Mushrooms in Native American Art

Man has had a curiosity for generations about mushrooms and other consciousness altering drugs.

Some of the oldest images or representations of hallucinogenic magic mushrooms can be found in the Sahara Desert and date back to 7000 to 9000 years ago. A group of rock paintings in the Sahara Desert show the artistry of Pre-Neolithic Early Gatherers, “in which mushroom effigies are represented repeatedly.” Large masked gods covered with mushrooms lead us to believe that this was a cult that made use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

In California rock art from the Chumash and Yokut tribes have been associated with the “Toloache cult,” which centered around the ritual use of jimson weed for spiritual and or mystical purposes. Jimson weed is a hallucinogenic plant of the Datura genus and is known to have been used by many Californian and Mexican Indian tribes.

Some of the first Chumash rock art that centers around the use of this Jimsonweed can be dated to 5,000 years ago. In Texas there is a mescal cult which made use of “Sophora secundiflora,” hallucinogenic beans which were used to during rites of initiation amongst many of the local Indian tribes in the region. This mescal cult goes back to 10,000 years ago, to the Paleo-Indian Hunters period at the end of the Pleistocene period. Archeologists found mescal seeds next to areas where paintings were found. The seeds date back to the year 8,000 BC, when Carbon-14 dated.

Writer Terrance McKenna thought that hallucinogenic mushrooms and human interaction may go as far back as one million years. Originating in Eastern Africa, McKenna thought early hominids up to Homo hablis  when expanding their diet must have included roots, tubers and psilocybin mushrooms they found off the grasslands, when they branched off from just eating fruit and small animals they could find.

Mesolithic rock paintings from a prehistoric site in North Africa named Tassil n”Ajjer were found showing possible shamanic use of mushrooms, most likely the psilocybin variety. Native Mesoamerican people also have a history with hallucinogenic species of Psilocybin mushrooms and have used them in religious communion divination and healing ceremonies from pre-Columbian times up to present day.

In Guatemala mushroom shaped statues and vases depicting mushrooms as a central motif were found in several archeological sites, which point to the fact that ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is very, very old.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms were called Teonanacatl and can be translated as “divine mushroom” and were eaten for ritual purposes at the coronation of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma 2 in the year 1502. The Aztecs called these mushrooms “genius mushrooms” or “divine” or “wonderous” mushroom.

One of the first mentions of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the western world was in 1799 in London when a man had picked and fed his family Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms for breakfast. The man reported had made notes that his daughter was attacked by modest fits of uncontrollable laughter, and that the stern commands of her parents had little to no effect on her during the duration of her “experience.” The uses of psilocybin mushroom have gone from a “Timothy Leary, tune in, turn on, drop out, trippy, hippy, long haired, barefoot” vibe to a “more legitimate, scientifically rigorous and therapeutic study.”

More on the therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms and psychedelics in modern science today in the next chapter of “Man and Psychedelics: Part Two; Mushrooms” coming soon.