Wednesday, April 15, 2015


About Carl de Borhegyi                                                         

                                  "FLESH OF THE GODS"
                           Teonanacatl; Mushroom of Immortality 
                                                           by Carl de Borhegyi

Dead Sea Scroll scholar, John Marco Allegro, has written a controversial but thought-provoking study of psychotropic rituals in early Judeo-Christianity (1971). In Allegro's book titled, "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross", Allegro suggests the possibility that contemporary Judeo-Christian tradition may be traced to primitive fertility cults associated with the adoration of the fly agaric or Amanita muscaria mushroom. Allegro an Oxford-educated scholar was assigned to decipher the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran in 1947.  Allegro believed that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, known as the Essenes, were religiously consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms, specifically the Amanita muscaria mushroom in their rituals. Allegro surmised that the Amanita muscaria mushroom was the original sacrament of the eucharist, that formed the basis of early Christian doctrines, including the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Above, is a humeral veil used by the 17th century Dominican Cardinal, Thomas Howard, which encodes the Fleur de lis symbol below, circled in yellow, in association with an upended toad, a symbol of transformation and rebirth in both the Old World and New World. 


Note that the image of the cross beneath the crown appears to look very much like an encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom, once the white spots are added. Below is the fleur de lis which represents a symbol of heaven and that the toad below the Fleur de lis, is also a symbol in Mesoamerica of rebirth and transformation. The Cardinal's veil now belongs to the Dominican Priory in Oxford. (Photo from


Christ and the Twelve Apostles, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain 12th century, note the Apostles eyes and what appear to me to be encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms " Hidden In Plain Sight".   (


 Carved image of Amanita muscaria mushroom and challis 12th century, Spain.      

                   "Hidden in Plain Sight"
    East entrance to the Basilica de San Vicente, in Avila 12th century, Spain.



Above is a page from Diego Duran's manuscript Histories of New Spain (1537-1588) that depicts the Aztec conqueror Hernando Cortes, who the Indians believed was the incarnate of their legendary god-king Quetzalcoatl, wearing a helmet with a symbol that I propose is an encoded feathered Fleur-de-lis emblem. The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II, believed in a prophecy that the bearded god-king Quetzalcoatl, would return in the year "Ce Acatl' to reclaim his rightful throne, coincidentally the same year that the bearded Cortes arrived in the New World in 1519. I propose that the Aztec artist who painted this image of Cortes intentionally encodes the symbol of the Fleur de lis in his helmet because it was the symbol of their god Quetzalcoatl, and the enigmatic symbol of his mushroom Venus religion.

Not long after the fall of the Aztec capital it was reported to Hernando Cortes that the Indians of the New world were using certain mushrooms in their religious ceremonies, consuming them as Spanish friars put it, in a demonic religious communion and calling their sacred mushroom, Teonanacatl, meaning " Gods flesh" "Teo" meaning god in the language of the Aztecs. One of the first twelve Franciscans to arrive shortly after the conquest of Mexico was Toribio de Paredes who the Indians affectionately called Motolinía "poor man". Motolinia ends his disquisition with the observation that the Indians served the mushrooms in Holy Communion (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, p. 37 1962).

Motolinía recorded...

“They had another way of drunkenness, that made them more cruel and it was with some fungi or small mushrooms, which exist in this land as in Castilla; but those of this land are of such a kind that eaten raw and being bitter with them a little bees honey; and a while later they would see a thousand visions, especially serpents, and as they would be out of their senses, it would seem to them that their legs and bodies were full of worms eating them alive, and thus half rabid, they would sally forth from the house, wanting someone to kill them; and with this bestial drunkenness and travail that they were feeling, it happened sometimes that they hanged themselves, and also against others they were crueler. These mushrooms, they called in their language teonanacatl, which means 'flesh of God' or the devil, whom they worshiped.” (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin)

The Aztecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest referred to mushrooms as flowers (R.G. Wasson, 1980 p.79). "Three Aztec deities have particular connection with them: Xochipilli, Macuilxochitl, and Xochiquetzal, all of whom serve as patrons of beauty, pleasure, and the arts" (Mary Miller and Karl Taube, 1993 p.88).

Quoting Ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson....

"The flowers took them to another world where they sang their Aztec poetry to the music of their Aztec instruments, a world that they called their Tlalocan (or sometimes their Tamoanchan), a world of strange and wondrous beauty, where they reveled in sensations beyond imagining".

"If I were to postulate the nature of a mushroomic cult, it would be of an erotic or procreative character. Fray Sahagun says that the narcotic mushroom incita a la lujuria,-- excites lust. He described it in a dancing scene where it is eaten." (letter from Gordon Wasson to Steve de Borhegyi 3-27-1953)

According to Gordon Wasson (1962 p.38) one of the poems in a Nahuatl anthology mentions expressly the sacred Mushrooms. Others in the same collection use xochi, "flowers" in a sense that suggests it was a metaphor used for the mushroom. This possibility is reenforced by Motolina's lexicon, where xochinanacatl is translated by honguillos que embeodan, "little mushrooms that inebriate"..... (From "Dolor en la Amistaad" (A.D. 1600) Anonymous, translated by Angel Maria Garibay. No. 37 in Xochimapictli, coleccion de Poemas nahuas. Mexico City, 1959)

Flowers or mushrooms, symbolize (the Fleur de lis emblem) a state of the soul on its journey to full godhood and Teonanacatal, the mushroom of the Aztecs, was called "the flower that makes us drunk" (Irene Nicholson 1967, Mexican and Central American Mythology; p.90).

Motolinía also described the ritual calendar and Venus as the star Lucifer, which he said the Indians adored above all others save the sun. They performed more ritual sacrifices for it than for any other creature, celestial or terrestrial. He concludes that.....

"the final reason why their calendar was based on this star, which they greatly revered and honored with sacrifices, was because these misguided people believed that when one of their principal gods, called Topiltzin or Quetzalcoatl, died and left this world, he was metamorphosed into that radiant star." (Lafaye,1987 )

 Above are symbols and names for the 20 day signs in the Aztec calendar, note that the symbol on the bottom right referred to as a flower and representing the number 20, is identical in shape to the Old World Fleur de lis symbol. I propose that this Aztec symbol referred to as a flower and representing the number 20 is really a symbol for divinity, and "Lord" and represents an esoteric symbol for a trinity of gods linked to the Tree of Life and its forbidden fruit, the divine mushroom of immortality.  
The Spanish friars, Dominican friar Diego Durán (1964, 225-6), Fray Bernardino de Sahagun (1947,:239, 247), and Fray Toribio de Benavente (Motolinía) ,(1858, Vol. I: 23), who first reported the ceremonial use of psychogenic mushrooms among the Aztecs 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.

(see Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin, A Bibliography: by R. Gordon Wasson and Stephan F. de Borhegyi, Harvard University, 1962)

Spanish friars recorded that the Indians of the New World drank or ate the mushrooms to induce hallucinatory trances and dreams during which they saw colored visions of jaguars, birds, snakes, and little bearded gnome-like creatures”.

         Photograph © Justin Kerr:
In Mesoamerican mythology, the dwarf or gnome guides the dead in their descent into the underworld. Above is a Late Classic (A.D. 600-900) Maya figurine K2853 from the Justin Kerr Data Base. The figurine represents a  bearded dwarf, or gnome holding a shield in one hand and wearing what I will argue is an upside down Amanita muscaria mushroom hat, compare with mushroom below (Princeton Art Museum). 

Above  is a photograph of an Amanita muscaria mushroom with its trademark skirt, see dwarf's encoded mushroom hat. The Amanita muscaria, is a powerful hallucinogenic mushroom, containing the drugs ibotenic acid and muscimol. Considered as a poisonous mushroom (toadstool) the effects of the Amanita muscaria are unpredictable, and a few deaths have been attributed to this mushroom (photograph copyrighted and owned by the artist, Esther van de Belt ). 
Known as the Fly agaric, the Amanita muscaria mushroom takes its name from the medieval practice of breaking the caps of the mushroom into a saucer of milk in order to stupefy flies. In Old World mythology the Fly agaric mushroom is intimately linked with gnomes and dwarfs. 

Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran’s work was more or less unknown to scholars until the 19th century, when it was discovered in the Madrid Library by José Fernando Ramírez. In 1848 Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg an ordained priest, came to the Americas in search of rare manuscripts and religious artifacts and while visiting Mexico City, Bourbourg obtained permission to have the Church archives opened to him, where he discovered a copy of Fray Diego Duran’s, Histories of New Spain.  
Durán believed the Aztecs were the decedents of the Lost Tribe of Israel, writing that the Indian traditions with which he was familiar with, were similar with the ancient Jewish customs and beliefs that were described in the Old Testament (J.H. Parry 1976, p.318).  Duran reported that mushrooms were eaten on the occasion of the accession of Moctezuma II to the throne, the famous emperor and High Priest of the Aztecs, in the year 1502.

Duran writes in his Histories of New Spain (1537-1588) that the practice of human sacrifice was the custom that the Spanish considered most shocking. Duran writes that mushrooms were used in connection with human sacrifice. Rather than being a punishment, sacrifice was a sacred gift. As he explains, the word for sacrifice, nextlaoaliztli in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, meant either “payment,” or the act of payment [for blessings received]. Young children were taught that death by the obsidian knife was a most honorable way to die, as praiseworthy as dying in battle or for a mother and child to die in childbirth.  


Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran ...(Duran, 1971)  
“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.”
...“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 mentions 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."  Duran mentions that his writings would most likely go unpublished claiming, “some persons (and they are not a few) say that my work will revive ancient customs and rites among the Indians”, and “that the Indians were quite good at secretly preserving their customs”.

Fray Duran 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.

Florentine Codex (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España), by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, between A.D. 1547-1582.
Both of the pages illustrated above are  from the Florentine Codex. They depict what I believe is the eating of sacred mushrooms before the sacred act of ritual decapitation. The page on the right depicts what appears to be the smiling faces of sacrificial victims, prior to their decapitation. Note that the sacrificial victim's capes have been turned around as bibs, maybe to be used after decapitation as a ritual bundle to wrap their severed heads in.

Another Spanish chronicler Jacinto De La Serna, also drew the analogy between the Christian Eucharist and the eating of the mushroom; Serna suggests that the Indians regard  the flesh of the mushroom as divine (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, p. 39 1962).   

Above is a sixteenth-century drawing from the Florentine Codex, Book 11, by Fray Bernadino de Sahagun.  Above is another a scene, depicting a seated figure wearing a white robe, drinking from a goblet. Note that directly in front of the seated figure are two mushroom caps depicted next to the mushroom's stem which is still in the ground, strong evidence of a mushroom ritual among the Aztecs.  

Above is another sixteenth-century drawing from the Florentine Codex, that depicts the sacred mushroom of Mexico, called teonanacatl  by the Aztecs meaning "Gods Flesh". The image of a bird perched on top of the mushrooms is a possible metaphor that alludes to the Principal Bird Deity that sits atop the world tree, or Tree of Life in Mesoamerican mythology.

 A Spanish priest and the physician to the King of Spain, Dr. Francisco Hernandez studied the natives and concluded the Indians of the New World already believed in the Holy Trinity. He sent a letter to Bartolome de las Casas, a Bishop of Chiapas in the mid 1500’s, and las Casas reported what Hernandez wrote":
"They knew and believed in God who was in heaven; that that God was the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. That the Father is called by them Icona [Içona in the Spanish text] and that he had created man and all things. The Son’s name was Bakab who was born from a maiden who had ever remained a virgin, whose name was Chibirias, and who is in heaven with God. The Holy Ghost they called Echuac ". 

In 1651 Dr. 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, (Amanita muscaria ?) 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".  (R.Gordon Wasson, 1962: 36; also see Peter Furst, 1990 rev. ed., 9)

It may not be coincidental that in Mesoamerica as in the Old World there is a parallel belief in a Tree of Life.  
In the mythology of ancient Mexico, there is a Nahua legend of a paradise of nine heavens that was dedicated to the Wind God Quetzalcoatl, a paradise  called Tamoanchan where there was a sacred tree that marked the place where the gods were born and where sacred mushrooms and all life derived...
"In Tamoanchan...On the flowery carpet...There are perfect flowers...There are rootless flowers" (Hugh Thomas 1993, Conquest; p.474).


The drawing above is of carved relief panels from the vertical side walls of the South Ball Court at El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico. The carved panel depicts an individual, a ruler or Underworld god, with were-jaguar fangs, in the sacred act of drawing blood from his penis. Note that the figure in the water below receiving the blood offering, wears a fish headdress, which may be a symbolic reference to a mythological ancestor from a previous world age, who survived a world ending flood by being changed into a fish. The bearded god hovering above with two bodies, may represent the god-king Quetzalcoatl in his twin aspects as the planet Venus representing both the Evening Star and Morning Star. Most importantly, note that there are tiny mushrooms depicted on the limb of what must be the Tree of Life. 
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".
  Photographs © Justin Kerr     
Above is a gold Aztec figurine, K2048 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, that depicts a warrior wearing what I believe is a  mushroom-inspired nose plug. I have noted that Hallucinogenic mushrooms appear to be linked with what scholars have called "Tlaloc warfare" or "Venus star-wars".  Note that the Aztec warrior holds a shield depicting the "quincunx", a Mesoamerican Venus symbol identifying the four cardinal directions of the universe and its cosmic center, the sacred portal into the spirit world. 

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, who was the first Spanish chronicler to report mushroom rituals among the Aztecs, also suggested that the Chichimecs and Toltecs consumed hallucinogens before battle to enhance bravery and strength (Furst 1972, p.12). Hallucinogens like mushrooms taken before battle likely eliminated all sense of fear, hunger, and thirst, and gave the combatant a sense of invincibility, Godlike strength and courage to fight at the wildest levels. "This drunkenness lasted two or three days, then vanished"  (Hugh Thomas, Conquest 1993, p.508).
The Fleur-de-lis emblem has long been a symbol of European monarchy and the sacred symbol of the Holy Trinity. Although  perhaps best known through its association with French royalty, the symbol itself is of far greater antiquity, and occurs in the ancient art of both the Old and New Worlds. In both hemispheres the Fleur de lis symbol is associated with divine rulership, linked to mythological deities associated with a Tree of Life, and a trinity of creator gods.
Surprisingly, as I discovered, the ancient symbol that we have come to recognize as the Fleur de lis appears in the art of Mesoamerica at approximately the same time in history as the rise of the ancient Olmecs (1200 B.C. to 400 B.C.). Perhaps not so surprisingly, the emblem of the Fleur de lis in pre-Columbian art and iconography carries the same symbolism of Kingship, as in the Old World, linked to a Trinity of gods, a Tree of Life and a mushroom of immortality.   

Above on the left is a drawing of an Olmec stone celt (900-500 B.C) portraying a winged deity or God-king crowned with an emblem of lordship, that I will demonstrate is a Fleur de lis symbol. Above on the right is an ancient Assyrian stone slab (650 B.C.) depicting a winged deity crowned with the Fleur de lis emblem. The Assyrian winged deity is portrayed holding a ritual bucket in one hand and a pine cone from the Tree of Life in the other.       

In Mesoamerica, as in the Old World, the royal line of the king was considered to be of divine origin, linked to the Tree of Life. Descendents of the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl, and thus all Mesoamerican kings or rulers, were also identified with the trefoil, or Fleur de lis symbol of the resurrected Sun God of Mesoamerican mythology.

While the similarities in appearance and meaning of the Fleur de lis symbol in pre-Columbian art and iconography may be entirely coincidental, as well as the eating of the mushrooms and the Christian Eucharist, logic would argue for consideration of the possibility of ancient transoceanic contact with the Americas prior to the arrival of Columbus--a subject rife with contention.    

Transoceanic contacts with the ancient civilizations of the New World, will continue to be ignored until it can be demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that many traits of New World civilization, like the Fleur de lis and a mushroom ritual linked to a trinity of gods, had its origin in the Old World.

For more read, "Decoding the Fleur de lis" by Carl de Borhegyi:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

11th century Byzantine fresco with encoded mushroom and Fleur de lis imagery ?

About Carl de Borhegyi   

Above and below are close up views of the ceiling of the Karanlik Kilise or (''Dark Church''), in Göreme, Turkey. This beautifully painted (11th century) fresco reveals what I believe to be World Tree imagery, in which the Tree of Life, and Tree of Knowledge, is encoded as a stylistic Amanita muscaria mushroom, the infamous red capped mushroom with white spots, the so called mushroom of immortality (R.Gordon Wasson: 1967) encoded with what I would argue is the Fleur de lis emblem, which represents an esoteric symbol of the World Tree.


For a comprehensive visual study on the subject of mushrooms and the Fleur de lis encoded together in religious art see...........


By Carl de Borhegyi  copyright 2013
 No publication, to my knowledge, either online or in print has ever presented visual evidence of the Old World Fleur de lis symbol encoded in pre-Columbian art as an esoteric symbol of divinity and rulership; linked to a trinity of gods associated with the planet Venus as a divine resurrection star, which is linked to a World Tree portal, or Tree of Life, and it's forbidden fruit, which I  demonstrate is the Amanita muscaria mushroom, the so-called mystery plant in the Rig Veda known as Soma, the only plant known to have been deified in the history of human culture (Peter Furst, 1972:201).

  Hidden In Plain Sight 

By Carl de Borhegyi  copyright 2012               

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"The Baron"

Maya archaeologist, Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi


by Carl de Borhegyi

 My search  for mushrooms in pre-Columbian art began in 1996, inspired by a theory first proposed over fifty years ago by my father, the late Maya archaeologist Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi, that hallucinogenic mushroom rituals were a central aspect of Maya religion. 

My father, better known as Borhegyi, based his theory on his identification of a mushroom stone cult that came into existence in the Guatemala Highlands and Pacific coastal area around 1000 B.C. along with a trophy head cult associated with human sacrifice and the Mesoamerican ballgame.

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 Mesoamerican 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.

My study presents visual evidence of encoded mushroom imagery never identified before, "Hidden In Plain Sight", that proves that the late ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, and my father were in fact correct in surmising that an ancient mushroom cult did exist among the ancient Maya, and that the true identity of Soma was the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom. Moreover, I also believe that both the Amanita muscaria mushroom and the Psilocybin mushroom were worshiped and venerated in Mesoamerica like the god Soma in ancient India and southeast Asia.

These sacred mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of both the New and Old Worlds, that prior to this study they virtually escaped detection.  

For a comprehensive study of mushrooms encoded in pre-Columbian art visit....... (Hidden In Plain Sight)

Quoting Maya 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)  

 The hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, identified by Robert Gordon Wasson as the plant and god Soma from the Rig Veda the only plant known to have been deified in the history of human culture (Peter T. Furst, 1972:201) is I believe, the inspiration of many religious ideas throughout the world. As can be seen from the images presented below, 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. 


Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin,  A Bibliography: 
 by R. Gordon Wasson and  Stephan F. de Borhegyi, Harvard University,  1962 

 (Photograph of Amanita mushroom by

Quoting  Robert  Gordon Wasson….

 "What was this plant that was called “Soma”? No one knows. Apparently its identity was lost some 3,000 years ago, when its use was abandoned by the priests”.
” I believe that Soma was a mushroom, Amanita muscaria (Fries ex L.) Quel, the fly-agaric, the Fliegenpilz of the Germans, the fausse oronge or tue-mouche or crapaudin of the French, the mukhomor of the Russians. This flaming red mushroom with white spots flecking its cap is familiar throughout northern Europe and Siberia. It is often put down in mushroom manuals as deadly poisonous but this is false, as I myself can testify. Until lately it has been a central feature of the worship of numerous tribes in northern Siberia, where it has been consumed in the course of their shamanic sessions. Its reputation as a lethal plant in the West is, I contend, a splendid example of a tabu long outliving the religion that gave rise to it. Among the most conservative users of the fly-agaric in Siberia the belief prevailed until recent times that only the shaman and his apprentice could consume the fly-agaric with impunity: all others would surely die. This is, I am sure, the origin of the tabu that has survived among us down to our own day.”    (From Wasson’s, Soma of the Aryans: ttp://

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,

Dead Sea Scroll scholar 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   anencoded 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.

 Quoting Robert 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



 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".         

                          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 ?       

  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

  Quoting 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".   

For more on Mushrooms in Christian Art visit  (
For more on Mushrooms in Pre-Columbian Art, read "Soma in the Americas" and "Breaking the Mushroom Code" by Carl de Borhegyi,  at   (Hidden In Plain Sight)