The Amazing History of Shrooms

Intro to Shroom History by Terence McKenna from book Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide: A Handbook for Psilocybin Enthusiasts

In the case of Meso-American mushroom use, an ancient shamanic religion – of which we know next to nothing – confronted a Spanish Catholicism whose relatively advanced technology meant complete subjugation of the people, completed breakdown of the ancient gnosis. Practitioners of the mushroom cult were burned as heretics. The Indians' insistence on the mushroom as the "flesh of the gods" must have particularly excited the heretic-hunters and perhaps left them not a little uneasy as they went about their bloody business. After all, "flesh of the gods" is a claim explicitly made for the Christian Eucharist, yet it is not nearly so effective a visionary vehicle as the persecuted mushroom.

The use of the mushroom retreated to the remote mountainous peripheries of Spanish Mexico. The ritual itself was all but lost under a layer of Christianised associations. The mushrooms were called "Jesus" or "St. Peter" – their old names, names of the planetary gods of the Mayans, forgotten.

Thus the matter stood for centuries. In the 1950s Wasson made the initial discovery of the slumbering mystery, and more than two decades of mostly academic "ethnomycological" study folllowed. This book, first published in 1976, opened a new phase in the rebirth of the mushroom religion by placing the knowledge of cultivation into the body of publicly available information. More than a hundred thousand copies of this book have been sold, it has spawned several imitations, and it continues to sell well. This means that there are now many thousands of mushroom cultivators in the world. It is reasonable to suppose that more people are now actively involved in a religious quest using psilocybin than ever before in history. This is a complete rebirth of a religious mystery and it has taken place in less than a decade! What are the implications of this emergence of a pagan mystery into the banal world of modernity? What are the implications for those closest to this decisive, historical shift, those who, by cultivating and teaching others how to cultivate, are making the change happen?
Terence McKenna