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Psilocybin and Indigenous Cultures

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

Archaeologists have discovered evidence in the form of stone murals that Saharan aboriginal tribes of North Africa have likely been using mushrooms since around 9000 BC. Furthermore, rock paintings in Spain created about 6000 years ago suggest that the mushroom, Psilocybe hispanica, was used during certain religious rituals near Villar del Humo.


Comparatively recent to the deep, bordering on paleolithic history of tribal use, the ancient Greeks also consumed psychoactive substances, an interesting parallel between perhaps the most sophisticated, philosophical ancient culture, and the modern world, is the utilization of psychoactive substances.

The use of Psilocybin by ancient cultures is not confined to the cradle of civilization, or even the eurasian continent. Native American cultures had symbols, statues, and paintings which indicate that they consumed psilocybin mushrooms during religious rituals, as a way to communicate with deities.


The Aztecs referred to these psychoactive mushrooms as “teonanácat,” or “flesh of the gods”. Other tribes originating in Central America such as the Nahua, Mazatec, Mixtec, and Zapatec were also involved in the use of mushrooms for similar ceremonial purposes.


This primeval practice changed drastically when the devoutly Catholic Spanish conquered the Southern Americas. Rituals involving magic mushrooms were declared satanic and heretic, and viewed as a danger to the supremacy of the Catholic Church. This is not a far cry from the fears of the "establishment" systems of today.


Indigenous peoples began to hide their sacred rituals causing the use of psilocybin mushrooms to become an underground practice of their culture. Thankfully, they have not disappeared entirely, and are still utilized by many indigenous groups in Mexico today.


It wasn’t until the late 1950's that Western civilizations were introduced to psilocybin. Two amateur mycologists, R. Gordon Wasson and Roger Heim, were on vacation in the Mazatec region of Mexico, when they met an indigenous tribe using psilocybin mushrooms. They participated, along with legendary shaman Maria Sabina, in ritual ceremonies that affected them so proufoundly they wrote an expose titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” which was published in Life magazine.


Upon departing they requested samples of the mushrooms, which they sent to Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist famous for discovering LSD. Hoffman was able to extract and identify the two tryptamine compounds (psilocybin and psilocin) inside the mushrooms, and begin to examine the pharmacology behind these molecules.


By the 1960's the exponential expansion of knowledge concerning Psilocybin mushrooms had spread all over America, and had such a powerful impact on American society that it became a symbol for the counter-culture movement.


Today, psilocybin is becoming increasingly more accepted and researched, in spite of their classification by the Canadian Government as a schedule 3 substance. Even the "mainstream"media has started to publish mainstream articles about their benefits


(NY Times Article)


In the following years, we can expect exponentially more attention focused on both the history of Psilocybin, and clinical studies proving the powerful, spiritual, and healing effects of consuming it.

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