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The ancient Mayas, Aztecs and pre Columbian inhabitants of Central and South America worshipped divine power in the cult of the sacred mushroom. Their word for the hallucinogenic variety. “teonanacatl,” translates to “god's flesh.” This apparent reference to an alternative form of holy communion profoundly offended the Catholic priests who came to the “new world" with the Spanish Conquistadores. They went to great lengths to suppress mushroom worship among the natives and completely destroyed those cults which worshipped the mushroom as a fertility symbol.
But the Spaniards also consumed psilocybin mushrooms in the early days after their arrival. Montezuma served mushrooms to Cortez and his men when he welcomed them to his palace. The Spaniards reported that there were three types of mushrooms, which caused either laughter and intoxication, divine inspiration, or visions of demons and violence.
More modern research indicates that the content of a psilocybin mushroom experience depends on the user's personality. Thus, the Spanish invaders of Mexico were most likely equally divided among drunkards, religious fanatics, and mother-rapers.
Although the history of the Mayan mushroom cults remains shrouded in mystery, a Mayan shaman now living in Los Angeles has shed some light on the subject. According to the shaman, psilocybin mushrooms will dissolve in honey. This practice was once a refreshing treat for the ancient Mayas and later became a favorite guise in smuggling mushrooms past the watchful eyes of the Spanish priests.
Photographer Jim Scott, traveling with a group of backpackers, journeyed to the small town of Palenque in southern Mexico last year. The town is known for both the ancient Maya ruins that lie nearby and the psilocybin mushrooms that grow around the ruins. Scott not only photographed the ruins and mushrooms of Palenque, but he sampled and experienced them both as well. Here's his Story.
"Tripping" to Palenque
Shortly after arriving in Palenque, we walked around, asked about the ruins, and learned that they were about four miles out of town. A taxi driver told us of a campground out by the ruins that was run by an American and his Mexican wife. For a few dollars, we loaded all our packs in the taxi and were driven to the campground.
The camp had indoor bathrooms with hot water showers and a generator that provided us with light until nine at night. There were other Americans there with vans or, like us, with tents and sleeping bags. Those with hammocks could string them up in the patio. The couple who ran the camp were nice and it cost only a dollar or so a night. So this was the place for us—just a short distance from the ruins.
In talking to the people at the camp we found out that psilocybin mushrooms grew in the cow pasture across the road from the campground. It had been raining off and on for the past few days and, since mushrooms abound following rain, we made plans to go mushroom hunting the next day.
The Hunt for Mushrooms
The following morning a group of us went out hunting for magic mushrooms in the pastures around the grazing cows. It didn't take long to discover that we were surrounded by many varieties of mushrooms. They were of different sizes, shapes, and colors. At that time, most of us did not know one hell of a lot about what to look for. While we were looking at all the mushrooms in confusion, not knowing what to eat and what to avoid, Mark (another American) came walking up to us from camp. He had been mushrooming the day before and knew what to look for.
The psilocybin mushrooms we were looking for grow right around the cow shit in the pastures. The mushrooms we found were white and had blue-black collars growing 3/4 of the way up the white stems. The caps were white around the edges, turning orange at the top. The gills were grey-black.
Walking through the pasture we could see them growing in groups by the cow shit. When we'd find what looked like the right kind, we'd pick it and press the stem. If the bruise on the stem turned purple, we knew we had the real thing. Within an hour we picked about three dozen. The size of the caps varied from one to four inches, although they sometimes grew larger.
The Magical Psilocybin of Palenque
They tasted like fresh store mushrooms. As I ate | wondered if we had the right variety or not, knowing that I would find out very soon. I ate some of the mushrooms with Mexican cheese and drank warm beer, which made for a good snack. Everyone ate what they thought was right for them, usually five or six mushrooms with three-inch caps. Then we started thinking about where to go to experience the high. I decided to go for a nice cool swim in the nearby jungle pools first. While I was walking through the pasture the magic mushroom experience started. -
It felt as if my energy was expanding. The surrounding countryside and people started to give off a glow that was rainbow colored. It was as if there was a field of energy flowing with life over everything. The energy was being absorbed by everything, a part of the whole connected through this powerful force. The glow reminded me of what I had read about the rainbow colored auras and the auric electric sheath. It was as if I was in a field of light and, at the same time, in this field we call reality. They both seemed to be existing at the same place in time, but at different frequencies. The plants gave off colors different than the animals. The feeling I had was as if I was part of a universal whole, and in harmony with it.
To say I had an interesting day would be an understatement.