Mushroom John's Shroom World Presents:
The Aztecs and the Sacred Mushrooms
Presented below are several descriptions, as recorded
by the clergy, of some of the effects which the sacred mushrooms allegedly
had upon the Aztec people who consumed them. They were first found in
the texts of the following historians and clergymen: The Franciscan Friar
and chronicler Bernadino de Sahagún, author of the Florentine Codex. Motolina,
Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon, Jacinto de la Serna, Francisco Hernandez and
the Dominican priest, Diego Duran. As previously noted, many of these
clergymen and historians were previously jews who through the threat of
death or expulsion from Spain, were converts to the Catholic religion.
"The natives consumed small black mushrooms that were known as teonanácatl or nanacatl. They grew under grass, in the fields and in pastures, and visions were seen when ingested.
In book 9, Chapter 8 of the Florentine Codex we find two epithets referring to the sacred mushrooms: nanacatl (mushroom) and honguillos negros (little black mushrooms).
In book 10, Chapter 29, we are presented with a description describing nanacatl as "hongos malos que emborrachan"(evil mushrooms that inebriate).
And in book 11 Chapter 7 we are told that "hay unos honguillos en esta tierra que se llaman teonanácatl." (there are some little mushrooms in this land that they call teonanácatl).
In another portion of the codex, Sahagún, a devote catholic, informs us that the mushrooms "aun provocan a lujuria" that they "even provoke lust." Wasson (1980) believed that Sahagún may have been responsible for adding these words and wondered why they were inserted. He inquired if they were meant to either "excite the sixteenth century readers seeking always the Fountain of Youth and new aphrodisiacs? or to incite his pious readers against the mushrooms?" Another historian, Francisco Flores, also made the suggestion that the sacred mushrooms were but "one of the many aphrodisiacs found in Nueva España."
During the past twenty years the author has communicated with numerous adults and young couples who have experimented with psilocybian fungi. Many couples have reported that their sexual appetites were definitely increased during their inebriations on the sacred mushroom. In fact, most of the male subjects who were interviewed mentioned that they were able maintain an erection and to hold back orgasm for several hours. On the other hand, their female counterparts claimed to experience nothing but multiple orgasms during the entire sexual encounter while under the influence of the mushroom inebriation (Allen, personal files).
It should be noted that no shaman, curandera, brujo or sabio in modern Mesoamerica or those seeking advise from the mushrooms have sex for three days before, during and/or after a mushroom ceremony (Pike & Cowan 1959). According to the shamans and sabios this experience would cause permanent madness; suggesting that one would go crazy from the experience. However, many westerners who have experienced intercourse while under the influence of inebriating mushrooms have claimed that it is the finest madness they have ever experienced. What is interesting is that there are no documented studies done in regards to this aspect of one of the many effects attributed to this type of intoxication. Additionally, Albert Hofmann (1980) also observed what he believed to be were erotic sexual effects in two female participants (María Sabina's daughters Apolonia and Aurora, prospective curanderas) during a ceremony held in the home of María Sabina which occurred while Albert Hofmann was under the influence of Salvia divinorum: "Blissful, yearning, moans of Apolonia and Aurora, between singing and prayer, gave the impression of the young women in the drug inebriation was combined with sensual sexual feeling." Furthermore, Leary (1983), who with his lady companion Malaca, had also wrote on the sexually euphoric aphrodisiac effects reported as common in many psilocybian experiences; describing his observations of these effects by claiming that "We were two sea creatures. The mating process in this universe began with the fusion of moist lips producing a soft-electric rapture, which irradiated the entire body. We found no problem maneuvering the limbs, tentacles, and delightful protuberances with which we were miraculously equipped in the transparent honey-liquid zero-gravity atmosphere that surrounded, bathed, and sustained us...
"This was my first sexual experience while under the influence of psychedelics."
Several days after Leary had experienced the euphoric sexual properties of these powerful mushrooms, he asked Aldous Huxley "what he thought about the erotogenic nature of the psychedelic drugs which were slowly becoming popular among the undergraduates at Harvard. Huxley seemed agitated at Leary's query by saying that "of course this is true, Timothy, but we've stirred up enough trouble suggesting that drugs can stimulate aesthetic and religious experiences." Huxley further stated "I strongly urge you not to let the sexual cat out of the bag."
At this time, the author of this paper would like to propose a new term to be applied for describing these effects experienced by those, who under the influence of these mushrooms, have the most orgasmic and cosmic sexual experience of their life. This term is to be known as "psilophoria." "Psilo" for the chemical substance within the mushrooms and "phoria" extracted from the word euphoria. Gartz (1996), wrote about numerous occasions where several innocent collectors in Germany who were foraging for edible mushrooms had accidentally consumed specimens of a newly discovered psilocybian mushroom known as Inocybe aeruginascens. All those involved reported nothing but euphoric reactions during their intoxication. These occurred on numerous occasions in and around Potsdam and outlaying regions of Germany.
Other reported effects were presented by Sahagún who undoubtedly provided some of the best descriptions and effects of these mushrooms. The following descriptions are from the Florentine codex:
In book two, page 130, Sahagún wrote that:
"Teonanácatl grows on the plains, in the grass. The head is small and round. The stem is long and slender. It is so bitter and burns; it burns the throat, it makes one besotted; it deranges one, troubles one. It is a remedy for fever or gout. Only 2 or 3 can be eaten. It saddens, or depresses one; it is known to make one flee, frightens one, makes one hide. He who eats many of them sees many things which make him afraid, or makes him laugh [incessant laughing is one of the more pleasurable effects of a psilocybian intoxication]. He flees, hangs himself, hurls himself from a cliff. Cries out, takes fright. He eats it with honey. Of him it is said, he `bemushroomed' himself."
In book nine we find a the mushrooms being served at a State dinner for visiting dignitaries, traders and merchants. At this feast we find that the merchants have been served teonanácatl:
"At the very first, mushrooms were served. They [the merchants] only drank chocolate during the night. They also ate mushrooms in honey. When the inebriation started they danced and wept. Many though of and saw horrible monsters and things."
And finally in book ten, page 49, Sahagún provides us with an incident of abuse by a noblewoman who used mushrooms for pleasure rather then healing or curing:
"The bad noblewoman [is] infamous, very audacious, stern, and proud. Very stupid, brazen. besotted, and drunk. She goes about besotted; she goes about demented; she goes about eating mushrooms."
As one can see, the Aztecs also had what appear to be drug related problems in their society just like we have alcohol related problems in our society.
Other reports from Sahagún tells us of "the Harlot; the Carnal Woman is who is described at length. Put briefly, she is the whore of the itching buttocks. She lives like a bathed slave, acts like a sacrificial victim, goes about with her head high--rude, drunk, shameless, eating mushrooms" [Ibid P 55].
"The Lewd Youth is a drunkard, foolish, dejected; a drunk, a sot. He goes about eating mushrooms" [Ibid P 37].
"The One of Noble Lineage when he is a bad nobleman is a flatterer--a drinker, besotted, drunk. He goes about eating Daturas and mushrooms. He becomes vain, brazen" [Ibid P 20].
"The Bad Youth goes about becoming crazed on both kinds of daturas and mush-rooms; he is dissolute, mad; he goes about mocking, telling tales, being rude, repeating insults" [Ibid P 12].
The above descriptions written by the Spanish clergy and historians regarding the effects which the Sacred Mushrooms had on those who consumed them definitely explains their (the historians) animosity regarding the Aztec use of the mushrooms.
In 1481, Diego Duran wrote the History of the Indians of New Spain. His documents were based on an historical text refer-red to as Cronica X. An early reference in this lexicon occurred during the coronation of Tizok.
40. "Comieron todos de unos hongos monteses, que dicen hacen perder el sentido, y asi todos muy aderezados al baile."
40. "They all ate some woodland mushrooms, which they say makes you lose all your senses, and thus they sallied forth for the dance."
Duran noted that mushrooms were served at the coronation of Moctezuma and other important functions such as festivals and ritual ceremonies. It would appear that the sacred use of teonanácatl was an integral functional part of the Aztec culture. The mushrooms obviously held an important role in determining the structure of their society.
According to the text of Cronica X (11 cap LIV 24), at the coronation of Moctezuma, Duran wrote that:
"de alli iban todos a comer hongos crudos; con la cual comida salian todos de juicio y queaban peores que si hubieran bebido mucho vino. Con la fuerza de agellos hongos, veian visiones y tenian revelaciones de lo venir."
"They all went to eat raw mushrooms; on which food they all went out of their minds, worse then if they had drunk much wine. With the force of those mushrooms, they would see visions and have revelations of the future."
It was known that Moctezuma provided great feasts for his enemies and their Kings and Lords. Here then is an account of one such feast recorded as the "Feast of the Revelations."
Cronica X (11 LXV 26):
"(Moctezuma) hacia comer alos viegos y sacerso tes antiguos, hongos verdes y otros brebajes super-sticiosos, qui les hacia bebar, para que supiensen en aguellas embriagueces que aguellas comidas y brebajes les causab-an, de tener victoria o no."
"(Moctezuma) made the old men drink and the former priests eat green mushrooms and other superstitious potions that he made them drink, so that they would learn in those drunken states that were caused by those foods and potions whether he would win victory or not." The green mushrooms noted above by Duran probably belonged to the genus Psilocybe and that the color green as well as blue are indications of the oxidation of psilocin.
Another reference from Cronica X follows:
"Sino solo los hongos monteses, que los comian crudos, con los cuales, que se alegraban y regocijaban y salian algo de su sentido. Solo hace memoria, de la abundan-cia de cacao que se bebia en estas solemnidades."
"But only the woodland mushrooms which they ate raw, with which, they would rejoice and grow merry and become somewhat tipsy. Mention is made only of the abundance of chocolate that would be drunk on these exalted occasions."
As previously earlier, by 1519, Cortez had conquered all of Mexico and by 1541, an office of the Spanish Inquisition was permanently established in Mexico. Documented records of the Office of the Holy Inquisition indicate that several reports exist documenting the persecution and prosecution of native inhabitants; including a priest who used mushrooms in the year 1574. In these files were lists of charges brought by the clergy against several Indians for their use of the sacred mushrooms (see Wasson, 1980).
In 1581 Fray Juan de Cordoba wrote about the Zapotec indians who had words for "mushrooms that they say give one visions."
One ancient manuscript "Papeles of Nueva España" dated April 15, 1580, reported that: "they would worship the devil and sacrifice dogs and slaves to their idols and after their sacrifice they would dance and get drunk on some mushrooms and then see many visions and fearful figures."
Francisco Hernandez, personal physician to the King of Spain, viewed the Aztec's use of inebriating mushrooms as `causing madness, but not death'. Hernandez believed that the all night vigils which he observed were `awesome and terrifying'. In his Historia Plantarum Novae Hispaniae Volume II, published in 1790, he described several mushrooms. One mushroom was referred to as Chimalnanacame meaning "yellow orbicular mushroom." This could be a reference to a species of Panaeolus or possibly Psilocybe caerulescens Murr. Another term in use at that time by the Aztecs for teonanácatl was the epithet teyhuiti nanácatl meaning intoxicating mushroom.
In 1615, a guide for missionaries on how to deal with the Indians who used inebriating mushrooms shows that "when they are eaten or drunk, they intoxicate, depriving of those who partake of them, of their senses and come to make them believe of any one of a thousand absurdities." Just how powerful were the mighty empirical Aztec wizards in their knowledge of medicinal plant lore? And how had the ever powerful catholic church and their clergy come to fear these innocent natives who would not give up their heathen pagan ways to a Christian God and a new way of life.
Numerous documentation by the clergy on the ritual use of nanacates (mushrooms) among the Aztec native peoples during the fifteenth and sixteenth century represented a most negative view. This was especially true of the church and those who wrote for their King in Spain. They distorted the truth in order to appease their leaders and the Holy Catholic Church. It would appear that the clergy probably dictated to the historians and botanists what they could or could not put to paper. The clergy and historians apparently only wrote exactly what the Holy Office of the Church and Inquisition needed to read and wanted to hear. Wasson (1980) claimed that this kind of totalitarianism by the church was a dominant factor in controlling every person under the churches jurisdiction; including the doctrines of the mighty conquistadors as they conquered the new world. Wasson claimed "here then is Odium Theologicum."
While modern anthropologists, botanists and historians ignored and/or denied the existence of the sacred mushrooms in Mexico, written documentation on the subject since the recent rediscovery by the Wassons' and others has proven otherwise.
As the Spanish Inquisition prevailed on the European continent, so did the persecution of the Indians in Mexico. The conquistadors and the missionaries found great satisfaction in their ambivalent and somewhat derogatory persecution of these poor Indian idolaters. This caused the native inhabitants of Mesoamerica to hide their use of these magical plant substances from the church and their conquering masters. Eventually the native peoples hid their use of the mushrooms in near darkness and secret for over four centuries. No matter how well hidden their so called gatherings were, the fact that these practices survived total annihilation by the church shows the strength the mushrooms provided their users. The Aztec priests, along with their followers, believed that the mushrooms were a sacred gift from God. This belief still persists among several groups of Indians who reside in Mesoamerica today. These mushroom rituals and other drug/herb plant use still exists in contemporary Mexican society, although many of the Indians became devote Catholics once they became converted to Christianity.
In 1970 Ralph Metzner suggested that during the early part of the conquest that "a negative view of mushroom worship prevailed and the secret practice of it went into hiding as Spanish myco-phobia succeeded in stamping out a major force in ancient Aztec culture."
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