Carl de Borghegyi’s Work, Soma in the Americas


About Carl de Borhegyi





Carl de Borhegyi  Copyright  2010



There is still a great deal of debate among scholars concerning the true identity of the mystery plant mentioned over 100 times in the Rig Veda called Soma, the only plant / beverage known to have been deified in the history of human culture, (Furst, 1972:201). The Rig Veda describes Soma as a small red plant having no leaves, and lacking both roots and blossoms, but having a stem that is juicy and meaty (Furst, 1976 p.97). While the hymns about Soma have come down to us through time, the botanical identity of Soma still remains a mystery.   

According to the Rig Veda, a mysterious plant called Soma was the source of an intoxicating drink of divine immortality known by the same name. Soma is also described in the Rig Veda as being the father of the gods.


According to the late R. Gordon Wasson, “as early as the first millennium B.C., the real Soma plant disappeared from Vedic ritual and the name came to be applied to various substitutes, of which none had the same psychic effects as the original Soma, and all of which were known at least to the priestly caste to be substitutes” (Furst, 1976 p.98). We are told that drinking Soma provides great physical strength and stamina, enough so, to pick up the earth itself, and the power of flight, to go beyond the limits of heaven and earth (Furst, 1976 p.97). We know that Soma was the focal point of Vedic religion, and that drinking Soma produces immortality, and that the gods drank Soma to make them immortal.

“We have drunk the Soma and become Immortal; we have attained the Light, and found the Gods”. (Rig Veda, 8.XLVIII.3)


Ethno-botanist Terrance McKenna, author of the book, “The Food of Gods” , proposed a theory that the Soma beverage of the Rig Veda was a combination of water, cannabis indica, and the psilocybin mushroom. McKenna based his theory on the premise that the Amanita muscaria mushroom is widely recognized to be a poisonous mushroom, and that the Amanita muscaria mushroom does not produce a hallucinogenic experience.



Above are Hindu-Buddhist figurines from China that I propose encode the Amanita muscaria mushroom…“Hidden in Plain Sight”.



Over the years the author has found an abundance of archaeological evidence supporting the proposition that Mesoamerica, the high cultures of South America, and Easter Island shared, along with many other New World cultures, elements of a mushroom based belief system,  and like the Vedic god Soma of ancient Hinduism, was worshiped and venerated as a god in ancient Mesoamerica.


The author’s study of mushroom and Fleur de lis symbolism in ancient religious art would suggest that the cult of Soma, as well as other Vedic traditions, migrated to the Americas sometime around 1000 B.C. and that the Indians of the New World modeled their religion on Vedic beliefs and ritual practices. Mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of the New World, and the Old World, “Hidden in Plain Sight” that prior to this study they virtually escaped detection.


                      Amanita muscaria mushroom encoded in ancient Hindu-Buddhist art.





         Quoting the late Dr. Robert Heine Geldern… 

“ Future research will probably indicate that Asiatic influences changed the whole structure of native society and transformed the ancient tribal culture [Mesoamerica] into civilization more or less comparable to those of the Old World.” (From Man Across the Sea; Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, 1971, third printing 1976)



Mesoamerica (Paul Kirchhoff, 1942) is a term used that defines those areas of Mexico and Central America that witnessed the development of advanced pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Teotihuacano, Toltec, Mixtec, and Aztec, all of which shared a number of interrelated cultural traits involving religious concepts, ritualism, architecture, arts, and crafts, hieroglyphic writing, and calendrics” (Charles Gallenkamp, 1959, revised 1985 p.3).


The great religions of the Old World are derived from Vedism, the Vedas being the sacred texts that were introduced into the Asian subcontinent around 1500 BCE. by the so called Aryans (Sanskrit for noble) that postdated the Harappa/Indus civilization. Harappan civilization, the earliest in South Asia flourished approximately 2500-1500 BCE. In Zoroastrian religion, the same sacred plant god was known as Haoma. Like Soma, this plant deity played a major role in Persian culture and mythology. The Vedas being the sacred texts of the Aryans, covering the hymns of esoteric knowledge and rituals based on supernatural revelations, dating back to approximately 3500 BCE., that include the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, and the Yajur Veda.

Shiva or Siva, the “Auspicious One” is the Supreme being in Hindu religion who creates, protects and transforms the universe. Portrayed above holding a divine mushroom (Soma?), Shiva is “the transformer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity, that includes Brahma and Vishnu.



Buddhism is named for its reputed founder Gautama also known as Siddharatha Gautama, who came to be known as the Buddha, an Indian prince of the 6th century B.C.  Above is the figurine of Gautama Buddha under what appears to me to be an encoded  mushroom. According to legend, Buddha eventually reaches Nirvana or enlightenment, under the bodhi tree but only after he dies from eating a poisonous mushroom.


Quoting Scott Hajicek-Dobberstein……

“In the legendary biographies of some Buddhist adepts from the 2nd- and 9th-centuries there are some clues which can be interpreted to reveal that the adepts were consuming psychedelic Amanita muscaria, ‘fly agaric’, mushrooms to achieve enlightenment.”  (from Hajicek-Dobberstein 1995, Soma siddhas and alchemical enlightenment: psychedelic mushrooms in Buddhist tradition)



Seated Buddha meditating under a Fleur-de-lis symbol aka. Tree of Life, Nalanda Site Museum, Bihar, India.


16th-century, entrance to Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in Thiruvananthapuram India. The elaborate doorway is believed to be a portal guarded by deities of the Underworld associated with death and Underworld resurrection. The portal door encodes dual serpents, wrapped around the Tree of Life, identified by Fleur de lis emblems, symbolic of divine resurrection.  



         Ethno-archaeologist Dr. Robert Heine Geldern…

“The influences of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of southeast Asia in Mexico and particularly, among the Maya, are incredibly strong, and they have already disturbed some Americanists who don’t like to see them but cannot deny them….Ships that could cross the Indian Ocean were able to cross the Pacific too. Moreover, these ships were really larger and probably more sea-worthy than those of Columbus and Magellan” (from “Man across the Sea” Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, published in 1971)



Today trans-oceanic contact between the hemispheres prior to the voyages of Columbus   is still considered highly unlikely despite the exception of the Viking outpost discovered in Newfoundland in the 1960’s, and the recent awareness that early humans reached far distant Australia by boat, possibly as early as 50,000 years ago.


Most historians believe that maize, or corn was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico, by the Olmec and Maya civilizations around 2500 BC. It was only after the voyages of Columbus in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, that explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries.


In the monumental book titled, “Man across the Sea” Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, published in 1971 from a symposium held in May of 1968, during the national meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Herbert G. Baker (page 436), one of the many contributing authors writes that carbonized maize grains and their impressions upon potsherds were found in (Kashmir), India to be pre-Columbian (see Vishnu-Mittre, 1966).


Quoting archaeologist John L. Sorenson…

“Maize or American Indian corn was represented in pre-Columbian times in the sacred art of India at over a hundred temples, as well as in Java. At least four Sanskrit names for maize are recorded in India, and botanical evidence from corn varieties grown in remote areas of south and east Asia confirm the crop’s very early presence there. Zea mays was also known in medieval Arabia as shown by a lexical entry. (It is uncertain whether the Asian maize came from Mesoamerica or from elsewhere in the New World.)” (source, Sino-Plantonic Papers, Number 195, Dec. 2009)



The Mushroom as the Medium:


The esoteric art style of encoding mushroom imagery in religious art, along with certain motifs like the Fleur de lis symbol, has led me to conclude that the hallucinogenic mushroom cult of the New World did not develop independently, but rather, it was brought to the New World, long before the voyages of Christopher Columbus.



It was easy to understand, however, why mushroom imagery had not been noted earlier. On many vase paintings and figurines the images of mushrooms, or images related to mushrooms, were so abstract, and so intricately interwoven with other complex and colorful elements of Mesoamerican mythology and iconography, that they were, I believe, quite deliberately in an effort to conceal  this sacred information from the  eyes of the uninitiated.


After viewing the visual evidence, readers of this study may wish to challenge this view of New World history with a more open-minded acknowledgement of the capability of ancient peoples to explore their environment and disperse their intellectual heritage to its far corners.


We know from the Rig Veda, (Veda is a Sanskrit word meaning “to see”) that Soma was an intoxicating plant worshiped as both a god and holy beverage by a people who called themselves Aryans.  As I discovered mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of the New Worldthat prior to this study they virtually escaped detection.


Visionary mushrooms encoded in pre-Columbian art.


While at first glance the face of the “Weeping Gods” gives the illusion of a deity with dangling eye-balls. However, if you look closely you will notice that the dangling eyeballs are actually encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms, in the upper image and Psilocybin mushrooms  in the lower image, “Hidden In Plain Sight”.


          Quoting Maya archaeologist Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi…

“…fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs, are commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God”. ( S.F. de Borhegyi 1980:17)



Above is a pre-Columbian incense burner (Toltec?) from Central Mexico that appears to me to be Amanita muscaria mushrooms encoded as the “legendary tears of Quetzalcoatl.”  (jpg –…/s320/Mexico+City+080.jpg)

(Photo of Amanita muscaria, Fly Agaric Mushrooms from Salvia Space Ethnobotanicals)   


         Quoting R. Gordon Wasson…

“It [the mushroom] permits you to see, more clearly than our perishing mortal eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of this life, to travel backwards and forwards in time, to enter other planes of existence, even (as the Indians say) to know God.”

The bemushroomed person is poised in space, a disembodied eye, invisible, incorporeal, seeing but not being seen….In truth, he is the five senses disembodied, all of them keyed to the height of sensitivity and awareness, all of them blending into one another most strangely, until, utterly passive, he becomes a pure receptor, infinitely delicate, of sensations”. (Wasson, 1972a:198;  Borhegyi, 1962)



While one can argue that the simultaneous appearance of encoded mushroom imagery in both the early cultures of the Old World and that of the New World could be the result of parallel outgrowths of the same Paleolithic shamanistic mushroom cult proposed by the late Robert Gordon Wasson, there are other, more complex, similarities that suggest possible transpacific contacts between the two areas. One of these is the method of extraction of the hallucinogenic drink used in both areas.


Now, after more than a half century of virtual denial by the anthropological community of the centrality of hallucinogenic substances, and in particular two varieties of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Amanita muscaria and psilocybin, I can finally present undeniable visual evidence of its existence “Hidden in Plain Sight” in the ancient art and iconography of Mesoamerica.


Quoting R. Gordon Wasson….            

“It can of course be argued that the two great mushroom traditions, that of New World Indians and that of the peoples of Eurasia, are historically unconnected and autonomous, having arisen spontaneously in the two regions from similar requirements of the human psyche and similar environmental opportunities. But are they really unrelated?


After examining thousands of artifacts, a project that would have been impossible before the existence of the computer and the Internet, I discovered a wealth of mushroom imagery. Surprisingly, most of this mushroom imagery concerned the Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric mushroom, rather than the better known hallucinogenic Psilocybin mushroom. Both varieties, however, as well as others were represented. The fact that they had not been noted earlier is explained by the way these images were so cleverly encoded into the art that they became almost invisible. Invariably the mushroom imagery was associated with ritual sacrifice in the Underworld, with jaguar transformation and period endings, and with the decapitation and resurrection of the Underworld Sun God by a pair of deities associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. Mushrooms, in fact, are so closely associated with underworld jaguar transformation, and underworld jaguar resurrection, that they must have been believed to be the vehicle through which both were accomplished. They are also so closely associated with ritual decapitation, that their ingestion may have been considered essential to the ritual of decapitation, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld.


         Quoting the late Dr. Gordon F. Ekholm…

“There are, of course, many problems concerning the kinds of evidence that have been presented in the area of transpacific contacts, but the principal difficulty appears to be a kind of theoretical roadblock that stops short our thinking about questions of diffusion or culture contact. This is true in anthropological thought generally, but the obstruction seems to be particularly solid and resistant among American archaeologists.” (ethno-archaeologist Gordon F Ekholm…From Man Across the Sea; Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, 1971, third printing 1976, Chapter 2, Diffusion and Archaeological Evidence, by Gordon Ekholm page 54)


Diffusionism: is a term often used to describe the origins of cultural characteristics and their spread from one society to another.




If the identification of the Vedic god Soma, the so-called mystery plant described in the Rig Veda is in fact the Amanita muscaria mushroom, first proposed by Wasson, then there can be little doubt that the Amanita muscaria mushroom was indeed the model for the numerous small stone sculptures found in Mesoamerica known as Maya “mushroom stones.”


(photograph by Dr. Richard Rose)


Quoting Michael D. Coe, today’s unofficial  “Dean of Maya studies”….

 “These peculiar objects , one of which was found in an E-III-3 tomb, are of unknown use. Some see vaguely phallic association. Others, such as the late Stephan de Borhegyi, connect them with the cult of the hallucinogenic mushrooms still to this day prevalent in the Mexican highlands, and it is claimed that the mortars and pestles with which the stones are so often associated were used in the preparatory rites” (The Maya, 1993 fifth edition, by M.D. Coe, p. 60).


“Soma in the Americas”, is a study dedicated to the pioneering efforts of Robert Gordon Wasson, and my father Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi.  From the time of their initial meeting in Guatemala in 1953 until Borhegyi’s untimely death in 1969, the two scientists worked in close cooperation and shared a voluminous correspondence of over 500 letters. As the result of their collaborative efforts, as well as Wasson’s extensive research into mushroom symbolism in Siberia and Southeast Asia, they surmised that if the mushroom stones did, indeed, represent a mushroom cult, then the mushroom itself was an iconographic metaphor, and the mushroom stone effigies would supply the clues necessary to decipher their meaning.



Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi – Milwaukee Public Museum

(click above)


Stephan F. de Borhegyi, based his theory of a mushroom cult among the ancient Maya 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. He supported this theory with a solid body of archaeological and historical evidence.

The Wassons, published Borhegyi’s article on the subject in their monumental book, Russia; Mushrooms and History, (Wasson and Wasson, 1957).


Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b,  “Mushroom Stones of Middle America,” in Mushrooms, Russia and History  by Valentina P. Wasson and Robert G. Wasson, eds. N.T.

Borhegyi de, S.F. 1960, “Mushroom stone Discoveries”. Amatitlan Field Report, MPM.

Borhegyi de,  S.F., 1961, “Miniature mushroom stones from Guatemala,” American Antiquity, vol. 26: 498-504.

Borhegyi de, S.F., 1962,  “The Enigmatic Mushroom Stones of Mesoamerica”,  in Middle American Research Records, Vol 20, No.2,:40-52, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Borhegyi de, S.F., 1963, “Pre-Columbian pottery mushrooms from Mesoamerica”,  in American Antiquity, vol. 28:328-338.



 Origins of Soma in the Old World and  its Similarity in the

New World    


The author presents visual evidence of encoded mushrooms in pre-Columbian art that supports Gordon Wasson’s identification of the revered and deified mystery plant of the Rig Veda, called Soma in Indo-Aryan folklore, and called Haoma in Zoroastrian and later Persian mythology, as the Amanita muscaria mushroom.


         Ethno-mycologist 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. The earliest liturgical compositions of the Indo-Aryans, called the Brahmanas and put together after the hymns had been assembled, discuss the surrogates to be used for Soma in the ritual but fail to describe the original plant.”

” 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.[3] 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 taboo 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:// aryans.htm)


Ceramic female fertility figurines from the Indus Valley Civilization in India, dating around the 3rd-2nd century B.C.E. depicting multiple Amanita muscaria mushrooms encoded into the headdress of the Earth Goddess.

The female fertility figurines above are from the Harappa civilization in the Indus Valley of southwest Asia, and all encode the Amanita muscaria mushroom in their headdresses as evidence of Soma. The use of mushroom imagery in connection with the head in areas as far distant as Southeast Asia and Central Mexico (compare with Tlatilco female figurine from Mexico below) is both striking and intriguing.


Above on the left is a female figurine from the Harappa culture, Indus Valley civilization (3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE). The female figurine on the right  is from Puebla, Mexico, Tlatilco an Olmec influenced culture, Early-Middle Preclassic period 1300-800 B.C.E.  Both female figurines depict vulva shaped legs and hips and headdresses with what appears to be encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms.

Standing female figurine from the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa Culture 3rd–2nd century B.C.  20.3 cm (8 in.) Terracotta, modeled face and hand-modeled body Classification: Sculpture Type, sub-type: Figure Indian, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, John Wheelock Eliot Fund Accession number: 27.135 Provenance/Ownership History: Purchased by the MFA in 1927.

Standing female figurine from Tlatilco culture, Puebla, Mexico, Early-Middle Preclassic periods, 1300-800 B.C. Dimension: 6.75in x 0in x 0in 17.145cm x 0cm x 0cm Purchased with funds provided by The Lake Family Endowment



In the Rig Veda, Soma, the plant around which the Vedic sacrifices took place, is described as an intoxicating liquid that was pounded or pressed out of the plant using special pressing stones, called Soma stones (RV IX.11.5-6;IX.109.17-18).

In the highlands of Guatemala where the majority of mushroom stones have been found, and where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance, archaeologists working at the Preclassic site of Kaminajuyu discovered nine miniature mushroom stones in a Maya tomb, along with nine mortars and pestles, stone tools which were likely used in the mushroom’s preparatory rites (see S.F de Borhegyi,1961, 498-504).

While the actual identity of Soma has been lost through time, both its description and the details of its preparation seem to point not to a plant but to the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The flesh of the plant was crushed, using “Soma stones,” and the juices were filtered through wool into large jars. In a like manner, mushroom stones, when they have been found in situ in the course of archaeological excavation, are often accompanied by stone grinding tools known as manos and metates.  Accounts of mushroom ceremonies still in practice among the Zapotec Indians of Mexico confirm the use of these tools in the preparation of hallucinogenic mushrooms for human consumption. One must conclude that these manos and metates were used for the same purpose as the sacred stones described in the Rig Veda that were used to prepare Soma.

Above are two of the nine miniature mushroom stones found buried together in a Maya tomb at Kaminaljuyu, along with nine miniature stone metates and manos (Soma stones?) used in the preparation of a ritual mushroom beverage.



That the Amanita muscaria mushroom may well have been in use in Pre-Hispanic times, however, is suggested by early dictionary sources which describe a mushroom the ancient Maya called xibalbaj okox meaning “underworld mushrooms”, and k’aizalab okox, meaning “lost-judgment mushrooms.” The Mayan word for mushroom in Keqchi  is ocox (Spenard 2006:72).


Mexican mycologist Dr. Gaston Guzmán (personal communication) also confirmed the belief shared by Borhegyi and Wasson, that the mushroom stones from Mesoamerica were modeled  after the Amanita muscaria mushroom (Guzmán, 2002:4).


Quoting anthropologist Peter Furst…

“The connection between these [mushroom] sculptures and the historic mushroom cults of Mesoamerica has not always been accepted. Though many mushroom stones are quite faithful to nature, they were, until recently, not even universally thought to represent mushrooms at all, and a few die-hards even now, in the face of all the evidence, reject this interpretation.” (Furst, 1972)


Archaeologists have noted the almost exact similarity of an ancient board game played by the Aztecs called Patolli, and with an ancient board game from India, called Pachisi. Archaeologist Gordon Ekholm argued that because of the games layout and design, the game could never have been developed independently on opposite sides of the worlds.

Its hard not to see the similarity in the ancient Indus Valley, Mohenjo-daro mushroom-shaped game pieces with the miniature mushroom stones from Guatemala.



Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi examines a miniature mushroom stone from Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala.



Miniature mushroom stone, or board game piece, Indus Valley Civilization?





For documentation of Patolli-Parchisi game in Mesoamerica and the Old World see Z. Nuttall, 1961,  S. Culin, 1898: 854 ff; S. Piggott, 1950: 190-191) (photo from February 16, 2011, From, Games in Ancient Indus’ Mohenjo-daro: (Image from 



                                         (Photographs copyright Borhegyi)

Pottery mushrooms dating to the middle or late Pre-Classic period have been found with figurines of ballplayers at the archaeological sites of Tlatilco in Burial 154 (Trench 6), and at Tlapacoya in the Valley of Mexico ( Borhegyi 1980). The pottery mushroom was found near the figurine of an acrobat suggesting that mushrooms may have been consumed to induce the super-heroic athletic ability and agility. It’s important to note that the pose of the acrobat might represent an East Indian or Hindu yoga posture or a version of the “Dhanur Asan” “Vrischika Asan” which is an advanced yoga posture for people doing “Sheersh Asan”. Pottery shaped mushrooms  were likely used in bloodletting rituals.


Pre-Columbian pottery shaped mushrooms are reported to have been found in El Salvador, and Guatemala in both the highlands and the lowland Maya rain forest and in Mexico in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Veracruz.

For more on pottery mushrooms see Borhegyi de, S.F., 1963, “Pre-Columbian pottery mushrooms from Mesoamerica”,  in American Antiquity, vol. 28:328-338.




The famous bronze statue on the left, of a young women sporting a club-like hand, is from Harappa, early Indus civilization and thought to be about 4,500 years old. The standing female figurine on the right, represents a female ballplayer from ancient Mexico wearing a protective helmet, and club-like glove and wears what may be  a mushroom-inspired ballgame protective cup and belt.

(For more on “knuckle dusters” or  ballgame hand stones and ballgame gloves see de Borhegyi, 1961: 129-140. (photograph of Xochipala female ballplayer from Whittington, 2001). 


The female ballplayer figurine comes from the archaeological site of Xochipala, Mexico, Tlatilco culture in the western state of Guerrero, and dates to 1200-900 B.C.E  It is now in the  Princeton University Art Museum. Many of the clay figurines found at the Olmec influenced sites of Xochipala, Tlatilco, and Tlapacoya, in the Valley of Mexico depict ballplayers holding bats or paddles, or so-called “knuckle dusters” which are over sized hand gloves like the one depicted above on the female Xochipala ballplayer (de Borhegyi S.F. 1980, p.24). The earliest known archaeological site from which actual ball game paraphernalia (stone yoke) has been recovered is El Manati, on the Mexican Gulf Coast dating around 900 B.C.E. Gerard Van Bussel (Van Bussel 1991 Ibid pp. 256-57) analyzed the relationship between the Maya words for blood and semen, and concluded that the ball game may be an allegory of life through dynastic succession, and that the serpent-shaped scepter found at El Manati may be an insignia of power and kingship.

The ballgame can only be explained as a cross cultural phenomenon, because it transcended all linguistic barriers in Mesoamerica.


Quoting Maya archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

 ” the ballgame, and cultural diffusion may be in order”

“While human decapitation was a widespread custom throughout both the Old and New Worlds as early as the Paleolithic period, its association with ancient team games seems to have occurred only in central and eastern Asia, Mesoamerica, and South America (for ballgames in Southeast Asia, see Loffler, 1955). The use of severed human heads in the polo games of Tibet, China, and Mongolia goes back at least as far as the Chou Dynasty (approximately 1100 B.C. -250 B.C.) and possibly to Shang times (about 1750 B.C. -1100 B.C.). By the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the polo game in China had become more refined and human heads were apparently replaced by balls. However, the custom of using “trophy heads” in the game must have survived in modern form in marginal areas, as evidence by the fact that the present day Tajik tribesmen of Afghanistan still use the head of a goat as a ball during the game (Abercombie, 1968). While more studies are needed along this line, it is tempting to suggest that the custom of using human heads in competitive ballgames be added to the growing Pre-Classic inventory of “trans-Pacific contacts”. (S.F. de Borhegyi 1980, p.25)


Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock who translated the Popol Vuh into english has identified five episodes involving decapitation and self decapitation in the Popol Vuh. In one episode the legendary Hero Twins decapitate themselves in the underworld in order to come back to life from. Tedlock mentions that based on evidence discovered by Stephan de Borhegyi, he does not rule out the presence of an Amanita muscaria mushroom cult in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock,1985: 250).




          Indus Valley Civilization and Mesoamerican wheeled animal toys

The discovery of pre-Columbian wheeled toys, also called chariots (A.D. 300-900) in Mexico has caused some scholars to re-examine the notion that the principle of the wheel was never known in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. Researchers have already noted the similarities of wheeled clay toys dug up in Mexico with wheeled clay toys from Mesopotamia, Syria, China, and India. The question remains, of whether the invention of the wheel, or wheeled toys could have been made independently in both the Old Word and the New World.

For documentation of wheeled animal figurines in Mesoamerica see G.F. Ekholm, 1946; C. Irwin,1963; 131-135, and for documentation of wheeled animal figurines in the Old World see H. G. May, 1935: 23-24. E. Speiser, 1935: I, 68ff.; R. S. Star, 1937: I, 425.


Ceramic wheeled toy from Chanhu-daro, the Indus Valley Civilization, India, Harappa Culture, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Ma.


Late Classic period 600-900 A.D. (Gulf Coast region of Mexico) ceramic jaguar on wheels now in the Ethnologists Museum Berlin, (photo by Martin Franken)




                                  IN ANCIENT INDIAN COINS ?



Magadha Janapada silver coin from India,(c.600-500 BC) covered with astronomical symbols. The symbol with five dots has been identified in Mesoamerica as the quincunx, a symbol that refers to the five synodic cycles of Venus as well as to the four cardinal directions and its sacred center. 


Magadha Janapada silver coin from India (c.600-500 BC) depicting mushroom-like symbols in association with a Tree of Life.        

INDIAN COINS: The symbol above on the upper left is referred to in Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy as the quincunx, a symbol or glyph that alludes to the five synodic cycles of Venus as well as to the four cardinal directions and the sacred center.



INDIAN COINS. With astronomical signs, Tree of Life, and probable mushroom inspired symbols. Magadha Janapada (c.600-500 BC), Silver Vimshatika, from the earliest series, approx 5.5g, (cf Rajgor series 10, 45-46)








 Robert Gordon Wasson  1898 – 1986

Photo of Gordon Wasson, from Life Magazine.  The replica mushroom stone next to Wasson was a gift from Borhegyi.


        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)



In the groundbreaking book published by Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, titled Mushrooms, Russia and History  (1957), the Wassons reported on the ritual consumption of Amanita muscaria mushrooms among Siberian and northern Asian peoples, suggesting the antiquity of an ancient mushroom cult to Stone Age times.

The Wassons postulated the existence of a belief system, shared by both continents, that was so ancient that its most basic elements may have been carried to the New World with the first human settlers. The origin of this Pan American belief system, he believed, was early man’s discovery of the mind-altering effects of various hallucinatory substances found in nature, among them the Amanita muscaria mushroom.The Wassons surmised that our own remote ancestors worshiped and venerated a divine mushroom god perhaps 6000 years ago (Furst, 1972, reissued 1990, p.187).


Above are paleolithic petroglyphs from the Chukotka region of Northeastern Siberia depicting sea vessels that likely skirted the coast of the Pacific ocean, and mushroom headed figures.

It’s generally excepted that before the Pleistocene Ice Age, early humans migrated to the Americas through the Bering Strait region where Siberia is only a hundred miles or so from Alaska. Controversy continues as to how early the migrations began, and whether these early migrants used boats or walked across a land bridge that later flooded. We know that Asiatic traits filtered through Siberia into the American Arctic throughout the prehistoric period and have continued to do so among the modern Eskimo (Miguel Covarrubias 1954, p.150).


Above is a late 3rd-early 2nd millennium BCE, stamp seal from the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex, located in Central Asia. The seal has been described as a figure holding snakes, when in reality, I believe this figure represents a shaman with god eye and horns, attributes that are common in the depiction of shamans in ancient art, and that the so called snakes surrounding the shaman are merely encoded mushrooms, encoded to portray divine ecstasy and the mushroom as the medium.     



Petroglyphs of shamans with horns antlers from Azerbaijan on the left and almost identical petroglyphs of shamans with horns and antlers on the right from North America (Petroglyph collage by Laboratory of Alternative History).


Above is a terracotta horse-shaped vessel from Azerbaijan (Maku) 8th -7th century BCE. Central Asia, that encodes the Fleur de lis symbol (Archaeology Museum, Tehran, Iran).


It is reasonable to believe that the redemptive power and divinity of hallucinatory mushrooms could have spread from one culture to another. I believe that the mushroom cult as well as the Fleur de lis symbol migrates from the Old World to Mesoamerica sometime around 1000 to 600 BCE. with the rise of the ancient Olmecs.



Above is an albite-and-jadeite figurine (Olmec culture, 1500-400 BCE.) said to be from Tabasco, Mexico crowned with a symbol similar in shape and meaning to the Old World Fleur de lis.


The rise of the ancient Olmec, the first complex civilization in the New World has puzzled archaeologists for some time. Archaeologists contend that Olmec culture appears to come from out of nowhere in full bloom at the site of San Lorenzo, in Chiapas, Mexico. Carbon 14 dates place Olmec civilization at San Lorenzo at 1200 B.C.E. (M. D.  Coe, 1970, p.21). The Olmec appear on the scene having already developed a highly evolved system of writing, where no earlier or simpler forms have been found. Renowned Maya archaeologist Sylvanus G. Morley, also noted that there was the lack of known direct antecedents of Maya culture in the Maya region (Morley 1946, p.46). Morley noted writing as a perfect example, that even in its earliest known forms, it was already a highly evolved system, that no earlier, simpler forms of writing out of which it might have evolved are known anywhere (Stephen C. Jett 1971, p.46).

The earliest evidence of a mushroom-based religious cult in the New World, appears to date to approximately the same time period, around 1000-400 BC, and the beginnings in Mesoamerica of Olmec culture. This sophisticated culture, with its distinctive art style and mythology, pyramids and megalithic stone sculpture adorned with the images of gods and rulers, appeared quite suddenly in full blossom, first along the Pacific coast of Guatemala and Mexico, and shortly thereafter in what is now the state of Veracruz, Mexico.

The discovery of numerous toad bones in Olmec burials at San Lorenzo suggests that the ancient Olmec may have used mind-altering substances, such as hallucinogenic toad toxin, in various ritual practices (Coe, 1994:69; Furst, 1990: 28; Grube, 2001:294). It was reported by Thomas Gage that the highland Pokmam Maya added toads to their fermented beverages to strengthen the results (Sharer/Morley, 1983 p.484) Mushroom-shaped stones, many bearing toad images carved on their base, have been found throughout Mesoamerica, in the areas of Chiapas, Mexico, Highland Guatemala, and along the Pacific slope as far south as El Salvador (de Borhegyi, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b).


Above is toad receptacle and effigy mushroom stone from Highland Guatemala.


Gordon Wasson was the first to call attention to the pervasiveness of the toad and it’s association with the term toadstool, with the intoxicating or poisonous Amanita muscaria mushrooms in Europe. The Amanita muscaria mushroom is considered a poisonous and deadly mushroom, however human deaths from eating the mushroom are rare. Maya art historian,Tatiana Proskouriakoff demonstrated that the upended toad in Maya iconography is the symbol of rebirth (Coe, 1993:196).


         Ethno-Mycologist  R. Gordon Wasson…

“In the association of these ideas we strike a vein that must go back to the remotest times in Eurasia, to the Stone Age: the link between the toad, the female sex organs, and the mushroom, exemplified in the Mayan languages and the mushroom stones of the Maya Highlands. Man must have brought this association across the Bering Strait (or the land bridge that replaced it in the ice ages) as part of his intellectual luggage.”




Above is a Type C mushroom stone, depicting a mushroom (toadstool), emerging from the mouth of an upended toad. Mushroom stones bearing toad images carved on their base have been found throughout Chiapas, Mexico, the Guatemala highlands, and along the Pacific slope as far south as El Salvador (Borhegyi, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b). The late Maya art historian Tatiana Proskouriakoff demonstrated that in Mayan hieroglyphs the upended toad represents the symbol of rebirth (Coe, 1993:196).


Quoting from ethno-archaeologist Peter T. Furst:

“It is tempting to suggest that the Olmecs might have been instrumental in the spread  of mushroom cults throughout Mesoamerica, as they seem to have been of other significant aspects of early Mexican civilization……” It is in fact a common phenomenon of South American shamanism  (reflected also in Mesoamerica) that shamans are closely identified with the jaguar, to the point where the jaguar is almost nowhere regarded as simply an animal, albeit an especially powerful one, but as supernatural, frequently as the avatar of living or deceased shamans, containing their souls and doing good or evil in accordance with the disposition of their human form” (Furst 1976, pp. 48, 79).”


There are many striking similarities in the art of the Old World, and that of the New World. 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. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the emblem of the Fleur de Lis in Olmec art and iconography carries the same symbolism of “Lord”, and divine immortality as in the Old World, linked to a Trinity of gods, and Tree of Life, and a forbidden fruit.



Above is an Olmec influenced Zapotec urn from (Tomb 7) Monte Alban, in Oaxaca Mexico. The urn portrays a ruler or deity with facial features that appear remarkably similar to those found in the cultures of Asia. The ruler or deity portrayed on the urn is depicted with the familiar “Olmec snarl” symbolism of a snarling jaguar, and crowned with a symbol of rulership and divinity that I propose represents a New World version of the Old World Fleur de lis emblem.  (photograph of Zapotec urn from  


The earliest evidence of writing in Mesoamerica appears on a stelae at the ancient Zapotec ceremonial site of Monte Alban. New evidence would suggest that the ceremonial center at Monte Alban, was Olmec influenced, and begins to develop under Olmec influence about 700-800 B.C.  Radiocarbon dates by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus, of the oldest Zapotec palisade, range between 1680 and 1410 B.C.E. (Charles C.Mann 2006, p.237). The stelae with inscriptions officially known as the danzante with glyphs (or Monument 3 at San Jose Mogote), was carved sometime around 600 B.C. (Josephy 1991, p.159).

Spanish chronicler Pedro Perez de Zamora, in his “Relacion de Teticpac”,  Papeles de Nueva Espana 1580, reported the use of sacred mushrooms among the Zapotec Indians, in the Valley of Oaxaca. (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, p. 37 1962).


Not enough is really known about the Olmec people, the language which they spoke, what they may have called themselves, and where this ancient civilization originally came from. Aztec poems recorded by Spanish scribes, speak of a land called Tamoanchan, which translated from the Mayan language means “Land of the Serpent”.   It was said that “this was a land settled long before the founding of Teotihuacan, where there was a government for a long time, and it was a paradise of gods, ancestors, and humans”.

We know very little about the religious beliefs of the Olmecs and their contemporary neighbors, other than that they apparently revered the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, which they portrayed in small stone sculptures known as Mushroom Stones and also depicted in association with pottery figurines. It is likely that they also practiced ritual decapitation in connection with an esoteric cult of the human head associated with trophy heads, and with the Mesoamerican ballgame. As the first complex religion in Mesoamerica, the Olmec set the tone for future religious developments throughout much of the New World.

The powerful unitary religion of the Olmec, appears to spread quickly throughout the New World with certain elements of the belief system that spread as far as the Andean area of South America. We know this culture by its powerful art style featuring adult and baby “were-jaguars;” an art style so pervasive that it led the late archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling in 1955 to call the Olmec the “people of the jaguar.” He speculated that the Olmecs believed that at some time in their mythical past a jaguar had copulated with, and impregnated, a human female.


(Photo of Olmec whistle by Higinio Gonzalez of Puebla, Mexico) (Photo of Amanita muscaria mushroom from Royalty Free Stock Photos)

The photograph above is of an Olmec whistle, that most likely comes from the San Lorenzo phase of Olmec culture, 1200-400 B.C.E.  These infantile baby-faced figurines, many of which depict the symbolism of a snarling jaguar, and facial features that appear remarkably similar to those found in the cultures of Asia, are a distinctive feature in Olmec art. This figure appears to represent a baby holding on to a tree or gigantic Amanita muscaria mushroom. According to ethno-mycologist Gastón Guzmán, one of the effects of the Amanita muscaria mushroom experience is to see objects as gigantic in size. (Guzman, 2010).  




In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it was reported by natural scientists and travel writers of the shamanistic use of  Amanita muscaria mushrooms among certain tribes in Siberia, and the curious practice of secondary intoxication with urine suffused with Amanita muscaria mushrooms (Furst, 1972 ix).

Berthold Laufer an anthropologist and historical geographer with an expertise in East Asian languages, demonstrated that the word shaman is of Turkish-Tungusian origin in contrast to earlier beliefs that it came from Sanskrit, and that it was introduced to Siberia by Buddhist monks.

Siberian shamanism incorporates ecstatic trances brought on by a ritual of dance and the inducement of hallucinations, most commonly through the consumption of Amanita muscaria mushrooms. The intention was to open communication directly with the spirit world, often through a form of animal transformation. In both Siberia and Mesoamerica the divine mushroom speaks through the voice of the shaman (Wasson 1980, p.52).



To this day Siberian shamans still encode the bright red with white spots, the colors of the Amanita muscaria mushroom in their ceremonial attire (Tatina the Evensk shaman from Kamchatka).


The Lukhang murals of ancient India depict scenes that may represent Amanita muscaria mushroom (Soma?) worship. The Vedas’ repeatedly mention that Soma grows high in the mountains. All the above shamans, or priests wear clothes I believe are encoded with the colors of the Amanita muscaria mushroom.


The shaman’s goal is to achieve divine ecstasy, the mushroom being the medium to communicate with the spirit world. The shamans in the Lukhang murals appear to be in ecstatic trance. It should be noted that the artist’s symbolic reference of a rabbit in the moon, is a similar motif found in Mesoamerican art. Compare the images of the rabbit in the moon in the Lukhang murals of ancient India, with the Aztec version of the rabbit in the moon in the pre-Conquest Codex Borgia. Also note that the Lukhang murals also portrays a shaman sitting next to what looks like a ritual bundle, a common motif often depicted in pre-Columbian art. The similarities between Asian and American shamanism are far too numerous to be explained away as mere coincidence (Furst , 1972  p.82).

( Mural photos from )


In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, travel writers and natural scientists described the ritual use of  Amanita muscaria mushrooms among certain tribes in Siberia, and on the curious practice of secondary intoxication with urine suffused with Amanita muscaria mushrooms (Furst, 1972 ix).

The most famous literary account of urine intoxication suffused with Amanita muscaria mushrooms was presented by Oliver Goldsmith in 1762, regarding the use of Amanita muscaria mushrooms in northeastern Asia by the Tungus, Yakuts, Chukchies, Koryaks, and Kamchadales tribes. Among the Khanty peoples of Western Siberia only the head or cap of the Amanita muscaria mushroom is eaten. One Amanita muscaria mushroom was a prize that was traded for with as many as four reindeer. According to Goldsmith “a rich owner of mushrooms would have a woman chew a couple of the mushrooms into a sausage, which the male would ingest. Then when he walked outside to relieve himself later, the urine was saved in a wooden pot and reused. Apparently the active substances are even more potent in the urine than in the original material. The tradition was called “passing the pot.” An entire village could remain high for a week on one to several mushrooms.”   (from  Literary accounts of Amanita muscaria mushroom rituals in northeastern Asia, Goldsmith from


        Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst…

“It happens that not only Siberian shamans but their reindeer as well were involved with the sacred mushrooms. Several early writers on Siberian customs reported that reindeer shared with man a passion for the inebriating mushroom, and further, that at times the animals urgently sought out human urine, a peculiarity that greatly facilitated the work of the herders in rounding them up—and that might just possibly have assisted their reindeer-hunting ancestors in early efforts at domestication:

. . these animals (reindeer) have frequently eaten that mushroom, which they like very much. Whereupon they have behaved like drunken animals, and then have fallen into a deep slumber. When the Koryak encounter an intoxicated reindeer, they tie his legs until the mushroom has lost its strength and effect. Then they kill the reindeer. If they kill the animal while it is drunk or asleep and eat of its flesh, then everybody who has tasted it becomes intoxicated as if he had eaten the actual fly agaric. (Georg Wilhelm Steller, 1774, in Wasson, 1968: 239-240)


I found plenty of evidence that the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, like the Vedic god Soma, was worshiped and venerated as a god in ancient Mesoamerica. (photo on the left by Mitchell Gomez; (photo on the right by Thomas Alexander)



Aztec figurine now in the collection of the National Museum in Mexico City, of the Aztec god of flowers Xochipilli, whose name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, means “Prince of Flowers.” This figurine I believe, clearly holds the Amanita muscaria mushrooms in each hand.


The Aztec deity Xochipilli, may have been an aspect of a young Lord Quetzalcoatl, and the patron deity of sacred mushrooms and hallucinogenic plants. Xochipilli was also known as Macuilxochitl, meaning “five flowers”. Note the headdress of Xochipilli which contains two adornments of five plumes each–a possible reference or code to what scholars call the “fiveness” of Venus, referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex.

According to Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran, (The Aztecs,1964, p.149) it was written that before Quetzalcoatl departed  his beloved Tula, he left orders that his figure be carved in wood and in stone, to be adored by the common people. “They will remain as a perpetual memorial to our greatness in the way that we remember Quetzalcoatl”.

I discovered that in the folklore and mythology of ancient Mesoamerica, a bearded gnome appears to be esoterically linked with the Amanita muscaria mushroom, just as it is throughout the Old World. According to Stephan de Borhegyi….


“The little red topped mushroom with white polka dots occur frequently in Hungarian folktales, usually in connection with little dwarfs who live under them” (letter from Borhegyi to Wasson April 29th, 1953  Wasson archives, Harvard University)



                 Photograph © Justin Kerr:

Maya figurine  K2853 Late Classic Period (A.D. 600-900) from the Justin Kerr Data Base. The Maya figurine on the left, represents a  bearded gnome, wearing a hat that I believe is an upside down or inverted Amanita muscaria mushroom (Princeton Art Museum). In Mesoamerican mythology the dwarf is related to Quetzalcoatl and guides the dead in their descent into the underworld. On the right is a photograph of an Amanita muscaria mushroom. (photograph copyrighted and owned by the artist, Esther van de Belt ).



Above is a figurine from Nayarit, Western Mexico, dated 100 C.E-, depicting an individual sitting under a gigantic Amanita muscaria mushroom.  The figurine, which is 7.5 cm tall,  is now in the INAH Regional Museum in Guadalajara, Mexico.  One of the effects of the Amanita muscaria mushroom experience is to see objects as gigantic in size. According to Gordon Wasson,  among the various tribes in Siberia where the inebriating mushroom Soma has survived, words used for, or to describe the Amanita muscaria mushroom personify it as “little men.” The photo of the Amanita muscaria mushroom was taken by : © Michael Wood.


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.


The Spanish clergy and Conquistadors were understandably horrified at what they interpreted as a devil-inspired misinterpretation of the Holy Eucharist. In the years that followed the Spanish Conquest, all aspects of native ceremonial life were banned, temples and idols were destroyed, and hundreds of their colorfully illustrated books, known as codices, were burned. Despite these official sanctions, however, some conscientious historians continued to describe what they had observed, albeit with a heavy dose of sixteenth century cultural and religious bias.




In 1952, ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, had 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 pre-Colombian mushroom cult, (Wasson and Wasson, 1980:75 -178), the Wassons consulted American Museum of Natural History archaeologist Gordon F. Ekholm, who put the Wassons in touch with my father, Maya archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi, better known simply as Borhegyi.


The taller jaguar mushroom stone above on the right was excavated from E-III-3 tomb at Kaminaljuyu. 


Stephan F. de Borhegyi, an emigrant from Hungary with a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology and Egyptology from the Peter Paszmany University in Budapest, had been invited to Guatemala in 1948 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.

While at work on these collections Borhegyi came across a number of small, unprovenanced carved stone effigy figures that resembled mushrooms to such a degree that they were called “mushroom stones.”

Although the majority of these mushroom stone sculptures were of indeterminate provenance, a sufficient number had been found during the course of archaeological investigations as to permit Borhegyi to determine approximate dates and to catalog them stylistically.


Jaguar effigy mushroom stone excavated from the Pre-Classic Miraflores E-III-3 tomb at Kaminaljuyu.



         Quoting Stephan F. de Borhegyi

“My assignment for the so-called mushroom cult, earliest 1,000 B.C., is based on the excavations of  Kidder and  Shook at the Verbena cemetery at Kaminaljuyu. The mushroom stone found in this Pre-Classic grave, discovered in Mound E-III-3, has a circular groove on the cap. There are also a number of yet unpublished mushroom stone specimens in the Guatemalan Museum from Highland Guatemala where the pottery association would indicate that they are Pre-Classic. In each case the mushroom stone fragments has a circular groove on the top. Mushroom stones found during the Classic and Post-Classic periods do not have circular grooves. This was the basis on which I prepared the chart on mushroom stones which was then subsequently published by the Wassons. Based on Carbon 14 dates and stratigraphy, some of these  Pre-Classic finds can be dated as early as 1,000 B.C. The reference is in the following”…..(see Shook, E.M. & Kidder, A.V., 1952. Mound E-III-3, Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala; Contributions to American Anthropology & History No. 53 from Publ. 596, Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. (letter from de Borhegyi to Dr. Robert Ravicz, MPM archives December 1st 1960 )



Preclassic mushroom stones from the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu in the Guatemala Highlands. Both sculptures depict a mushroom emerging from the back of a crouching jaguar. Mushroom stones with a double edge or groove on the underside of the cap, have been dated to the Late Pre-Classic period about 300-100 B.C. by Maya archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi based on the few mushroom stones that have been excavated in context at Kaminaljuyu (BORHEGYI, STEPHAN DE: “The enigmatic mushroom stones of Mesoamérica,” M. A. Research Records III. New Orleans, 1959).



        In a letter to R. Gordon Wasson, Stephan de Borhegyi writes….. 

            Dear Gordon,

“I discovered two interesting sentences relating to mushrooms from Indian Chronicles, written around 1554 by natives. In the Popol Vuh, translated from the Spanish version by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley, University of Oklahoma press, Norman Oklahoma, 1950, page 192. “And when they found the young of the birds and the deer, they went at once to a place the blood of the deer and of the birds in the mouth of the stones that were Tohil, and Avilix.  As soon as the blood had been drunk by the gods, the stones spoke, when the priest and the sacrificers came, when they came to bring their offerings.  And they did the same before their symbols, burning pericon (?) and holom-ocox (the head of the mushroom),holom=head, and ocox= mushroom”.

“I think this section definitely indicates that the Quiche used mushrooms in connection with their religious ceremonies.  I even wonder what made the stones speak “?

“In the annals of the Cakchiquel’s, translated from the Cakchiquel Maya by Adrian Recinos and Delia Goetz, University of Oklahoma press, Norman, Oklahoma 1953, pp. 82-83. “At that time, too, they began to worship the devil.  Each seven days, each 13 days, they offered him sacrifices, placing before him, fresh resin, green branches, and fresh bark of the trees, and burning before him a small cat, image of the night.  They took him also the mushrooms, which grow at the foot of the trees, and they drew blood from their ears.”

“The Cakchiquel version therefore also connects mushrooms with ceremonial offerings to the gods.  This mushroom, I think is our anacate, if it grows at the foot or on the tree”.


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



Nine of the ten Preclassic mushroom stones depicted above were found in a cache along with nine miniature metates at the highland Maya archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City. The contents of the cache were dated at 1000-500 B.C.  The tall jaguar mushroom stone on the left was excavated separately at Kaminaljuyu.

The nine miniature mushroom stones in the Nottebohm collection, depicted above, all have a circular groove around the base of the cap, and are of Early and Late Preclassic period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 200).



Above is a close up view of the carved relief panel Mahabalipuram India, (full image below) depicting a dwarf holding what may be an encoded mushroom with a circular groove around the base of the cap, not an umbrella or parasol ?  The word for mushroom in Sanskrit means parasol “chattra” (letter, Wasson to de Borhegyi 5-7-1953 Harvard Archives).


  Umbrella (parasol) or encoded mushroom ?



Quoting Dr. Carl A. P. Ruck…

“Hence the Soma god [of the Rig Veda] has no name, Soma being a metaphor of him as the “Pressed One”; and his botanic identity lies hidden beneath a plethora of metaphors, such as the parasol or wheel with spokes, both perfectly applicable to a mushroom”.  (from Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess, 2006, p.34)



Above are ceramic figurines that I would argue are all holding a divine mushroom, and not an umbrella or parasol; all three figurines are from Western Mexico, and date around 300 BCE–250 CE. (photo on the left, is from American Friends of the Israel Museum) (Photograph in the middle is from the Walter Art Museum) (Photograph on the far right courtesy of Dr. Gaston Guzman)

The word for mushroom in Sanskrit means parasol “chattra” (letter, Wasson to  Borhegyi 5-7-1953 Harvard Archives)



               Photographs © Justin Kerr      (Photo of Hindu statue from  

The photo above on the left depicts the deity scholars identify as the Maya Maize God, known as First-Father, Hun-Nal-Ye.  The Maize God  sculpture itself is of the Late Classic period, and is from the Maya ruins of Copan, in Honduras. He makes what appears to be the same hand gesture commonly depicted in Hindu and Buddhist art. The Maya artist encodes what looks to me like three stylized mushroom caps, two as ear plugs associating the sacred mushroom with the number three and the mythical three hearth stones (or deities) of Maya creation.  The photo on the right represents the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who makes a similar hand gesture. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi holds in her hands what appear to be stylized mushrooms, and she wears a headdress with a symbol that looks very similar to a Fleur de lis emblem.  


Stephan de Borhegyi’s proposal of an ancient mushroom cult among the Maya met with limited, highly skeptical acceptance at best, among his archaeological colleagues. Few in the Mesoamerican archaeological community seriously considered the possibility that the mushroom sculptures had an esoteric religious significance.

One of the most influential archaeologists of the time, was legendary archaeologist Sir J. Eric S. Thompson, who was a major doubter of a Maya mushroom cult, ancient or modern. In a letter to Borhegyi Thompson scoffed at the proposition, arguing that they were more likely used as stools, though he conceded that they would not have been very comfortable!


        Quoting legendary Archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson…. 

“I had heard of the theory that these stones might represent a narcotic mushroom cult, but I would think it a difficult theory to prove or disprove… I know of no reference to their use among the Maya, ancient or modern” (Thompson to de Borhegyi, March 26,1953, MPM Archives).


Thompson was not unfamiliar with mushroom stones. He had found an anthropomorphic mushroom stone representing a seated individual with a mushroom cap in the course of a trial survey of the Southern Maya area. The mushroom looking specimen came from the Central Highlands of Guatemala. Thompson described the piece as a huge mushroom-like object that some anthropologists thought to be stone stools. He also excavated and illustrated several tripod mushroom stones with plain stems at Finca El Baul on the Coastal piedmont of Guatemala. These he also described as stone seats. (Borhegyi in Wasson, 1962:49)


The ballgame yoke fragment above with footprint was excavated by J. Eric Thompson along with a tripod mushroom stone from a pit in front of Monument 3 at the Pacific coastal site of El Baul in Guatemala.


          Ethno-mycologist  R. Gordon Wasson…

“There is nothing incompatible between the mushroom stones and the ball game. Those who have mastered the mushrooms arrive at an extraordinary command of their faculties and muscular movements: their sense of timing is heightened. I have already suggested that the players had ingested the mushrooms before they entered upon the game. If the mushroom stones were related to the ball game, it remains to be discovered what role they played”. (Wasson, from Mushrooms Russia & History, p. 178)



In the years that followed Borhegyi’s death, the existence of entheogenic mushroom ceremonialism in ancient Mesoamerica, and specifically among the Maya, was denied or essentially dismissed as inconsequential.

I believe there are several reasons for this lamentable gap in our understanding of indigenous New World magico-religious origins. One has to be the universal human trait of selectively “seeing” primarily what is of interest to us, and what we are already disposed to believe. Another is the well known Western bias against any mind-altering substance other than alcohol, combined with a great distaste for the widespread experimentation with psychedelic substances in the 1960s and 1970s that followed Wasson’s re-discovery of mushroom ceremonialism among the Mazatec Indians of southern Mexico. Fortunately for future researchers, cultural anthropologist Peter Furst, and a few mycologists, Guzmán, Lowy, and Schultes and Hoffman, continued to research and publish books and articles on the significance of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the development of Mesoamerican art and culture.


Quoting anthropologist Peter Furst…

“The connection between these [mushroom] sculptures and the historic mushroom cults of Mesoamerica has not always been accepted. Though many mushroom stones are quite faithful to nature, they were, until recently, not even universally thought to represent mushrooms at all, and a few die-hards even now, in the face of all the evidence, reject this interpretation.” (Furst, 1972)


It wasn’t as if Borhegyi’s proposal of a mushroom cult wasn’t well grounded in substantial, verifiable evidence. Besides citing his own and others’ archaeological studies, Borhegyi referred frequently to writings by the early chroniclers who witnessed and recorded what they saw of native mushroom ceremonies during the early years of the Spanish Conquest. Their first-hand reports tell us that the Aztecs ate  mushrooms or drank a mushroom beverage in order to induce hallucinatory trances and dreams. During these dreams they reportedly saw colored visions of jaguars, birds, snakes, and little gnome-like creatures.

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

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 mushroom 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.

Maya archaeologist David Kelley noted the similarity between the Mesoamerican calendar and the Hindu lunar mansions. Kelley saw the resemblance between the Mesoamerican cycle of the Nine Lords of the Night, to the Hindu planetary week of nine days, and noted the parallel belief of four previous world ages and their cataclysmic destruction (Susan Milbrath, 1999, p.292).     

 Quoting  Maya archaeologist David H. Kelley…

“Much of Aztec religion looks like a modified Hinduism in which one important change was the deliberate abandonment of religious eroticism” (Man Across the Sea, 1971, p.62).      



        In describing the contents of the Kaminaljuyu cache,

Stephan de Borhegyi wrote…

“The cache of nine miniature mushroom stones {depicted above} demonstrates considerable antiquity for the “mushroom-stone cult,” and suggests a possible association with the nine lords of the night and gods of the underworld, as well as the possible existence of a nine-day cycle and nocturnal count in Preclassic times. The association of the miniature mushroom stones with the miniature metates and manos greatly strengthens the possibility that at least in some areas in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica metates were used to grind the sacred hallucinatory mushrooms to prepare them for ceremonial consumption.” (Borhegyi 1961: 498-504)


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, considered a poisonous mushroom by many (Gerrit J. Keizer 1996, p.156), contains muscarine and ibotenic acid, the toxins or chemicals that cause the powerful psychoactive effects.





No discussion of the beginnings of mushroom worship in the New World would be complete without at least a brief mention of possible Old World origins. The prevailing anthropological view of ancient New World history is that its first human inhabitants came from Asia but, having arrived and spread throughout the length and breadth of the two continents, and they developed their own complex cultures totally independent of outside influence or inspiration. Beginning with Franz Boas, American anthropologists adopted an essentially isolationist point of view. The peoples of the New World, they argued, were fully capable of developing civilizations as sophisticated as any found in the Old World.  Suggestions to the contrary were dismissed as, at best, lacking in hard archaeological evidence, and at worst, fanciful, racist, or demeaning. As a result, Americanists, in general, have ruled out all considerations of possible trans-oceanic contact as lacking in legitimacy.

This isolationist point of view was strongly challenged by a number of anthropologists around the middle of the twentieth century. Among them were Robert Heine-Geldern, and Gordon F. Ekholm. They argued that numerous Old World-New World contacts may have occurred, the majority of them by boat.

In the late 1940s Gordon Ekholm boldly proposed that Chinese visitors from the Shang Dynasty crossed the Pacific and taught the Olmec how to write, build monuments, and worship a feline god. Ekholm proposed multiple transpacific contacts with the New World beginning as early as 3000 B.C. He believed that this influence on New World civilization came from China, or Southeast Asia, and argued that the Chinese, during the Chou and Han dynasties undertook planned voyages to and from the western hemisphere as early as 700 B.C. Ekholm contends that scholars have underrated the maritime capabilities of the early Chinese, who not only invented the compass, but used a more seaworthy rudder than those used in the voyages of Columbus.


Early Chinese texts use the language chhiu, meaning “searching for”, the herb or plant of immortality, often described as a fungus (source: Frederick R. Dannaway, Entheogenic Traces in Islamic Mysiticism).

In her book Pale Ink (self-published c. 1958), anthropologist Henriette Mertz noted two Chinese expeditions to America. Both expeditions are in the Chinese records, one in the fifth century A.D., and the other, much earlier in the twenty-third century B.C. (Peter Tompkins 1976 p.352-353). The 5th century Chinese expedition is described by Hwui Shan a Buddhist monk who reported on the travels of five Buddhist missionaries to a country far to the east called “Fu-sang”, which Mertz and several other historians have identified as Mexico. According to Mertz, “this 5th century visit to Mexico changed the entire course of Mexican history” (from Peter Tompkins 1976 p.352-353).

Convincing evidence of pre-Columbian contacts was supplied by Heine-Geldern and Ekholm and other anthropologists as well as by scholars from different disciplines (Riley, et al, 1971). In addition to providing examples of probable animal, plant, and technological exchange between the continents, they argued that most American pre-historians, being landlubbers, underestimated the ability of ancient seamen to build a craft capable of navigating the oceans.

These well-reasoned and documented arguments notwithstanding, acceptance by American anthropologists of the possibility of significant trans-oceanic contacts between the Americas prior to 1492 CE was not forthcoming. Even with the recent awareness that early humans used boats to explore their world as early as 50,000 years ago, when they reached the shores of Australia, this denial has remained as intractably lodged in the minds of New World archaeologists as the possibility of a New World mushroom-based religion.

In a letter to Gordon Wasson from Carl B. Compton, Director of the Instituto Interamericano, Denton Texas dated May 27, 1957: Compton writes…

” I can quite understand a reluctance to take part in the current trans-Pacific contact argument. I am personally rather impressed by Heine-Geldern’s arguments in favor of it, but would not care to commit myself irrevocably to such a position.” (Wasson Archives, Harvard University)

It is therefore particularly interesting that my study of mushroom symbolism in  pre-Columbian art has led me to a number of striking parallels between the visual imagery of Central and Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica, and South America, including Easter Island.




Some of these parallels surely derive from common roots in a Paleolithic shamanic mushroom cult brought to the New World by the first comers from Asia, as suggested by R. Gordon Wasson Others, however, appear to be far too sophisticated  and complex for such an explanation.







It may be that these drawings, from petroglyphs found on Easter Island, also symbolize Venus.

The petroglyph drawing on the right is by Lorenzo Dominguez (1901-1963).  When asked what it meant, the Easter Islanders replied that it represented “Make Make,” their creator god. The petroglyph on the left was found during an expedition to Easter Island led by Thor Heyerdahl,   (…/ch18.htg/make.jpg).  It appears to me to represent a twin or dualistic aspect of the symbol in question.


        Quoting Gerald Messadie, author of, “The History of the Devil”….

“The equilibrium of the world was maintained through sacrifices and the ritual offering of Soma, the juice of a plant that could well have been Amanita muscaria or Amanita phalloida mushrooms. The meaning of that rite is worthy of reflection: The world exists only on condition that humans inebriate themselves on certain fixed dates and circumstances, thus partaking of the nature of gods. This is the basic principle of the Greek mysteries, and it is also the basis of Judaism’s reactive hatred of drunkenness” (Gerald Messadie, 1997, p.38-39)


Franciscan friar Diego de Landa recorded that the Maya drank intoxicating beverages at every ritual occasion. Quoting the late Maya archaeologist Sylvanus G. Morley: “The drunkenness reported by the Spanish was undoubtedly related to an aspect of Maya ritual not well described in the ethnohistorical documents” (Morley, Sharer, 1983, p.483).



The drawing above is of a Classic period Teotihuacan III fresco from Teopanzalco, Mexico entitled “el altar del sol.”  Encoded in the frieze on both the right and left are mushrooms, to symbolize the sacred journey of Venus into the underworld as the sacrificial were-jaguar. The two deities or priests impersonating deities in the scene represent the twin aspects of the planet Venus as both a Morning Star and Evening Star (note cheek mark). They appear to be offering their blood in sacrifice at an altar that symbolizes the underworld Sun God of the present world (note twisted olin symbol in center of sun). The two priestly characters are dressed as were-jaguars, their outfits decorated with numerous five-pointed stars which have been identified as Nahuat Venus symbols from highland Mexico. Teotihuacan’s influence over all of Mesoamerica  between A.D. 300-700, can be identified archaeologically by the widespread distribution of Teotihuacan ceramics, which depict Teotihuacan’s patron gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc.




The Mexican god Tlaloc can be easily identified by his trademark goggled eyes, feline fangs, and handlebar mustache. Those who died for Tlaloc or were under his watchful eye, went directly to his divine paradise called Tlalocan. Also known as “The Master”, Tlaloc is clearly a mushroom inspired god, who shared the same temple as Quetzalcoatl at the great city of Teotihuacan, and as a Rain and Lightening God, Tlaloc provided the sustenance needed for everlasting life, (mushrooms) in return for the shedding of human blood on earth.


          Quoting Maya archaeologist Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi…

“When one studies Teotihuacan and the far-reaching cultural influences of this great Mesoamerican tollan, or metropolis, it becomes tempting to compare it with the impacts of Hellenism on the various Oriental civilizations that once ruled Anatolia [ancient Turkey], Syria, Persia, India, Egypt, and North Africa” (S.F. de Borhegyi, 1971 p.81-82)


It must have been a natural step for the ancients to associate this dualistic Venus God, Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc, with both life in the upper world and death in the underworld. In his guise as the Evening Star, Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc presided over the nightly death of the Sun God  as he sank beneath the horizon into the underworld. (Sharer, 1994:120)  Judging by an abundance of images painted on Maya funerary vases, I believe they thought he was then ritually decapitated and transformed into a baby jaguar or “were-jaguar.”  According to Aztec legend, he was resurrected each morning by Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star, and ascended into the heavens on the wings of a harpy eagle. The harpy eagle was thought of as the jaguar of the day sky being the greatest avian predator of Mesoamerica. The harpy eagle was most likely the personified form of the katun period (a period of almost 20 years) among the Classic Maya becoming a symbol of the morning sky associated with human sacrifice and divine resurrection in nourishing the new born sun (Miller and Taube, 1993:82-83).

In the Codex Chimalpopoca, Quetzalcoatl is referred to as a spirit of regeneration and as the Morning star. A passage from that Codex reads…”Truly with him it began…Truly from him it flowed out…From Quetzalcoatl all art and knowledge” (Neil Baldwin 1998 p.34).

Venus, the brightest star (actually a planet) in the sky, was visible to early sky watchers even, at times, during the day. What must have seemed truly fascinating about Venus is that it appears as both a Morning Star and an Evening Star. As the Morning Star, rising before dawn, it may have seemed to “resurrect” the Sun from its nightly sojourn through the Underworld. At night, as the Evening Star, it appears after the Sun’s daily “death” and descent into the underworld. For this reason it became closely associated with death and resurrection in the Underworld.

Venus also appears to die and rise again from the underworld with great regularity. Every eight years it can be predicted that Venus will return to the same position in the sky, at the same time of year in the same phase every eight years” (Milbrath 1999:51).  The “fiveness” of Venus, 5 synodic cycles, comes from the fact that five Venus cycles of 584 days each equal eight solar years to the day, and that 584 days is the time it takes for Earth and Venus to line up with respect to the Sun.  This day was a period ending day in the sacred 260 day calendar (almanac) and always ended on the day Ahau or Ajaw. Ahau means Lord. Ballplayers wore knee pads with the symbol of Ahau, theorizing I guess that the game was played at the completion of a time period in the sacred calendar, like a katun ending (20 yr. period) for example which ended on the day Ahau.

The Maya believed that this knowledge was bestowed upon them by the same god who gave them mushrooms and fire. This god, identified as a feathered serpent and an avatar of the planet Venus, was believed to have created both the universe and humankind. He also gave to man the sciences, the calendar and writing, and the knowledge to fix certain days for feasts and blood sacrifice. Rulers bestowed with this divine knowledge were believed to be incarnates of this god.



Above is a page from the Codex Vindobonensis, also known as the Codex Vienna., believed to be a 14th century Mixtec document, the original of which is now held in the National Library of Vienna, Austria.  The codex is one of the few Prehispanic native manuscripts which escaped Spanish destruction. It was produced in the Post Classic period for the priesthood and ruling elite.  A thousand years of history is recorded in the Mixtec Codices, and Quetzalcoatl is cited as the great founder of all the royal dynasties.

It has long been known that page 24 of this Codex concerns the ceremonial role of mushrooms among the Mixtecs. In 1929 Walter Lehmann noted the resemblance to mushrooms of the objects portrayed in the hands of many of the characters depicted in this Codex.  Alfonso Caso later provisionally identified what he called “T-shaped” objects in the manuscript as mushrooms (Wasson 1980, p. 214). Heim later published this page in color and accepted without hesitation its mushroomic interpretation. In summarizing the significance of this page, Wasson concluded that it showed “the major place occupied by mushrooms in the culture of the Mixtecs.”  Lowy (1980, pp.94-103) added collateral evidence supporting the validity of these opinions, and extended the base upon which they rest. More recently,  Furst concurred in this opinion after a minute examination and analysis of the codex.

In the second row from the top, the last figure on the right wearing a bird mask has been identified as the Wind God, Ehecatl. an avatar of Quetzalcoatl.  He is shown bestowing divine mushrooms to mankind.  According to Aztec legend,  Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl created mankind from the bones he stole from the Underworld Death God, whose decapitated head Quetzalcoatl holds in his hand.  Note the tears of gratitude on the individual sitting immediately opposite Quetzalcoatl.  This individual, and those who sit behind Quetzalcoatl on the left also hold sacred mushrooms and all appear to have fangs.  Fangs suggest that, under the magical influence of the mushroom, they have been transformed in the Underworld into the underworld jaguar.

In the middle of the page on the right side Quetzalcoatl is depicted gesturing to the god Tlaloc, (or incense burner venerating the god Tlaloc), directly in front of him, to open the portal to the underworld.  According to  Furst  who describes this  iconography, the scene depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms” (1981, pp.151-155).  He identifies the triangular or V-shaped cleft in the basin of water on the left as a cosmic passage through which deities, people, animals and plants pass from one cosmic plane to another.

On the bottom left,  two figures stand beside another V–shape portal of Underworld resurrection. The figure on the left who points to the sky, also has fangs. He appears to be a human transformed at death into the Underworld Sun god, or mythical “were jaguar”.  This gesture probably signifies resurrection from the Underworld. The two-faced deity in front of him holds what appear to be sacred psilocybin mushrooms similar in shape to the Fleur-de-lis symbol of the Old World.

This two-faced deity is,  in all likelihood,  the dualistic planet Venus and the god of Underworld sacrifice and resurrection. Note that the two-faced deity is painted black (signifying the Underworld) and wears a double-beaked harpy eagle headdress (signifying the sun’s resurrection). The five plumes in the harpy eagle’s headdress refer to the five synodic cycles of Venus. The three mushrooms in his hand refer to the Mesoamerican trinity:  the three hearthstones of creation. ie., the sun, the morning star and the evening star.

The circle below the feet of the figure on the left is divided into four parts, two of them dark and two light, each with a footprint.  The Fursts, Peter and Jill, have identified this symbol as representing the north-south axis or sacred center as the place of entry into the Underworld.  This symbol also appears in the scene above in association with a figure plunging through the V-shaped cleft into the Underworld.

Spanish chronicler Fray Toribio de Benavente (Motolinia) recorded in chapter 24 of the Memoriales,  that the principal gods of Tlaxcala, known as Cholula and Huexotzinco, were known by three names and that Huexotzinco was also called Quetzalcoatl and Camaxtli. Motolinía writes that the Holy city of Cholula, where human sacrifices were offered in honor of Quetzalcoatl, calls into question the legends that describe Quetzalcoatl as opposing human sacrifice.

The city of Cholula, near Puebla, Mexico in pre-Columbian times was a holy city where human sacrifices were offered in honor of the god-king Quetzalcoatl. The temple dedicated in his honor, covered an area of over 500,000 sq. feet making it the largest pyramidal structure in the world (Hugh Thomas 1993 p.258). A mural at Cholula known as “The Drinkers”, was discovered in 1969 by archaeologist Ponciano Salazar Ortegon while excavating Building 3-1-A.  The mural depicts several individuals in the act of consuming a very intoxicating, if not hallucinogenic, beverage.

According to Motolinía the Indians of New Spain regarded Quetzalcoatl as one of their principal gods. They called him the God of air and wind, and built temples to him. Motolinia goes on to say that “Quetzalcoatl initiated the scarifying of ears and tongue, not, as was claimed, to serve the Demon, but to perform penance for the sins of evil speech and hearing.  In his Memoriales, (chapter 29), Motolinia describes the great ceremony to Quetzalcoatl which lasted eight days. Coincidentally, this is the same number of days that, according to legend, Quetzalcoatl was in the underworld creating humanity by bloodletting on the bones of his father and the bones of past generations. He then emerged from the underworld as the Morning star.





Recently archaeologists excavating in the lowlands of Guatemala, at the ancient Maya and Olmec influenced site of Seibal, suggest that around 1000 B.C. a broad cultural shift took place that now challenges the two prevailing theories of the origin of Mayan civilization.


“The two prevailing theories hold that the Maya either arose independently in what is now Guatemala, Belize, southern Mexico, and western Honduras; or that it developed as a result of the influence of the older Olmec culture” (American Archaeology, summer 2013 by Tamara Stewart).



Above is a drawing of Stela 13, from the Olmec influenced Maya site of Seibal. Maya archaeologists have suggested that “the Seibal florescience is based on an intrusion and takeover of Seibal by a group foreign to the Peten” (Patrick Culbert 1973 p.32). The 3-dot motif depicted on this monument is I believe, an ancient Old World symbol, referring to divinity and a Trinity of creator gods, and that the seven-headed serpent motif on Stela 13, is a motif commonly seen in the ancient art of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. The Buddha is often portrayed being shadowed by a seven headed serpent or “Naga”.










Above is an 8th century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu Goddess Durga, portrayed under what appears to me to be a divine headdress stylized as an Amanita muscaria mushroom, encoded I believe as a metaphor to the Tree of Life. Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. (Photographer: V. Muthuraman)


Bearded Buddha sitting under the mushroom of immortality ? 



Anthropologist Gunnar Thompson writes that between 500-300 B.C.E., Chinese explorers sailed down the coast of central America searching for magic mushrooms to take back to China (D.H. Childress,1992 p.62).

 Quoting David Pratt 

“By the 3rd century BC, the Chinese were building oceangoing merchant vessels up to 80 feet long and weighing up to 60 tons. According to the Shih Chi chronicle, in 219 BC, during the reign of Emperor Shih Huang, a fleet of ships, led by Captain Tzu Fu, left China for Fu Sang, a far-off land to the east, also known as the Isle of the Immortals. The purpose was to bring back the legendary ling chih mushrooms for the ailing emperor. (source May 2009)


The Captain never returned home with the mushroom of immortality, and the Chinese emperor eventually died in the year 207 B.C.


                  Quoting R. Gordon Wasson…

“Now if, as seems likely, the Chinese once worshiped an hallucinogenic mushroom and employed it in religious ritual and medicine, and if some of their sages reached the New World, by accident or design, they could of course have introduced some of their own advanced pharmacological knowledge, or at least the idea of sacred mushrooms, to the ancient Mexicans. The same would apply to early India, whose calendrical system, like that of China, bears a perplexing resemblance to its pre-Hispanic Mexican counterpart” (Furst, 1976 p.104). 




Similarities in artistic motifs that I would argue indicate a Hindu-Buddhist presence in Mesoamerica, before the arrival of Columbus ? 




As the story goes, Buddha becomes enlightened while sitting under the Bodhi tree. The word bodhi which means enlightenment, is I believe a metaphorical reference to the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge.


Buddha eventually reaches Nurvana or enlightenment, under the bodhi tree but only after he dies from eating a poisonous mushroom.  


The legend of the Buddha is that his conception and birth were miraculous. His mother, coincidentally named  Maya, conceived of him in a dream, and gave birth to him while standing and grasping a tree.



“The Awakened One”, Buddhist mural depicting Buddha sitting under the Tree of Life encoded as the Fleur de lis  (from Po Win Daung, Myanmar).



Above is the figurine of Gautama Buddha under what appears to me to be a Amanita muscaria mushroom.

According to the Rig-Veda, Maya was the goddess, by whom all things are created by her union with Brahma. In searching for the unknown origin of the name Maya or Mayan, one should consider the strange coincidence that the Sanskrit word for the divine power, and enlightenment from the plant god Soma was called Maya. We are told that the gods themselves were described as Mayin. Is it just a coincidence that the god Soma, had a son named Budha. And is it just a coincidence that linguists have identified a number of Sanskrit words in Quechua, the language of the Inca of Peru (Fox, 2005, p.118).


Above is a female figurine from the Maya ruins of Xelha, in Yucatan Mexico and now in Cancun’s Maya Museum. In Buddhist art Queen Maya is portrayed as a beautiful woman in the prime of life. I wonder if this Maya figurine is one of those “oopart”, or “out-of-place-artifacts” that actually depicts what it looks like, a Chinese woman. In fact I might take this one a step further, and propose that the female figurine above found in Quintana Roo Mexico, is a portrait of Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya, and that the name Guatemala, was said to be “the land of the Gautama”., the land where Soma grows in abundance.

Source: New World Encyclopedia…

In the  Rigveda, the term Maya, (maya)  is introduced referring to the power that devas (divine beings) possessed which allowed them to assume various material forms and to create natural phenomena.

Maya (Sanskrit māyā, from “not” and “this”)  In early Vedic mythology, maya was the power with which the gods created and maintained the physical universe.

Maya is the power that brings all reality into being as it is perceived by human consciousness. Therefore, all the particular things contained within this material world are products of maya.

Soma (Soma), was considered to be the most precious liquid in the universe, and therefore was an indispensable aspect of all Vedic rituals, used in sacrifices to all gods, particularly Indra, the warrior god. Supposedly, gods consumed the beverage in order to sustain their immortality. In this aspect, Soma is similar to the Greek ambrosia (cognate to amrita) because it was what the gods drank and what helped make them deities. Indra and Agni (the divine representation of fire) are portrayed as consuming Soma in copious quantities. (Excerpt is from New World Encyclopedia)


“We have drunk the Soma and become Immortal; we have attained the Light, and found the Gods”. (Rig Veda, 8.XLVIII.3)






The quest for immortality, was the basis of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.



Above is an image from a Sumerian cylinder seal, 3rd millennium BCE, that depicts a scene of decapitation in association with the Tree of Life. The grisly scene depicts the decapitation of the Sumerian deity Humbaba, also known as Huwawa, “Guardian of the Pine/Cedar Forest”. The scene is from the Epic of Gilgamesh, in which god’s guardian deity Humbaba is decapitated by Enkidu and Gilgamesh. I believe that the Sumerian artist who carved this cylinder seal encodes the secret fruit of immortality, to which Enkidu and Gilgamesh quest for, as a divine mushroom, encoded in the feet of the deity Humbaba, “Guardian of the Pine/Cedar Forest”.


Fragment showing the Sumerian goddess Nisaba with an inscription of Entemena, ruler of Lagash ( 2430 BC ).


Above is a Hittite relief carving dated around the 9th-8th century B.C. from Anatolia, in modern day Turkey. The relief carving depicts a scene of two figures following a horse drawn cart carrying what I propose is a sarcophagus encoded with three sacred mushrooms as a symbol of a Trinity and divine resurrection. Its my belief that the wheel of the cart esoterically alludes or is code for the resurrecting sun or sun disc, and that the three encoded mushrooms on the rulers sarcophagus esoterically alludes to a Trinity of gods responsible for the sun and ruler’s divine resurrection. It may be that the two figures on the left following the cart, represent the dualistic aspects of the planet Venus as both Morning Star and Evening Star, a dualistic star responsible for the death and underworld resurrection of the Sun God.       



The Soma ritual was an integral part of Vedic-Hindu religion where Soma was drunk by the priesthood during sacrifices. Verses in the Rig Veda refer to Soma as the  “single eye”, the eye of the sun, symbolism that can be commonly seen encoded in pre-Columbian art.


The “single eye” motif is a common icon in Mesoamerica, and can be found in the pre-Hispanic codices, as well as in the iconography at the great city of Teotihuacan in the highlands of Mexico where the god Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, shared the same temple. The motif of the single eye in the New World may indicate that two very different cultures came in contact with each other. The single eye motif may have originated with the Sumerian God Enki who was known as the “Lord of the Sacred Eye” in ancient Sumerian religion. The ancient Hebrews depicted the sun as an eye, and Hindus believe that the sun is the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus).


The “single eye” motif was one of the most common symbols in Egyptian art, better known as the Eye of Horus. The Eye of Horus, was also known as the Wadjet, aka, the “green one”, whose watchful eye protected the pharaoh in the afterlife.



Above is an Egyptian sandstone carving (18th Dynasty 1570-1342 BC), depicting Pharaoh Akhenaton and wife Queen Nefertiti in profile, with hands raised in the air to venerate what appear to be two Amanita muscaria mushrooms. The Pharaoh is known to have introduced a “new religion” (Soma / Haoma ?) into Egypt, based on the worship of the sun god Aten. (source of authenticity…

  Quoting Anthropologist Christian Ratsch…

 “The Fly agaric [Amanita muscaria mushroom] has been known since antiquity. The Egyptians called it ravens bread, a name which it has retained in Central and Eastern Europe to the present day. It was said that Saint Anthony ate this raven’s bread before the ancient pagan gods appeared to him as demons. Among the ancient Germans, the fly agaric was associated with Wotan/Odin, the god of ecstasy and the discoverer of the magical runes. According to legend, fly agarics appeared where the foam from Wotan’s horse fell onto the earth. The name raven’s bread refers to Wotan’s two all-knowing, all-seeing ravens.  According to Graves (1961), the followers of Dionysos consumed fly agaric during the Dionysian festivals and mysteries, for it bestows enormous physical power, erotic potency, delusional visions, and the gift of prophecy. One author has even argued that Christianity began as a fly agaric cult (Allegro 1970). There is also some evidence that the pre-historic Beaker People of Stonehenge, and later the British Celts, used fly agaric in a cultic context (from The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants). 



I found what I would argue is encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom imagery associated with the Egyptian winged goddess Ma’at.




Hindu Buddhist statues with the Fleur de lis symbol ? 


                         Coincidence or evidence of pre-Columbian contact ?


Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock writes that in the Maya Highlands where the majority of the mushroom stones have been found, there is a dance drama based on a sacred drink, that takes place in the town of Rabinal in the department of Baja Verapaz, called the Rabinal Achí.  In the dance a prisoner of war is captured and is granted one last drink, called “the drink of lords,” before he is ritually decapitated. According to Tedlock there were repeated efforts by colonial authorities to ban the performances of the Rabinal Achi because it was considered a dramatization of Maya culture and Maya royalty.


Was the sacred “drink of lords” called Ki’ and “twelve poisons”  a mushroom beverage which, according to Tedlock, brings dreams to the character in the Rabinal Achí?


Photograph © Justin Kerr


Photograph © Justin Kerr

Above is Maya vase painting K2781, from the Justin Kerr Data Base, drawn by Alexandre Tokovinine. This and many other Maya vase paintings strongly supports my theory that visionary mushrooms may have been included in a ritual drink such as the beverage Soma, and was consumed prior to ritual decapitation. It must have been believed that this intoxicating beverage would transport the individual to the Underworld in which underworld decapitation was the portal to rebirth in the underworld and divine resurrection.


 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.”

Both in the Old World and the New, human sacrifice and the ritual of decapitation was believed necessary to save mankind from calamity and the cosmos from collapse.Since the greatest gift one could offer the gods was one’s own life, the purpose of human sacrifice was to preserve life rather than destroy it. I believe strongly that this concept of life from death via decapitation was mushroom-inspired. Both  Indian and Mesoamerican religious traditions believed in a three-tiered cosmos with celestial gods traveling back and forth from the Heavens to the Underworld, and both saw a triadic unity in their gods (Hindu triad, and Palenque Triad) that was related to such cosmic forces as wind, rain, lightning, and fire. The early Vedics, Hindus, Buddhists, and Persian Zoroastrians, like the Mesoamericans, also believed in four great eras or world periods that ended in cataclysm prior to the present, fifth, and final world.

In the New World beginning around 1500 B.C.E. an ancient people scholars call the Olmec, appeared suddenly, their art and mythology fully developed and in full bloom, and they were the first to build pyramids and megalithic stone sculpture adorned with the images of their gods and rulers. The pioneering achievements of the ancient Olmec in the arts, architecture, and writing give us the first great civilization in the New World.  


Photograph © Justin Kerr

Above on the left is the Amanita muscaria mushroom, and on the right a Maya figurine (300-900 C.E.) photographed by Justin Kerr (K656a).  The figurine wears a headdress that I believe was inspired by the Amanita muscariamushroom. The figurine’s contorted face depicts the “Olmec snarl”, a common motif in Olmec art that I believe represents the mushroom’s effect of jaguar transformation and the soul’s mythical underworld journey.  The figurine holds in his hands a concave mirror.  Mirrors were used by shamans to see into the past and future and communicate with ancestors and gods. I believe that in many, if not most cases, this communication was conducted under the influence of visionary mushrooms.


Olmec magic mirrors are presumably made from hematite-ilmenite, and in 1972 archaeologist Gordon Ekholm succeeded in generating fire from one of the concave mirrors in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City (The Olmec & Their Neighbors, 1981 p115).


Magic Mirrors were used by shamans in their rituals to see into the past and future and communicate with ancestors and gods. I believe that in many, if not most cases, this communication was conducted under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms.  Mirrors were also a common ritual object in Central Asia, and China, and may have been introduced into Mesoamerica with the mushroom cult.



Above is a pre-Columbian vessel from Peru, South America that I believe depicts a priest or shaman holding a mirror in one hand, and an Amanita muscaria mushroom in the other.

For documentation of mirror gazing (captoptromacy) in Mesoamerica see T. Besterman, 1965,: 73-77; Museum of Primitive Art, 1965.

For documentation of mirror gazing in the Old World see J. Hastings, 1951: IV, 780-782)


  Quoting R. Gordon Wasson….

The bemushroomed person is poised in space, a disembodied eye, invisible, incorporeal, seeing but not being seen….In truth, he is the five senses disembodied, all of them keyed to the height of sensitivity and awareness, all of them blending into one another most strangely, until, utterly passive, he becomes a pure receptor, infinitely delicate, of sensations”. (Wasson, 1972a:198;  Borhegyi, 1962)


Above, “hidden In plain sight,”  the ceramic pre-Columbian mask depicts the transformation of a human into a “were-jaguar,” a half-human, half-jaguar deity first described and named in 1955 by archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling. The were-jaguar appears in the art of the ancient Olmecs as early as 1200 B.C.  I believe this mask symbolizes the soul’s journey into the underworld where it will undergo ritual decapitation, jaguar transformation, and spiritual resurrection. An Amanita muscaria mushroom (actual specimen shown in the photo on the right) is encoded into the head and nose of the human side, while the left half of the mask depicts the effect of the Amanita mushroom as resulting in were-jaguar transformation. The were-jaguar eventually came to be worshiped and venerated throughout Central and South America.

(photo above of the “Were Jaguar” from Prof. Gian Carlo Bojani Director of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy) (Photo of Amanita muscaria by Richard Fortey)


Photographs © Justin Kerr

(Fig.8) Owner: Denver Art Museum Denver CO
Maya vase K6608 from the Justin Kerr Data Base of Maya vase paintings, depicts three underworld jaguars which may symbolize the three hearth stones of creation, a “trinity of gods” in Maya religion known at the archaeological site of Palenque as GI, GII, GIII.  The underworld jaguars all wear sacrificial scarves, symbolic of underworld decapitation that encodes the colors and spots of the Amanita muscaria mushroom.



The vessel above depicts a fanged deity, holding a sacred beverage in his hands that  turns the “bemushroomed”  into a “were jaguar”.

The religion of the ancient Olmec was grounded in blood sacrifice, with the need to offer men, women, and children to their powerful gods. It was believed by all Mesoamericans, that the greatest gift one could offer the gods was one’s own life; a concept of eternal life from death. It’s likely that in Mesoamerica the notion of divine immortality was inspired by the mushroom ritual. Olmec religion set the tone for all future religious beliefs in the New World.   

Quoting ethno-archaeologist Peter T. Furst:

“It is tempting to suggest that the Olmecs might have been instrumental in the spread  of mushroom cults throughout Mesoamerica, as they seem to have been of other significant aspects of early Mexican civilization (Furst 1976, p. 79).”

” It is in fact a common phenomenon of South American shamanism  (reflected also in Mesoamerica) that shamans are closely identified with the jaguar, to the point where the jaguar is almost nowhere regarded as simply an animal, albeit an especially powerful one, but as supernatural, frequently as the avatar of living or deceased shamans, containing their souls and doing good or evil in accordance with the disposition of their human form” (Furst 1976, p. 48).


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. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the emblem of the Fleur de Lis in Olmec art and iconography carries the same symbolism of divine immortality as in the Old World, linked to a Trinity of gods, and Tree of Life.


Above, is a Preclassic Olmec (800-500 B.C) relief panel from the south coast of Guatemala, that depicts a ruler or god-king as a feline deity crowned with a stylized Fleur-de-lis symbol encoded in his jaguar headdress. The feline deity wears a  medallion around his neck, shaped like a capital-T, known as the  Ik glyph or symbol, associated in Mesoamerica with the Wind god Quetzalcoatl, and the Maya Storm god Chac. I should be noted that the T-shaped Ik glyph is also the same shape as the Aryan Tau cross.  In Mesoamerica this T-shaped symbol is linked to the Sun God and the planet Venus as Morning Star and Evening Star, and tied to the births of the Maya god GI, (Chac) of the Palenque Triad, and the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl as 9-Wind.

As I will demonstrate throughout, the Ik glyph in Mesoamerica is intimately connected with a sacred mushroom and a symbol I propose is the Old World Fleur-de-lis.

The first mushroom cult, identified by its powerful artistic expression of the “were-jaguar”, dominated Olmec culture as early as 1500 B.C.E.  As early as 850 B.C.E., a were-jaguar cult begins to appear in South America, identified in the religious art of the ancient Chavin and Paracas cultures of Peru.


Above is an Olmec jadeite figurine900-300 B.C.E.,that also depicts  footprints, andthe familiar “Olmec snarl”, symbolism of a journey into the underworld as a jaguar deity. Note that the jaguar deity is crowned with a trefoil symbol similar in shape and meaning to the Old World Fleur-de-lis emblem.



While there clearly have been no elephants in the Americas since the extinction of the mastodon and wooly mammoth thousands of years ago, numerous images resembling elephants have been noted in Mesoamerican art over the years. A sampling are reproduced here leading the reader to wonder if the artists who produced the images could possibly have had any first hand knowledge of elephants.


Above is a drawing by Alfred P. Maudslay – archaeological site of Quirigua, Guatemala 19th c.(Image of elephants in Maya sculpture,


Jade pendent, Olmec culture, 1200-400 B.C.E.


Several glyphs in William Gates, Dictionary of Maya Glyphs (1978: 165,165) are widely believed to represent Indian elephants. They are depicted in row 421




Above are enigmatic loop-handled ceremonial stone objects found in both the Old World and in the New World.



The pre-Columbian stone objects above are from El Baul on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The loop-handled stone object on the right (b) formerly known as a “padlock stone” or “sling stone” was later designated ” ball-game handstone” by Maya archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi in 1961. Borhegyi “christened” the stone objects “ball game handstones” because of their archaeological association with such well-known Mesoamerican artifacts as palmate stones, stone yokes, and thin stone heads called hachas, clearly indicates their connection with pre-Columbian ball-game ceremonies or with the game itself (de Borhegyi 1964, Pre-Columbian Ball-game Handstones: Rejoinder to Clune, p.84).  



According to Stephan de Borhegyi….

“The opposing teams may have represented the opposing forces (or dualism ?) of sun and rain (costumed as eagles or sun vultures and jaguars respectively) with the predictable outcome that the team representing rain and fertility would ultimately triumph. If the ball game were rain-producing pantomime enacted at the beginning of the rainy season to insure the growth of crops, it would help to explain its close association with such rain, wind, and fertility deities as Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, Xolotl, Xipe Totec, and Xochipilli, and its connection with death and rebirth through human sacrifice by decapitation or other methods. It is even possible that, at least during the Classic period, the game served primarily as a mechanism for selecting the proper person (s) for the annual spring and fall sacrifices. All this, of course, is pure speculation for we have no eyewitness accounts or  written records of the ball game as it was played in Classic or pre-Classic times” ( from de Borhegyi,  Pre-Columbian Ball-game Handstones: Rejoinder to Clune, 1964 p.86).



In southern India, we find megalithic stone sculptures called kuda-kallu (umbrella stones) which strongly resemble giant mushrooms, dating approximately 1000 B.C. to 100 B.C.  According to eminent scholar Giorgio Samorina (Integration, vol. 6, pp. 33-40, 1995) the megalithic kuda-kallu are found in an area where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows. These megalithic stone sculptures, when seen from the sky at sites like Kerala in south eastern India, look like large mushroom patches.


               India’s Kuda-kallu: umbrella-stones or mushroom-stones?

(Photo above of kuda-kallu, or mushroom-shaped megalith from  /22/mangadu_an_archaeological_site_india.htm)



Bicephalic or two-headed birds are a common theme in Hindu mythology as they are in Pre-Columbian art. The antiquity of the double headed bird in Hindu mythology may date back as far as 2000 BC.  In Mesoamerica two-headed birds and/or two-headed serpents are linked to both accession and rulership, as well as to the dualistic nature of the planet Venus (see Codex Vindobonensis page 24). Two-headed birds and two headed feline-looking serpents commonly represent Quetzalcoatl as both the Morning Star and Evening Star. Many years ago Eduard Seler linked  the jaguar-bird-serpent god associated with Venus and warfare to the god Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star  (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.104).



The two headed mythological bird of Hindu mythology called the Gandaberunda, above (also known as the Berunda) is a common motif in Hindu temples, Rameshwara temple India.


Above is an ancient textile from Peru, South America Paracas culture  800 BCE and 100 BCE., depicting a double-headed bird.


Above is a Classic period Maya stamp depicting a two-headed bird, from highland Guatemala. (From Galería Guatemala: Sellos Preshipánicos (Guatemala: Editorial Galería Guatemala, 2011), 45.]

Many years ago Eduard Seler linked  the jaguar-bird-serpent god of Mesoamerica with the planet Venus and warfare, and to the god Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star  (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.104).



The first depictions of double-headed birds and serpents in Mesoamerica goes back to Olmec times, with both deriving from the Olmec Dragon. This mythical creature represents the principal sky god who may derive zoomorphically from the harpy eagle (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.126).  Images of two-headed birds and serpents are found throughout Mesoamerica and South America, and are also commonly found in rock art on remote Easter Island.  The antiquity of the double headed bird in Hindu mythology may date back as far as 2000 BC.  Many years ago Eduard Seler linked  the jaguar-bird-serpent god associated with Venus and warfare to the god Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star  (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.104).


The Aztecs referred to mushrooms as flowers (Wasson, 1980 p.79).


        Quoting 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”.


(Compare the genesis myth the Nasadiya, the Rig Veda’s “Hymn of Creation” (X:129)  with the,  Rig Veda Americanus, Sacred songs of the ancient Mexicans, with a gloss in Nahuatl, edited, with a paraphrase, notes and vocabulary, by Daniel G. Brinton 1890 (Produced by David Starner, Ben Beasley and the PG Online Distributed Proofreading Team Gutenberg E-book online)


Flowers symbolize 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” (Nicholson 1967, p.90).  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”.

There is a Nahua legend in ancient Mexico of a paradise of nine heavens that was dedicated to their god Quetzalcoatl, 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 (Hugh Thomas 1993, p.474). Aztec legends also relate that the sun, as a jaguar, descends each night into the underworld to battle the forces of death in order to return, triumphant, each morning to the sky on the wings of an eagle.

In Chinese mythology, Mount Penglai is the legendary land of immortals, known in Japanese mythology as Horai.

Quoting ethno-archaeologist Peter T Furst:

“that at the center of the Taoist Island of Paradise stood a giant immortal pine, amid the most beautiful flowers, and animals that symbolized eternal life; among these is a fungus of immortality, the legendary Ling Chih, whose real ancestor may have been the fly-agaric [Amanita muscaria] of Eurasiatic shamanism”.

“the dwellers of this blessed island stayed eternally young by drinking from the fountain of life at the foot of the enormous, never-decaying pine, which reminds one of similar references cited by ethno-Mycologist R. Gordon Wasson, in connection with Soma and the origins of the Tree of Life” (Peter T. Furst, 1976 page 162).



The Hindu painting above encodes mushroom shaped lily pads beneath the Tree of  Life, esoterically alluding to the mushroom of immortality.    

Buddhism is named for its reputed founder Gautama also known as Siddharatha Gautama, who came to be known as the Buddha, an Indian prince of the 6th century B.C. Buddhist legend holds that during Gautama’s lifetime he left footprints in all the lands where his teachings would be acknowledged.




Footprint of the Buddha, bottom left 1st century, from the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, in modern-day northern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan. The symbol with encoded Fleur de lis is known as the “Three Jewels” or “Precious Triad” and encodes what I propose are three Fleur de lis emblems as a symbol of a trinity or triad of creator gods. The so-called “Wheel of Dharma” or “Wheel of Law” above the three proposed Fleur de lis symbols, represents the symbol of Buddha and the path to Nirvana in Indian Buddhism.

Note the similarity of the “Wheel of Dharma” and the underneath image of the Amanita muscaria mushroom cap. (sourse         



Hindu-Buddhist statues with the Fleur de lis symbol ?                         



Above is a limestone carving 1st century B.C.E. now in the British Museum in London, titled the enlightenment of the Buddha. Note the footprints under the bodhi tree and missing Buddha, who has finally reached Nurvana. Note what appears to be two encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms underneath the sacred bodhi-tree, that I would propose is an esoteric symbol of the Buddha’s divine resurrection. (from


Above is the doorway to a 16th-century Hindu temple located in Thiruvananthapuram India called the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.  Note that the temple entrance is flanked by dual serpents, and on each door there is a Fleur de lis symbol.


The Vedic-Hindu gods and goddesses of East Indian philosophy are in many ways very similar to the pantheon of gods of Mesoamerica, for they too derived much of their strength from the sacrifices of men. Vedic Hinduism and the religions of Mesoamerica both believed in a three-tiered cosmos, with celestial gods traveling back and forth from the heavens to the Underworld, and saw a triadic unity in their gods (Hindu triad, and Palenque Triad) that was essentially related to cosmic forces such as wind, rain-lightening, and fire, and the unity of creation, preservation, and destruction creating the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In Hindu mythology Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, make up the Hindu Trinity of gods.

The Churning of the Milk Ocean, is told in several ancient Hindu texts. At the suggestion of Vishnu, the gods, and demons churn the primeval ocean in order to obtain Amrita, which will guarantee them immortality  (Kangra painting eighteenth century).

The avatar of the Vedic-Hindu god Vishnu is the sea turtle depicted below as the pivot for Mt. Mantara acting as the churning stick.


(Above image is from

According to Vedic,Hindu, and Buddhist literature, the Gods got together at the beginning of time and churned the ocean to extract a substance which would offer them immortality. According to Richard J. Williams author of “Soma in Indian Religion” Etheogens as Religious Sacrament (2009 p.2 Introduction), The Gods agreed to share this mighty elixir, calling it  Amrita, or Amrit which is a Sanskrit word for “nectar”, a sacred drink also in Buddhist mythology that grants their gods immortality.

In both Vedic (Hindu kalpas) and Mesoamerican cosmology (Popol Vuh) there was the belief in cyclical creations, a multi-tiered heaven and underworld, deities who reside at the four cardinal directions and its sacred center (see Madrid Codex below).  Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation in the Hindu Trinity of Gods. Among the ancient Maya the Turtle has been identified with rebirth, and the shell with divinity. In the creation mythology of the ancient Maya the first created image was the turtle constellation Ac, identified as the three stars (hearthstones of creation?) of the belt of Orion (Brennan,1998 p.93).


The carved Turtle God above is from the archaeological site of Topoxte, located on an island on Lake Yaxha in the Peten Basin of northern Guatemala.  Note the carved hole at the center of the Turtle Gods shell, that may have been the pivot hole for a churning stick.   



Above is a ceramic image of a turtle depicting a face of a deity impersonating or representing the avatar of a turtle. In Hindu mythology the god Vishnu assumes the avatar of a sea turtle. Once again the hole at the center of the Turtle Gods shell, may have been the pivot hole for a churning stick.



A similar creation story can be found in Lenape (later called the Delawares) mythology in which a turtle once again acts as a central pivot point of the Lenape universe. The Tree of Life acts as a cosmic pillar of creation.



The drawing above by Jenni Bongard is taken from the Late Postclassic Madrid Codex page 71, which depicts the three hearth stones of creation, (Maya Trinity?) placed on the back of the Cosmic turtle. The X-symbol depicted on each of the three stones likely represents the glyph jal, a verb according to Michael Coe, to create ( see Coe’s, Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163).




The drawing above by Daniela Epstein-Koontz, is of a ball court relief panel from the archaeological site of El Tajin, in Veracruz Mexico. Upon noticing the turtle in this creation scene I knew right away that this ballcourt scene from El Tajin was a version of the Hindu/Buddhist myth known as “The Churning of the Milk’s Ocean”, a creation story often depicted in Hindu art. As it turns out I wasn’t the first researcher to make the connection. The late great archaeologist and epigrapher David H. Kelley, noted the similarities years ago, but his work was often suppressed and criticized for his insistence to carry on his studies of long range cultural contacts via trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic voyages. Kelley noted the striking similarities between the Late Chow decorative styles of China of 700-200 B.C.E. and those of the El Tajin culture of Veracruz, Mexico, of A.D. 500-1000 (Stephen C. Jett 1971, p.44) (Heine-Geldern, 1959a).

The art style at El Tajin is reminiscent of the Cotzumulhuapa culture on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, and there is little doubt that there must have been close contact between the two regions. Cotzumahlhuapa’s imagery also depicts serpents, jaguars, human skulls and skullracks, and bloody sacrifices performed by were-jaguars (see Lee A. Parsons 1963, 1965a, b, 1966 a,b, 1967).

Although Soma’s actual identity has been lost through time, Soma was described as a god, and as a  “heavenly liquor”  that was guarded by a Serpent.  Note that in the drawing above by Daniela Epstein-Koontz of the Tajin ballcourt panel, that a dual headed serpent lurks below at the bottom of the scene, emerging from the ocean’s depth. The turtle at the bottom of the scene, may indeed represents the avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who acts as the central pivot point, below the churning mechanism which is composed of an intertwined serpent being pulled at both ends by sky deities (four cardinal directions) who create the new born Sun (Vishnu ?). Note that the tail of the serpent end directly above the symbol of the new born Sun just above the turtle in a three-lobed stylized design of the Fleur-de-lis emblem, esoterically alluding I believe to the trinity of creator gods. The three arrows penetrating the Sun in the scene alludes to the triad and the Sun’s life giving rays of light. If this ballcourt scene does represent Hindu mythology, and I feel certain that it does, than the two deities behind the central characters hold containers or ritual buckets in their hands filled with the Soma beverage.


For documentation of motif of ritual bucket (bag?) held by figures in hieratic scenes in Mesoamerica see Drucker, Hiezer, & Squier, 1955: 198. For documentation of motif of ritual bucket (bag?) held by figures in hieratic scenes in the Old World see H. Frankfort, 1955: pl.83.



The photograph above K4880, from the Justin Kerr Data Base, is of a turtle depicting an incised  Venus glyph. The turtle carved from shell, was excavated from a burial in the Mundo Perdido of Tikal, Guatemala.  In Maya creation myths the first manifestation of creation is a Cosmic Turtle from which First Father is reborn. The turtle artifact above is in the National Musuem of Guatemala. Museum no. 1875. length 4.5 cm. In Mesoamerican mythology the planet Venus, (aka Quetzalcoatl) is clearly linked with the creation of the universe, and an analysis of the Paris Codex (Milbrath, 1999; p.176) Zodiac pages 23-24, suggests that the turtle is closely linked with the constellation of Orion (see cosmic turtle, Bonampac murals room II) just like the turtle is in Hindu mythology. According to Mesoamerican scholars Mary Miller and Karl Taube, (1993:175) there are a number of Late Classic altars carved in the form of a turtle. One such turtle altar (Itzimte Altar 1), depicts Maya Kaban curls. Maya scholar Linda Schele has deciphered that the Hero Twins father, Hun Hunahpu, is reborn (as Sun God?) from the Underworld through the back of a cosmic earth turtle. Resurrection myths in Mesoamerica are clearly linked to a cosmic turtle, the ritual ballgame and the belt of Orion.


The Churning of the Milk Ocean myth depicted in a Mural from Tulum?


(drawing by Felipe Davalos G)

Above is a drawing of a Mural from the Maya site of Tulum, Structure 5, in Yucatan Mexico, which depicts what I believe is a Post Classic Maya version of the Hindu myth, The Churning of the Milk Ocean. Note the intertwined serpents in the main section of the scene as well as a serpent swimming below in the primordial sea along with a fish and a turtle in the lower section. The turtle bears the so-called head of a god scholars have identified as God N.  Once again the turtle acts as the central pivot point, below the churning mechanism, which is composed of intertwined serpents. The characters above likely depict the gods from the four cardinal directions representing both life and death, upper world and underworld.  The four deities use hand gestures to churn the Milk ocean, and together with the serpent and turtle, (both are avatars of the planet Venus), create and resurrect the reborn sun god.  (drawing of Mural 1 from Tulum from Milbrath 1980).







Above is page 19, from the Madrid Codex, also known as the Maya Tro-Cortesianus Codex  depicts what I believe are elements of the same Hindu inspired myth The Churning of the Milk Ocean. Note that the deity above the turtle is painted blue, just like the Hindu god Vishnu is in Hindu art, and that the turtle below once again acts as the pivot point for the churning stick. The serpent’s intertwined body is the mechanism by which the gods churn the milk’s ocean. In the scene above the artist depicts the importances and creative forces of self sacrifice by substituting a rope for the serpents long body, depicting a blood letting ritual in which the rope (the serpents body) is being pulled through the penises of the gods above. The glyphs in the scene marked with the X-symbol, may represent the Maya word jal, a verb meaning to create ( see Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163).

The Vedic god who may have been the inspiration or prototype for the ancient Maya rain god Chac, depicted in the scene above on the upper right with an elephant, or makara inspired nose, was the Vedic rain god Indra, a warrior god who according to the Vedas assumed many of the attributes of the god Soma.


        The Churning of the Milk Ocean in the Codex Selden

Depicted above in the Codex Selden, is another scene that I feel represents a Mesoamericanized version of the Hindu inspired creation myth known as The Churning of the Milk Ocean. The complex scene on the page is first and foremost divided into three sections, separating the upper world, from the underworld, and the middle world from which the tree emerges.  The upper world is depicted and framed at the corners of the page with a sky band depicting disembodied eyes, which represent the soul of the deified ancestral dead as the stars above.  Framing in the bottom portion of the page is a two-headed feline/serpent, depicted with a stylized design of criss-crossing  bands which can be linked to a Maya verb jal, which means create, (Coe; p.163). The dual headed serpent which frames the bottom of the page also surrounds a body of water that I believe represents the so-called Milk ocean of Hindu mythology. Emerging from this sea of creation (note waves) is a tree depicting a single eye, and intertwined serpents, emerging from a sacred altar platform that depicts a band of stylized step glyphs, symbolizing the descent and emergence from the underworld. Its worth noting that verses in the Rig Veda refer to Soma as the  “single eye”, the eye of the sun, symbolism, that can be clearly seen in the iconography above. Coiled around the trunk and branches of this sacred tree is a two-headed serpent, which depicts  feline fangs symbolizing the serpents descent into and out from the underworld. The serpents feline attributes represent the underworld transformation that takes place prior to the Sun God’s resurrection from the underworld.  The central portion of the scene likely symbolize middle earth, from which the Tree of Life emerges. The codex scene depicts two main characters or deities sitting on opposite sides of  the tree. I believe they symbolize both the God of Life and the God of death. The God of Life and god of the upper world sits at the left of the tree. He appears to have emerged from the mouth of the serpent below him at left.  Opposite the God of Life, on the other side of the tree is the God of Death, who has emerged from the mouth of the serpent with the feline head.

Both deities hold in their hands a ritual sacrament, to be eaten or offered as a gift to the Tree of Life, from which the Sun God is reborn and immortality is obtained.

At the top of the page we see the newly born Sun God emerge from a V-shaped cleft depicted in the upper branches of the Tree of Life. To the right of the Sun God in the upper right hand corner of the page is an icon that is shaped like a drinking vessel that bears a symbol of five points beneath the vessel that refers to the so-called “fiveness” of Venus, referring to the planets five sonodic cycles, noted by scholars in the Dresden Codex. I believe that this symbol is linked to the Soma ritual and the sacred day Ahau, in the Venus calendar,  when Venus is first visible rising from the Underworld as the Morning Star. I would argue that this Venus resurrection ritual is intimately connected with the Soma beverage and Soma sacrifices mentioned in the Rig Veda. The symbol to the left of the Sun God, and opposite the probable Soma vessel located at the left hand corner of the page is the year sign in the Aztec calendar.

Moving on to the middle portion of the scene, I believe the sequence of events, reads from right to left, and is as follows. Just to the right of the altar platform from which the Tree of Life emerges, there is a bleeding turtle just above a body of water I believe refers to the “Milk Ocean” in Hindu mythology. The bleeding turtle is located just below the deity identified as the God of Death and the Underworld.  The bleeding turtle in this scene represents the sacrificial victim, whose shell or carapace in this scene will be the sacred portal linked to immortality and divine resurrection. The turtle’s bloody heart can be seen sitting on top of the altar platform just to the left of the tree, as a sacrificial gift to the Gods of Life and Death who are responsible at times completion for the death and daily rebirth and resurrection of the Sun God. Note that the three turtle carapaces depicted in the primordial sea moving from right to left, under the Tree of Life, is a reference to the three hearthstones of creation, and that the turtle carapace located on the far left just below Tlaloc’s severed head appears to have a star symbol inside the shell, which likely alludes to the planet Venus and that the turtle represents Venus as a divine resurrection star.

Just below the Tree of Life, underneath the altar platform is the carapace of the turtle with the head of a feline emerging, symbolizing the turtle’s transformation in the underworld into the Underworld Jaguar. The sequence of events moves to the left, and then up, with the empty turtle carapace still in the sea, but just above and  to the left of the altar platform is a stylized severed head, associated with the ritual act of decapitation. The stylized severed head bears the image of the Mexican Rain and Lightening God Tlaloc, who also represents the God of the Underworld and thus he represents the god of underworld decapitation, as the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus. Tlaloc’s severed head in this scene is stylized to represent a divine star reborn from the Underworld. Tlaloc can be easily identified in this scene by his trademark goggled eyes, feline fangs, and handlebar mustache. Those who died for Tlaloc or were under his watchful eye, went directly to his divine paradise called Tlalocan.




The hallucinogenic mushroom cult, which has survived to this day among certain tribes like the Zapotec, Chinantec, and Mazatec Indians of Mexico, there is little to no information regarding the use of sacred mushrooms, among the present day Maya, having most likely concealed their ritual use from outsiders.



As I have discovered, its quite possible that the Amanita muscaria mushroom cult may still survive in remote areas of Highland Guatemala, where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance.          



 In 2009, I was surprised to find that the Maya Indians of the Guatemala Highlands were selling these tiny Amanita muscaria mushroom toys in the markets like the one depicted above.  Although the seller informed me that the Maya did eat this variety of mushroom, it is possible she may have been referring to the non-hallucinogenic Amanita caesarea, commonly sold in markets in Mexico and Guatemala and much appreciated for its delicate flavor (Guzmán, 2002:3)  I bought several of these toy Amanita muscaria mushrooms as gifts. They all have a quetzal bird sitting in a tree painted on the stem. Although clearly a child’s toy produced for the tourist trade, they bear symbolism of great antiquity. In Mesoamerican mythology the World tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens,  represents the axis mundi  or center of the world. The branches represent the four cardinal directions. Each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk, which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal to the underworld. The Quetzal bird, now the national bird of modern Guatemala, was considered sacred because of its green plumage. I believe there is now clear evidence that the Amanita muscaria mushroom is a symbol of equal antiquity.  (Photographs by Connor de Borhegyi) 




“Soma in the Americas”, is a study dedicated to the pioneering efforts of Robert Gordon Wasson, and my father Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi.  From the time of their initial meeting in Guatemala in 1953 until Borhegyi’s untimely death in 1969, the two scientists worked in close cooperation and shared a voluminous correspondence of over 500 letters. As the result of their collaborative efforts, as well as Wasson’s extensive research into mushroom symbolism in Siberia and Southeast Asia, they surmised that if the mushroom stones did, indeed, represent a mushroom cult, then the mushroom itself was an iconographic metaphor, and the mushroom stone effigies would supply the clues necessary to decipher their meaning.



Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi – Milwaukee Public Museum

(click above)


Stephan F. de Borhegyi, based his theory of a mushroom cult among the ancient Maya 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. He supported this theory with a solid body of archaeological and historical evidence.

The Wassons, published Borhegyi’s article on the subject in their monumental book, Russia; Mushrooms and History, (Wasson and Wasson, 1957).


Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b,  “Mushroom Stones of Middle America,” in Mushrooms, Russia and History  by Valentina P. Wasson and Robert G. Wasson, eds. N.T.

Borhegyi de, S.F. 1960, “Mushroom stone Discoveries”. Amatitlan Field Report, MPM.

Borhegyi de,  S.F., 1961, “Miniature mushroom stones from Guatemala,” American Antiquity, vol. 26: 498-504.

Borhegyi de, S.F., 1962,  “The Enigmatic Mushroom Stones of Mesoamerica”,  in Middle American Research Records, Vol 20, No.2,:40-52, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Borhegyi de, S.F., 1963, “Pre-Columbian pottery mushrooms from Mesoamerica”,  in American Antiquity, vol. 28:328-338.


To be continued…..













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