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Disclaimer: Amanita Mushrooms can be potentially deadly, be very very careful in attempting to use them for spiritual purposes and which preparation methods you use. Again, these things can kill you. Also, nothing in this article is necessarily presented as fact.
Is it possible the story of Christ is an analogy for a sacred mushroom? The Amanita Muscaria, aka Fly Agaric, is quite possibly the most iconic mushroom. If you’re unfamiliar its the Mario mushroom, red cap with white spots and white stem. Its also the inspiration for many of the images most associated with Christmas, in that most of them are from Siberian shamanism. Traditionally these mushrooms, which are loved by reindeer, are picked around and hung on pine trees. They are left to dry and the Shaman, a most Santa like figure, consumes them for divination and healing or he can be thought of as the spirit of the Amanita traveling around the world and leaving little gifts under pine trees. The mushroom itself is red and white and grows a long white beard-like mycelium. This story floats around the web a a lot this time of year but I wanted to focus on a different theory about the influence of Amanita on modern culture, namely the theory that its the secret origin of all religion.
I believe amateur mycologist Gordon Wasson was the first person to propose that Amanita might be the Soma mentioned in the Hindus Vedic literature which dates back almost 4,000 years. This theory has been a bit controversial but gained some popularity in time too. Terrance Mckenna argued that it likely wouldn’t have been the Amanita because to him it seemed to lack the psychedelic properties he thought were required for such a revered plant but there may be reason to think his problem may have been one of preparation. When ingested raw the Amanita contains ibotenic Acid, a chemical which makes a person feel a bit uneasy and doesn’t cause classic hallucinogenic properties. Most mushroom guides label the Amanita as toxic because of this chemical. When the mushroom is dried properly the ibotenic Acid is converted into muscimol a compound which gives effects much more fitting of a sacredly revered fungus. There have been quite a few people to carry on the work of Wasson, some more successful than other.
More recently in Amanita Muscaria Herb of Immortality Donald Teeter elaborates on the same point, “His (Wasson’s) was the most convincing argument concerning the identity of the original Soma plant and I quickly came to believe that his identification was indeed the correct one. Amanita Muscaria was even known to produce psychoactive urine in the users just like the Vedic Soma, a property that no other Eurasian drug plant is known to produce.” Seeing similarities in descriptions between the Vedic Soma and Christ he came to think it may be referencing the same god/plant. He writes,
“In studying the Persian version of Soma called Haoma I came across this little gem in an earlier edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica that showed that I was probably on the right track as far as the relationship of Soma and the Christ. This the exact same quote I found in the early 1970’s, but quoted here from a later edition. The following is from the Encyclopedia Britannica (1991, vol. 26, pg. 789, Rites & Ceremonies): “In Zoroastrianism haoma (Sanskrit soma, from the root su or bu, “to squeeze” or pound”) is the name given to the yellow plant, from which a juice was extracted and consumed in the Yasna ceremony, the general sacrifice in honor of all the deities. The liturgy of the Yasna was a remarkable anticipation of the mass in Christianity.” “Haoma was regarded by Zoroaster as the son of the Wise Lord and Creator (Ahura Mazda) and the chief priest of the Yasna cult. He was believed to be incarnate in the sacred plant that was pounded to death in order to extract its life-giving juice so that those who consumed it might be given immortality. He was regarded as both victim and priest in a sacrificial-sacramental offering in worship. As the intermediary between God and man, Haoma acquired a place and sacramental significance in the worship of Mithra (an Indo-Iranian god of light) in his capacity as the immaculate priest of Ahura Mazda with whom he was coequal. The Mithraic sacramental banquet was derived from the Yasna ceremony, wine taking the place of the haoma and Mithra that of Ahura Mazda. In the Mithraic initiation rites, it was not until one attained the status of the initiatory degree known as “Lion” that the neophyte could partake of the oblation of bread, wine, and water, which was the earthly counterpart of the celestial mystical sacramental banquet. The sacred wine gave vigor to the body, prosperity, wisdom, and the power to combat malignant spirits and to obtain immortality.”
It should be pointed out that Zoroaster would have to be an exceptional prophet to anticipate the Christian mass since he died approximately 600 or more years before the earliest Christian mass was held. Again we have a situation were the far older Yasna could not have been influenced by Christianity, but early Christianity could easily have been influenced by Zoroastrianism. You will notice that Haoma like the Christ is also considered the Son of God, the chief Priest of the religion and is both a sacrifice and sacrament central to the religion.
It is well known that Mithraism, which was very widespread throughout the late Roman Empire, had a profound impact on early Christianity with Mithra’s birthday, Dec. 25th adopted by Christianity as Christmas or Christ’s birthday and the adoption of Mithra’s day of the week, Sunday as the day of worship and rest, instead of the Hebrew Sabbath of Saturday. The sacred wine of Mithra was a type of Haoma not alcoholic wine since it was said to posses exceptional properties compared to ordinary wine. It is reasonable to believe that the original Eucharist wine of early Christianity was identical to the Mithraic wine.”
Teeter goes on in the book to describe a grape juice extraction with Amanita that miraculously and just like the wine of the Old Testament becomes stronger as you water it down. Is it possible that Amanitas were holy to the ancient world and that the rituals for proper preparation migrated through cultures and traditions to be the real cause behind the seemingly illogical rituals of so many modern forms of worship? This is where it gets really interesting. Teeter through his own research managed to turn the dried Amanita into a flour which could be made into a Euchrist, a wine for drinking, and a simple water extraction that resembles the fabled Ambrosia. If the vessel used for the extraction is made of un-glazed terracotta, bone, or wood from a tree that Amanita lives symbiotically with it was discovered the vessel itself would become living with Amanita. If that vessel is then refilled the liquid in it would become psychoactive and real ‘church’ could be held again perhaps in a week. Teeter explains,
“The secret of the Grail is ancient, older than King Arthur, older than Christianity, far older than civilization itself. I had to follow the trail of the Grail into ancient prehistory to rediscover it’s lost secrets. The Grail is mysterious, yet it is real, it can be understood. The Grail is magical, yet like all magic once the secret is understood, it’s very simple. The Grail is probably one of the oldest magic tricks known to man, but was absolutely baffling to early man when he performed it. This unexplainable Natural Magic astounded even the Wisest of Magicians. The creation of a Grail involved the practice of the highest Magic known to early humanity. A Sacred, immortal, hallucinogenic “plant” was dried, crushed and consumed as a beverage. Since the Plant really is immortal, it comes back to Life, and lives in a suitable container, like your cup, perhaps forever. This is the technical magic of the Grail, plain, and simple. The real Natural Magic is the resulting symbiosis between all too mortal man and an immortal plant.
A look into one of Don Teeter’s terracotta Grails containing Amanita muscaria, now you can easily see why the Grail of legend, could never serve a coward!
Suitable materials for the Grail cup are, wood from a tree symbiotic with Amanita muscaria, terracotta and Cattle horns. These cup materials were very common during ancient times and our research shows, that it is impossible to use such a cup to consume a beverage made from dried Amanita muscaria, without that cup becoming a Living cup. This Living cup can then transform the simple food and water it is filled with, into a Communion meal with a Living God.
As shown by their own records the Imperial Church began to ban glass, terracotta, wood and horn chalices from the Mass, at a fairly early date and by the 12th century all Chalices used in the official Mass were Gold or Gilded Silver and incapable of becoming a Living Cup. Once this level of control was established, the Church began to persecute all the “Heretical” forms of Christianity that still knew the secret of a living God, with the living Cup. In response the Grail and King Arthur stories began to circulate through the western Christian medieval world, hiding the Secret of a magic Living cup in the only safe place left, in the stories told at a Nobles court or around the peasents evening fire, where no Inquisition could burn the texts, or stamp out the idea of a wonderous Magic Cup.”
The Amanita is antibacterial and antiviral and Teeter suggests that this is why it was equated, as Christ was, with curing the blind and lame and deaf. Blindness and deafness in the old world was primarily caused by bacterial infection, and polio caused most cases of paralysis. Is it possible that this mushroom could actually have helped people with these conditions? I’m uncertain but coincidentally while working on this piece I got a tooth infection. One molar of mine is cracked from my wisdom tooth and is prone to infection, but the last time this happened I had to go to the hospital to get antibiotics. Also coincidentally enough over the summer my girlfriend and I had camped in Arizona where Amanitas happened to be in season, and we picked and dried almost 30 of them, They’ve been still sitting in the paper bags they were dried in until yesterday when I decided to see if the mushroom could give me any relief to my tooth pain. I took a small piece of cap about 2 by 2 inches and placed it over the inflamed tooth and gum area. To my actual surprise within 5 minutes the pain was subdued a bit and in a half hour I felt almost back to normal. Today I have no tooth pain and there seems to be no infection present. This is only anecdotal but in my personal experience this mushroom is most sacred indeed.
This topic cover’s so much, in order to keep it at an article level I’ve excluded a lot and tried to distill the information. If you’re still curious more information can be found through http://ambrosiasociety.org/, reading any of Wasson’s work, or The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John Marco Allegro, Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy by Clark Heinrich, and of course from Donald Teeter’s book Amanita Muscaria Herb of Immortality. Thank you to the Ambrosia society of Austin for permission to use Donald Teeters work, and for the good you do in the world.