Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mushroom Mythology 1

  I am of the opinion that the use of the sacred hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria developed on Atlantis, moved east and west, and later elaborated into alternate versions focusing on Psilocybin (in the New world) and the Cow's dung mushroom (In the Old world): and I am not alone in this theory because Gordon Wasson himself spoke of the possibility of the cult's originating on a North Atlantic Land bridge in the Latest Ice Age, the Cro-Magnon period.
                                    R. Gordon Wasson  1898 – 1986  
            (Photo from Life Magazine,  the replica mushroom stone is a gift from my father)
 For a comprehensive treatment of the role of mushrooms in world history, see Mushrooms, Russia and History by Valentina P. Wasson and Robert G. Wasson, eds. N.T. 1957
  Archaeologist Michael D. Coe...
   "I do not exactly remember when I first met Gordon Wasson, but it must have been in the early 1970's. He was already a legendary figure to me, for I had heard much of him from the equally legendary and decidedly colorful Steve Borhegyi, director of the Milwaukee Public Museum before his untimely death. Steve, who claimed to be a Hungarian count and dressed like a Mississippi riverboat gambler, was a remarkable fine and imaginative archaeologist who had supplied much of the Mesoamerican data for Gordon and Valentina Wasson's Mushrooms, Russia and History, particularly on the enigmatic "mushroom stones" of the Guatemala highlands. His collaboration with the Wassons proved even to the most skeptical that there had been a sort of ritual among the highland Maya during the Late Formative period involving hallucinogenic mushrooms"
 (from the book; The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: tributes to R. Gordon Wasson, 1990 p.43)   

 Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest, the author's mother, retrieves a jaguar incense burner lid from the waters of Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala in 1957. Photo from her book  Ships, Shoals, and Amphoras, The story of Underwater Archaeology  (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, N.Y.,1960) 
                                    Forward by Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest, Ph.D.                                         
  Mesoamerican mushroom imagery first came to the attention of the modern world in the late 19th century when the German geographer Carl Sapper published a picture of an effigy mushroom stone from El Salvador in the journal Globus.(29 May 1898)  Sapper noted that the stone carving was “mushroom-shaped” but did not consider whether it actually represented a mushroom. This connection was supplied two months later by Daniel Brinton in an article in Science (29 July 1898) when he noted that “they (mushroom stones) resemble in shape mushrooms or toadstools, and why should not that be their intention?”  (Wasson, 1980: p.175). However difficult it was for scholars to accept the mushroom stones as representations of actual mushrooms, the case for their association with a psychogenic mushroom cult came in 1952 when R. Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna, came on the scene. Although neither of them were professional anthropologists--Wasson was a New York banker with the firm of J.P. Morgan, and an amateur mycologist; his wife, Valentina Pavlovna, a pediatrician--they were engaged in writing a book about the cross cultural role of mushrooms in history. In the course of their studies they learned of the existence of an entheogenic mushroom cult among the Mazatecs and Mixtec Indians in southern Mexico. They also found reports of the pre-Conquest use of “inebriating” mushrooms written by such prominent Spanish historians as the Dominican friar Diego Durán (1964, 225-6), Fray Bernardino de Sahagun (1947,:239, 247), and Motolinía ,(1858, Vol. I: 23),
The friars who reported the ceremonial use of psychogenic mushrooms were sparing with their words and inevitably condemnatory in their description of mushroom “intoxication.” They were, in fact,  repulsed by the apparent similarities of the mushroom ceremony to Christian communion.  Wasson and Pavlovna, however, read these reports with great interest. They were particularly excited when, In 1952, they learned that archaeologists working at the Maya site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City had found a tripod stone carving in the shape of a mushroom bearing the effigy of a jaguar on its base. Sure that it corroborated the existence of a PreColombian mushroom cult (Wasson and Wasson, 1980:75 -178), they consulted American Museum of Natural History archaeologist Gordon Ekholm.
The author’s father, Stephan de Borhegyi, became the intermediary in their investigations. A recent emigrant from Hungary with a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology and Egyptology from the Peter Paszmany University in Budapest, Borhegyi had been invited to Guatemala to study American archaeology by  the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Working under a grant provided by the then Viking Fund of New York (subsequently the Wenner Gren Foundation) his project was to catalog the extensive archaeological collections of the Guatemalan National Museum. In the course of this project he came across numerous unprovenanced small stone sculptures shaped like mushrooms which he described in correspondence with Ekholm. Ekholm put him and the Wassons in touch with one another. Shortly thereafter, the Wassons,  Borhegyi, and I, (his wife and the author’s mother, Suzanne), embarked on a trip through the Guatemalan highlands in search of evidence of an existing mushroom cult such as had been reported among the Mazatecs and Mixtecs of Mexico. No such cult was uncovered, but both the Wassons and the Borhegyis suspected that the lack of evidence might be explained by the extreme sacredness and sensitivity of the subject among the Maya Indians, coupled with an inadequate amount of time devoted to winning the confidence of their informants. Wasson did, however, find corroborating evidence of inebriating mushrooms in a number of Mayan word lists for the Cakchiquel linguistic area around Guatemala City (Wasson, 1980, pp. 181-182).
Following their sojourn in Guatemala, Wasson and Pavlovna went on to visit the remote village of Huautla de Jimenez in southern Oaxaca. Here they not only found evidence of an existing mushroom cult, but had the opportunity to participate in a mushroom ceremony conducted by a local curandera, Maria Sabina. The results of their research exploded into worldwide notoriety in 1955 with the publication of Wasson’s article entitled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom.” in the popular magazine LIFE   (May 13, 1957).  To Wasson's consternation, his description of the mushroom ritual reverberated through the hippie culture of the time. Seemingly overnight the little Oaxacan village was mobbed with thrill seekers—“hippies, self-styled psychiatrists, oddballs, even tour leaders with their docile flocks.” (Wasson, 1980, p. XVI). Wasson sent samples of the hallucinogenic mushroom to a pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland for analysis with the result that the active agent was both identified and made into synthetic pills. The era of widespread abuse of the psychedelic mushroom began with a vengeance that rocked society.
It is strange that, in the half century since Borhegyi published his first articles on Maya mushroom stones and proposed their use in connection with Maya psychogenic mushroom ceremonies, little attention has been paid to this intriguing line of research. I propose that the oversight is related to the worldview classification scheme established by Wasson, in which he distinguished between peoples and cultures that liked mushrooms (mycophiles) and those that feared them (mycophobes) (Wasson, 1980: XV). This classification might be extended to include all psychogenic or mind-altering substances with the exception of alcohol. Their use in the Western world is considered to be objectionable, immoral and, for the most part, illegal. In any event, it is clear that, while the Pre Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica were decidedly mycophilic, the majority of archaeologists who have studied them are mycophobes. The result has been that their possible centrality to ancient Mesoamerican religious rituals has been either overlooked or, at best, barely acknowledged (Martin and Grube, 2000:15; Coe, 1999: 70; Sharer, 1994: 542, 683).
There may, however, be another, more immediate, reason for this neglect. That, I believe, is the memory of the very unsettling period in our recent history when too many individuals, most of them young people, “tripped out” on a variety of psychedelic substances, and in too many cases harmed themselves in the process. While neither Steve nor I ever took the sacred mushroom. Our son, Carl (without my knowledge I might add), did experiment with the mushroom during his student years in the late 1970s at Southwestern Michigan College and the early 1980s at the University of Wisconsin. This enables him to speak from experience of the mushroom’s awe-inspiring effect on the mind and body. He is quick to say that he would not repeat the experiment today, but he does not deny the obvious—that one has to have experienced the “magic” effects of the mushroom to truly comprehend the mushroom experience. Quoting from Daniel Breslaw’s book Mushrooms, “a smudge on the wall is an object of limitless fascination, multiplying in size, complexity, and color,” (1961).  It is our sincere hope that, by calling for a new, and much needed, look at the role of  psychogenic mushrooms in PreColumbian art and ideology, we will not inadvertently encourage a new wave of thrill-seeking experimentation with the mushroom and its derivatives. It should be possible to engage in the former, without provoking the latter.
[1] Entheogen, meaning “God within us” is the preferred term for those plant substances that, when ingested, give one a divine experience.  This semantic distinction distinguishes their role in the early history of religions from their abuse and vulgarization by the “hippie” sub-culture of the l960's and 1970s.   


Now thoroughly intrigued by this introduction to archaeological research (I had majored in physical education at the University of Wisconsin),  I Joined the Maya Society of Minnesota in order  to attend their lectures and workshops in Maya archaeology. Assisting with their lecture programs as a board member, I met with many of the visiting archaeologists and shared ideas with them. In the fall of 2004 I enrolled in a course entitled "Topics in Maya archaeology"  at Hamline University. My assignments in that class introduced me to the online research site  FAMSI  (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc). Here I discovered Justin Kerr's remarkable compilation and data base of roll-out photographs of Mesoamerican ceramic figurines and Maya vase paintings. It was this site, above all, that permitted me to make the detailed study of Mesoamerican visual art. This task was  immensely facilitated by new photographic technology, the computer, and my ability to access the Kerr database on my home computer, all modern day miracles unavailable to earlier researchers. As a result of this study and solid evidence from other scholars,  I have been able to expand this subject far beyond my father's pioneering efforts.
 I found no mention of images of mushroom stones, pottery mushrooms, or images of actual mushrooms in Kerr’s extensive index. However, after hours of examining hundreds of Maya vase paintings, I discovered a significant amount of mushroom imagery, both realistic and abstract, of both the.Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric mushroom, and the better known hallucinogenic Psilocybin mushroom.  It was easy to understand, however, why the imagery had not been noted earlier. On many vases the images of mushrooms, or images related to mushrooms, were so abstract, and so intricately interwoven with other complex and colorful elements of Mesoamerican mythology and iconography, that they were, I believe, quite deliberately  "hidden in plain sight," in an effort to conceal  this sacred information from the  eyes of the uninitiated.

  Much of the mushroom imagery I discovered was associated with an artistic concept I refer to as jaguar transformation. Under the influence of the hallucinogen,  the "bemushroomed" acquires feline fangs and often other attributes of the jaguar, emulating the Sun God in the Underworld. This esoteric association of mushrooms and jaguar transformation was earlier noted by Peter Furst,  together with the fact that a dictionary of the Cakchiquel Maya language compiled circa1699 lists a mushroom called "jaguar ear" (1976:78, 80) .
  Many of the images involved rituals of self-sacrifice and decapitation in the Underworld, alluding to the sun's nightly death and subsequent resurrection from the Underworld by a pair of deities associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. This dualistic aspect of Venus is why Venus was venerated as both a God of Life and Death.  It was said that (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p.184), they [the Quiche] gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day referring to Venus as the Morning star.
 Mushrooms were so closely associated with death and underworld jaguar transformation and Venus resurrection that I conclude that they must have been believed to be the vehicle through which both occurred. They are also so closely associated with ritual decapitation, that their ingestion may have been considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld. It is also important to note that in many cases the mushroom images appeared to be associated with period endings in the Maya calendar. 
 I have also found evidence supporting the proposition that Mesoamerica, the high cultures of South America, and Easter Island shared, along with many other New World cultures, elements of a Pan American belief system so ancient that many of the ideas may have come from Asia to the New World with the first human settlers.  I believe the key to this entire belief system lies, as proposed by R. Gordon Wasson, in early man's discovery of the mind-altering effects of various hallucinatory substances. The accidental ingestion of these hallucinogenic substances could very well have provided the spark that lifted the mind and imagination of these early humans above and beyond the mundane level of daily existence to contemplation of another reality.
My studies have also led me conclude that all variants of the Toltec/Aztec gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, and their Classic Maya counterparts, Kukulcan, K´awil and Chac, though they may have different names and be associated with somewhat different attributes in different culture areas, are linked to the planet Venus through divine rulership, lineage and descent.  In Mesoamerica they are also linked with warfare.  Maya inscriptions tell us that the movement of the planet Venus and its position in the sky was a determining factor for waging a special kind of warfare known as Tlaloc warfare or Venus "Star Wars." These wars, waged against neighboring city-states for the express purpose of taking captives for sacrifice to the gods, thus constituted a form of divinely-sanctioned "holy" war. 
  Admittedly I have bypassed the traditional route of doctoral studies in New World archaeology, art history, and religion.  It should be noted, however,  that I am far from the first layman to make some significant contributions to Mesoamerican scholarship. The important contributions to our understanding of Maya glyphic writing by the late Soviet lay scholar, Yuri Knorosov, come immediately to mind. It is, in fact, in partial tribute to him and to his “discoverer,” Maya archaeologist, Michael D. Coe, that I have titled my book “Breaking the Mushroom Code.” (See Coe, Breaking the Maya Code, 1992)  With that said, I can now present what I consider to be indisputable visual evidence of the many metaphorical relationships to mushrooms that  I discovered  within the Mesoamerican religious iconography depicted on sculptures, murals, codices, and vase paintings.

 While I may be the first to call attention to this encoded mushroom imagery, these images can be viewed and studied with ease on such internet sites as Justin Kerr's Maya Vase Data Base and F.A.M.S.I. ( Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc).  
  In summary, the mushroom inspired images I have presented to this point (see Home Page and Soma in the Americas), most of which are cleverly encoded by the artist, are just a few of the many images I found that clearly  represent mushrooms and mushroom worship. Mushroom imagery occurred with such frequency and in such indisputably religious context that there can be no doubt as to their importance in the development and practice of indigenous religion.  In these pages, and those thart follow,  I demonstrate how and why I reached these conclusions by leading my readers through many of the mushroom-related images, most notably of the Amanita muscaria mushroom,  that I  found encoded in Mesoamerican art.  By so doing I hope to correct a lamentable gap in our knowledge and understanding of the past.
  Nine of the ten Preclassic mushroom stones depicted above were found in a cache along with nine miniature metates at the highland Maya archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City. The contents of the cache were dated at 1000-500 B.C.  The tall jaguar mushroom stone on the left was excavated separately at Kaminaljuyu. I would speculate that the designs on the stems of the two mushroom stones on the far left is an esoteric symbol referring to movement (ollin?) indicating the mushroom's esoteric role as a portal of up or down, esoteric so to speak for Underworld jaguar transformation and divine Venus resurrection.
In describing the contents of the Kaminaljuyu cache, Borhegyi wrote;
  "The cache of nine miniature mushroom stones {depicted above} demonstrates considerable antiquity for the "mushroom-stone cult," and suggests a possible association with the nine lords of the night and gods of the underworld, as well as the possible existence of a nine-day cycle and nocturnal count in Preclassic times. The association of the miniature mushroom stones with the miniature metates and manos greatly strengthens the possibility that at least in some areas in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica metates were used to grind the sacred hallucinatory mushrooms to prepare them for ceremonial consumption." (Borhegyi 1961: 498-504)
  Borhegyi's studies revealed that mushroom stones first appeared in the Preclassic period in the highlands of Guatemala and at sites along the Pacific slope.  In 1957  he published a typological breakdown of mushroom stones according to their chronology and distribution (Wasson and Wasson, 1957) noting that the mushroom stones from the lower altitudes were of the late type and either plain or tripod. While mushroom stones are absent from the Classic period, he believed that they may have been re-introduced to Guatemala and El Salvador in the Post Classic period by the Pipils, another group like the "Tajinized Nonoalca", or Olmeca-Xicallanca  from the Mexican gulf Coast. He postulated that they may have represented a secondary manifestation of the original idea (Borhegyi to Wasson, June 14th 1953). Mushroom stones that carry an effigy, like the ones depicted above of a human (god?), bird, jaguar, toad and other animals,occurred earlier in time and have been mostly found at the higher elevations of the Guatemala Highlands. This is an area of woodlands and pine forests where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance. It  is more than likely, therefore, that this mushroom was the inspiration or model for the earliest mushroom stone carvings. The Amanita muscaria mushroom contains muscarine and ibotenic acid, the substances that cause the powerful psychoactive effects.
There are numerous historical reports that link mushroom consumption to such self-sacrificial religious activities as blood letting and penis perforation. In the latter ritual, blood was drawn from the penis and sprinkled upon the remains (cremated ashes or exhumed bones and most likely skulls) of deceased ancestors. The resurrection ritual was probably timed astronomically to the period of inferior conjunction of the planet Venus. At this time Venus sinks below the horizon and disappears into the "underworld"   for eight days. It then rises before the sun, thereby appearing to resurrect the sun from the underworld as the Morning Star. For this reason mushroom induced bloodletting rituals were likely performed in caves, which I suspect was timed to a ritual calendar linked to the movements of the planet Venus as both a Morning Star and Evening Star. The mushroom experience, as well as caves and ballcourts were believed to be entrances or portals into the underworld.
The ritual calendar was synchronized to the cycles of Venus because of the planets interaction and synchronization with Earth’s orbital period of 365-days. Venus’s orbit around the sun takes only 225 days, but when Venus is viewed from Earth, from Morning Star to Morning Star, her full synodic cycle, takes 584 days. Five of these full synodic cycles from Morningstar to Morningstar equals eight solar years to the day in which we see Venus rise in the same spot every eight Earth years. With the knowledge of predicting Morning Star appearances for centuries to come calendar priests and rulers would be revered for having the powers of resurrection which gave rise to the priesthood. It was a divine system for measuring time and calendar priests were able to predict exact dates for solstices and eclipses.
Cave ritualism on an elite level is evident as early as 1000 B.C. at the Olmec influenced site of Chalcatzingo, near the Valley of Mexico (Pasztory, 1997:90).  Archaeologist  Brent Woodfil and Jon Spenard (personal communication with both archaeologists) found ceramic mushroom pots in the Candelaria cave system in the San Francisco Hills near the lowland Maya site of Cancuén, Petén, Guatemala (Spenard, M.A thesis, 2006). The caves investigated in the south region of the Guatemalan Highlands include Saber, CHOC-05, Ocox, and Cabeza de Tepezquintle. According to Spenard, "Ocox is a canyon-like system that runs through a large hill with a rock shelter component at its northern-most extent....Ocox is a Q'eqchi Mayan word for mushroom, a reference to the large quantity of mushrooms that are growing from the floor of the rock shelter."  These sacred caves may have been believed to be either the legendary Chicomoztoc, the name given for the place of mythical origin of the ancient Mayas, Toltec and Aztecs, or a place revered locally as a "place of emergence." (Woodfill,2002. Spenard, personal communication, 2011).  According to Dennis Tedlock (1985 p.326) the patron god Auilix who I speculate represents a mushroom god, was given to Jaguar Night, at the mountain of the Seven Caves and taken to "the great canyon in the forest" (P.V. Tedlock p.178) to a location that came to be named Pauilix, literally "At Auilix".  According to Miller and Taube, (1993:136) the four founders of the Quiche lineages,  "journeyed to Tulan Zuyua, the mountain of the seven caves, and there they received the gods, whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs....Balam Quitze received Tohil, who gave humans fire, but only after human sacrifice to him had begun."  Could these "gods" that could be carried in a back pack possibly have been mushrooms, or mushroom stones?
Patron deities could appear in human form, but were also represented in art as a sacred bundle (see representations of K’awil at Palenque). The Maya god K’awil's image as a royal scepter is frequently depicted in the hands of the supreme ruler or High Priest and the god K'awil has been identified by scholars as the Quiche Maya counterpart of the god Tohil.
According to the Popol Vuh, the migration of the Quiché tribes was led under the spiritual “guidance” of Tohil, their patron deity. Like the Itzas, the Quiche people also believed that they were led by Lord Plumed Serpent from Tollan /Tula. He led his people eastward to the “land of writing” to a sacred mountain top citadel called Bearded Place, and it was there that the Quiche people settled down to live. This brave leader was described as a bearded white man “whose face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons” as described on page 205 by Tedlock (Tedlock: 1985: 205. 213). 
 There is ample evidence that the mushroom stone cult lasted well into the Colonial Era.  In 1554 it was reported as a symbol of dynastic power in the Maya Quiche document entitled "El Titulo de Totonicapan" (Land Title of Totonicapan) 
"  The lords used these symbols of rule, which came from where the sun rises, to pierce and cut up their bodies (for the blood sacrifice). There were nine mushroom stones for the Ajpop and the Ajpop Q'amja, and in each case four, three, two, and one staffs with the Quetzal's feathers and green feathers, together with garlands, the Chalchihuites precious stones, with the sagging lower jaw and the bundle of fire for the Temezcal steam bath." 
The Annals of the Cakchiquels,  (1953:82-83), records: “At that time, too, they began to worship the devil.  Each seven days, each 13 days, they offered him sacrifices, placing before him fresh resin, green branches, and fresh bark of the trees, and burning before him a small cat, image of the night.  They took him also the mushrooms, which grow at the foot of the trees, and they drew blood from their ears.”
“The Cakchiquel version therefore also connects mushrooms with ceremonial offerings to the gods.  This mushroom, I think is our anacate (mushroom), if it grows at the foot or on the tree”.
“Both the Quiché and Cakchiquel people presumably arrived in Guatemala around 1100 or 1200 A.D.  At that time, however, the mushroom stones were no longer in use.  The confusing picture is now that here we have definite literary evidence of the mushroom cult practiced in a period when mushroom stones were no longer in use.  On the other hand, we have the archaeological evidence of the use of mushroom stones, prior to 1200 A.D., without any literary evidence that they were connected with a mushroom cult.  Unfortunately, we do not know what the stone idols of Tohil, and Avilix looked like. Tohil is also referred to in the Annals as Gucumatz, which is “feathered serpent” and we might assume that he was so represented.  What type of god Avilix was is still a question (It would be more than pleasant to think of him as a mushroom God!)  I think they prove beyond any doubt that at least some sort of a mushroom cult must have existed among the Quiché and Cakchiquel Mayas.  As you remember, these are the regions from where we got the most satisfactory linguistic information.  It would seem, therefore, that even if a mushroom cult is not in existence today among these two groups, it was in evidence 300 years before the conquest.”
   As Ever, Steve
  In another letter to Wasson, Borhegyi writes that Tohil is a Quiché variant of Quetzalcoatl but  the meaning of the word Avilix is still unknown. (June 6, 1954, ép.2)  However, while searching in Gate's Dictionary of Maya Glyphs, I found that the Quiché word avix is a verb meaning to sow or plant a milpa-field or garden. (Gates, 1978, p.54)  Could the name Avilix then, possibly refer to the Maize God? 
   Late Classic Maya Vase K1185, (600-900 C.E.) This cylindrical vase in roll out form is from the Nakbe Region in Guatemala. The Maya scribe on the left holding a paint stylus in one hand  and shell pot in the other, has an elongated head, reminiscent of the Maya Maize God. As a headdress he wears what appears to be an abstract bearded serpent with bifurcated tongue.  A closer look however, reveals that the scribe also has a mushroom encoded into his headdress. This encoded mushroom may be an esoteric reference to an elite school of calendar priests who were skilled in prophecy and divination.

Maya centers were ruled by a priestly caste whose duties seem to have been obsessively concerned with astronomical observations and mathematical calculations. Maya calendar priests were typically known throughout Middle America as the "enlightened ones." The Aztecs attributed this divine enlightenment to a single god named Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, who was the legendary leader of the Toltec empire.  In the 16th century Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun recorded in his Florentine Codex, a multi-volume compilation of priceless Mexica ethnographic information, that the Toltecs were, above all: "thinkers for they originated the year count, the day count; they established the way in which the night, the day, would work; which sign was good, favorable; and which was evil, the day sign of wild beasts. All their discoveries formed the book for interpreting dreams." 
 Above is an abstract scene from a Late Classic Maya drinking vessel, depicting a Maya ruler or priest wearing a jaguar headdress and holding what appears to be a ceremonial plate with an Amanita muscaria mushroom. 

 The Precolumbian figurine above from Central Mexico very likely depicts the Aztec god  Xochipilli, whose name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, means "Prince of Flowers."  Also known as Macuilxochitl, meaning "five flowers", this figurine holds what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom in each hand. The Aztecs always referred to mushrooms as flowers. Flowers symbolize a state of the soul on its journey to full godhood and was called "the flower that makes us drunk" (Nicholson 1967, p.90).  Xochipilli was most likely the patron deity of the sacred hallucinogenic plants and the "flowery dream". The headdress of this figurine contains two adornments of five plumes each--a probable reference to what scholars call the "fiveness" of Venus, referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex.
 Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran writes that war was called xochiyaoyotl, which means "Flowery War".  Death to those who died in battle was called xochimiquiztli,  meaning "Flowery Death" or "Blissful Death" or "Fortunate Death". 
  The late ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson identified the iconography on the left as an Aztec symbol representing sacred mushrooms. The symbol depicting mushrooms in profile is from the Aztec
statue of Xochipilli.  The ballgame palmate stone K3006, or palma, on the right may have been carved to be a trophy, given to the losing ballplayer destined for sacrificial decapitation in the underworld, known as “the place of ballgame sacrifice”. This exquisitely carved palmate stone reminds
me of my favorite song "Stairway to Heaven", in which the 13 stairs encoded in the ballplayers headdress is a Maya metaphor for the 13 levels of the upper world in Maya mythology, that ultimately lead to divine immortality, depicted esoterically by a stylized mushroom at the top of the stairs.

Spanish chronicler Fray Sahagun, who was the first to report mushroom rituals among the Aztecs, also suggested that the Chichimecs and Toltecs consumed the hallucinogen peyote before battle to enhance bravery and strength (Furst 1972, p.12)Hallucinogens taken before battle likely eliminated all sense of fear, hunger, and thirst, and gave the combatant a sense of invincibility and courage to fight at the wildest levels. "This drunkenness lasted two or three days, then vanished"  (Thomas, 1993, p.508). 
  Linking mushrooms and warfare with Venus worship, Susan Milbrath, an expert in Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, writes that the Morning Star aspect of the planet Venus had an especially warlike nature during the dry season (Milbrath 1999, p.216-217)
    Above are a pair of mushroomic-looking vessel lids from the Justin Kerr Data Base, K3108. They may  represent peccaries or may in fact depict wolves undergoing the mushroom's transformative effects. Height 12.7 cm.
 In a facinating article about the Huichol's esoteric practice of "Wolf-shamanism" posted online by researcher Mark Hoffman, 3-27-02, titled Huichol Wolf Shamanism and A. muscaria,
 Hoffman writes,
"The best evidence of the ritual use of A. muscaria among the Huichol Wolves was recorded in remarkable detail by Susana Valadez whose informant, Ulu Temay, from San Andrés Cohamiata, Jalisco, came from a long line of Wolf-shamans. He specifically describes the fly agaric as wolf-peyote and gives us a revealing glimpse into the secret religion of the Wolf-people as well as the prolonged initiation process required of them".
   According to Hoffman, when asked if the Wolves use peyote to stimulate their reputed ability to communicate telepathically, Temay answered,
“No, they do not eat peyote. They eat their own plants that make them feel as though they had eaten peyote. They bring mushrooms which they eat. This is a red mushroom with white spots. They use these mushrooms in all of their ceremonies.” 
                Amanita muscaria
                                            Amanita muscaria (Image: Geoffrey Kibby)             
 In the course of my studies I not only found mushroom-related symbolism throughout Mesoamerica, but also in the art of the Inca, Mochica, Chavin, Chimu, and Paracas cultures of South America, and in the Rapa Nui civilization of Easter Island.  Peter Furst (1976, p.80-82)  writes that similar religious concepts of the Olmecs and Maya existed in South America. He has identified mushrooms and mushroom headdresses on Moche ceramic vase paintings (200-700 A.D.) such as those I found on the portrait vessels below.
Above are pre-Columbian ceramics called Moche portrait vessels, from Peru wearing headdresses encoded with the Amanita muscaria mushroom imagery. The Moche culture reigned on the north coast of Peru during the years 100-600 A.D.
  Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst...
 "Little is known of the pre-Hispanic mushroom use in South America, with the single exception of an early Jesuit report from Peru that the Yurimagua Indeans, who have since become extinct, intoxicated themselves with a mushroom that was vaguely described as a "tree fungus" (Furst, 1976 p.82).
  Above is a gold and copper figurine from South America, Quimbaya culture (A.D. 900-1200) of  Andean Columbia, holding what I would argue (based on the size and shape) are Amanita muscaria mushrooms in both hands.   
                                                   The painted textile above is from the Chimu culture of Peru, 1000-1400 A.D.  It depicts a figure standing above, with feet between what I believe is an Amanita muscaria mushroom, judging by the mushroom’s size. The fanged figure is accompanied by two jaguars, encoded with the spots alluding to the Amanita muscaria mushroom. They symbolize the underworld journey of the deceased and the effect of the mushroom as jaguar transformation.  Under the influence of the hallucinogen, the “bemushroomed” acquires feline fangs and often other attributes of the jaguar, emulating the Sun God in his journey into the Underworld. This esoteric association of mushrooms and jaguar transformation was earlier noted by ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst (1976:78, 80)The twin jaguars symbolize sacrifice and death in the Underworld, associated with the planet Venus as an Evening Star, while the twin birds symbolize the heavens and divine resurrection from the Underworld as Venus, the Morning Star.  
Images like the one above with encoded mushroom and Venus imagery generally depict rituals of self-sacrifice and decapitation in the Underworld, alluding to the sun’s nightly death and subsequent resurrection from the Underworld by a pair of deities associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. This dualistic aspect of Venus is why Venus was venerated as both a God of Life and Death.  It was said that (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p.184), they [the Quiche Maya] gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day referring to Venus as the Morning star. Note that the figure above has a stylized mushroom-shaped axe encoded into his headdress. This I believe is code for ritual decapitation, and that the three-step design or icon on either side of the mushroom inspired axe alludes to the mushroom journey into the Underworld. In Mesoamerica this icon represents a ballcourt, and the ball court was thought of as the entrance to the Underworld. The three-step design, therefore, came to symbolize descent into the Underworld. The mushroom-shaped axe I believe is a metaphor or code for Mushroom-Venus resurrection, via the ritual of decapitation in the Underworld.
   It is reasonable that a belief in the redemptive power and divinity of hallucinatory mushrooms could have spread from one culture to another. The first mushroom cult, identified by its powerful artistic expression of the were-jaguar, dominated Olmec culture as early as 1500 B.C.  As early as 850 B.C. a were-jaguar cult begins to appear in South America, identified in the religious art of the Chavin and Paracas cultures of Peru. B.C.                                 

   Hammered and Embossed God Laminate Headdress, c.100 B.C. – 300 A.D. with encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom imagery Possibly Nazca culture; South Coast, Peru
Gold; 12 ¾ in. x 19 in.

   The gold plaque from the south coast of Peru, Nazca culture, pictured above was found in a Nazca grave and has been identified as a representation of the Sun God.  A closer look however reveals that this bearded weeping god with goggled eyes is a South American version of the Mesoamerican creator god Quetzalcoatl.  Moreover, rather than the Sun, it represents the twin aspects of the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening Star. Note that the twin posts that emerge from the top of the head may be stylized mushrooms surmounted by twin birds.  Attributes of the god Quetzalcoatl depicted in the gold plaque include his beard, his weeping eyes, and serpents, which on this  plaque emerge from his head.  The twin birds are likely associated with the resurrection of the Morning Star.  Imagery of  Venus, Weeping Gods and were-jaguars can also be found on remote Easter Island.

    (copyright image of the gold plaque is from the book South American Mythology, by Harold Osbourn Chancellor Press, Revised edition 1983)


    Above is one of the  giant Easter Island statues, called Moai, which looks like a sacred mushroom was encoded into the head and nose.  If the Venus/mushroom cult of Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc did reach Easter Island, it would have been introduced by seafarers from the American mainland or by trans-Pacific contact from India or southeast Asia.  If it comes from the Americas then the encoded mushroom might also represent the T-shaped symbol ik, a sacred day in the Mayan calendar meaning wind, breath, and spirit, all attributes connected to the wind god Ehecatl/Quetzalcoatl.  In the Maya codices this T-shaped symbol is encoded as the eye of Chac, the Maya god of rain and lightning, who is also deeply connected with the underworld, decapitation, and the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus.  Chac may be equated with Kukulcan,  the Maya/Toltec version of the god Quetzalcoatl. The word k'ul, means "holy spirit" or "god", (Freidel, Schele, Parker, 1993 p. 177) and the word chan or kan means both serpent and sky.   

Above on the left is a bearded effigy mushroom stone from Guatemala, and on the right is a giant Moai statue from Easter Island.  To my knowledge I am the first to note the interesting fact that both the Maya mushroom stone and Moai statues share the same ear design.
Letter from Gordon Wasson, written to Stephan F. de Borhegyi, dated March 27, 1953:
"If I were to postulate the nature of a mushroom cult, it would be of an erotic or procreative character.  What I am about to say is only the most shadowy speculation, of course. Sahagun says that the narcotic mushroom Incita a la lujuria,--excites lust. He described the dancing scene where it is eaten,--Bacchanalic in suggestion.  A narcotic dulls the inhibitions. If the festival is in spring, as Reko says, this is additional evidence".
  Above, is an Ik glyph,  shaped at times to look like a mushroom. The Ik glyph, which is one of the most sacred symbols among the ancient Maya signifies wind, breath (breath=Life) and spirit.  Ik also represents a sacred day in the Mayan calendar that is linked to the birth of the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl as 9-Wind. The exact symbol can be found in the Old World, called the Tau Cross, representing a symbol of the god Mathras of the Persians and the Aryans of India. 
  Above on the left is an effigy Maya mushroom stone depicting the familiar Olmec snarl, and T-shaped Ik glyph encoded in the forehead and nose.

      The upper half of the symbol shown above has been identified by Mesoamerican scholars as a Venus glyph from the Maya area (Morley/Sharer, 1983, p.479). This glyph, which is linked to the color green (Yax), symbolizes underworld deification and underworld resurrection. Green is a color also associated with Quetzalcoatl, and designates a portal of  up and down to the center of the universe. (glyph from Coe 1993:183)
   I suggest that these drawings, from petroglyphs found on Easter Island, also symbolize Venus.
 The petroglyph drawing on the right was discovered by Lorenzo Dominguez (1901-1963).  When asked what it meant, the Easter Islanders replied that it represented "Make Make," their creator god. The petroglyph on the left was found during an expedition to Easter Island led by Thor Heyerdahl,   (  It appears to be a twin Venus symbol.   

                     AND GOD OF UNDERWORLD DECAPITATION                  

  The image above left represents the god Nine Wind, the Mixtec name for Quetzalcoatl. He is depicted  wearing his trademark conical hat. His headdress has five rays or points referring, according to archaeoastronomer Susan Milbrath, to the five synodic cycles of  Venus.   Quetzalcoatl, in his guise as the Wind God, carries an axe of ritual underworld decapitation.  He is depicted with fangs, identifying his transformation into the underworld jaguar.  On his breast he wears his trademark cross-cut conch shell breastplate, called the wind-jewel. Inside the shell we see the loop that I believe represents the symbol of the Quetzalcoatl religion. As the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus, Quetzalcoatl  follows the sun into the underworld and with the axe performs the ritual of underworld decapitation.
Above, on the right, the Mexican god Tlaloc, identified by his jaguar attributes and trademark goggled eyes, wields the axe of underworld decapitation. In this case Tlaloc is dressed in the guise of the underworld were-jaguar, attributes which refer to his descent into the underworld as the Evening Star. He carries a lightning bolt serpent staff with feline attributes in one hand, and in the other hand his ritual axe. These attributes identify him as the Evening star aspect of Venus and executioner of the underworld sun.  His double-headed serpent breast plate with feline attributes also links him with the underworld and the Evening Star. The double-headed serpent is directly associated with Quetzalcoatl and the planet Venus, and with the supreme God of Duality, called by the Aztecs, Ometeotl.
Among the Maya of Yucatan, the supreme creator god, known to scholars as God D, or Itzamna, is commonly represented as an old man with a serpentine eye, who is commonly depicted in Maya vase paintings overseeing rituals.  Itzamna is likely a variant of a monotheistic god the Yucatec Maya called Hunab Ku (hun meaning one, ku meaning god, "One God"). He represents the anthropomorphic form of the celestial dragon identified in the Colonial texts as a creator deity. Itzamna may then represent the open jaws of the vision serpent (Olmec dragon?) in which we see his servants or other Maya gods emerge, like K'awil or God N, and Quetzalcoatl. Itzamna is considered the creator of the universe, "lord of the heavens," a "king, monarch, prince or great lord" (Sharer 1983:470), and like Quetzalcoatl he was the patron of the final day Ahau, the most important day in the sacred 260 day calendar.  

 Above is a Classic period Teotihuacan polychrome jar or olla depicting the Mexican Storm God Tlaloc. The artist depicts Tlaloc above a five-pointed Venus star, identifing Tlaloc as the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus. The five pointed half-star is a common motif in Teotihuacan art, and symbolizes both the quincunx, a common Venus symbol, and the five synodic cycle of Venus. 

Another link between hallucinogenic mushrooms and early man has been suggested by the late ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna. Theorizing that primitive hunter/gatherers could well have found and eaten psilocybin-containing mushrooms found growing in the dung of the herds of ungulates that roamed the African grasslands, he believed that they could even have influenced the direction of human evolution. He writes:
"The presence of psychedelic substances in the diet of early human beings created a number of changes in our evolutionary situation. When a person takes small amounts of psilocybin visual acuity improves. They can actually see slightly better, and this means that animals allowing psilocybin into their food chain would have increased hunting success, which means increased food supply, which means increased reproductive success, which is the name of the game in evolution. It is the organism that manages to propagate itself numerically that is successful. The presence of psilocybin in the diet of early pack-hunting primates caused the individuals that were ingesting the psilocybin to have increased visual acuity. At slightly higher doses of psilocybin there is sexual arousal, erection, and everything that goes under the term arousal of the central nervous system. Again, a factor which would increase reproductive success is reinforced". From,

John Marco Allegro, has written a controversial but thought-provoking study of psychotropic rituals in early Judeo-Christianity (1971). 

 Allegro writes:
 "Thousands of years before Christianity, secret cults arose which worshiped the sacred mushroom — the Amanita Muscaria — which, for various reasons (including its shape and power as a drug) came to be regarded as a symbol of God on earth. When the secrets of the cult had to be written down, it was done in the form of codes hidden in folktales. This is the basic origin of the stories in the New Testament."  
                       Painting from St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim Germany 1192 AD
   Adam and Eve and the serpent at the Tree of Knowledge. Note that the scene is superimposed over an encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom cap.(photo from Allegro, 1971, See also   
 According to Genesis, God told Adam that he was forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge. God told Adam that if he ate the fruit he would die.  Later, Eve who was deceived by a serpent, ate the fruit which she then took to Adam and he ate it, knowing he had disobeyed what God had explicitly told him. God expelled them from the garden, and through this act, sin entered the world. We don't know what kind of  fruit this tree had, that would cause Adam and Eve to die, (some Amanitas are poisonous) but the idea that the deadly fruit was an apple was introduced by John Milton in his epic poem  Paradise Lost.
    R. Gordon Wasson, and other notable scholars have written that the mythological apple is a symbolic substitution for the Amanita muscaria mushroom.

  R. Gordon Wasson...
"the Soma of the Rig-Veda becomes incorporated into the religious history and prehistory of Eurasia, its parentage well established, its siblings numerous. Its role in human culture may go back far, to the time when our ancestors first lived with the birch and the fly-agaric, back perhaps through the Mesolithic and into the Paleolithic" (from Furst, 1976 p. 103).
  "In brief, I submit that the legends of the Tree of Life and of the Marvelous Herb had their genesis in the Forest Belt of Eurasia". "The Tree of Life, is it not the legendary Birch Tree, and the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Life, what else is it but the Soma, the fly-agaric, [the Amanita muscaria] the pongo of the Ugrian tribesmen?" (from Furst,1972, p.212)
  "In Genesis, is not the serpent the self-same chthonic spirit that we know from Siberia?"

  Mural painting of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”. Mural from the apse of Sant Sadurní in Osormort Spain, 12th century (Image from April Deconick


The Canturbury Psalter, 1147 AD, depicting Adam and Eve and theTree of Knowledge, encoded with sacred mushrooms. (Image from April Deconick



                                St-Martin-Chartres-Cathedral, France 12th century A.D
    Amanita muscaria mushroom imagery encoded in stained glass, Notre Dame de Laon,   France 13th century.
 Above is a scene from Charlemagne's Window, at Chartres Cathedral. Note that an Amanita muscaria mushroom is depicted below the horse in a scene associated with the act of decapitation. 
                                    Jesus emerging from a mushroom inspired vision ?   

        Quoting anthropologist Dr. John A. Rush...
  "Mushrooms occur in every piece of Christian art. They are found in the mosaics and wall paintings of the earliest Christian images, and later in manuscripts, stained glass, tapestries, and sculpture.  They are obvious; I have verification from priests and icon artists. What they mean, however, is still guarded. In my opinion the mushroom is generic for numerous plants, fungi, and potions used by the various cults to commune with the Teacher of Righteousness at the time of our mythic hero Jesus".              
  Above encoded in the mural titled Christ and the Twelve Apostles, I found what appears to me to be cleverly encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms “Hidden In Plain Sight” encoded in the robe and legs of Jesus Christ. Note that the Twelve Apostles have their eyes focused not on the face of Jesus, but  his legs.  Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 12th century.  (Image from
 Above is a fresco of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, French School, (12th century) / Church of St. Martin, Vic, Berry, France. Note the mushrooms sprouting from what looks to me like a Fleur de lis symbol in the upper right hand corner of the fresco. (’s-Entry-into-Jerusalem-fresco

 The hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, identified by R. Gordon Wasson as the plant and god Soma from the Rig Veda is, I believe, the inspiration of many religious ideas throughout the world. As can be seen from the images presented above, it appears not only to have played a role in the early history of Judaism and Christianity, but also may be the metaphorical key to decoding the esoteric religions of the Americas, including Easter Island.

    Both Allegro and Wasson, in his classic book, "Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality", connect the motif of 'spots' with the amanita cult. William Eichman, writing about his studies of the ancient city of Catal Huyuk in Turkey, calls attention to this same imagery. According to Eichman, spots were the ultimate distinguishing sign of divine authority in Catal Huyuk, "whether on a leopardskin cap, on a statue of a god, or painted on an erupting volcano goddess." Catal Huyuk,(pronounced Chat-al Hoo-yook, was a thriving and completely planned and developed city by 6500 B.C.  Eichman suggests  that the religion of Catal Huyuk utilized psychedelic drugs and points out that  Catal Huyuk is located in an area where the psychedelic plants of old Europe, including Amanita muscaria mushrooms, are commonly found.  He links the religion of Catal Huyuk to an ancient animal religion centering on matters of life and death that has been recorded in paleolithic cave art.
Quoting Eichman:
 "This is the reason that esoteric practitioners need to study the ancient cultures. We are working with the damaged and fragmentary remains of an esoteric tradition which, stretching back many thousands of years, has taken innumerable forms as it was adapted to the needs of culture after culture"....
 "The Vedas and the Sutras, the Torah, Bible, and Koran, cannot be understood out of context; their true, complex, interwoven levels of meaning are distorted by translation, and the world in which they were based, the agricultural city-state civilizations which dominated our planet thousands of years ago, is entirely foreign to us. We have little hope of understanding the original ideas and practices of the great spiritual teachers unless we can, at least to some degree, put ourselves in their place. Thus, the study of the archaeology and history of spiritual traditions is one of the few ways we can test the quality of our modern esoteric material. With this in mind, let us turn to the Near East, the rough northern edge of the Fertile Crescent. the cradle of civilization. The time is 8,000 years B. C.,  the place is Anatolia, the rich central plateau of what is now modern day Turkey For millennia Anatolia has been a fountainhead of the Esoteric Tradition. And it all started at Catal Huyuk."         
  Many scholars and laymen have endeavored over the years to sort out and interpret the many intricate and elaborate images portrayed in Mesoamerican art. The images painted on Maya cylindrical funerary vases are especially intriguing, suggesting, as they do, an entire panoply of gods, religious ceremonies, and legends. A great deal of progress toward this goal has been made, especially during the last three decades, and numerous very insightful and helpful studies have been published which are listed in the bibliography.  Despite these efforts, there has been no general consensus concerning their meaning, and no single source to which I can refer the casual reader for an overall understanding of the iconography. It is equally frustrating that the bands of glyphs depicted below the rim on many of the painted vases almost never tell us anything substantive concerning the images portrayed below them.  This series of glyphs, called by epigraphers the Primary Standard Sequence, or PSS,  is a highly formulaic, sometimes very ancient text (compare to the E Pluribus Unum on American pennies), followed by such information as the name and use of the vessel, the names and titles of the patron or owner of the vessel,  and sometimes even his or her city-state. (See Coe, 2001 for a further discussion of Maya writing).
Scholars agree that most of the images depict gods and rituals from Mesoamerican legends. We know this fact through the tantalizingly tiny portion of what must have been a rich oral tradition, recorded in the few prehispanic codices that escaped the Spanish holocaust. We have learned a bit more from the few handwritten religious texts recorded during the immediate post-Conquest period. The task of relating these legends with the rich profusion of carved and painted imagery has been complicated by the fact that this imagery not only evolved over a span of four millenia, but it  was produced and interpreted by many different but related Mesoamerican subcultures. l believe my major contribution to this task may be the identification of  the common denominator that links them all. This was the effect of the hallucinogenic mushroom experience, combined with the veneration of the planet Venus, on the development of Mesoamerican religious belief.
In the course of my research I have experienced more than one heart-stopping "Ahah!" moment. These moments, however, have usually come only after much time-consuming "digging"  followed by extensive analysis and checking of references in related scholarly research. In order to make them accessible to readers who are not scholars in Mesoamerican cultural history and iconography, I will endeavor to introduce them to the divine actors they will encounter in the images. I will also attempt to interpret, according to my understanding, the relationships they shared within the framework of Mesoamerican religious belief. Most of my interpretations are based on material that is already well known and generally accepted. Other aspects are original with me and come from my studies. I hope to make this distinction clear to the reader. I do not pretend, or even hope, to have gotten it all "right," and will welcome knowledgeable critiquing of my conclusions.
While I may be the first  to call attention to this encoded mushroom and Venus imagery, it can be viewed and studied with ease on such internet sites as Justin Kerr's Maya Vase Data Base and F.A.M.S.I. ( Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc).  (search F.A.M.S.I Bibliografia, under Borhegyi for 78 publications)                                 
The mushroom-Venus/Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc religion, as I see it, was spawned by early man's fear of death and his hopes for resurrection, if not in this life, then in another reality. Through shamanic rituals, very possibly springing from the discovery of the mind-altering effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms, he hoped to transcend the former and assure himself of the latter. (Wasson,1980). The shamans, in turn, looked to the most powerful forces in the natural world—the sun, the moon, and the stars, wind, lightning and rain, and such fearsome creatures in their environment as the jaguar, eagle, serpent, and shark—as a means of understanding the place and fate of human beings within this divine framework. In time the shamans unraveled the mysterious but ultimately knowable and predictable movements of the stars and planets, and interpreted these movements as an avenue for understanding man’s relation to time, space, and immortality.
These beliefs, over time, spawned a great variety of gods bearing different names in different culture areas but with numerous identifiable similarities linked to divine rulership associated with lineage and descent. Westernized efforts by archaeologists and art historians to sort out and catalog the many overlapping names and identities have been frustrated by the fact that ordered and demarcated categories run counter to the fluidity that characterizes native American belief systems. A multiplicity of identities is a basic feature of the Mesoamerican supernatural realm.
    In Mesoamerica the first powerful unitary religion emerged, along with the first complex cultures, in the Early to Middle Preclassic. This religion, that we now call "Olmec," spread with great rapidity throughout the area, with certain elements of the belief system reaching as far as the Andean area of South America.  We know it by its powerful art style featuring adult and baby "were-jaguars;" an art style so pervasive that it led archaeologist Matthew Stirling in 1955 to christcall the Olmec the "people of the jaguar." He speculated that  the Olmecs believed that at some time in their mythical past a jaguar had copulated with, and impregnated, a human female.   In Mesoamerica the first powerful unitary religion emerged, along with the first complex cultures, in the Early to Middle Preclassic. This religion, that we now call "Olmec," spread with great rapidity throughout the area, with certain elements of the belief system reaching as far as the Andean area of South America. We know it by its powerful art style featuring adult and baby "were-jaguars;" an art style so pervasive It led archaeologist Matthew Stirling in 1955 to call the  the Olmed the "people of the jaguar." He speculated that  the Olmecs believed that at some time in their mythical past a jaguar had copulated with, and impregnated, a human female.
Evidence of early Olmec culture in the Maya area has been established at numerous archaeological sites  along the Pacific coast on the same fertile cacao-growing plain where archaeologists have found a number of mushroom stones.  These and other archaeologists  suggest that the Olmec were the first to set up cacao plantations in this fertile region later called the Soconusco by the Aztecs. I believe that the Olmec exploited the local resources, including both cacao and narcotic mushrooms, and eventually established the "south-coast trade routes that became part of an even larger economic network connecting Mexico with southeastern Central America, and beyond. This north-south Olmec trade network was later controlled by the ruling elites of the ancient Maya. Sharer considered it  no accident that the earliest examples of Maya hieroglyphic writing and sculptural style have been found at Late Preclassic southern Maya centers.  These southern Maya centers displayed the first flowerings of Maya civilization centuries before the rise of the Classic lowland sites.(Sharer, 1983, 63-66)
By the Classic period the Maya's powerful gods had taken on the multiple aspects so basic to their concept of the supernatural, and so confusing to the Western mind.  K'awil, and Chac (to whom Schellhas assigned the letters God K and God B), had become sources of dynastic rule. K'awil's image, depicted as a serpent-footed figurine called the manikin scepter, is held by rulers as a symbol of divine power. In his earliest image at the Maya kingdom of Tikal, he appears to be related to the Maya rain god Chac and to the Mexican rain god Tlaloc. Since Chac, the most frequently depicted Maya god in the three surviving pre-Hispanic codices, has also been identified as the gods Kukulcan, Quetzalcoatl and Itzamna (God D) because of his reptilian or snake-like appearance, it is likely that all are different  manifestations of the same god. The Maya also associated Chac with the four cardinal directions of the world, with each direction represented by a different color. Colonial texts mention Chac as the god of the milpa or cornfield, "one who makes things grow," because he manifests himself as lightning, thunder, and rain.  In Central Mexico, Chac and K'awil's Classic period counterparts were, as previously noted, Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc.  In the later codices Chac's head variant glyph contains the Ik symbol, a T-shaped icon esoterically encoded as Chac's eye.

   Assuredly, one of the earliest representations of the sacredness of the mushroom and its relationship to Venus worship is the petroglyph drawn below.  As far as I know I am the first to call attention to the mushroom shown in this sketch of a petroglyph.  The petroglyph was found in the area of Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico. It depicts a monkey jumping from what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom (note skirt on stem). The monkey holds a 5-pointed star, a symbol of the planet Venus and it's 5 synodic (584 days) cycles. The lightly modified Image, drawn from the original by Rubén Manzanilla López and Arturo Talavera González., includes a probable Long Count date of above the monkey's left arm. This is by far the earliest date associated with both the mushroom cult and Venus worship, as well as their probable association with the god Quetzalcoatl. According to Mary Miller and Karl Taube, Quetzalcoatl, in his guise as Ehecatl (the Wind God), presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler. (Miller and Taube, 1993:118)  Archaeoastronomer Susan Milbrath also reports (1999: 256 ) that an analysis of the Dresden Codex identifies the howler monkey as related to Venus as the Morning Star. 
Manzanilla López, Rubén y Arturo Talavera González.
México : CONACULTA: INAH, (Colección Catálogos), 2008.

 Manzanilla López, Rubén; Arturo Talavera González. LAS MANIFESTACIONES GRÁFICO RUPESTRES EN LOS SITIOS AR-
QUEOLÓGICOS DE ACAPULCO. / Rubén Manzanilla López, Arturo Talavera González. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropolo-
gía e Historia, 2008. 152p. 26cm. Bibl., bibl. notes, illus., photos. (Catálogos.) ISBN: 978-9680302949

The monkey leaping from the mushroom may represent the first of the Nine Lords of the Night, known as G 1 of the Bolon Ti Ku. The monkey is the first god, associated with the act of creation, and G9 (Quetzalcoatl, is the last god, whose duty was the ritual act of time's completion. The Nine Lords of the Night were responsible for guiding the Sun, identified as the underworld jaguar, into the underworld to be sacrificed by underworld decapitation and thus reborn as baby jaguar. The word K'uh in Classic Mayan glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey-like profile was used to describe "holy" or "sacred" a word referring to "divinity" or "god"  (Coe 2001:109).  
 Research of this petroglyph and its probable Long Count date conducted by Pedro de Eguiluz Selvas entitled, "Origins of the Long Count," suggests that the correlation of this Long Count  date with the Christian calendar fits the Spinden correlation perfectly, making it equivalent to the year 3 Monkey in the Unified Account of Anawak (CUAN). While this identification tends to reinforce the Spinden correlation, it calls into question the generally accepted Goodman-Thompson-Martinez correlation, and its end date of December 21, 2012. Thus the Long Count date of would be an important key to locate the origin of the long count at 3374 BC and the famous end to the Mayan Calendar at 1752 rather than in December, 2012.
   The images above appear to depict mushroom veneration. The miniature grouping on the left is a Late Formative (300 B.C. to A.D. 200 ) ceramic model of a mushroom ceremony from the Ixtlan del Rio style of Nayarit, Western Mexico. On the right is a Late Classic figurine from Tenenexpan, Mexico in the State of Veracruz (Remojadas? A.D. 700-900). (Photo copyright Borhegyi). In 1651 the physician to the King of Spain, Dr. Francisco Hernandez, wrote a guide for missionaries in the Spanish colonies, Historia de las Plantas de Nueva Espana. In it he stated that there were three kinds of narcotic mushrooms that were worshiped. After describing a lethal species of mushroom, he stated that other species of mushrooms when eaten caused madness, the symptom of which was uncontrolled laughter. Other mushrooms, he continued " without inducing laughter, bring before the eyes all kinds of things, such as wars and the likeness of demons".   (Wasson, 1962: 36; see also Furst, 1990 rev. ed., 9)
   Above is another figurine from Nayarit, Western Mexico ca. 200 BC to 100 AD. of a shaman holding what looks like an umbrella, most likely represents a sacred mushroom.

      The Aztecs called their divine mushroom, teonanacatl, which means "God's flesh"

MOST PRIZED by Indians and most widespread of these fungi, Psilocybe mexicana Heim grows in pastures.

(From Wasson 1957, Life magizine, SEEKING THE MAGIC MUStROOM)

 Above from Western Mexico, Colima culture, is a clay figurine eating from his left hand and holding what appears to be a pair of mushrooms in his right hand, 300 BC to 300 AD - PF.1367 from, photo subject to copyright. (photo on right from online article, "Magic mushrooms really do have a spiritual effect on people" )
Photographs © Justin Kerr
    The Toltec /Maya vessels above are from Quintana Roo, Mexico, Postclassic Maya, A.D. 1200-1400 , photographs from the Justin Kerr Data Base.  Both vessels depict the image of a diving god, one young and the other dressed in the guise of the harpy eagle, both symbols of the Morning Star.  The harpy eagle represents one of the divine attributes of Quetzalcoatl and the new born Sun God. The objects in each hand, I would argue are  symbols of divine Underworld resurrection. They are severed caps (symbolic of decapitation) of mushrooms. Sacred mushrooms according to Wasson were consumed ritually in pairs prior to self sacrifice.

 In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushrooms was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species, the Psilocybe mushroom, was called teonanacatl, a term Sahagun gives us, teo-, or teotl, meaning god, that which is divine or sacred, "the flesh of god" (Wasson, letter to Borhegyi, June 23, 1953).  The Psilocybe mushroom contains the substance psilocin and psilocybin, the active ingredient in LSD, that causes the mushroom hallucination that was described as "consciousness-expanding" during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The psilocybin mushroom is indigenous to the sub-tropical regions of the U.S, Mexico, and Central America. The plain or tripod mushroom stones, which carry no effigy on the stem (stipe), have been typically found at lower elevations and may indicate the ritual use of the psilocybe mushroom in these regions. 

 The photograph above, taken by the author, is of a Maya mushroom stone on exhibit at the highland Maya site of Iximche, ancient capital of the Cakchiquel Maya. This mushroom stone bears the trademark attributes of both the goggle-eyed Tlaloc and the bearded Quetzalcoatl wearing his cone-shaped hat.
                        (Photo by Connor de Borhegyi)
  Its quite possible that an ancient mushroom cult may still survive in remote areas of the Guatemala highlands. As already mentioned, Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst reported as recently as 1972 that Quiche Pokomam Maya shamans consumed mushrooms during  their religious ceremonies  (Furst, 1990: 28).  I was surprised to find in 2009 that the Maya Indians of the Guatemala Highlands were selling these tiny Amanita mushroom toys in the markets like the ones depicted above.  Although the seller informed me that the Maya did eat this variety of mushroom,  it is possible she may have been referring to the non-hallucinogenic Amanita caesarea, commonly sold in markets in Mexico and Guatemala and much appreciated for its delicate flavor (Guzmán, 2002:3)  The hallucinogenic mushroom cult, which has survived to this day among certain tribes like the Zapotec, Chinantec, and Mazatec Indians of Mexico, has not, to my knowledge, been reported among the present day Maya. That it may well have been in use in Pre-Hispanic times, however, is suggested by early dictionary sources which describe a mushroom the ancient Maya called xibalbaj okox meaning “underworld mushrooms”, and k’aizalab okox, meaning “lost-judgment mushrooms." The Mayan word for mushroom in Keqchi  is ocox (Spenard 2006:72).  Both Wasson and Guzmán believe that mushroom stones were modeled  after the Amanita muscaria. (Guzmán, 2002:4).  In a letter to Wasson (June 30, 1962) Borhegyi speculated that one possibility for the absence of mushroom stones in the Tropical Rainforests of Guatemala might be that the Lowland Maya of the Peten used Rauwolfia root obtained from trees which grow in the Rainforests of Guatemala. It has been reported however that pottery mushrooms have been excavated at Maya Lowland sites like El Mirador and Berriozabal in the Maya Rainforest, and in 1962  archaeologist Richard E. W. Adams reported finding several pottery mushroom specimens in the Maya Rainforest at the site of Altar de Sacrificios (Borhegyi, 1963 Vol.28, No.3, p.330). 
   I bought several of these toy Amanita mushrooms as gifts. They all have a quetzal bird sitting in a tree painted on the stem. Although clearly a child's toy produced for the tourist trade, they bear symbolism of great antiquity. In Mesoamerican mythology the World tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens,  represents the axis mundi  or center of the world. The branches represent the four cardinal directions. Each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk, which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal to the underworld. The Quetzal bird, now the national bird of modern Guatemala, was considered sacred because of its green plumage. I believe there is now clear evidence that the Amanita mushroom is a symbol of equal antiquity. 
There is a Mayan expression known as Cuxolalob, which refers to one who possesses the knowledge of that which is both rational and supernatural. Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc was the father of these teachings, from whom all knowledge flowed. The ancient scribes who created the Mesoamerican calendar were Cuxolalob thinkers. They originated the year count, which they called the count of days (260 days), and created esoteric signs for good or favorable days. The lives of all Mesoamerican people were personally tied to and guided by this calendar. An individual's future could be foretold based on the day in the calendar year on which that individual was born. The calendar  priests conjured up many fantastic images of supernatural gods and demons and painted them on their screen-fold books and murals, as well as on the ceramic vessels that they used, I believe, in mushroom rituals.


 In my examination of pre-Columbian art I have discovered that the gods that appear to be linked to mushroom imagery are clearly linked to the planet Venus as both a Morning Star and Evening Star. The name Quetzalcoatl has been interpreted to mean "Precious twin," indicating that the Morning Star and Evening Star are one and the same (Caso, 1958:.24; Duran:325).
 We known that the Toltec ruler named Quetzalcoatl-Kukulan who died in the year 1 Reed was apotheosized as the planet Venus. It should be noted that in the New Testament, Jesus also claimed to be the Morning Star... “I am the root and offspring of David, The Bright And Shining Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16).“To him that overcometh I shall give the Morning Star” (Rev. 2:28)
Avatars of Quetzalcoatl took the form of various dualities signifying the  concept of life and death: i.e. the eagle and the jaguar symbolized the rulers of the underworld and the upper world.  In art this twin god is clearly connected with serpents, jaguars, and birds.  Mushrooms are also associated with the ritual of decapitation and the ritual ballgame is associated with a trophy head cult.
 The planet Venus was the celestial object of greatest interest to the ancient astronomers of Mesoamerica. It is likely that Venus was in many ways more important than the Sun.  As the Morning Star associated with the dawn, Venus was the Awakener, and harbinger of the new born sun, known as the Day-bringer. Time was measured in Venus cycles after Maya astronomers observed that Venus rises in the same spot every eight years as the Morning Star on the day Ahau, and that  five sets of 584 days, that is 2,920 days, equaled 8 solar years or 5 repetitions of the Venus cycle.
This astronomical knowledge was recorded in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex.  These Venus Tables were recorded with the first date in the first row corresponding to the superior conjunction of Venus. The second date is 90 days later, corresponding to Venus's rise as an evening star. The third date is 250 days later,  when Venus disappears at inferior conjunction. The fourth date, 8 days later, corresponds to the rising of Venus as a morning star on the day Ahau,  an event by which time was measured. The next cycle always began with another superior conjunction. Five of these synodic cycles of 584 days (the modern value is 583.920 days) equals eight 365 day solar years to the day.
Mesoamerican mythology and religion was based on these Venus events--an "inferior conjunction" when Venus comes between the Sun and Earth, and a "superior conjunction" when the Sun comes between Venus and Earth. Because Venus is invisible during both conjunctions, it was believed that Venus was in the underworld performing self-sacrifice in order to appear reborn as the Morning Star or the Evening Star. 
   In the creation story of the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, we are told that there was a previous world that was created, destroyed, and re-created before the present creation. In the previous world age, twin brothers known as Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu represented the Morning Star playing a ballgame on the eastern horizon. The new world was created on the day when the first word was uttered. According to Maya inscriptions at Coba and Quirigua, that day was 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u, the day in the Mayan calendar when Venus rises from the underworld as the Morning Star. Considered the completion day or starting point in the Maya Long Count, it set all the cycles of the calendars in motion. There is a repeating cycle of 20 named days in the 260 day calendar each day represented by a unique symbol or glyph, the 20th day named Ahau, which means Lord, or Ruler. The 20th day name in Quiche is Hunahpu, a name we find in the Popol Vuh which means "the One Master of Magic Breath" (Gates, 1978 p.53).  The stem or root of Ahau, (also spelled Ajaw), is au or av, meaning a planted field, or garden, and as a verb means to sow. Avix means milpa in Quiche.
Although the meaning of the word Avilix  is still unknown while searching in Gate's Dictionary of Maya Glyphs, I found that the Quiché word avix is a verb meaning to sow or plant a milpa-field or garden. (Gates, 1978, p.54)  Could the name Avilix then, possibly refer to the Maize God? or Mushroom God?
  As mentioned earlier the Popol Vuh tells us that the Quiche people received their gods at Tulan, the mountain of the Seven Caves. Jaguar Quitze received Tohil, Jaguar Night received Avilix, and Mahucutah received Hacauitz.
The patron god Tohil, has been identified as a Quiché variant of the god Quetzalcoatl. The Quiche god Avilix, or Auilix (P.V. Tedlock, p.326 1985) was the patron god of the Greathouse lineage given to Jaguar Night at Tulan Zuyua. According to Dennis Tedlock Lord Auilix was the title of the priest of the god Auilix; who was seventh in rank among the lords of the Greathouses and headed one of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane. The Popol Vuh tells us that the god Tohil was actually loaded in the backpack of Jaguar Quitze and Auilix was the god that Jaguar Night carried, when they received their gods at Tulan Zuyua, known as Seven Caves and according to Tedlock also the name of the mountain where the Quiche people went to receive their gods (P.V. Tedlock, 1985 p.171).  Tedlock notes (P.V. 1985 p.326) that the patron god Auilix who I speculate represents a mushroom god, was given to Jaguar Night, at the mountain of the Seven Caves and taken to "the great canyon in the forest" (P.V. Tedlock p.178) to a location that came to be named Pauilix, literally "At Auilix".  This may be in fact an important reference to the Guatemalan Highlands where the majority of mushroom stones have been found, and where we know the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance, and where the Quiche Maya people now call their home.  Also noteworthy is the reference of nine great houses and their patron gods which I believe is a reference directly linked to mushroom stones and the Nine Lords of the Night, or Underworld. Caves were believed to be entrances to the Underworld and as mentioned earlier the cave system archaeologists have investigated in the south region of the Guatemalan Highlands where ceramic mushrooms have been found are called Saber, CHOC-05, Ocox, and Cabeza de Tepezquintle. According to archaeologist Jon Spenard, "Ocox is a canyon-like system that runs through a large hill and that the name Ocox is a Q'eqchi Mayan word for mushroom, a reference according to Spenard to the large quantity of mushrooms that are growing from the floor of the canyon.  Are these the legendary caves called Chicomoztoc, the name given for the place of mythical origin of the ancient Mayas, Toltec and Aztecs, called the "place of emergence"  ?                     

Photographs © Justin Kerr
The Maya vase painting above, K4565 with drawing, depicts what is probably an image of the Maize God as the planet Venus resurrecting from the underworld as the Morning Star. The Maize God can often be identified in pre-Columbian art by his elongated head, which is shaped like an ear of corn.  Maize foliation, like that shown on the figure above, is often depicted on his headdress.  Every culture has its own story of genesis. David Freidel and Linda Schele write that the Maize God, named Hun-Nal-Ye, "One-Maize-Revealed", oversaw the new Creation of the cosmos, and that the ancient Maya recorded this birth day of the contemporary cosmos at  4 Ahaw 8 Kumk'u  (Maya Cosmos 1993, p.61-63).  David Kelley identifies the Maize God with the father of the mythical Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh. He is named Hun Hunahpu, a name incorporating the sacred day 1 Ahau. This day in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex corresponds to the heliacal rise (first sighting) of Venus as Morning Star and suggests that the uncle of the Hero Twins, Vucub Hunahpu, may represent the Evening Star aspect of Venus (Milbrath:159).  If the plate above is turned up-side-down, the Maize God appears as a diving god. It thus could also represent the Evening Star aspect of Venus. 
In the Popol Vuh, the father of the Hero Twins, Hun Hunahpu, who was decapitated at the place of ballgame sacrifice, is not resurrected from the underworld. He is, in fact, left behind by his sons to rule the underworld. His sons, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are transformed into the Sun and Moon. This could mean that the Hero Twins, when they journeyed into the underworld, represented the planet Venus. The Maize God above is depicted with what appears to be a scorpion tail. The end of the tail forms the characteristic partial loop that I believe is an esoteric symbol of Venus worship and mushrooms and represents the religion.  A close look reveals that the Maize god's legs and arms resemble long-stemmed mushrooms. These mushroom-inspired arms and legs form a quincunx, identified as a Venus symbol by Herbert Spinden. Spinden also believed that it represented the Morning Star aspect of Venus.
  I identify the mushroom-inspired legs and arms of the Maize God, Hun Ahau, shown above,  as an esoteric reference to a portal of transformation. This mushroom portal, like the moment of death, opens the axis of the universe, through which spirits and gods move from one level to another. The mushroom imagery is also a symbolic reference to the self-sacrifice and death of Quetzalcoatl who, on his 52nd birthday, took his own life.  Quetzalcoatl remains a complicated deity because his attributes assume the character of other deities. He was also a real person who stood for learning and the arts who  was a divine ruler of the Toltec empire. Its likely that succeeding rulers or High Priests who emulated the ways of Quetzalcoatl also used his name. We know from the codices that Quetzalcoatl in myth created mankind from his own blood in the underworld. He gave mankind fire and the calendar, and delivered mushrooms and corn to his children. 
In the Codex Chimalpopoca, Quetzalcoatl is referred to as a spirit of regeneration and as the Morning star. A passage from that Codex reads..."Truly with him it began...Truly from him it flowed out...From Quetzalcoatl all art and knowledge" (Thomas 1993, p.183)
Venus, the brightest star (actually a planet) in the sky, was visible to early sky watchers even, at times, during the day. What must have seemed truly fascinating about Venus is that it appears as both a Morning Star and an Evening Star. As the Morning Star, rising before dawn, it may have seemed to "resurrect" the Sun from its nightly sojourn through the Underworld. At night, as the Evening Star, it appears after the Sun's daily "death" and descent into the underworld. For this reason it became closely associated with death and resurrection in the Underworld.
Venus also appears to die and rise again from the underworld with great regularity. Every eight years it can be predicted to return to exactly the same location in the sky. The "fiveness" of Venus comes from the fact that five Venus cycles of 584 days each equal eight solar years to the day, and that 584 days is the time it takes for Earth and Venus to line up with respect to the Sun. This day was a period ending day in the sacred 260 day calendar (almanac) and always ended on the day Ahau or Ajaw. Ahau means Lord. Ballplayers wore knee pads with the symbol of Ahau, theorizing I guess that the game was played at the completion of a time period in the sacred calendar, like a katun ending (20 yr. period) for example. Scholars are now beginning to recognize that Venus was the centerpiece of Maya  mythology and cosmology. Priests in charge of the calendar plotted the stations of Venus over periods of 52 and 104 year cycles, and measured lunar phases, eclipses, solstices, equinoxes and other celestial movements, by which the Maya regulated their lives. Fortunately for scholars, the Maya recorded this information in the Dresden Codex (Milbrath 1999:51). 
Even wars were linked to the Venus calendar with hostilities beginning only upon the ascent of Venus into the morning sky. Maya epigraphers Linda Schele and David Freidel write that, when Venus appeared as the Morning Star on April 12, 711 (GMT), the Maya ruler known by archaeologists as Smoking Squirrel timed his campaign of war with the neighboring city of Yaxha to this sacred day. (Schele & Freidel, 1990:192).
The Maya believed that this knowledge was bestowed upon them by the same god who gave them mushrooms and fire. This god, identified as a feathered serpent and an avatar of the planet Venus, was believed to have created both the universe and humankind. He also gave to man the sciences, the calendar and writing, and the knowledge to fix certain days for feasts and blood sacrifice. Rulers bestowed with this divine knowledge were believed to be incarnates of this god. 
It must have been a natural step for the ancients to associate this dualistic Venus God, known by the Aztecs and Toltecs as Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc, with both life in the upper world and death in the underworld. In his guise as the Evening Star, Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc presided over the nightly death of the Sun God  as he sank beneath the horizon into the underworld. (Sharer, 1994:120)  Judging by an abundance of images painted on Maya funerary vases, I believe they thought he was then ritually decapitated and transformed into a baby jaguar or "were-jaguar."  According to Aztec legend, he was resurrected each morning by Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc as the Morning Star, and ascended into the heavens on the wings of a harpy eagle. The harpy eagle was thought of as the jaguar of the day sky being the greatest avian predator of Mesoamerica. The harpy eagle was most likely the personified form of the katun period (a period of almost 20 years) among the Classic Maya becoming a symbol of the morning sky associated with human sacrifice and divine resurrection in nourishing the new born sun (Miller and Taube, 1993:82-83).
 The late Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson identified the Maya quincunx glyph (shown below, top row,  L-R, nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5; and in the head of the jaguar glyph (middle figure in second row) as a variant of the Central Mexican Venus sign. Both are of great antiquity, having been found at the Olmec site of San Lorenzo on Monument 43 dated at 900 B.C. The  quincunx design also appears in Maya Venus Platforms. The design of these low altars symbolized the four cardinal directions and a central entrance to the underworld. The Maya believed that It was through this portal that souls passed on their journey to deification, rebirth and resurrection by the planet Venus in its guise as the Morning Star. According to Maya archaeologist David Freidel, the Maya called this sacred center, mixik' balamil,  meaning "the navel of the world".  (Thompson,1960:170-172, fig. 31 nos.33-40; Freidel & Schele, 1993:124)
   All of the symbols illustrated above have been identified by experts as representing the planet Venus.   

Photograph © Justin Kerr
  Maya vase K1230  depicts what might be a possible scene from the Popol Vuh. Here Hunahpu, the older HeroTwin, is shown in the act of self-decapitation in the underworld. His younger brother, Xbalanque, represented by the underworld jaguar who appears encircled by a serpent, surrounded by five Venus symbols, one of which is located on the axe suggesting decapitation and Venus resurrection. The story suggests that, after the twins sacrifice themselves in the underworld in front of the Lords of Death, they become immortal and come back to life defying death as the Sun and Moon.
      Above is a Late Classic Maya Tripod plate (A.D. 550-800) from the Peten area of Northern Guatemala. The artist is likely depicting a mythological scene, like the Maya vase painting below (K7268), in which the central character, a probable Maize God is being dressed and prepped for Underworld sacrifice by a naked female. Note the naked female on the left wears a mushroomic looking headress like the Maya vase painting below K7268.  The dark figure on the far right wearing jaguar attire and standing on an obscure object most likely represent the Lord of the Underworld and God of the Underworld Decapitation. The plate is in the Kurt Stavenhagen Collection, Mexico.

      Photographs © Justin Kerrt
 Maya vase K7268. likely depicts a young Maize God, being ceremonially dressed and prepped for ritual sacrifice, by naked young women. Note that the naked female standing directly in front of the Maize God, to the right, wears a mushroomic looking headdress, similar to the one in the plate above.

Justin Kerr Maya Vase Database (online at, and
  Above is a roll-out photograph of a cylindrical  Maya vase (K8763) taken by Justin Kerr. It depicts a ruler on his throne impersonating the Maya god Chac. He is receiving an offering of an Amanita muscaria mushroom along with a ritual axe. The vase would likely have contained a beverage made from cacao, with or without an intoxicant such as an infusion of sacred mushrooms.  Note that the other characters in the scene wear what look to be mushroom-inspired headdresses. Scholars conclude that this long-lipped god of lightning and rain is derived from the Olmec were-jaguar (Coe 1966). Chac is the Maya god of decapitation who resides at the conjunction of the four cardinal directions. He first appears in the Maya area in pre-Classic times (2000 B.C. to A.D. 250) on monuments found at the site of Izapa.

Photograph  © Justin Kerr
Maya vase K0719 from the Justin Kerr Data Base depicts, on the left, the serpent-footed Maya god K'awil, patron god of Maya rulers, and Maya counterpart of the Mexican gods Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc. K'awil, who has been identified as the so-called Vision Serpent, is none other than the sacred mushroom portal to the Maya underworld. He is conjured up in this vase painting by the aged central character, who may represent the Maize God, with a mushroom encoded above his forehead. The mushroom, which appears to be smoking, identifies the divine link with K'awil and his smoking forehead. The aged deity, who wears a sacrificial scarf around his neck, emerges from the jaws of the Vision serpent.
A mural at the archaeological site of Cholula, near Puebla, Mexico, is known as "The Drinkers."  It was discovered in 1969 by archaeologist Ponciano Salazar Ortegon while excavating Building 3-1-A.  Cholula in pre-Columbian times was a holy city where human sacrifices were offered in honor of Quetzalcoatl. The mural depicts several individuals in the act of consuming a very intoxicating, if not hallucinogenic, beverage. I believe that Mesoamericans came to Cholula and,  after drinking a mushroom beverage, gave their lives as offerings to Quetzalcoatl. 
According to researchers there are one hundred sixty-eight vessels depicted in the mural.   Dionisio Rodriguez Cabrera, who has studied the mural ( Rodriguez C., 2003: 32-37), writes: "The mural depicts a ceremony in which attendees are in seemingly relaxed positions, doing different things: drinking, making offerings, serving, defecating and vomiting". He concludes that the mural "depicts a society that makes contact with the gods and ancestors to declare its legitimacy and ensure plenty and continuity". Some experts argue that the intoxicating beverage in the vessels is pulque, a sap extracted from the maguey plant.  The use of cacao as a ceremonial drink was very popular in pre-Columbian times and cacao was probably added to several sacred beverages.  As documented by Spanish missionaries,  the beverage consumed among the Aztecs (cacao) was called Xocatl (pronounced sho-catl), a Nahuatl word which is likely the origin of the English word chocolate. 

  According to Peter Furst, among the tribes of Siberia the deer is the spirit animal that carries the shaman in his ecstatic state, to the realm of the sky deities. The Siberian shamans costume is typically adorned with deer symbolism, and the shaman's headdress is frequently adorned with antlers, without which he cannot properly shamanize. for it is the deers antlers that embody the concept of supernatural power and eternal renewal (Furst 1976, p. 170).
Photograph  © Justin Kerr
 Maya vase K5857, depicts the hunting of the sacred deer.  It is well known that many psychotropic mushrooms, such as the Psilocybe and Panaeolus genera mushroom, grow in the dung of certain quadrupeds.  If you look closely, "hidden in plain sight," there are tiny mushrooms encoded above the deer's antlers. Mushrooms found growing in the dung of deer were easy to find, and safe to consume.

According to Peter Furst.... 
   "It happens that not only Siberian shamans but their reindeer as well were involved with the sacred mushrooms. Several early writers on Siberian customs reported that reindeer shared with man a passion for the inebriating mushroom, and further, that at times the animals urgently sought out human urine, a peculiarity that greatly facilitated the work of the herders in rounding them up—and that might just possibly have assisted their reindeer-hunting ancestors in early efforts at domestication:

 . . these animals (reindeer) have frequently eaten that mushroom, which they like very much. Whereupon they have behaved like drunken animals, and then have fallen into a deep slumber. When the Koryak encounter an intoxicated reindeer, they tie his legs until the mushroom has lost its strength and effect. Then they kill the reindeer. If they kill the animal while it is drunk or asleep and eat of its flesh, then everybody who has tasted it becomes intoxicated as if he had eaten the actual fly agaric. (Georg Wilhelm Steller, 1774, in Wasson, 1968: 239-240) 

   "The discovery, by early migrants into Mexico, of a functional deer-mushroom relationship could, conceivably, have served to reinforce whatever ancient Asian traditions might then still have remained alive concerning the deer as source of supernatural power, and especially the visionary gifts of shamans."

Photograph © Justin Kerr. Drawing above of Maya vase 3049 by Lin Crocker. c FLAAR 1976.
The drawing above by Persis Clarkson (Copyright FLAAR 1976, Justin Kerr Data Base) is from a late Classic Maya cylindrical vase depicting the hunting and killing of the sacred deer.  The scene on the right alludes to a journey into the Underworld.  In Maya mythology the deer is closely associated with the legendary Hun Ahau ( Hun Hunahpu), the deer hunter from the Popol Vuh. In this case, he is the figure on the far right wearing a hunter´s hat and carrying a blow gun or paddle in his left hand. He holds the arm of a woman, possibly the Moon Goddess, who wears a pack filled with what appear to be mushrooms. The two sit on a swirl which I believe represents the Milky Way, the road to Xibalba. The fanged beast at the center of the swirl may allude to underworld jaguar transformation.  Hun Ahau, the father of the Hero Twins, represents the Lord of the Underworld, and the daysign Ahau. He may represent the Underworld Sun from the last world age which scholars have identified as the planet Venus  Mushrooms were commonly found in the dung of the hunted deer

Both the Maya vessel pictured above, and the drawing of the vase below by Lin Crocker, depict a monkey and three deer. The deer on the far right is shown offering a plate of what can only be Psilocybe mushrooms to a god who might represent G-9 of the Nine Lords of the Underworld.  This god holds a world tree in his hand representing the completion of a period of time. The monkey on the far left most likely represents G-1 of the Nine Lords of the Underworld. He holds a baby deer, referring to rebirth. The deer in the middle of the scene holds up the tail of the deer in front of him because, below the tail, is another offering plate filled with what can only be sacred mushrooms.     
    Above is a ballgame hacha carved to fit into a ballplayers belt (yoke) representing a deer wearing the goggled eyes of Tlaloc. The goggled eyes of Tlaloc in this case symbolizes the sacrifice of the deer on the ball court. Ballplayers are commonly depicted wearing the headdress of a deer (see below),  and ballplayers are often depicted wearing the goggled eyes of Tlaloc. Tlaloc's goggled eyes are a symbol of sacrifice, and they represent a paradise of life after death. Note that Tlaloc's goggled eyes resemble the rings or hoops that we see mounted into the walls of Postclassic formal ballcourts.   
  Photo may be subject to copyright laws.
 The (Late Classic?) polychrome plate from Cholula, (on exhibit at the British_Museum) depicts a deer with what appears to be Tlaloc's trademark goggled eyes and feline fangs. The attributes of the god Tlaloc portrayed on the deer, symbolically represent the deer's sacred journey into the underworld at death. There he will undergo jaguar transformation and be resurrected by the planet Venus into the paradise of Tlaloc called Tlalocan.              
   Above, from the Justin Kerr Data Base, K6777, are a pair of Tlaloc's magic goggles in which the "bemushroomed" can see beyond death into the paradise of Tlaloc called Tlalocan.  The goggles are carved from shell and shaped to form a  plumed serpent, thereby linking Tlaloc with Quetzalcoatl and the planet Venus.

Photographs © Justin Kerr
Maya vase # K1834 from the Justin Kerr Data Base depicts the vision of the "bemushroomed" as seen through the goggles of Tlaloc. The character on the right, wearing the goggles of Tlaloc, begins his journey into the underworld through the sacred portal of the vision serpent (Quetzalcoatl?),  identified above as the Maya god K'awil.  The god K'awil  is depicted on the left emerging from the jaws of the vision serpent. K'awil can be identified by his trademark smoking tube which penetrates his forehead. Note that the vision serpent is manifested from another head that is also that of K'awil depicted at the tail of the vision serpent. Note also that at the center of the vase painting, at the tail of the vision serpent, a curved partial loop is depicted at K'awil's neck.  I believe this shape symbolizes divine immortality via decapitation in the underworld and is the esoteric metaphor for rebirth at the moment of time's completion. On the far left, K'awil emerges from the jaws of the vision serpent to see before him the three stones of Maya creation.

Symbol and Scepter
of the Divine Quetzalcoatl
  Above are three Post-Classic representations of the Toltec God-King Quetzalcoatl known as Topiltzin, wearing his trademark cone-shaped hat. All three of the images depict Quetzalcoatl with a loop-shaped scepter, which I believe represents in many esoteric ways the symbol of his religion. 
The commonly depicted loop icon, also called a scroll, can be seen from earliest times in the art of Mesoamerica, often encoded as the tail of a monkey, scorpion or jaguar, the eye of the serpent, and the eye of K'awil and Chac. It may derive from the swirl seen at the center of a cross-cut conch shell. Encoded into the art as a speech scroll, it possibly indicates the exahalation of the Supreme Deity.  
   The flutes shown above are from the very early archaeological site of Caral in Peru.  Made from deer and condor bones, they have been dated archaeologically at 2627 B.C.  Caral is located some 14 miles from the Pacific coast and 120 miles north of Lima.  All of the flutes appear to bear the loop symbol I have found repeatedly throughout Mesoamerica and which I have identified with the mushroom-Venus/Quetzalcoatl religion.   Researchers argue that Caral, which was part of the Norte Chico culture,  is the oldest civilization in the Americas, with the oldest population center dating from about 9,210 B.C.  The enigma of the Norte Chico culture is that they began building pyramids and other monumental structures before they learned to make pottery (see Caral excavations,1994 by Ruth Shady Solís, Peruvian anthropologist and archeologist).      
 The drawing above is of a Classic period Teotihuacan III fresco from Teopanzalco, Mexico entitled "el altar del sol."  I believe it depicts mushrooms in the frieze on both the right and left, to symbolize the sacred journey of Venus into the underworld as the sacrificial were-jaguar. The two priests in this scene represent the twin aspects of the planet Venus as Morning Star and Evening Star. They appear to be offering their blood in sacrifice at an altar that symbolizes the underworld Sun God of the present world (note twisted olin symbol in center of sun) . The two priestly characters in feline headdresses with loop-shaped speech scrolls (esoteric symbol of Quetzalcoatl's religion) are dressed in the guise of were-jaguars. Their outfits are decorated with numerous five-pointed stars which have been identified as Nahuat Venus symbols from highland Mexico. It is my guess that the two figures represent Venus as both the morning and the evening star. Teotihuacan's influence over all of Mesoamerica  between A.D. 300-700, can be identified archaeologically by the widespread distribution of Teotihuacan ceramics, which depict Teotihuacan's patron gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc.

                              A variation of this same loop forms the nose of Chac, the Maya equivalent of Tlaloc, on a number of monumental buildings at the ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza.  Although better known as a rain god, Chac, like Tlaloc, is intimately connected with the planet Venus as an Evening Star, and thus represents the god of underworld decapitation.  Chac, who is the most frequently depicted Maya god in the three surviving pre-Hispanic codices, has been identified by scholars as a likely manifestation of the Maya gods Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl) and Itzamna (God D) because of his reptilian or snake-like appearance (Sharer 1983.472).
  (Photograph of Chac masks by Peter Connolly)


Much of our understanding of Mesoamerican religion has been pieced together from Spanish chronicles and prehispanic and Colonial period manuscripts called codices. Unfortunately, for our understanding of the role of mushrooms in this religion, the Spanish missionaries who reported these mushroom rituals were repulsed by what they perceived to be similarities to holy Christian communion.  As a result, they made no attempt to record the rituals in detail and banished all forms of mushroom use.
  After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in 1521 the Catholic Church ordered the burning of all native manuscripts. Called codices, these pictorial documents contained much valuable information pertaining to native history, mythology, and ritual related to a pantheon of supernatural gods. Unhappily, due to Spanish intolerance of indigenous religious beliefs, only eighteen pre-Conquest books attributed to the people of Highland Mexico have survived to the present day.

  We know from the early chronicles that Quetzalcoatl (known in the Maya area as Kukulcan and Gucumatz) was a Toltec ruler. He was apotheosized as Venus and, according to archaeoastronomy expert Susan Milbrath (177),  Quetzalcoatl in the Mixteca-Puebla codices is also identified with Venus. Quetzalcoatl's mushroom ritual of underworld jaguar transformation and Tlaloc Venus resurrection (depicted above) was so sacred that, if one gave one's own life in sacrifice the act emulated Quetzalcoatl, himself.  (Wauchope, Ekholm and Bernal, p.323)    
Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, tells us that...
 "the one that was perfect in the performance of all the customs, exercises and learning (wisdom) observed by the ministers of the idols, was elected highest pontiff; he was elected by the king or chief and all the principals (foremost men), and they called him Quetzalcoatl"... " In the election no attention was paid to lineage, but rather to the customs, exercises, learning and good (clean) living; (meaning) whether they led this life unalterably (steadfastly); kept all the rules, observed by the priests of the idols"  (Sahagun, The History of Ancient Mexico,  1932  p.202).  
Above left is a close-up from page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis shown earlier, of one of the eight figures who receive mushrooms from Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God.  Note that the individual on the right with tears (or dangling eyeballs if he represents a constellation?) is said to be Pilsintecuhtli. In Aztec mythology Pilsintecuhtli is "the Young Prince" and Lord of the rising Sun, (note harpy eagle headdress) and may have been another name for the Aztec Sun God named TonatiuhA close-up of this weeping figure reveals that he wears a harpy eagle headdress which is also associated with the cult of Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star. The fanged figure on the left holding the sacred mushrooms, may represent Venus as an Evening Star as he and the others next to him (above left, and note fangs) will transform into a jaguar when they enter the underworld and that these fanged characters may represent eight of the Nine Lords of the Underworld (or Night) or nine if you count Pilsintecuhtli. 
Above on the right is the close-up of the figure who receives mushrooms from the Wind God Quetzalcoatl . He has been identified as Pilsintecuhtli, a manifestation of the Aztec god Xochipilli, a child god who was the prince or lord of psychedelic flowers (Manuel Aguilar, Ethnomedicine In Mesoamerica, p. 80). Note that this individual not only has mushrooms in his hand, but also is shown with fangs denoting underworld jaguar transformation. According to Borhegyi, "snouted and fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs are a feature commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God. (Borhegyi 1980:17)

      Image may be subject to copyright ( )
  Above is a close up of a page from the Madrid Codex, one of the few surviving pre-Hispanic texts which escaped the Spanish holocaust. The codex is the longest of the Maya books, some 56 pages painted on both sides, dating back sometime around the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and now is safely stored in the Museo de America in Madrid. The scene above depicts what I believe is a mushroom ritual prior to self sacrifice, which was an important part of Maya worship. The individual above is painted blue, denoting  sacrifice (Sharer,1984:484), and he has what appears to be a disembodied eye in the shape of a mushroom. Note also that a head varient glyph of Chac appears at the top left of the page in which Chac's eye is shaped like a capital T representing the word  ik.  The character in the scene painted blue is surrounded by a ring of what  look like tiny mushroom caps. These tiny mushrooms may denote a sacred portal of deification via Chac's axe and underworld decapitation. In this scene the blue individual is likely a willing victim of self sacrifice (suicide), because the artist depicts him unbound with his arms crossed in front of his body and not bound behind him (Baudez and Mathews, 1979).  He also wears elite ear ornamentation. If he were a captive, slave or prisoner, he would have been stripped of these elite items.  Its possible that the use of the color blue to denote sacrifice comes from the fact that the stem or stipe of the psilocybin mushroom turns blue when picked or bruised. That characteristic blue color is, in fact, the best and safest way to identify a psilocybin mushroom. ( Guzman, 2009:261)
Fray Bernardino Sahagun states in Book 9 that merchant groups known as the pochteca, which translates to " priests who lead," were devout followers of Quetzalcoatl under his patron name of Yiacatecuhtli or Yacateuctil, Lord of the Vanguard.  Eric Thompson named the god Ikal Ahau or Black Lord,as the god of death among the Tzotzil Maya (Orellana,1987:.163).
A passage from the book reads:  "the eating of mushrooms was sometimes also part of a longer ceremony performed by merchants returning from a trading expedition to the coast lands. The merchants, who arrived on a day of favorable aspect, organized a feast and ceremony of thanksgiving, also on a day of favorable aspect. As a prelude to the ceremony of eating mushrooms, they sacrificed a quail, offered incense to the four directions, and made offerings to the gods of flowers and fragrant herbs. The eating of mushrooms took place in the earlier part of the evening. At midnight a feast followed, and toward dawn the various offerings to the gods, or the remains of them, were ceremonially buried."

Photographs © Justin Kerr
Maya vase K4932  depicts Maya merchants carrying large sacks over their shoulders filled with what appear to be mushrooms. The complex iconography along the rim of this vase depicts a cross-cut mushroom similar in shape to glyphs representing the planet Venus. The X-icon, which is a common symbol found on Maya vase paintings, most likely represents a sacred portal to the underworld. The fact that the X-icon above is twisted may be a reference to the symbol olin, meaning movement or motion. If so it may refer to the portal's movement up and down as a death star and to divine resurrection via the planet Venus.  Note that the merchants are all dressed in black, attributes of the priesthood of Quetzalcoatl, and that they carry a staff hooked like the symbol of Quetzalcoatl's religion. The merchant god of the ancient Maya is always depicted as black in vase paintings and codices. Merchants prayed to a black lord, named Ek Chuah for a safe return home (Orellana 1987, p.163).
I believe that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have been cultivated for purposes of trade in the Maya area. Hundreds of bottle-shaped pits have been excavated in the Highlands of Guatemala around the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu.  Dug into the ground like man made caves, they are similar to the chultuns found at other sites in the Central and Northern Maya areas. Although commonly thought to have been used for food storage, they would have absorbed water during the rainy season and become too damp for this purpose.  According to archaeologist Michael D. Coe, (1993:44), "Chultunobs (chultuns) were ubiquitous but are often so damp that stored food may have rotted."  Were these man-made caves the perfect habitat for growing mushrooms?  Ancient merchants could have cultivated mushrooms from spores and traded them throughout Mesoamerica and even into South America. If this was indeed the case, it would have been an important source of power and wealth.

 Above and below are scenes from the Madrid Codex which depicts a probable ruler on a throne being offered what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom.  The ruler on the throne most likely represents the Underworld Sun God prior to self sacrifice. Since Quetzalcoatl sacrificed his own life at Teotihuacan in order to create humanity, my theory is that the shamans (priests) taught that the ruler's divine resurrection came through their own self sacrifice (decapitation) in the underworld. Ball courts were believed to be portals to the underworld after the consumption of sacred mushrooms.  Although no formal ballcourts have been identified at the great metropolis of Teotihuacan, excavations at the Temple of the Moon have uncovered a large cache of decapitated heads indicating that the ritual took place there. Archaeologists have also excavated the remains of more than 200 individuals who were sacrificed to Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

 Patron deities could appear in human form, but were also represented in art as a sacred bundle (see representations of K’awil at Palenque). K'awil"s image as a royal scepter is frequently seen in the hands of the High Priest or royal elites. According to the Popol Vuh, the migration of the Quiché tribes was led under the spiritual “guidance” of Tohil, their patron deity. Like the Itzas, the Quiche people also believed that they were led by Lord Plumed Serpent from Tollan /Tula. He led his people eastward to the “land of writing” to a sacred mountain top citadel called Bearded Place, and it was there that the Quiche people settled down to live. This brave leader was descibed as a white man “whose face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons” as described on page 205 by Tedlock (Tedlock: 1985: 205. 213).
“And when war befell their canyons and citadels, it was by means of their genius that the Lord plumed serpent and the Lord Cotuha blazed with power.  Plumed serpent became a true Lord of genius: on one occasion he would climb up to the sky:...“On another he would go down the road to Xibalba (the Maya underworld). On another occasion he would be serpentine, becoming an actual serpent.  On yet another occasion he would make himself aquiline, and on another, feline; he would become like an actual eagle or jaguar in his appearance. On another occasion it would be a pool of blood; he would become nothing but a pool of blood.  Truly his being was that of a Lord of genius."
And this was the beginning and growth of the Quiché, when the Lord Plumed Serpent made the signs of greatness.  His face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons.  He didn't do these things just so there would be one single Lord, a being of genius, but they had the effect of humbling all the tribes, when he did them.  It was just his way of revealing himself, but because of that he became the sole head of the tribes.
This Lord of genius named Plumed Serpent was in the fourth generation of Lords; he was both Keeper of the mat and Keeper of the Reception House Mat”.
  Although a few culturally curious friars defied the ban to write detailed accounts of native history and religion throughout the16th century, their manuscripts remained hidden from public view in the archives of the holy Inquisition. So it was that the religious use of sacred mushrooms remained unnoticed for centuries.  Fortunately for history and anthropology, a number of these early chronicles have since been discovered and translated.


The image above, from the Magliabecchiano Codex, shows the eating of wild mushrooms to summon the God of the Underworld. (jpg - Jimenez Moreno, identified this Nahua god as Mictlantecuhtli, God of the Underworld. The codex which was painted on European paper  has been dated sometime shortly after 1528 (Wasson, 1980 p.114) Wasson writes that the fact that the mushrooms depicted above are painted green was  iconographic code, in that the color green, being the color of jade meant that the object depicted was of great worth and considered divine or holy.   

 One of the more renowned Spanish chroniclers, Fray Diego Duran, wrote in his Histories of New Spain (1537—1588) that his writings would likely go unpublished because many of his contemporaries feared that they would revive ancient customs and rites among the Indians. He added that  "(they) were quite good at secretly preserving their customs”.  Duran mentions that the word for sacrifice, nextlaoaliztli, in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, meant either "payment", or the act of payment. He writes that young children were taught that death by the obsidian knife was a most honorable way to die, as honorable as dying in battle or for a mother and child to die in childbirth. Those who were sacrificed by the obsidian knife were assured a place in Omeyocan, the paradise of the sun, the afterlife.
 Fray Duran's work was rescued from obscurity by Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg.   Bourbourg, an ordained priest, came to the Americas in 1848 to search for rare manuscripts and religious artifacts. While visiting Mexico City, he obtained permission to have the Church archives opened to him, and it was there that he discovered a copy of Fray Diego's Histories. .  

Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran ...
“The Indians made sacrifices in the mountains, and under shaded trees, in the caves and caverns of the dark and gloomy earth. They burned incense, killed their sons and daughters and sacrificed them and offered them as victims to their gods; they sacrificed children, ate human flesh, killed prisoners and captives of war....One thing in all this history: no mention is made of their drinking wine of any type, or of drunkenness. Only wild mushrooms are spoken of and they were eaten raw.” 
...“All the ceremonies and rites, building temples and altars and placing idols in them, fasting, going nude and sleeping…. on the floor, climbing mountains, to preach the law there, kissing the earth, eating it with one's fingers and blowing trumpets and conch shells and flutes on the great feast days-- all these emulated the ways of the holy man, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl”.  (Duran, 1971: 59).   
...“It was common to sacrifice men on feast days as it is for us to kill lambs or cattle in the slaughterhouses.... I am not exaggerating; there were days in which two thousand, three thousand or eight thousand men were sacrificed...Their flesh was eaten and a banquet was prepared with it after the hearts had been offered to the devil.... to make the feasts more solemn   all ate wild mushrooms which make a man lose his senses... the people became excited, filled with pleasure, and lost their senses to some extent."  
Duran called these mushroom ceremonies "Feast of the Revelations".  He also tells us that wild mushrooms were eaten at the ceremony commemorating the accession of the Aztec King Moctezuma in 1502.  After Moctezuma took his Divine Seat, captives were brought before him and sacrificed in his honor. He and his attendants then ate a stew made from their flesh.  (Duran, 1964: 225).
And all the Lords and grandees of the province rose and, to solemnize further the festivities, they all ate of some woodland mushrooms, which they say make you lose your senses, and thus they sallied forth all primed for the dance”.
“When the sacrifice was finished and the steps and courtyard were bathed with human blood, everyone went to eat raw mushrooms”.
“With this food they went out of their minds and were in worse state than if they had drunk a great quantity of wine. They became so inebriated and witless that many of them took their lives in their hands. With the strength of these mushrooms they saw visions and had revelations about the future, since the devil spoke to them in their madness”.
To the distress of later historiansDuran tells us that the Catholic Church, in its zeal to obliterate all aspects of native culture which could threaten Christian religious belief, ordered the destruction of  all native documents pertaining to history, myth, and legend. The Church also banished all aspects of native religion in favor of Christianity, and made no attempt to study or further record mushroom rituals. Duran wrote that the Christianization of the Aztecs  would remain arduous, and that the "heathen" religion of the Aztecs, and "the whole of their culture is impregnated with the old values."

 In 1540 Fray Bartolomé de las Casas wrote that more than eight hundred years of native history were lost when many hieroglyphic screen folded codices were burned. Jesuit priest Domingo Rodriguez tells us that the Franciscan friar Diego de Landa, who arrived in Yucatan in 1549, destroyed over 5000 idols and amassed book burnings in the presence of nobility.  In  Landa's own words: "We found a great number of books and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devil we burned them, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain." (Bishop Landa,1566).
Ironically, despite this massive destruction, Fray Diego de Landa's manuscript entitled  Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, written around 1556, has been hailed as the greatest single source of information about the ancient Maya of Yucatan. Appalled, but fascinated by the native culture, he  took meticulous notes on Maya history and language. He tied his descriptions of Maya ceremonies to the sacred ritual calendar and included drawings of glyphs for the 20 days, and 18 months. He also included images of the gods written in Mayan glyphs as either logograms, or head variants, along with their iconographic attributes that distinguished one deity from another. It is largely due to this volume of work that, years later, epigraphers were able to decipher and understand the meaning of Maya hieroglyphs.
 Unfortunately, the original copy of his famous book was lost and what we have are parts of a copy, written by three different hands, and, according to Inga Clendinnen, perhaps made in 1616. She writes, “it is possible that the unknown copyists, not only omitted or abbreviated sections, but also rearranged the order of the original. There are curious breaks and alternations in tone and subject matter.”  (Clendinnen,1987:117) 
Landa wrote that the high priest, called “Lord Snake,” oversaw all priestly matters pertaining to astronomy, divination, interpreting holy books, and oversaw all festivals, rituals and sacrifices according to the calendar. In essence the high priest was the incarnate of Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc, the servant of the sun. According to Landa the high priest was chosen because of his ability to interpret the prophecies of the katuns.  These prophecies were based on events that repeated cyclically in each of the 13 katun periods of 7200 days. The Maya erected elaborate stone monuments, called katun stones, to commemorate the passing of time and the completion of a katun. The ceremony which scholars believe may have originated in Mexico is clearly linked to a sacred calendar and the veneration of the planet Venus. This particular ceremony introduced a new religious cult into the Maya area. It is first seen at Tikal in the early Classic in the worship of a jaguar-bird-serpent god associated with war and the Morning Star. This god, known as Quetzalcoatl, is linked intimately with what is known as Tlaloc warfare, a so-called "Holy War" waged against neighbors for the most part for the taking of captives. Astronomically timed to the cycles of Venus, also called "Venus Star Wars", Tlaloc warfare, involved raids or ambushes, for the taking of sacrificial victims. 
 In Mexico City, Bishop Juan de Zumarraga claimed to have destroyed 20,000 idols and 500 temples. He is known to have formed a large pyramid of books, manuscripts with paintings and hieroglyphic writing that he torched into flames while the natives who watched could only cry and pray. He also had the lord of Texcoco publicly burned to death Sunday November 30, 1530, because he was accused of worshiping the God,Tlaloc (a mushroom god).
 Spanish chronicler,Fray Bernardino de Sahagun was more sympathetic to the Indians and their culture than most of his colleagues.  He was probably the first to record the use of mushrooms in his famous Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, written between 1547 and 1582. He wrote that the Indians gathered mushrooms in grassy fields and pastures and used them in religious ceremonies because they believed them to be the flesh of their gods (Teonanacatl). Mushroom intoxication, according to Spanish reports gave sorcerers, the power to seemingly change themselves into animals, and that the powerful visions and voices the mushrooms produced were believed to be from God.
 In the Florentine Codex, Sahagun describes a lady of the night on mushrooms...;
 "she parades, she moves lasciviously...she appears like a flower, looks gaudy...views herself in a mirror... she bathes... she goes about with her head high, [she is] rude, drunk, shameless, eating mushrooms.  She paints her face , variously paints her face, her face is covered with rouge, her cheeks are coloured...rubbed with cochineal...she arranges her hair like horns [a fashionable style of hair arrangement]"...finds pleasure in her body...;and, "she waves at one...beckons with her head..." (H. Thomas 1993, p.291). 
“It was said that they did not die, {the Indians} but wakened out of a dream they had lived; this is the reason why the ancient said that when men died  they did not perish, but began to live again, walking almost out of a dream, and that they turned into spirits of gods… and so they said to the dead: “Lord or Lady, wake, for it begins to dawn, now comes the daylight for the yellow feathered birds begin to sing, and the many colored butterflies go flying”; and when anyone died, they used to say of him that he was now teotl, meaning to say he had died in order to become spirit or god.”
 The Florentine Codex which was written by Fray Sahagun, was a collection of well documented information on Aztec culture that he completed around 1575-1577. The 12 volumes are now located in the Laurentian Library in Florence where it may have been sent to be judged by the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic church most likely banned the book because of it's content of pagan rituals.  It remained unknown until it's rediscovery in 1883 (Orellana,1987:p.11).
A 16th-century illustration from the Florentine Codex of teononacatl, the hallucinogenic mushroom of the Aztecs. ( Sahagun,1950 p. 517).
 This page from the Florentine Codex shows what appears to me to be the transfer of cultivated mushrooms into a large ceramic jar.  The use of mushrooms and peyote by 16th century Aztecs, although well documented by Spanish chroniclers and in Aztec codices, has not, by and large, been acknowledged by the archaeological community.  These products may have played an important role in both commerce and religion in pre-Columbian times.  A case in point is the illustration above.  Despite the fact that the objects falling from the basket into the jar appear to be both the size and shape of mushrooms, they have been identified in the past as kernels of maize.      
 Both of the pages illustrated above are  from the Florentine Codex. They depict what I believe is the eating of sacred mushrooms before decapitation. The speech scrolls maybe  representing the word for god esoterically depicts the symbol of the religion. The scepter of sorts depicted on both pages above may represent in code the Amanita mushroom and the "fiveness of Venus" in the depiction of five tiny mushrooms which emerge from the scepter.   The codex page on the right depicts what appears to be the smiling faces of sacrificial victims, looking very mush like willing participants, about to consume sacred mushrooms prior to their decapitation. Note that their capes have been turned around as bibs, maybe to be used after decapitation as a ritual bundle. The seated figure on the lower right is being offering an axe, suggestive of self sacrifice, but not necessarily indicating the ritual or act of self-decapitation. 
Sahagun describes the use of mushrooms at the coronation of Montezuma II,  the High Priest of the Aztecs, as follows: 
“For four days there was feasting and celebration and then on the fourth day came the coronation of Montezuma II, followed by human sacrifices in numbers”.
“At the very first, mushrooms had been served.  They ate them at the time when the shell trumpets were blown.  They ate no more food; they only drank chocolate during the night, and they ate the mushrooms with honey.  But some, while still in command of their senses, entered and sat there by the house on their seats; they danced no more, but only sat there nodding.  One saw in vision that already he would die, and then continued weeping, one saw that he would die in battle; one saw in vision that he would be eaten by wild beasts; one saw in vision that he would take captives in war; one saw in vision that he would be rich, wealthy; one saw in vision that he would buy slaves, he would be a slave owner; one saw in vision that he would commit adultery, he would be struck by stones, he would be stone; one saw in vision that he would steal, he would also be stone and saw in vision that his head would be crushed by stones-they would condemn him; one saw in vision that he would perish in the water; one saw in vision that he would live in peace, and tranquility, until he died; one saw in vision that he would fall from a roof top, and he would fall to his death; however many things were to befall one, he then saw all in vision: even that he would be drowned. And when the effects of the mushrooms had left them they consulted among themselves and told one another what they had seen in vision. And they saw in vision, what would befall those who had eaten no mushrooms, and what they went about doing.  Some were perhaps thieves, some perhaps committed adultery. Howsoever many things there were all were told-that one would take captives, one would become a seasoned warrior, a leader of youths, one would die in battle, become rich, buy slaves, provide banquets, ceremonially bathe slaves, commit adultery, be strangled, perish in water, drown.  Whatsoever was to befall one, they then saw all in vision.  Perhaps he would go to his death in Anauac  (Florentine Codex, Dibble & Anderson, Bk 9:38-39) "

  The arrival of Europeans to the New World caused what could easily be argued as the greatest disaster in human history. This disaster was no less than the tragic depopulation of Native Americans.  According to Berkeley researchers Cook and Borah, when Cortes landed in Mexico in 1519 there were an estimated 25.2 million people living in central Mexico.  After Cortes, the population dropped to around 700,000 people.  By 1623,  just over a century after Cortes's arrival in the New World,  the area had experienced a 97 percent drop in the aboriginal population. A Spanish traveler in post-Conquest Peru named Pedro Cieza de Leon is quoted by Bartolome de Las Casas as saying...
"We Christians, have destroyed so many kingdoms....For wherever the Spaniards have passed , conquering and discovering, it is as though a fire had gone destroying everything in its path."  (Mann, 2005:143-145). 
The reason for the dramatic demographic collapse was the devastating effect of European diseases on the native Americans, who had no previous experience with these microbes and thus no resistance to them. The loss of so many human beings devastated families and demoralized all levels and aspects of native American society.  Further resistance to Spanish rule was impossible, and many native traditions were lost. 
However, the use of hallucinogenic substances in native religion, though weakened, and unremarked for centuries, was never lost. Hallucinogenic mushrooms continued to be collected and used in native curing ceremonies in remote parts of Mexico into the present.  In more recent times, Christian missionary and anthropologist Eunice V. Pike mentions  (1960),  that Christian missionaries had difficulty in converting the Mazatec Indians because they equated hallucinogenic mushrooms with Jesus Christ.  In a letter written in 1953, Christian missionary and anthropologist Eunice  Pike elaborates on the subject of the mushroom and Jesus Christ:
"I’m glad to tell you whatever I can about the Mazatec mushroom.  Someday I may write up my observations for publication, but in the meantime you may make what use of it you can.
The Mazatecs seldom talk about the mushroom to outsiders, but belief in it is widespread.  A twenty-year old boy told me, “I know that outsiders don’t use the mushroom, but Jesus gave it to us because we are poor people and can’t afford a doctor and expensive medicine.”
Sometimes they refer to it as “the blood of Christ,” because supposedly it grows only where a drop of Christ‘s blood has fallen. They say that the land in this region is “living” because it will produce the mushroom whereas; the hot dry country where the mushroom will not grow is called “dead.”
They say that it helps “good people” but if someone who is bad eats it “it kills him or makes him crazy.” When they speak of “badness”   they mean “ceremonially unclean.” (A murderer if he is ceremonially clean can eat the mushroom with no ill effects.) A person is considered safe if he refrains from intercourse five days before and after eating the mushroom.  A shoemaker in our part of town went crazy about five years ago. The neighbors say it was because he ate the mushroom and then had intercourse with his wife.
When a family decides to make use of the mushroom they tell their friends to bring them any they see, but they ask only those who they can trust to refrain from intercourse at that time, for if the person who gathers the mushroom has had intercourse, it will make the person who eats it crazy." (March 9, 1953, Borhegyi archives, MPM.  See also Piket and Cowan 1959:45-150)
In a letter to Borhegyi, Gordon Wasson writes ...
My Mije informants tell me (Manuel Agustin)...  
 "The mushrooms may be gathered by anyone at any hour. Often on kneeling to gather one up, the gatherer utters a prayer of thanks for the divine gift. The mushrooms are placed in a jicara, or gourd bowl, and taken to the church. The mushrooms are placed on the high altar, prayers are said, and copal incense is burned. The mushrooms are taken to the house where the session is to be held, perhaps the home of a sick person. The sick person eats the mushrooms, not a curandero: here is the basic difference from the Mazatec practice. If a lost or stolen object is sought, then the suppliant eats the mushroom in the presence of a close member of his family, all others keeping away. The witness is present to give ear to the words of the eater, as he begins to talk under the influence of the inebriating mushrooms. Furthermore, the mushrooms will not render service if he who eats them has said or thought disrespectful things about them, and if he guilty of this sin, then the mushrooms cause him to see horrible visions of snakes and such like". (Wasson to Borhegyi, Borhegyi Archives, MPM)

                              END OF PART I,   BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE

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