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Hallucingenic Mushrooms of Mexico - Guzman 2008

Hallucingenic Mushrooms of Mexico - Guzman 2008

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Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico: An Overview 
Instituto de Ecología, 91000, Xalapa, Veracruz, P.O. Box 63, Mexico; e-mail: gaston.guzman@inecol.edu.mx 
Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico: An Overview.
, with 53 known hallucino-genic species in Mexico, is the most important and diverse group of sacred mushrooms used byMexican indigenous cultures.
Psilocybe caerulescens
, known by the present-day Nahuatl Indiansas
, is hypothesized to be the ceremonially-used
mushroom citedby Sahagún in the 16th century, the true identity of which has remained obscure for centuries.Correcting a widely disseminated error derived from early published information on Mexicanhallucinogenic mushrooms, emphasis is placed on the fact that 
species have never been used traditionally in Mexico. Reports of the use of species of 
Amanita, Clavaria, Conocybe,Cordyceps, Dictyophora, Elaphomyces, Gomphus, Lycoperdon, Psathyrella
, and
assacred or narcotic mushrooms are discussed. A brief history of the discovery of hallucinogenicmushrooms in Mexico is presented, as well as notes on their taxonomy, distribution, andtraditional use in Mexico.
Hongos Alucinógenos en México: Historia, Taxonomia, Distribución Geográfica y UsoTradicional
, con 53 especies alucinógenas conocidas en México, es el grupo másimportante y más diverso de hongos sagrados usados por las culturas indígenas mexicanas. Sepropone aquí que
Psilocybe caerulescens
, nombrado por los nahuatls de hoy día
, es el hongo ceremonial
citado por Sahagún en el siglo XVI, cuya identidadverdadera permanece oscura desde hace siglos. A fin de corregir un error muy diseminadoderivado de los primeros datos publicados sobre los hongos alucinógenos mexicanos, se haráhincapié en el hecho de que las especies
nunca han sido usadas tradicionalmente enMéxico. Se discutirán aquí informes sobre el uso de especies de
Amanita, Clavaria, Conocybe,Cordyceps, Dictyophora, Elaphomyces, Gomphus, Lycoperdon, Psathyrella
comohongos sagrados o narcóticos, y se presentará también una breve historia del descubrimiento dehongos alucinógenos en México, como también algunos datos sobre su taxonomía, sudistribución, y su uso tradicional en México.
Key Words:
Ethnomycology, sacred mushrooms,
, distribution, shamanism,hallucinogens.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms, known variably asentheogenic, magic, medicinal, neurotropic, psyche-delic, psychoactive, sacred, saint, or visionary mush-rooms, were used by different indigenous groups inMexico prior to the Spanish Conquest (see Fig.1),but were unknown to science until the 20thcentury. Since the 1950s, when their ceremonialuse by indigenous peoples was rediscovered(Wasson1957; Heim and Wasson1958), halluci- nogenic mushrooms have received a great deal of scientific and medical as well as popular attention.The explosion in recreational use of these mush-rooms during the 1960s, and the resulting crack-down by law enforcement agencies, has producednegative consequences and legal difficulties for researchers as well as for traditional users of themushrooms (Guzmán2003), yet ceremonial usepersists among certain peoples in Mexico. Thepresent paper traces some of the historical confusionsurrounding the identities of these mushrooms andcomments on their taxonomy, distribution, andtraditional use in Mexico.
Economic Botany 
, 62(3), 2008, pp. 404
412© 2008, by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A.
Published online 23 October 2008.
The Rediscovery of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Mexico
References to sacred mushroom use in Mexico arefound in the very earliest written documents or codices produced in the Spanish New World. TheFranciscan Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1569
1582) mentions mushrooms used in special cere-monies by the Nahuatl Indians; he called thesemushrooms
, meaning 
flesh of thegods.
In the Magliabechiano Codex, Sahagúnpresents a color drawing of a Nahuatl Indian eating a blue-staining mushroom, probably 
Psilocybe caer-ulescens 
(discussed later). The Spaniards, however,suppressed ceremonial mushroom usage, and allmention of sacred mushrooms disappeared from theliterature, leading an American botanist (Saffor 1915) to posit that
was not a mushroomat all but
Lophophora williamsii 
(Lemaire) Coulter,the hallucinogenic
cactus of Mexico and fromthe southwestern United States.The identity of 
as a mushroom wasultimately confirmed by renowned ethnobotanistRichard Schultes (1939). Schultes acted oninformation provided to him by the Austrianphysician Blas Pablo Reko, who reported thatMazatec Indians in the mountain town of Huautla de Jinez in northern Oaxaca usedmushrooms in religious rites. Reko gatheredspecimens of the mushrooms, which he sent toanthropologist Roberto Weitlaner. The North American anthropologist Jean Bassett Johnson,following Weitlaner 
s lead, went to Huautla de Jiménez in 1939 and became, as far as we know,the first Western scientist to observe a nocturnalsacred mushroom ceremony, although he did notingest the mushrooms himself (Schultes1940;
Fig. 1.
Distribution of sacred species of 
in Mexico and the indigenous peoples who use them. Eachdot represents one locality, or several adjacent localities. The thick solid line delineates mountainous areas with a temperate climate (1,500 m altitude or higher). Dotted lines indicate state borders within Mexico. Thin solid linesencircle current territories of mushroom-using indigenous groups: I: Matlazincs; II: Nahuatls (a: Nevado deToluca; b: Popocatépetl volcano; c: Necaxa); III: Mazatecs; IV: Mixes; V: Zapotecs; VI: Chatins; VII: Purepechas(Michoacan); VIII: Nahuatls (Colima); IX: Totonacs (Veracruz). All groups indicated have been confirmed to useceremonial mushrooms through the present except for the Colima Nahuatls (VIII).405GUZMÁN: HALLUCINOGENIC MUSHROOMS OF MEXICO2008]
Reko1945; Wasson and Wasson1957; Heim and Wasson1958; Singer 1958). Both Schultes and Reko went to Huautla in1938 and brought two species of 
sacred mush-rooms,
but Schultes gathered in the field third collection, all of them deposited in theFarlow Herbarium at Harvard University. Only the third of the three packages was identifiedat that time, as
Panaeolus campanulatus 
(Fr.) Bres., better known as
(Fr.) Quél. Apparently underestimat-ing the complexity and diversity of sacredmushroom usage in Mexico, Schultes (1939)assumed
P. sphinctrinus 
collected in the Mazatecarea of Oaxaca to be the
of theNahuatls (Davis1996; Guzmán1959). In the 1940s, mycologist Rolf Singer studiedSchultes
s collections at Harvard University. Heconfirmed the identification of the first package as
Panaeolus sphinctrinus 
, while identifying the other two packages as
Psilocybe cubensis 
sp. Singer (1949) published two little notes, oneunder 
and the other under 
, in which he referred to them as narcotic mushroomsused by Mexican Indians. Though Singer (1975)later removed
from the list of sacredmushrooms used in Mexico based on informationsupplied by Guzmán (1959), the continuedcitation of Singer 
s(1949) note has led to the persistent misconception that species of 
are among the sacred mushrooms of Mexico.Though hallucinogenic species of 
dooccur in Mexico, e.g.,
P. subbalteatus 
Berk. andBroome and
P. cyanescen
Berk. and Broome(=
Copelandia cyanescens 
[Berk. and Bromme]Sacc.), no species of 
appears to havebeen used in any way by indigenous peoples inMexico; indeed, they are typically consideredpoisonous (Guzmán1959). How, then, wasSchultes
s and Reko
s collection of 
firstmistaken for one of the sacred Mazatec mush-rooms? Apparently one package
the one identi-fied as
 was personally collected by Schultes, while the other two packages were soldto Schultes by a Mazatec Indian (Davis1996). Itis possible, then, that Schultes mistook the dung-inhabiting 
Panaeolus sphinctrinus 
in the field for one of the sacred mushrooms, for instance,
Psilocybe mexicana,
which it closely resembles inappearance.The true identity of Mazatec sacred mush-rooms and the nature of their use was finally revealed by R. Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna. They first came to Mexico in1952 looking for clues to understanding themushroom stones of the ancient Maya. Following in Schultes
s footsteps, they reached Huautla de Jiménez in 1953, accompanied by Weitlaner, andthere met the Mazatec shaman, María Sabina.Two years later, Wasson returned, accompaniedby the photographer Allan Richardson. At thattime he participated in the sacred mushroom riteunder María Sabina 
s guidance, thus becoming thefirst scientist to consume sacred mushrooms in a ritual context(Wasson1957; Wasson et al.1974).  Wasson subsequently persuaded the Frenchmycologist Roger Heim to accompany him toHuautla de Jiménez in 1956, where they con-sumed sacred mushrooms with María Sabin(Heim and Wasson1958). Heim (1956) was the first to identify several species of 
asthe principal sacred mushrooms of Mexico. Heimsupplied the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann with
Psilocybe mexicana 
cultured from specimens gath-ered in Huautla de Jiménez, and Hofman
s team(whose isolated the LSD-like indole alkaloid)subsequently isolated the indol they called psilocy-bin (Hofmann et al.1958). After working with Schultes
s initial herbariumcollections a decade prior (Singer 1949), Singer arrived in Mexico in 1957 to study the halluci-nogenic mushrooms, with Gastón Guzmán as hisassistant (Singer 1958). Singer also collaborated with mycologist Alexander Smith to produce thefirst monograph on the hallucinogenic
species (Singer and Smith1958). Guzmán, whohad also established collaborations with Schultes, Wasson, and Heim, began working on
at this time (see Guzmán1959,1960). During  his studies in the Farlow Herbarium at HarvardUniversity, Guzn found that the secondpackage of mushrooms bought by Schultes andidentified by Singer as
sp. was actually 
Psilocybe caerulescens 
, an important sacred mush-room among the Mazatecs (see Table1).Heim and Wasson (1958) also reported theceremonial usage of 
Cordyceps capitata 
(Holms.:Fr.)Link and
C. ophioglossoides 
(Fr.) Link as well as
spp. by the Nahuatl. These reportshave been confirmed, as described below. Hofmann was unable to detect any hallucinogenic compoundsin
C. capitata 
(see Heim and Wasson1958), butsince the specimens he assayed were dry and stale,further investigation is warranted.

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