Psilocybin mushrooms, or shrooms, are a form of psychedelics that have surged in popularity in recent years. But just what do we know about the history of shrooms?
It might surprise you to know that shrooms have a long and storied history, having played a role in the traditions of various cultures. These instances of usage go a long way toward demonstrating just how important shrooms have been to people around the world for millennia.
Today, Chronic Haze brings you a special blog post detailing the history of shrooms. We’ll go over the earliest recorded instances of their usage, examine other cultures that have utilized them, and also take a look at more recent implementations of shrooms in modern culture. Buckle up, as we’ve got a hefty history lesson ahead of us.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been found to go back as far as 9000 BCE, with Spanish rock art having been discovered in Algeria depicting mushrooms as well as people under their effect. This strain has been identified as Psilocybe hispanica, and can currently only be found in the Pyrenees mountain range. It is believed that these mushrooms were used in religious rituals, but much still remains a mystery.
Evidence of psilocybin use can also be found in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, where native peoples used them for religious, healing, and shamanic purposes. Stone mushroom statues and other artifacts have also been found in Guatemala, and a statue of Psilocybe mexicana from 200 CE was found in a tomb in Colima.
As you can see, shrooms have been present in human culture since ancient times. However, more substantial records of their use can be found in later eras.
In the 1500s, a species of Psilocybe known only as teonanácatl (“divine mushroom”) was served during the coronation of Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. The Aztec and other related peoples were known to have used mushrooms in customary rituals during this time, with the Aztec and Mazatec referring to the substance as “genius mushroom” or “wondrous mushrooms.”
Word of the Aztec peoples’ use of mushrooms began to spread rapidly by travelers on expeditions. Unfortunately, during the Spanish colonization of Central America, Catholic missionaries persecuted the Aztecs for their beliefs. The Spanish believed mushrooms allowed for communication with devils and claimed that the Aztecs were worshippers of idols. Despite the Spanish actively campaigning against psilocybin, certain pockets of Mesoamerica maintained teonanácatl use, keeping this aspect of their culture alive.
In 1955, two European Americans took part in an indigenous mushroom ceremony and published their findings in the magazine Life. These developments inspired psychologist Timothy Leary to experience mushrooms in Mexico. His experience led him to strongly promote mushrooms at Harvard in the 1960s, with an experiment confirming the ability of psilocybin to decrease recidivism in prisoners.
The results of this experiment and other similar ones proved controversial, and were most embraced by those in the hippie counterculture movement. Figures such as Terence McKenna also contributed to the slow de-stigmatization of mushrooms, as more research began to demonstrate their high benefits and low risks.
Today, mushrooms still remain a controlled substance in many parts of the world. However, things don’t look too bleak, as many studies are being conducted on the therapeutic benefits of mushrooms. Hopefully, we can start to see greater acceptance of these strange and powerful psychedelics as the world grows more educated regarding their properties.
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By the way, interested in learning about the rise of the culture behind shrooms? Fortunately, we’ve got a blog post on it right here!