Entheogenic drugs have been used by various groups for thousands of years. There are numerous historical reports as well as modern, contemporary reports of indigenous groups using entheogens, chemical substances used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context.[1]

Common era

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A Finnish study assayed psilocybin concentrations in old herbarium specimens, and concluded that although psilocybin concentration decreased linearly over time, it was relatively stable. They were able to detect the chemical in specimens that were 115 years old.[2]

New World

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The Maya, Olmecs, and Aztecs have well-documented entheogenic complexes.[3] North American cultures also have a tradition of entheogens. In South America, especially in Peru, the archaeological study of cultures like Chavin, Cupisnique, Nazca[4] and Moche,[5] have demonstrated the use of entheogens through archaeobotanical, iconographic and paraphernalia.[6][7][8]

Olmec entheogens

The Olmec (1200 BCE to 400 BCE) lived in Central America and are largely viewed by many as the mother culture of Aztecs and Maya. The Olmecs left no written works on their belief structures, so many interpretations on Olmec beliefs are largely based on interpretations of murals and artifacts. Archaeologists state three reasons for believing that the Olmecs used entheogens:

  1. Burials of Bufo toads with priests
  2. The use of entheogens in later Olmec-inspired cultures
  3. Sculptures of shamans and other figures have strong Therianthropic imagery.


Main article: Entheogenics and the Maya

Maya 'mushroom stones' - conjectured to relate to a psilocybin mushroom cult

The Maya (250 BCE to 900 CE) flourished in Central America and were prevalent even until the arrival of the Spanish. The Maya religious tradition was complex and well-developed. Unlike the Olmec, the Maya possessed religious texts that have survived to this day. The Maya religion displayed characteristic Mesoamerican mythology, with a strong emphasis on an individual being a communicator between the physical world and the spiritual world. Mushroom stone effigies, dated to 1000 BCE, give evidence that mushrooms were at least revered in a religious way.

The late Maya archaeologist, Dr Stephan F. de Borhegyi, published the first of several articles in which he proposed the existence of a Mesoamerican mushroom cult in the Guatemalan highlands as early as 1000 BCE. This cult, which was associated from its beginnings with ritual human decapitation, a trophy head cult, warfare and the Mesoamerican ballgame, appears to have had its origins along the Pacific coastal piedmont. Borhegyi developed this proposition after finding a significant number of small, mushroom-shaped sculptures in the collections of the Guatemala National Museum and in numerous private collections in and around Guatemala City. While the majority of these small stone sculptures were of indeterminate provenance, a sufficient number had been found during the course of archaeological investigations as to permit him to determine approximate dates and to catalog them stylistically (Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b, "Mushroom Stones of Middle America," in Mushrooms, Russia and History by Valentina P. Wasson and R. Gordon Wasson, eds. N.T.)

Archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi wrote:

"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)

The most direct evidence of Maya entheogen use comes from modern descendants of the Maya who use entheogenic drugs today.[citation needed]


Main article: Aztec use of entheogens

The Aztec entheogenic complex is extremely well documented. Through historical evidence, there is proof that the Aztecs used several forms of psychoactive drugs. These drugs include Ololiuqui (the seed of Rivea corymbosa), Teonanácatl (translated as “mushroom of the gods", a psilocybe mushroom) and sinicuichi (a flower added to drinks). The Xochipilli statue, according to R.G. Wasson, gives the identity of several entheogenic plants. Other evidence for entheogenic use of the Aztecs comes from the Florentine Codex, a series of 12 books vividly describing the Aztec culture and society, including the use of entheogenic drugs.

Native Americans of the Southwestern United States

There are several contemporary indigenous groups who use entheogens, most notably Native Americans of the Southwestern United States.[citation needed] Various tribes from California have been known to use strong alcoholic drinks as well as peyote to achieve visions and religious experiences.[citation needed]

Native Americans of the Southeastern United States

Archeological evidence seems to indicate that some Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands, specifically those of the Mississippian culture, used Datura stramonium as a hallucinogen.[9]

Old World


During the Paleolithic, there is ample evidence of drug use as seen by preserved botanical remains and coprolites. Some scholars had suggested that the "Flower Burial" in Shanidar Cave, a Paleolithic site in Iraq, was evidence of a shamanic death ritual, but more recent evidence and analysis has contradicted that claim. The most direct evidence we have from the Paleolithic in terms of art comes from Tassili, Algeria cave paintings depicting Psilocybe mairei mushrooms[10] dated 7000 to 9000 years[11] before present.[12][13][14] From this region, there are several therianthropic images portraying the painter and the animals around him as one (an often cited effect of many psychedelic drugs, Ego death or unity). One image, in particular, shows a man who has formed into one common form with a mushroom.[15][16]

There are several Paleolithic sites that display therianthropic imagery.[citation needed] However, there is some debate as to whether or not sites like Lascaux or Chauvet were entheogenically inspired.[citation needed]


A cave painting in Spain has been interpreted as depicting Psilocybe hispanica.[10][17]

See also


  1. ^ Souza, Rafael Sampaio Octaviano de; Albuquerque, Ulysses Paulino de; Monteiro, Júlio Marcelino; Amorim, Elba Lúcia Cavalcanti de (October 2008). "Jurema-Preta (Mimosa tenuiflora [Willd.] Poir.): a review of its traditional use, phytochemistry and pharmacology". Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology. 51 (5): 937–947. doi:10.1590/S1516-89132008000500010.
  2. ^ Ohenoja E, Jokiranta J, Mäkinen T, Kaikkonen A, Airaksinen MM (1987). "The occurrence of psilocybin and psilocin in Finnish fungi". Journal of Natural Products. 50 (4): 741–44. doi:10.1021/np50052a030. PMID 3430170.
  3. ^ Carod-Artal, F.J. (2015-01-01). "Hallucinogenic drugs in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures". Neurología (English Edition). 30 (1): 42–49. doi:10.1016/j.nrleng.2011.07.010. ISSN 2173-5808. PMID 21893367.
  4. ^ Socha, Dagmara M.; Sykutera, Marzena; Orefici, Giuseppe (2022-12-01). "Use of psychoactive and stimulant plants on the south coast of Peru from the Early Intermediate to Late Intermediate Period". Journal of Archaeological Science. 148: 105688. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2022.105688. ISSN 0305-4403. S2CID 252954052.
  5. ^ Bussmann, Rainer W; Sharon, Douglas (2006-11-07). "Traditional medicinal plant use in Northern Peru: tracking two thousand years of healing culture". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2: 47. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-2-47. ISSN 1746-4269. PMC 1637095. PMID 17090303.
  6. ^ Sharon, Douglas (2000). Shamanism & the sacred cactus: ethnoarchaeological evidence for San Pedro use in northern Perú. San Diego: San Diego Museum of Man. ISBN 978-0937808740.
  7. ^ Capriles, José M.; Moore, Christine; Albarracin-Jordan, Juan; Miller, Melanie J. (2019-06-04). "Chemical evidence for the use of multiple psychotropic plants in a 1,000-year-old ritual bundle from South America". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (23): 11207–11212. Bibcode:2019PNAS..11611207M. doi:10.1073/pnas.1902174116. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6561276. PMID 31061128.
  8. ^ Samorini, Giorgio (2019-06-01). "The oldest archeological data evidencing the relationship of Homo sapiens with psychoactive plants: A worldwide overview". Journal of Psychedelic Studies. 3 (2): 63–80. doi:10.1556/2054.2019.008.
  9. ^ [[1]]
  10. ^ a b "Earliest evidence for magic mushroom use in Europe". New Scientist. No. 2802. 5 March 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  11. ^ Saromini, Giorgio (1992). "The Oldest Representation of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the World" (PDF). Integration: Journal for Mind-Moving Plants and Culture. 1 (2/3). Retrieved 18 September 2017. Reprinted at ArtePreistorica.com
  12. ^ Guzmán, Gastón (27 January 2012). "Nuevas observaciones taxonómicas y etnomicológicas en Psilocybe s.s. (Fungi, Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetidae, Agaricales, Strophariaceae) de México, África y España". Acta Botanica Mexicana (100): 79–106. doi:10.21829/abm100.2012.32.
  13. ^ Lajoux, Jean Dominique (1963). The Rock Paintings of Tassili (1st ed.). London: Thames and Hudson. p. 71. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  14. ^ Gartz, Jochen (1 September 1997). Magic Mushrooms Around the World: A Scientific Journey Across Cultures and Time - The Case for Challenging Research and Value Systems. London: Knockabout Comics. p. 8. ISBN 0965339904. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  15. ^ McKenna, Terence (1993). Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (Reprint ed.). Bantam Books. p. 42. ISBN 0553371304. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  16. ^ McKenna, Terence; Oss, O.T.; Oeric, O.N. (26 April 1993). Psilocybin, Magic Mushroom Grower's Guide: A Handbook for Psilocybin Enthusiasts (2nd ed.). Quick American Archives. p. 71. ISBN 0932551068. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  17. ^ Akers, Brian P.; Ruiz, Juan Francisco; Piper, Alan; Ruck, Carl A. P. (June 2011). "A Prehistoric Mural in Spain Depicting Neurotropic Psilocybe Mushrooms?1". Economic Botany. 65 (2): 121–128. doi:10.1007/s12231-011-9152-5. S2CID 3955222.


Psychedelic Timeline by Tom Frame. Psychedelic Times.