see and relate with nature, plant and fungi rituals, and contemporary changes to their way of life. Harrison describes healing or blessing ceremonies as “ritual conversations” incorporating a multitude of lifeforms and forces in the “animated landscape” of the Sierra Mazateca. She theorizes how Mazatec personification of certain plant species facilitates the multispecies communication intrinsic to the Mazatec curandero's healing and divinatory practices. She addresses how Mazatec nomenclature for things or qualities in nature reflects associations with other species or natural processes, allowing for an intimate human role in a diverse and self-aware system of ecological interdependence. Harrison also addresses Mazatec conventions around picking and consuming different species of psilocybin mushrooms and their growing scarcity linked to climate change.

This text is written in a lyrical style, and describes the curanderos and their families in the text, along with the author's relationships with them, in an intimate and sensitive way. Harrison richly and evocatively describes her multisensorial wanderings through parts of the biodiverse Sierra Mazateca region, and while not focused entirely on psilocybin mushrooms, the text provides critical context to understand the biocultural backdrop to their ritual uses. The text also describes the ritualized use of Shka Pastora (S. divinorum), another highly sacred medicine used in Mazatec shamanic practices.

Feinberg, B. (2003) The Devil's Book of Culture: History, Mushrooms, and Caves in Southern Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press.

This original ethnography, carried out over several years throughout the Sierra Mazateca, explores how Mazatec identity and culture is imagined and circulated by different, sometimes competing groups of people in the region. Rather than a static, orthodox, conformist “thing,” highly localized and defined by an authenticity in perilous opposition to “the outside,” Feinberg proposes that Mazatec culture has always been the product of mediation with “the other.” He points to the centrality of psilocybin mushrooms in this process, for which the Mazatecs are best known throughout the world, as a “mimetic machine” in a metacultural mushroom discourse. Regarding Mazatec shamans, Feinberg suggests that their power and efficacy derives from their ability to skillfully travel across highly charged borders and thereby mediate with figures of power, be they important contemporary or historical political figures, supernatural Earth Lord beings, or psychedelic tourists.

This is an important book for the psychedelic community as it problematizes and deconstructs certain romanticized tropes around Mazatec shamans and shamanism, which have largely been informed by the continued predominance of early interpretations (see Wasson, 1957). He critically engages with other scholars writing about the Mazatec and interrogates related but alternative historical representations which are often projected onto the figure of the shaman. He does this in a very compelling way, utilizing sociological and anthropological theory, in a readable and entertaining style.

Glockner, J. (2012) ‘Aquí, allá y en todas partes: trascendencia e inmanencia en el uso de enteógenos’, Cuicuilco Revista De Ciencias Antropológicas 19(53), pp. 283–300.

In this article, roughly translated as “Here, There and Everywhere: Transcendence and Immanence in the Use of Entheogens,” Glockner provides a critique of the Western approach to sacred mushroom and entheogenic practices. The author, a Mexican anthropologist, has closely studied the ritual uses of sacred plants (and psilocybin mushrooms) among Indigenous people throughout Mexico for several decades. He argues that in these traditional societies the ritual ingestion of plants and mushrooms appear to offer an opportunity to not only see towards the “inner world,” but also “towards the essential conformation of the world,” combining spirit and matter. He thereby affirms the crucial importance of analyzing the ancestral Indigenous wisdom around these spiritual practices and philosophies to thereby understand the complex relationships that Indigenous societies have with the dimensions of the sacred and the spirit.

In this text he points out that the idea of “symbolic representation” frequently alluded to by anthropologists studying entheogens represents a paradox by which the pretense of “knowing” the beliefs of a culture is characterized by a conspicuous lack of understanding of the knowledge which fundamentally sustains those beliefs. He refers to the difficulty of academic knowledge to grapple with and take seriously human beings getting in touch with the spirit world. One example Glockner provides involves the way R. Gordon Wasson famously interpreted his experience of consuming psilocybin mushrooms with María Sabina, in which the former oscillates between “rationally” denying the authenticity of his visions and recognizing their significance, ultimately ascribing them to a transient biochemical effect, or hallucination. Glockner's focus on Wasson allows for an analysis of the culturally-inflected ways psilocybin mushrooms are related with, and the irreconcilability of an Indigenous worldview containing a spiritual notion of the sacred with a Western one which lacks such a notion.

Faudree, P. (2015) ‘Tales from the Land of Magic Plants: Textual Ideologies and Fetishes of Indigeneity in Mexico's Sierra Mazateca’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 57(3), pp. 838–869.

This text by Faudree, a linguistic anthropologist, draws on ethnographic and archival research on the Mazatec region, to examine different historical and contemporary textual representations of the Mazatec's ritual use of psychedelic plants and fungi. The author addresses how outsiders' textual descriptions and interpretations of these practices are often at odds with local ones, especially in light of more recent commodification of these practices for psychedelic tourism. Faudree's theorization of local textual representations includes non-written ritual speech, intimately connected with psilocybin mushrooms, which represents a critical component of Mazatec shamanic practice. The author goes on to explore the strategies of Mazatec people, particularly authors, which move to undo the fetishization resulting from outsider depictions of the psychoactive plants and fungi from the region, which have removed the latter from Mazatec social relations and made them proxies for Mazatec people themselves.

The great value of this text lies in its very informative description of Mazatec veladas (nocturnal shamanic ritual ceremonies with psilocybin mushrooms and other psychoactives), ritual speech, and the ethnically inflected nature of the conventions surrounding them. The text also offers a useful historical contextualization of the outsider interest in Mazatec practices that still informs many problematic assumptions about and approaches to the Mazatec in the global psychedelic community, and the impact this has had on local relations and conceptions. The text also problematizes the impact of psychedelic tourism and capitalist appropriation. By centering linguistics in this research, Faudree opens up exciting ethnographic opportunities for studying these phenomena.

Rodríguez Venegas, C. (2017) Mazatecos, niños santos y güeros de Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca: UNAM.

This text, written in Spanish, whose title can be roughly translated as “Mazatecs, saintly children and ‘blondes’ of Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca” offers an insightful analysis of ndi tji santo (one of the principal names for psilocybin mushrooms in the Mazatec language) by refreshingly taking as its starting point the perspectives of the Mazatecs themselves. Deconstructing the way psilocybin mushrooms have been analyzed in the “psychedelic revolution” through the framework of therapeutic functionalism, the author describes how the personhood of “the little ones that sprout” in the Mazatec context is ultimately expressed through language. This power and agency is articulated through the specialists who handle them, who along with the mushrooms, act as intermediaries between the quotidian, material world and the one made perceptible by ndi tji santo; nodes through which relationships between humans and non-human beings can converge. The author discusses how these relations give meaning to the ceremonial ingestion of psilocybin mushrooms, their curative potential, and the very dimensions which shape Mazatec identity.

The text also discusses how the logic of these relations has informed local understandings of the comparatively non-conventional relationships between the mushrooms and the outsiders who have visited Huautla de Jiménez looking to consume them, such as hippies and tourists. The text goes on to generate critical, broader reflections related to the global interest in psychedelics and how Mazatec perspectives on ndi tji santo's inherent subjectivity can help rethink the scientific, clinical and legal categories and frameworks which often objectify and commodify psilocybin mushrooms. This is related in the text to wider conflicts between modernizing phenomena in the Mazatec region and traditional ways of life in which ndi tji santo play a fundamental role by articulating human relations with territory and non-human beings, ultimately making possible the sustainability and continuity of Mazatec life.

Piña Alcántara, Saraí. (2019) ‘Turismo y chamanismo, dos mundos imbricados: el caso de Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca’, Cuicuilco Revista de Ciencias Antropológicas, 26(75), 43-66

This article, translated as “Tourism and shamanism, two intertwined worlds: the case of Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca”, mobilizes a decolonial perspective to explore the phenomenon of psychedelic tourism in the Mazatec town of Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca, and the way in which it has impacted local shamanism and religious phenomena in general. Among the author's contributions is an attempt to understand the ontology that underlies the worldview of the Mazatec people, which importantly includes the logic of animism. Her critical perspective highlights contradictions present in the phenomenon of psychedelic tourism, which entails cultural appropriation, biopiracy, and the emergence of internal conflicts in Indigenous communities. The research was carried out with the support of Mazatec researchers such as historian Inti García Flores. Another important contribution is her analysis of the Mazatec shamanic system, also with reference to the social paradoxes and economic interests generated by the psychedelic tourism industry, especially in the context of the ongoing, so-called psychedelic renaissance. It seems that the Mazatec act as spectators before transnational groups and organizations tussling for control over the medical use of psilocybin, neglecting the ancestral wisdom, processes and operative systems of rituality that the Mazatec have elaborated for hundreds of years. This is pertinent in the context of the psychedelic renaissance as the ability to incorporate cultural traits from different worldviews will determine the development of trans-cultural psychiatry and cross cultural psychedelic-assisted therapies. Democratization of psychedelic healthcare also requires the acknowledgment of different operative systems of rituality.

Mixe

Hoogshagen S. (1959). “Notes on the sacred narcotic mushroom from Coatlán, Oaxaca, Mexico”. Oklahoma Anthropological Society Bulletin. 7: 71–4.

This article, authored by American anthropologist Searle Hoogshagen, delves into practices with psilocybin mushrooms developed by Mixe peoples in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. His analysis is focused on Santa María Coatlán, a small community in the lowland Mixe region in the Istmo de Tehuantepec. Throughout this text, the author reaffirms and corroborates various elements previously mentioned by the Wassons in their research on the Mazatecs, while identifying the presence of three mushroom species utilized for diverse purposes by the local inhabitants. These species are known in the Mixe language as “pi;tpi,” “atka;t,” and “konk.” The first of these was previously identified by Heim (1957) as Psilocybe Mexicana, while the second was subsequently christened Psilocybe hoogshagenii in acknowledgment of Hoogshagen's support for Heim and Wasson in their quest for entheogenic mushrooms in Mexico.

In the course of this article, the author narrates several encounters with individuals from Coatlán, who share supernatural and healing experiences related to mushroom consumption, along with aspects of Mixe cosmology associated with their use. Hoogshagen concludes by emphasizing the profound significance of these mushrooms for the Mixe people, as well as beliefs pertaining to the supernatural realm, the role of the community's elders (ancianos) as priests during ceremonial rituals, and the mushroom's ability to enhance the power of speech, will, and supernatural knowledge. It is noteworthy that the author also underscores the mushroom's capacity to transform itself into diminutive beings who unveil concealed malevolence in those who eat them. Furthermore, he draws syncretic connections between the Mixe understanding of these mushrooms and the figure of Jesus Christ, as well as the frequent appearance of Catholic saints during the visions brought on by the mushroom.

This article not only offers an understanding of a specific Indigenous culture's practices but also enriches the broader anthropological conversation on the intersection of culture, spirituality, and psychoactive substances. Hoogshagen not only validates and builds upon prior research but demonstrates the enduring cultural significance of these practices within Mixe society.

Miller, W. S. (2006 [1966]). The Mixe Tonalamatl and the Sacred Mushrooms. In Akers, B. P. (Eds.), The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts (pp. 61-79). UPA

Walter S. Miller was a minister affiliated with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), an American Protestant missionary working in Indigenous communities throughout Mexico, which was staffed with trained field linguists. This article, originally published in Spanish (Miller, 1966), was the result of a field expedition to San Juan Mazatlán, a town in Oaxaca in south-western Mexico, in the Mixe Bajo region. R. Gordon Wasson arranged this expedition (his second season of field study in Oaxaca) with Robert J. Weitlaner (1952), whose daughter, the anthropologist Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson (see Johnson, 1939), first noted the use of sacred mushrooms in Mixe villages. Wasson invited Miller due to the extensive field notes the latter had written on Mixe healing and divinatory practices, with reference to “maddening mushrooms”. The team were joined in San Juan Mazatlán with Miller's SIL colleague Searle Hoogshagen (1959), who arrived with Severiano Sánchez and Cándido Faustino, two Mixe individuals from Santa María Nativitas Coatlán, who are the two principle informants in this article.

Miller offers observations on sacred mushroom practices among the Mixe. These include types of mushrooms used (and interestingly, their different effects), prohibitions around their use, dosage, harvest, preparation, the symbolic significance of the numbers of mushrooms eaten, dynamics of a ceremony, and a story about the mushrooms having cured someone unable to walk from an undiagnosed disease. He describes how a male-female pair of prophetic, elf-like creatures often appear upon consumption of the mushrooms, who dialogue with the patient and offer warnings and advice. He also includes information about the syncretic nature of Mixe mushroom practices involving Catholicism.

A considerable section of the text is dedicated to discussion of a connection between the sacred mushrooms and the tonalamatl or “book of days”, a prehispanic agricultural almanac. He speculates that the guardians of the esoteric knowledge of this sacred calendar may be the same who preserve knowledge of the mushrooms. Like other texts from this period, the author compares Mixe practices with more widely-studied Mazatec parallels. The major difference he notes is that Mixe ceremonies are less collective, whereby the one who has consumed the sacred mushroom is accompanied by helpers who remain silent as he/she vocalizes the dialogue underway between him- or herself and the mushroom/mushroom spirits.

Miller refrains from comparing the subjective experience had by Mixe people under the effects of sacred mushrooms to that of Mazatec peoples. He does so because, as he correctly points out, researchers of Mazatec practices had failed until that point to show sufficient interest in what Mazatec people see with mushrooms, preferring instead to describe their own psychedelic experiences. He concludes with a welcome entreaty to not treat all Mexican Indigenous mushroom practices as a monolithic “mushroom cult entity”, emphasizing their cultural heterogeneity and the diversity of sacred mushroom species. He also offers a passionate defense of the veracity and significance of the mushroom visions, and argues how the term “hallucinogenic” is wholly insufficient and inappropriate to describe Indigenous uses.

Nahuas

Reyes G., L. (1970) ‘Una relación sobre los hongos alucinantes’, Tlalocan, 6(2), pp. 140–145

The short article “An Account of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms details invaluable information described to the author, Indigenous historian Luis Reyes García, by a 70-year-old female elder. Reyes is one of the most renowned Nahua historians of the second half of the 20th century. He was a professor at the Autonomous University of Tlaxcala and CIESAS, and worked with a number of internationally recognised researchers.

The article offers an insider's perspective, but above all is an example of how ethnolinguistic methodology is applied to the study of the therapeutic and ritual uses of psilocybin mushrooms in Nahuatl culture. Noteworthy is the fact that the account is written in the Nahuatl language with Spanish language footnotes, which allows one to go directly to the source and compare with other variants of the language. The article discusses the “sacred entities” tlalokes, who are related to these rituals, as well as an overview of how the Nahua consider the Earth a living being, endowed with personality. Ceremonial elements such as flowers, copal, tobacco, and eggs are also described. The mushrooms themselves are used to consult the inhabitants of Tlālōcān (paradise), the inhabitants of which are the unbaptised who died in infancy, and who become xokoyomeh (rays) of blue light, and live with the Father-Mother of this sacred realm, which is accessed through caves. Pre-Hispanic and Christian cultural traits can be observed as part of a religious syncretism. Mushrooms are a source of knowledge and are consulted for answers. This text describes how the rituals are performed, highlighting the importance of silence, and notes that the mushrooms are known in Nahuatl as tlakatsin, which can be translated as “little men.”

Herrera, T. (October 1992) ‘De los que saben de hongos’, Ciencias, 28, pp. 37–40

This short article “From Those Who Know about Mushrooms” is an important contribution from the field of ethnomycology. The author Teofilo Herrera was a researcher emeritus at the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

The text emphasizes the importance of taking into account Indigenous languages (in this case Nahuatl), in order to broaden knowledge of Indigenous taxonomy. Nahua people established a comprehensive classificatory system around mushrooms, which allowed them to identify the nutritional, medicinal, and psychoactive properties of fungi. The Nahua people were able, long before the Spanish Conquest, to elaborate a taxonomy of living beings, including fungi, which is comparable to the binomial nomenclature devised by Linnaeus in the 18th century. Classificatory elements include names of colors, trees, and plants, and warns if a species is deadly or intoxicating. Another notable contribution from this article is archival research of Inquisition court documents which cover proceedings from colonial-era trials of people accused of consuming prohibited psilocybin mushrooms. This offers an opportunity to better understand the process of Spanish colonization, and the prohibition and suppression of Indigenous psilocybin mushroom consumption. The article also references various historical sources and Aztec codices, and puts forward some somewhat controversial interpretations of images found in the Codex Borbonicus. The author notes the relationship between mushrooms and the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, who is also linked to other plants with psychoactive properties such as ololiuqui.

Hernández Lucas, R., and Chávez-Peniche M. (2008) El hongo sagrado del Popocatépetl. México: Instituto Nacional de Antropología INAH, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes CONACULTA.

The Sacred Mushroom of Popocatépetl contributes to a better understanding of the ritual and therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms by the Nahua people living around the Popocatépetl volcano in Central Mexico. These therapeutic uses are mainly diagnostic but also to relieve diseases such as gout and fever, which are related to rain deities. Psilocybin mushrooms have also been used in the region for divinatory purposes. The first section of the text presents a detailed historiographical study of existing ethnohistorical scholarship. Its most valuable contribution is the presentation of the ethnographic research carried out in the region surrounding the Popocatépetl Volcano in 2003. This research demonstrates the plurality of visions that existed within Nahua culture, outlining the different techniques and perspectives of the shamans or “ritual specialists”, popularly known as graniceros. It is possible to distinguish up to forty different types of ritual specialist according to their respective functions. This plurality is also linguistic (Nàhuatl has 30 contemporary variants) and also refers to the diversity of ways the tlamatque (wise man) or teciuhtlazqui (granicero) learn their songs and prayers, including through dreams, visions, mushroom ceremonies, or from other wise men or healers. Moreover, ritual specialists frequently reside in societies where they are not native, therefore local variations of rituals and techniques are seen in the same geographical regions, in spite of the fact that teciuhtlazqueh/graniceros belong to a larger brotherhood. This part of the book describes conversations with different graniceros, landscapes, cultural practices, and includes a comprehensive comparative analysis of different techniques, customs, rituals, and perspectives. This book broadens our understanding of the cultural context that gives meaning to mushroom rituals in Nahuatl culture. It is also valuable because it concerns contemporary mushroom rituals in communities not affected by mycotourism, as in other parts of Mexico. Nevertheless, this region has been the focus of army and police harassment, partly due to certain zones of the territory being used for military training. The lack of a legal framework has also led to some of the rituals and ceremonies involving psilocybin mushrooms to be carried out in secrecy. Hernández, one of the authors of this book, was also involved in the research and production of a documentary, Allende los volcanes: Iztaccíhuatl y Popocatépetl. Sueño y ritual en el culto a la montaña (Mora, 2005), which enhances this research proposal.

Matlatzincas

Escalante, R. and A. López-González. (2006 [1972]). Sacred Mushrooms of the Matlatzincas. In Brian Akers B. P. (Eds.), The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts (pp. 29-37). UPA

In this text the term “Matlatzinca” refers to the Matlatzinca-speaking ethnic group in the Toluca Valley in the state of Mexico, located in the central highlands of the country. This cultural group has a very limited distribution, and the authors note that at the time of writing all members were living in a single town, San Francisco Oxtotilpan. Today it is reported that there are only 1,245 people speaking Matlatzinca.

In this article, originally published in Spanish (Escalante & López-González, 1972), the authors discuss the extensive native taxonomy of mushrooms in the Matlatzinca language, and note that the names of more than 50 species were recorded. For the psilocybe varieties the prefix /chu-/ is used, which is reserved for sacred things related to “non-ordinary or extraordinary experiences”. The sacred mushrooms are therefore named netochutáta, or santitos (little saints) in Spanish.

The authors describe the conventions around how the santitos are picked and eaten, often comparing them to Mazatec parallels. They note how the previous practice of curanderos consuming mushrooms to diagnose another person's illness (as seen with Mazatec specialists) had been lost, and how mushrooms were then mainly eaten by young people in order to have nonordinary experiences. The text includes six vignettes of people's experiences with the santitos. None of them are first-hand accounts, which the authors ascribe to how rare sacred mushroom use had become. The authors discuss how hallucinations are socially conditioned phenomena, and how what often characterizes a “psychedelic” experience in the west (kaleidoscopic motion, rich and beautiful colors etc) is distinct to what Matlatzinca people see with the mushrooms. The authors describe how the latter gain a perceptual ability which allows them to see the santitos personified as small, phantasm-like people, who largely teach through showing vivid, highly symbolic imagery. If you behave well and are good the santitos benevolently offer diagnoses, prescriptions and prophecies, but can correctively chastise and flagellate if you are not. For this reason the sacred mushrooms are both feared and respected.

This text is important because it is one of the very few about psilocybin mushroom use among Matlatzinca people. It is also noteworthy for the way the authors discuss a traditional practice as a dynamic one in flux.

Mixtecs

Ravicz R. (2006 [1961]). The Mixtec in a Comparative Study of the Hallucinogenic Mushroom. In Brian Akers B. P. (Eds.), The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts (pp. 39-60). UPA

Robert Ravicz, an American anthropologist, wrote widely on the Mixtecs, an Indigenous people living in Western Oaxaca and neighboring portions of Puebla and Guerrero in south-central Mexico. Up until Spanish colonization the Mixtec culture also represented one of the most important and long-standing civilizations in Mesoamerica. Ravicz was referenced early by Heim and Wasson (1958) for his pioneering ethnomycological observations in the field, and later invited to collaborate with the latter. Ravicz's text, originally published in Spanish in Anales del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (1961), is based around a mushroom ceremony held in the Mixtec village of Juxtlahauca in which Wasson and the author participated.

The text starts with a brief overview of Mixtec social organization, and describes how conceptions of the supernatural inform sickness and witchcraft. In order to know this extrahuman world, “extraordinary means”, such as that provided by the “hallucinogenic mushroom”, are required. Ravicz describes how the mushroom is considered animate and can converse with the person who ingests it, revealing a “supernatural or sacred force that is related with shamanic wisdom” (p 45). He notes the mushroom's reverential role in curing sickness and divination and the fixed circumstances required to ingest it, including preparation, ritual regalia, prohibitions, and the functions of the people involved. In the latter regard he notes how the presence of a curandero/a is not obligatory and that the person seeking the knowledge must be the one consuming the mushrooms.

A considerable part of the text is dedicated to describing the fundamental characteristics of sacred mushroom use among other Indigenous groups in Mexico (the Mazatec, Zapotec, Mixe, Chinantla and Peoples from the Valley of Mexico and the State of Mexico), and comparing them with Mixtec practices. The few elements distinct to the latter was the idea that while mushrooms can indicate causes of sickness and appropriate remedies, they are not considered intrinsically medicinal. The major distinction pertained to the method of preparation; a girl would grind the mushrooms on a metate with water.

Like a lot of texts from this period, it is informed by an impulse to systematize Indigenous mushroom practices, map them onto respective ethnic groups, and relate them to historical and archeological sources. While this is clearly a concern for Ravicz, who must have been influenced by the age-area hypothesis pushed by his companion in the field, for lack of data he refrains from decisively drawing any such conclusions. Conversely, he draws attention to the internal heterogeneity of practices within groups and the ritual dissimilarities between groups with geographic proximity.

This text is noteworthy for its concise consideration of the practices of a number of different Indigenous groups in Mexico and a rigorous comparison of the data collected on these groups. It is one of very few texts with a focus on Mixtec mushroom uses and the author seems to take Mixtec conceptions seriously.

Hernández-Santiago, F., Martínez-Reyes, M., Pérez-Moreno, J., and Mata, G. (julio-diciembre 2017) ‘Pictographic representation of the first dawn and its association with entheogenic mushrooms in a 16th century Mixtec Mesoamerican Codex’, Revista Mexicana de Micología, 46, pp. 19–28.

Faustino Hernández Santiago, the lead author of this article, is a Mixtec researcher. He has a Ph.D. in Science from the Colegio de Postgraduados en Ciencias Agrícolas, where he is currently a researcher. He has previously done research at the University of Sheffield (U.K.). This article analyzes the images found in the Yuta Tnoho Codex, also known as Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I, in which the earliest surviving Mesoamerican depiction of a ritual with psilocybin mushrooms is represented. The article demonstrates how this constitutes evidence of the cultural and ceremonial importance of mushrooms in Mesoamerica. It explores the relationship between sacred narratives around the creation of the universe and the use of entheogenic fungi. The article includes a bibliographic review, carried out in Mexico and England, and field research in Mexico.

Based on a review of existing academic literature and ethnological information, the principal author, who is a Mixtec speaker, proceeds with a descriptive analysis of the pictograms found on pages 24 and 25 of the Yuta Tnoho Codex. The article summarizes and contextualizes the contents of the codex in conjunction with contemporary ethnographic research carried out in the Mixtec communities of San Antonio Huitepec and Santa Catarina Estetla to investigate and clarify local concepts. The article also mentions other codices and documents such as the Lienzo de Zacatepec and the Codex Yanhuitlán. There is also discussion of a manuscript that refers to a mid-16th century trial in which three Indigenous Catholic converts confess, in Mixtec, to having consumed psilocybin mushrooms. In conclusion, the article emphasizes that the ceremonial use of psilocybin mushrooms persists today in other Indigenous groups neighboring the Mixtecs, such as the Zapotecs, the Mixes, and the Mazatecs.

Chinantecs

Rubel, Arthur J., and Jean Gettelfinger-Krejci. (1976) ‘The Use of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms for Diagnostic Purposes among Some Highland Chinantecs’, Economic Botany 30, (3), pp. 235-48.

This article describes the ingestion of the mushroom species psilocybe hoogshagenii among the Chinantecs in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca region. The authors provide information from the town of Santiago Comaltepec, where they state that the use of psilocybin mushrooms is not widespread. The article mainly concerns Don Antonio, a healer who consumes mushrooms on behalf of people seeking the diagnosis of an illness, the whereabouts of a lost object or person, or to establish communication with the deceased. The article includes transcripts of conversations and a description of a session in which the lead author inquires about his sick mother in New York City. The author records Don Antonio's description of how the mushrooms appear in the visions of those who consume them, as boys and girls of diminutive stature (about the size of the mushrooms themselves), and how he relates and converses with them. The authors propose that the mushrooms (the children) help reinforce the moralistic norms of society, by offering counsel and giving moral injunctions to live collectively and harmoniously. The authors go on to compare and contrast local mushroom practices to the more widely documented ones in the neighboring Mazatec region. While revered in both cultures, some of the key differences according to the authors involve the more “matter-of-fact” and secular way the mushrooms are treated in the Chinantec context. The mushrooms are appealed to directly, without the mediation of other “supernatural” or religious figures, who therefore do not need to be invoked. The “diagnostician” is also the only one who ingests the mushrooms for another person who is in need of answers to formulated “questions of critical personal importance”.

This article is valuable because it is one of the very few ethnographic texts written on psilocybin mushroom use among the Chinantecs. It was written at a time of proliferating research on the Mazatecs and therefore provides useful comparative data to explore similarities and differences between contemporary practices of Indigenous peoples in Mexico. One limitation of the text is that the information comes almost exclusively from a single informant and it is therefore unclear whether the customs and practices he describes are shared by the wider culture or are more idiosyncratic. The authors make clear that much more empirical field research needed to urgently be carried out “where these practices of diagnosis and divination still survive”.

Other regions

Central America and South America

Schultes, R. E., & Bright, A. (1979). ANCIENT GOLD PECTORALS FROM COLOMBIA: MUSHROOM EFFIGIES? Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University, 27(5/6), 113–141.

This article is based on the interpretation of pre-colonial archaeological evidence, specifically on the so-called “Pectorals of Darien”––golden ornaments, found in southern Panama and Columbia, from the Sinu area in the northeast to the southern Quimbaya areas. The research was carried out with the collection of pectorals in the Museum of Gold in Bogota. The authors' ethnobotanical backgrounds and familiarity with New World genera of psilocybin mushrooms, led them to conclude that the twin semi-spherical headdresses found on the ornaments represent psilocybin mushroom caps and indicates the religious use of “hallucinogenic” mushrooms in pre-Hispanic Colombia. These domes or caps show the mammiform characteristics of some Psilocibe species, and the radial grooves on the cap of Panaeolus sphinctrinus. Based on Gastón Guzmán and Kenneth Dumont's fieldwork, the authors state that mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe are distributed throughout Colombia, from the warm savannas to the uplands, and note that there are more than 30 species currently recorded in the country.

Trutmann P. (2012). The Forgotten Mushrooms of Ancient Peru. Global Mountain Action. Lima, Peru

The principal objective of this text is to identify different species and genera of mushrooms in Peru, principally psilocybin mushrooms, and explore their uses from pre-Hispanic times to the present. The author refers mainly to archaeological evidence of objects depicting mushrooms and shamanic figures, i.e., ceramics, metal objects, and textile art, as well as colonial-era literature and recent ethnomycological research. The research is presented chronologically, making clear the changes and evolution in diversity and human use. Importantly, earlier names in the Quechua and Aymara languages are provided, sourced from early colonial-era chronicles, which are analyzed alongside lexicon from contemporary communities. Some of the most noteworthy conclusions reached by these authors are: 1) that mushrooms have been used in Peru since at least 1200 BC, until the Inca culture (1200–1532 AD), which is akin to periods of use further north in Mesoamerica, 2) the mushrooms represented were for medicinal-spiritual uses and not so much for culinary purposes, and 3) archaeological evidence has allowed the identification of at least four mushroom genera, namely: Calvatia, Morchella, A. muscaria and Psilocybe.

Torres, C. M. (2019). The use of psychoactive plants by ancient indigenous populations of the North Andes. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 3(2), 198-211.

Constantino Manuel Torres is an archaeologist and ethnobotanist who has conducted extensive research on the ethnobotany of pre-Columbian South America and the Caribbean. In this article he argues that the use of various psychoactive plants informed the primary ideologies of ancient Indigenous populations living in the North Andes (Colombia and Ecuador); it permeated every aspect of culture, contributed to social interaction, and was core to shamanic and religious practice. The author states that the use of psychoactive plants was not only a means of achieving altered states of consciousness, but a way of communicating with the supernatural world. Furthermore, the use of psychoactive plants was a way of establishing social hierarchies and reinforcing political power, while serving to create a shared cultural identity among different groups of people, shaping art, religion, and social structures. In this article, Torres provides information regarding the different species of Psilocybe mushrooms found in the region. The evidence for its use is scarce, but he suggests that the consumption was primarily ritualistic and communal. A number of species have been found in the region, including Psilocybe caerulescens, Psilocybe mexicana, Psilocybe aztecorum, Psilocybe zapotecorum, Psilocybe semilanceata, and Psilocybe cubensis. While discussing the complex iconographic systems used to express the relationship between human beings and inebriating substances in the art of the region, the author provides archaeological, iconographic, and ethnographic evidence of wood carvings, monumental stone sculpture, goldwork, and painted textiles. For example, the presence of mushroom-shaped vessels in the Tairona culture of Colombia, which may have been used for the consumption of psychedelic fungi, or anthropomorphic gold pendants attributed to the Darién style that exhibit fungiform headdresses, which suggests the ritual use of mushrooms.

Additionally, Torres also explores the impact of colonialism on the use of psychoactive plants and fungi in the region, and how it disrupted traditional cultural practices, leading to suppression of Indigenous knowledge and traditions and the emergence of syncretic religious practices incorporating elements of both Indigenous and Christian belief. Finally, the author discusses the ways in which the use of psychoactive plants and fungi has been stigmatized and criminalized in contemporary society, despite their cultural and historical significance.

Rodríguez Arce, J. M., & Arce Cerdas, M. A. (2019). Ritual consumption of psychoactive fungi and plants in ancestral Costa Rica*. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 3(2), 179-197.

This interdisciplinary article is co-authored by José Manuel Rodríguez Arce, a bioanthropologist with extensive training in the field of neuropsychopharmacology, and Marco Antonio Arce Cerdas, an anthropologist specializing in archaeology. Their research provides a comprehensive review of historical, ethnographic, archeological, and paleobotanical information about the ritual consumption of psychoactive fungi and plants in ancestral Costa Rica, as well as an analysis of artifacts with a presumed linkage to psychoactive drug use. They argue that the consumption of these substances played a significant role in the societies that inhabited Costa Rica during pre-Columbian times. It is not entirely clear whether this use was limited only to religious leaders or to a broader group of individuals with specialized knowledge and authority, but the authors hypothesize that utilization of these plants played a role in the evolution of more complex religious organization, suggesting that as societies became more complex, the use of psychedelics tend to become an exclusive practice restricted to a priestly class. Since psychedelics were seen as tools of access to esoteric knowledge and communication with other worlds, such substances may have served to legitimize the roles of magico-religious specialists and sociopolitical leaders.

Throughout the text, the authors discuss the social organization, religious practices, and use of mind-altering substances and psychedelics in these societies, including the role of shamans and the use of plants in healing and divination practices. They draw on a range of primary and secondary sources, including archeological reports, ethnographic accounts, and historical documents. They describe evidence of tobacco use, morning glory seeds, cohoba, along with the identification of ergoline alkaloids and bufotenine in artifacts. The authors also discuss the appearance of psychedelic fungi in pre-Columbian art and iconography, including mushroom stones and other artifacts with a presumed linkage to ritual consumption of psilocybin mushrooms.

Europe

Akers, B.P., Ruiz, J.F., Piper, A., and Ruck, C.A. (2011) ‘A Prehistoric Mural in Spain Depicting Neurotropic Psilocybe Mushrooms?’, Economic Botany 65(2), pp. 121–128.

The oldest reported mushroom petroglyphs of Europe yet discovered are those found in the Selva Pascuala mural of rock art at Villar del Humo, a post-Paleolithic rock art site in Cuenca, Spain. Several elements are depicted on the mural, most prominently a bull, a deer, and several human figures, but also distinctly mushroom-like pictographs. Their portrayal in association with a bull seemed particularly significant, considering that a few Psilocybe species often grow on manure. Akers, Ruiz, Piper, and Ruck (2011) suggest that these figures reflect the ritual use of Psilocybe in Europe as far back as 8,000 years ago, based on the archaeological and mycological data. The mushrooms represented were identified by Guzmán as Psilocybe hispanica, a common psychotropic species in that region, first described from a location relatively close to the site (Guzmán, 2011). P. hispanica is a coprophilic species, meaning it grows on dung, coinciding with the mural's depiction of a bull and mushroom-like figures. The authors conclude that Selva Pascuala represents the first direct evidence for possible utilization of Psilocybe in prehistoric Europe.

Samorini, G. (2012) ‘Mushroom effigies in world archaeology: from rock art to mushroom-stones. The stone mushrooms of Thrace’, EKATAIOS, Alexandroupoli, pp. 16–44.

In this very detailed and extensive review the Italian researcher Giorgio Samorini presents a wide range of mushroom forms found in cultures around the world, showing that mycolatry (“mushroom worship”) was a widespread ancient practice. He places particular emphasis on the ethnomycology of psychoactive mushrooms. He starts by listing all the confirmed and known instances of entheogenic rock art (both painted/engraved on the rock or carved from stone). The oldest mushroom effigies date back to ∼7,000 BC from the Sahara desert, followed by 6,000–4,000 year old rock paintings of Fuente de Selva Pascal, Spain (both possibly depicting Psilocybe species) and several examples of the Siberian rock art (depicting A. muscaria), with one site found on the banks of the Pegtymel River and another on the banks of the Ushokovo Lake in the Kamchatka peninsula, as well as the Ortaa-Sagol site, along the Yenisei River. Another likely representation of a mushroom could be found in France, on Mont Bégo and the nearby Valley of Marvels, among more than a thousand rock engravings. He then describes several neolithic findings, mainly centered around mushroom-stones in Vinča in present-day Serbia. A number of mushrooms carved out of light green rock crystal were found, which possibly were placed on the altars, and are dated 5,700–4,500 BC. He then moves on to discuss more recent Bronze Age rock art of Scandinavia, England, and Southern France. The article concludes with an examination of the kuda-kallu, “umbrella-stones” from Kerala, India, proposing that they were depicting psychoactive mushrooms. Bio-archaeological findings are briefly mentioned, indicating the presence of ergot in archaeological sites starting from 18,000 years ago in the Middle East and 5,400 years ago in Europe.

Froese, T., Guzmán, G., and Guzmán-Dávalos, L. (2016) ‘On the Origin of the Genus Psilocybe and Its Potential Ritual Use in Ancient Africa and Europe’, Economic Botany, 70(2), pp. 103–114.

Froese, Guzmán, and Guzmán-Dávalos (2016) engage in a debate with Helverston and Bahn about the role played by altered states of consciousness, induced by psychoactive substances, in prehistoric rock art found in Europe and Africa. Helvenston and Bahn (2006) provide one of the most influential challenges to the “neuropsychological model”––the idea that visual hallucinations inspired prehistoric figurative and geometric art. Froese et al. advance the debate on this topic by highlighting the weaknesses in Helverston and Bahn's arguments, most notably the assertion that ancient cultures in Europe and Africa did not have access to strong psychedelic substances. Froese and colleagues provide evidence that these cultures did have access to psychedelic mushrooms, drawing on the prehistoric worldwide distribution of the mushroom genus Psilocybe, with species endemic to the Americas, Africa, and Europe, as well as the possibility of long-distance spore dispersal. Throughout the article they list suggestive findings indicative of prehistoric mushroom use in Europe and Africa.

Africa

Hollmann, J. (1993) ‘Preliminary Report on the Koebee Rock Paintings, Western Cape Province, South Africa’, The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 48(127), pp. 16–25.

Jeremy Hollman is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and has been studying rock art in South Africa for the last 30 years. This article describes rock paintings from fifty sites in the Koebee area of the western Cape, South Africa. Most of these paintings were drawn in red or white and depict representations of animals and people, including scenes of hunting, dancing, healing, or religious gathering. Of particular potential ethnomycological interest is the Bella Vista site in Ladybrand District of the Orange Free State. These images portray a group of men dancing in the style of the shamanic medicine dance of the San people. These figures bear various mushroom shapes on their heads, and in a few cases, wear inverted mushroom caps with birds (a classic symbol of shamanic flight) in place of the head. It is important to mention that although the shapes appear mushroom-like, the author does not mention any explicit fungal connections in the actual paper, and it is impossible to conclude anything definitive on the basis of visual resemblance alone.

Guzmán, G., Nixon, S.C., Ramirez-Guillen, F., and Cortes-Perez, A. (2014) ‘Psilocybe s. Str. (Agaricales, Strophariaceae) in Africa with Description of a New Species from the Congo’, Sydowia, 66(1), pp. 43–53.

Very few species of Psilocybe are known from Africa. The article starts with discussion of the origin of Psilocybe cubensis, one of the most common species in tropical America, and widespread in cultivation worldwide. Guzmán notes that this species was likely introduced from Africa in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest. However, the main part of this paper concerns mycological descriptions of eight species of the genus Psilocybe in Africa: Psilocybe aquamarine, P. cubensis, P. cyanescens, P. goniospora, P. mairei, P. natalensis, R semilanceata, and P. subcubensis. These descriptions are based on an extensive literature review, as well as the review of mycological records. The identity of some of these species is not clear. This paper also describes the first Psilocybe species from the Democratic Republic of Congo: Psilocybe congolensis, which grows in ancient afromontane forests, between 2,400 and 2,900 m altitude. Unfortunately, Guzmán could not obtain any information on local uses nor a common name for Psilocybe congolensis. Though brief, the most relevant part of this article discusses the possible traditional use of Psilocybe in Africa, in particular ancestral traditional uses of the complex P. cubensis–P. subcubensis in Uganda, where there is an ancient cattle tradition. The article presents reports from Uganda which indicate an awareness of the psychoactive properties of these mushrooms, and possibly their traditional use in the past.

Asia

Li, H.L. (1978) ‘Hallucinogenic Plants in Chinese Herbals’, Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 10(1), pp. 17–26.

The Chinese botanist, academic, and researcher Hui-lin Li wrote this seminal article about the history and use of hallucinogenic plants in China. Plants with hallucinogenic effects were recorded in the earliest Chinese herbals nearly two thousand years ago, yet their hallucinogenic effects were not directly discussed until the 16th century by Li Shih-chên, an esteemed authority in traditional Chinese medicine, whose encyclopedic book the Pên-ts'ao kang-mu, known in English as the Compendium of Materia Medica or Great Pharmacopoeia, became the main treatise on medicinal plants. This article translates his account from that book about four hallucinogenic plants. Li then describes other plants found in China known to have psychoactive effects. He concludes by describing a particular mushroom which “when ingested, causes people to laugh unceasingly.” He cites various herbals describing this mushroom and its laughter-inducing subjective effects. The particular mushroom in question is xiaojun (笑菌; xiàojùn; hsiao-ch'un “laughing mushroom”), which modern botanists have identified as a type of psilocybin mushroom, most likely either G. junonius (“Laughing Gym”) or P. papilionaceus (“Petticoat Mottlegill”). This work is significant because it is one of the first and for a long time only works accessible in English that details little-known uses of psychoactive mushrooms and plants in China.

Matsushima, Y., Eguchi, F., Kikukawa, T., and Matsuda, T. (2009) ‘Historical Overview of Psychoactive Mushrooms’, Inflammation and Regeneration, 29(1), pp. 47–58. https://doi.org/10.2492/inflammregen.29.47

The authors provide a global overview of psychoactive mushroom distribution and traditional uses, with the most interesting sections concerning Japan. Matsushima and colleagues state that Japan has more than 30 species of psychoactive mushrooms, some of which are endemic to Japan, for example Psilocybe argentipes. Of interest is the history of psychoactive mushrooms in Japan, although a lot of information contained in this section is based on an article by James Sanford titled Japan's Laughing Mushrooms (1972). The authors' research did not identify any historical records of intentional use of psychoactive mushrooms. What they did find were numerous records of unintentional mushroom poisoning. Magic mushroom references in Japan are often referred to as dance-inducing (Odoritake and Maitake) or laughter-inducing (Waraitake) mushrooms. “Laughing mushrooms” are the subject of a number of folktales as well as the names of ancient dance forms in Japan. They cite the oldest folk tale mentioning psychoactive mushrooms, from a 12th century book called Tales of Long Ago, featuring nuns who climbed a mountain, ate some mushrooms, and danced. Sanford (1972) mentions several other sources describing the effects of laughing mushrooms, and speculates on their possible identity: G. junonius (“Laughing Gym”) or Panaeolus palilionaceus (“Petticoat Mottlegill”) were cited as possible candidates.

Crowley, M. (2019) Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayana (2nd ed). Santa Fe, New Mexico: Synergetic Press.

In this text Michael Crowley examines whether or not psychedelics were part of historical Buddhist practice. The book, with a foreword by Ann Shulgin, relies on detailed historical research, botany, pharmacology, religious iconography, and a large collection of traditional art, to advance an argument that psychoactive mushrooms may well have been a part of ancient Buddhist practices. Crowley, who is a buddhist lama and author, spent over 40 years researching and collecting historical evidence for the use of entheogens within the Vajrayana tradition. Vajrayana is a particular, early Buddhist tradition, which originated in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The sacred texts of Vajrayana often reference amrita, meaning ‘immortality’ in Sanskrit. However, the word amrita is considerably older and was used within the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda, as a synonym for soma. Although the amrita used in modern Vajrayāna ceremonies lacks any psychoactivity, this book presents numerous pieces of evidence that the amrita used by the earliest Vajrayāna practitioners could have been a potent entheogen.

Maillart-Garg, M., & Winkelman, M. (2019). The “Kamasutra” temples of India: A case for the encoding of psychedelically induced spirituality. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 3(2), 81-103.

Michael Winkelman is a retired anthropologist from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, specializing in shamanism, psychedelics and alterations of consciousness. Dr. Meena Maillart-Garg is an independent researcher.

In this text, Maillart-Garg and Winkelman tackle another of the famous entheogenic controversies, the identity of Soma of Hindu traditions, which Wasson (1968) proposed to be the A. muscaria mushroom. The authors describe mushroom-like structures in the sculptures found in the sanctuaries of the Khajuraho Temples, a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh (India), concluding this provides evidence that entheogenic mushrooms are the identity of soma. Analysis of the features of these representations, e.g. statues with limbs depicted in strange positions, separated from the body or with orientations that are anatomically impossible, thought to symbolize dismemberment experiences common in shamanic traditions, and the central placement of mushrooms, combined with analysis of Vedic texts, draws the authors to the conclusion that these fungiforms could depict both A. muscaria, and/or Psilocybe cubensis species.

Chen, F.P.L. (2021) ‘Hallucinogen Use in China’, Sino-Platonic Papers, 318, pp 2-39.

Fan Pen Li Chen, Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at the State University of New York, recently wrote an updated and expanded article about hallucinogen use in China. She continued where Li (1978) left off, by citing and translating additional texts from the Chinese Daoist literature, namely Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, Songs of Chu, and a preface to The Rhapsody of Gaotang. She describes plants and fungi listed in these and other sources, such as pharmacopeias, encyclopedias, and the biographies of Daoist transcendents, as well as the current psychoactives used in shamanic practices among ethnic minorities in northern and southwestern China. Shamans in Tibet consume smoked pine tips and nuts, as well as a drink containing Cannabis. Shamans of the Zhuang people drink datura flower liquor. In southern China, Yi people use the fruit of the maxun tree and a stimulant called guzibu'an (the author was unable to find latin names for these). The Manchus burn an incense made of Rhododendron, prolonged inhalation of which produces a running nose, smarting of the eyes, dry throat, ringing in the ears, and dizziness. Many of the herbs used by these and other shamans are extremely poisonous, but with certain preparation techniques and special care, are reported to be psychoactive, for example wolf's bane (Aconitum species). This is a very important and timely addition to this topic, where there is a considerable lack of reliable information accessible for non-Chinese speakers.

Winkelman, M.J., Allen, J.W., Lamrood, P.Y., Maillart-Garg, M., Sinha, B.L., and Shah, N.C. (2022) ‘Does India Have Entheomycology Traditions? A Review and Call to Research’, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge (IJTK), 21(2), pp. 341–352.

Michael Winkelman is retired from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, and is an anthropologist specializing in shamanism, psychedelics and alterations of consciousness. John Allen is an independent researcher and ethnomycologist while Niranjan Chandra Shah is a retired founder-director at Herbal Research Institute, Govt of Uttar Pradesh. This article provides an overview of an interesting and controversial topic: ethnomycological traditions of India. The authors review the existing evidence for the use of fungi in religious practice to produce spiritual experiences. They describe the mushroom stones of Kerala, and speculate about their identity and ethnomycological tradition; draw on mushroom iconography within Buddhism; and mushroom sculptures of the Khajuraho temples in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Finally, they present results from qualitative interviews indicating traditional knowledge of psychoactive mushrooms from a rural area of Chattarpur near Khajuraho. They identify research gaps and uncertainties within the current state of the field, encourage more research, and propose further studies to answer outstanding questions in this research area. Clear guidelines for future ethnomycological research include highlighting optimal regional areas, certain research methods, interviews, and the investigation of language groups to initiate further research.

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  • Rodríguez-Arce, J., & Winkelman, M. (2021, September). Psychedelics, sociality, and human evolution. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.729425.

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  • * Rubel, A. J., & Gettelfinger-Krejci, J. (1976). The use of hallucinogenic mushrooms for diagnostic purposes among some highland Chinantecs. Economic Botany, 30(3), 235248.

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  • Ruck, C. A. P., Hoffman, M. A., & Estren, M. J. (2013). Entheogens myth & human consciousness (1st ed.). Ronin Pub.

  • Ruck, C. A. P., Hoffman, M. A., & González Celdrán, J. A. (2011). Mushrooms, myth, and Mithras: The drug cult that civilized Europe. City Lights Books.

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  • Rush, J. (2011). The mushroom in Christian art: The identity of Jesus in the development of Christianity. North Atlantic Books.

  • * Safford, W. E. (1915). An Aztec narcotic. Journal of Heredity, 6, 291311.

  • Sahagún, F. B. de. (1530). Historia de las Cosas de la Nueva España. Ed. Alfa, México, D.F.

  • Samorini, G. (1998). “Mushroom-trees” in Christian art. Eleusis, 1, 87108.

  • * Samorini, G. (2012). Mushroom effigies in world archaeology: from rock art to mushroom-stones. The stone mushrooms of Thrace. EKATAIOS, Alexandroupoli, pp. 1644.

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  • Sanford, J. H. (1972). Japan's “laughing mushroom. Economic Botany, 26, 174181.

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  • * Torres, C. M. (2019). The use of psychoactive plants by ancient indigenous populations of the North Andes. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 3(2), 198211.

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  • * Trutmann, P. (2012). The forgotten mushrooms of ancient Peru. Lima, Peru: Global Mountain Action.

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  • Wasson, R. G. (1968). Soma: Divine mushroom of immortality. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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The author instruction is available in PDF.
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Editor-in-Chief:

Attila Szabo - University of Oslo

E-mail address: attilasci@gmail.com

Managing Editor:

Zsófia Földvári, Oslo University Hospital

 

Associate Editors:

  • Alan K. Davis - The Ohio State University & Johns Hopkins University, USA
  • Zsolt Demetrovics - Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
  • Ede Frecska, founding Editor-in-Chief - University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary
  • David Luke - University of Greenwich, London, UK
  • Dennis J. McKenna- Heffter Research Institute, St. Paul, USA
  • Jeremy Narby - Swiss NGO Nouvelle Planète, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Stephen Szára - Retired from National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, USA
  • Enzo Tagliazucchi - Latin American Brain Health Institute, Santiago, Chile, and University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Michael Winkelman - Retired from Arizona State University, Tempe, USA 

Book Reviews Editor:

Michael Winkelman - Retired from Arizona State University, Tempe, USA

Editorial Board

  • Gábor Andrássy - University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary
  • Paulo Barbosa - State University of Santa Cruz, Bahia, Brazil
  • Michael Bogenschutz - New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
  • Petra Bokor - University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary
  • Jose Bouso - Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • Zoltán Brys - Multidisciplinary Soc. for the Research of Psychedelics, Budapest, Hungary
  • Susana Bustos - California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco, USA
  • Robin Carhart-Harris - Imperial College, London, UK
  • Per Carlbring - Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Valerie Curran - University College London, London, UK
  • Alicia Danforth - Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, USA
  • Rick Doblin - Boston, USA
  • Rafael G. dos Santos - University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Genis Ona Esteve - Rovira i Virgili University, Spain
  • Silvia Fernandez-Campos
  • Zsófia Földvári - Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
  • Andrew Gallimore - University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • Neal Goldsmith - private practice, New York, NY, USA
  • Charles Grob - Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Stanislav Grof - California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Karen Grue - private practice, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jiri Horacek - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Lajos Horváth - University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary
  • Robert Jesse - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Matthew Johnson - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Eli Kolp - Kolp Institute New, Port Richey, FL, USA
  • Stanley Krippner - Saybrook University, Oakland, CA, USA
  • Evgeny Krupitsky - St. Petersburg State Pavlov Medical University, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Rafael Lancelotta - Innate Path, Lakewood, CO, USA
  • Anja Loizaga-Velder - National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
  • Luis Luna - Wasiwaska Research Center, Florianópolis, Brazil
  • Katherine MacClean - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Deborah Mash - University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, USA
  • Friedericke Meckel - private practice, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Ralph Metzner - California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Michael Mithoefer - private practice, Charleston, SC, USA
  • Levente Móró - University of Turku, Turku, Finland
  • David Nichols - Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA
  • David Nutt - Imperial College, London, UK
  • Torsten Passie - Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany
  • Janis Phelps - California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • József Rácz - Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
  • Christian Rätsch - University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Sidarta Ribeiro - Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil
  • William Richards - Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Stephen Ross - New York University, New York, NY, USA
  • Brian Rush - University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  • Eduardo Schenberg - Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Ben Sessa - Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  • Lowan H. Stewart - Santa Fe Ketamine Clinic, NM, USA (Medical Director)
  • Rebecca Stone - Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • Rick Strassman - University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM, USA
  • Csaba Szummer - Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church, Budapest, Hungary
  • Manuel Torres - Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA
  • Luís Fernando Tófoli - University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil State
  • Malin Uthaug - Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Julian Vayne - Norwich, UK
  • Nikki Wyrd - Norwich, UK

Attila Szabo
University of Oslo

E-mail address: attilasci@gmail.com

Indexing and Abstracting Services:

  • Web of Science ESCI
  • Biological Abstracts
  • BIOSIS Previews
  • APA PsycInfo
  • DOAJ
  • Scopus
  • CABELLS Journalytics

2022  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
226
Journal Impact Factor 4.5
Rank by Impact Factor

n/a

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
4.1
5 Year
Impact Factor
n/a
Journal Citation Indicator 0.97
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

Pharmacology & Pharmacy 91/362
Psychiatry 69/264

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
5
Scimago
Journal Rank
0.416
Scimago Quartile Score

Anthropology Q1
Biological Psychiatry Q4
Clinical Psychology Q3
Health (social science) Q3
Pharmacology Q3
Psychiatry and Mental Health Q3
Social Psychology Q3

Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
4.2
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Anthropology 31/468 (93rd PCTL)
Health (social science) 78/344 (77th PCTL)
Social Psychology 96/292 (70th PCTL)
Clinical Psychology 96/292 (67th PCTL)
Psychiatry and Mental Health 219/531 (58th PCTL)
Pharmacology (medical) 115/260 (55th PCTL)
Biological Psychiatry 30/47 (37th PCTL)
Scopus
SNIP
0.627

2021  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
not indexed
Journal Impact Factor not indexed
Rank by Impact Factor

not indexed

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
not indexed
5 Year
Impact Factor
not indexed
Journal Citation Indicator not indexed
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

not indexed

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
2
Scimago
Journal Rank
not yet available
Scimago Quartile Score Anthropology (Q3)
Biological Psychiatry (Q4)
Clinical Psychology (Q4)
Health (social science) (Q4)
Pharmacology (medical) (Q4)
Psychiatry and Mental Health (Q4)
Social Psychology (Q4)
Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
0,9
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Anthropology 186/443 (Q2)
Health (social science) 234/323 (Q3)
Clinical Psychology 213/292 (Q3)
Pharmacology (medical) 190/255 (Q3)
Psychiatry and Mental Health 419/529 (Q4)
Social Psychology 243/296 (Q4)
Biological Psychiatry 38/43 (Q4)
Scopus
SNIP
0,381

2020  
CrossRef Documents 8
WoS Cites 37
WoS H-index 4
Days from submission to acceptance 95
Days from acceptance to publication 75
Acceptance Rate 41%

2019  
WoS
Cites
11
CrossRef
Documents
35
Acceptance
Rate
77%

 

Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Publication Model Gold Open Access
Submission Fee none
Article Processing Charge €990
Subscription Information Gold Open Access
Regional discounts on country of the funding agency World Bank Lower-middle-income economies: 50%
World Bank Low-income economies: 100%
Further Discounts Corresponding authors, affiliated to an EISZ member institution subscribing to the journal package of Akadémiai Kiadó: 100%. 
   

Journal of Psychedelic Studies
Language English
Size A4
Year of
Foundation
2016
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
3
Founder Akadémiai Kiadó
Debreceni Egyetem
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem
Károli Gáspár Református Egyetem
Founder's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
H-4032 Debrecen, Hungary Egyetem tér 1.
H-1053 Budapest, Hungary Egyetem tér 1-3.
H-1091 Budapest, Hungary Kálvin tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 2559-9283 (Online)

Monthly Content Usage

Abstract Views Full Text Views PDF Downloads
Dec 2023 0 0 0
Jan 2024 0 0 0
Feb 2024 0 4652 4892
Mar 2024 0 1242 1093
Apr 2024 0 759 633
May 2024 0 762 627
Jun 2024 0 0 0