Examining the symbolism and iconography on Maya vase K4932

by Carl de Borhegyi

Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya vase painting, K4932 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, depicts three characters painted black holding staffs and carrying large sacks over their shoulder that the artist has made transparent, encoding what I will argue are sacred mushrooms inside.

In the Popol Vuh, we are told that the Quiche people received their gods at Tulan, the mountain of the Seven Caves. Jaguar Quitze received Tohil, Jaguar Night received Avilix, and Mahucutah received Hacauitz.  The patron god Tohil, has been identified as a Quiché variant of the god Quetzalcoatl. The Quiche god Avilix, or Auilix (P.V. Tedlock, p.326 1985) was the patron god of the Greathouse lineage given to Jaguar Night at Tulan Zuyua. According to Dennis Tedlock Lord Auilix was the title of the priest of the god Auilix; who was seventh in rank among the lords of the Greathouses and headed one of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane. The Popol Vuh tells us that the god Tohil was actually loaded in the backpack of Jaguar Quitze and Auilix was the god that Jaguar Night carried, when they received their gods at Tulan Zuyua, known as Seven Caves and according to Tedlock also the name of the mountain where the Quiche people went to receive their gods (P.V. Tedlock, 1985 p.171).  Tedlock notes (P.V. 1985 p.326) that the patron god Auilix was given to Jaguar Night, at the mountain of the Seven Caves and taken to “the great canyon in the forest” (P.V. Tedlock p.178) to a location that came to be named Pauilix, literally “At Auilix”.  This may be a reference to the Guatemalan Highlands where the Quiche people call home, and where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance.  The Guatemala Highlands is where the majority of effigy mushroom stones have been found. It should be noteworthy as well, that the Popol Vuh makes a reference to nine great houses and their patron gods which I believe is a reference directly linked to mushroom stones and the Nine Lords of the Night, or Underworld. Tedlock mentions  (1985 Popol Vuh 1985 :250) that he does not rule out the possible presence of a muscaria cult  in the Popol Vuh.


  For more on Middle American Mushroom Stones, see Stephan de Borhegyi’s 1961, publication,  “Miniature mushroom stones from Guatemala,” American Antiquity, vol. 26: 498-504.

According to testimony recorded in 1554 in the Colonial document entitled El Titulo de Totonicapan, the Quiché Maya revered mushroom stones as symbols of power and rulership, and before them they performed rituals (of blood sacrifice) to pierce and cut up their bodies. (Sachse, 2001, 186).

 ”  The lords used these symbols of rule, which came from where the sun rises, to pierce and cut up their bodies (for the blood sacrifice). There were nine mushroom stones for the Ajpop and the Ajpop Q’amja, and in each case four, three, two, and one staffs with the Quetzal’s feathers and green feathers, together with garlands, the Chalchihuites precious stones, with the sagging lower jaw and the bundle of fire for the Temezcal steam bath.” 

I believe that mushroom rituals and bloodletting rituals were likely timed astronomically to the movements of the planet Venus and possibly to the sacred period of inferior conjunction. At this time Venus sinks below the horizon and disappears into the “underworld” for eight days. It then rises from the underworld as the Morning Star. Among the Quiche Maya, Venus in its form as the Morning Star, was called iqok’ij, meaning the “sunbringer” or “carrier of the sun or day” (Tedlock, 1993:236).

There is good reason to believe that this mushroom ritual was regularly performed  prior to bloodletting rituals.  Bloodletting rituals were often performed in caves, which were believed to be entrances into the underworld. Cave ritualism on an elite level as apposed to a folk level is evident as early as 1000 B.C. at the Olmec influenced site of Chalcatzingo, near the Valley of Mexico (Pasztory, 1997:90).  This represents the same time period, 1000 B.C. that a mushroom stone cult came into existence in the Olmec influenced Guatemala highlands and Pacific coastal area along with a trophy head cult associated with human sacrifice and the Mesoamerican ballgame.

The ancient cultures of the Nahua and Maya developed similar ideologies and mythologies from the same Olmec roots. The sacred mushroom ritual shared by these cultures was intended,  I believe, to establish direct communication between Earth and Heaven (sky) in order to unite man with god. As told in the Popol Vuh,  the sun-god of the Maya, Kinich Ajaw, and his Aztec equivalent, Huitzilopochtli, would be extinguished in the underworld if not nourished with the blood of human hearts. Quetzalcoatl’s essence in the world as a culture hero was to establish this communication. Quetzalcoatl bestowed mushrooms to mankind and taught that mankind must make sacrifices to this deity and transcend this world in order to achieve immortality.

Maya archaeologist  Brent Woodfil (personal communication) who has been mapping the Candelaria cave system in the highlands of Guatemala recently found two pottery mushrooms hidden on a ledge deep inside the cave. There has been a bit of  speculation that the caves may be the location of the legendary Chicomoztoc, the name given for the place of mythical origin of the ancient Mayas, Toltec and Aztecs–a place known as the “seven caves of emergence” (Woodfill,2002). According to Mary Miller and Karl Taube, (1993:136) the founders of the Quiche lineages,  “journeyed to Tulan Zuyua, the mountain of the seven caves, and there they received the gods, whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs. “Balam Quitze received Tohil, who gave humans fire, but only after human sacrifice to him had begun”. 

The system of caves where the pottery mushrooms were found is located in the south region of the Guatemalan Highlands and according to archaeologist Jon Spenard, the caves are called Saber, CHOC-05, Ocox, and Cabeza de Tepezquintle,  “Ocox is a canyon-like system that runs through a large hill and that the name Ocox is a Q’eqchi Mayan word for mushroom, in reference according to Spenard, to the large quantity of mushrooms that are growing from the floor of the canyon.  Could this be the legendary caves called Chicomoztoc, the name given for the place of mythical origin of the ancient Mayas, Toltec and Aztecs, called the “place of emergence”  ?

The complex iconography along the rim of this vase depicts what I have identified as a cross-cut mushroom shaped icon similar in shape to glyphs or symbols representing the planet Venus. The X-icon, which is a common symbol found on many Maya vase paintings, most likely represents an esoteric entrance or portal to the underworld associated with mushrooms and underworld decapitation and resurrection. The fact that the X-icon above is twisted may be a reference to the symbol olin, meaning movement or motion. If so it may refer to the portal’s movement of up and down as a death star in the Underworld and as a resurrection star from the Underworld.  Note that the characters are all dressed in black, attributes of the priesthood of Quetzalcoatl.

Fray Bernardino Sahagun states in Book 9 that merchant groups known as the pochteca, which translates to ” priests who lead,” were devout followers of Quetzalcoatl under his patron name of Yiacatecuhtli or Yacateuctil, Lord of the Vanguard.  Maya archaeologist J. Eric Thompson named the god Ikal Ahau or Black Lord, as the god of death among the Tzotzil Maya (Orellana,1987:.163

A passage reads:  “the eating of mushrooms was sometimes also part of a longer ceremony performed by merchants returning from a trading expedition to the coast lands. The merchants, who arrived on a day of favorable aspect, organized a feast and ceremony of thanksgiving, also on a day of favorable aspect. As a prelude to the ceremony of eating mushrooms, they sacrificed a quail, offered incense to the four directions, and made offerings to the gods of flowers and fragrant herbs. The eating of mushrooms took place in the earlier part of the evening. At midnight a feast followed, and toward dawn the various offerings to the gods, or the remains of them, were ceremonially buried.”

Above and below are scenes from the Madrid Codex which depicts a probable ruler on a throne being offered what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom.  The ruler on the throne most likely represents the Underworld Sun God prior to self sacrifice. The character on the right presenting the sacred mushroom may represent the god Ikal Ahau or Black Lord, as the god of death among the Tzotzil Maya (Orellana,1987:.163.

Above we see the black death god, ruler of the Underworld with a flint knife in one hand while offering up an Amanita muscaria mushroom in the other.  The four characters in the upper registry all are depicted in the act of self decapitation.

Patron deities could appear in human form, but were also represented in art as a sacred bundle (see representations of K’awil at Palenque). The Maya god K’awil”s image as a royal scepter is frequently seen in the hands of the High Priest or royal elites. According to the Popol Vuh, the migration of the Quiché tribes was led under the spiritual “guidance” of Tohil, their patron deity. Like the Itzas, the Quiche people also believed that they were led by Lord Plumed Serpent from Tollan /Tula. He led his people eastward to the “land of writing” to a sacred mountain top citadel called Bearded Place, and it was there that the Quiche people settled down to live. This brave leader was descibed as a white man “whose face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons” as described on page 205 by Tedlock (Tedlock: 1985: 205. 213).

“And when war befell their canyons and citadels, it was by means of their genius that the Lord plumed serpent and the Lord Cotuha blazed with power.  Plumed serpent became a true Lord of genius: on one occasion he would climb up to the sky:…“On another he would go down the road to Xibalba (the Maya underworld). On another occasion he would be serpentine, becoming an actual serpent.  On yet another occasion he would make himself aquiline, and on another, feline; he would become like an actual eagle or jaguar in his appearance. On another occasion it would be a pool of blood; he would become nothing but a pool of blood.  Truly his being was that of a Lord of genius.”

And this was the beginning and growth of the Quiché, when the Lord Plumed Serpent made the signs of greatness.  His face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons.  He didn’t do these things just so there would be one single Lord, a being of genius, but they had the effect of humbling all the tribes, when he did them.  It was just his way of revealing himself, but because of that he became the sole head of the tribes.

This Lord of genius named Plumed Serpent was in the fourth generation of Lords; he was both Keeper of the mat and Keeper of the Reception House Mat”.

Page 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis

  Above is page 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis, also known as the Codex Vienna. The codex is one of the few prehispanic native manuscripts which escaped Spanish destruction. It was produced in the Postclassic period for the priesthood and ruling elite.  A thousand years of history is recorded In the Mixtec Codices, and Quetzalcoatl (9-Wind), who is cited as the great founder of all the royal dynasties, is depicted above bestowing sacred mushrooms to his children “mankind”.

While reading through one of Borhegyi´s letters I found that he had quoted two interesting passages from native chronicles written around 1554.  Both related to indigenous use of mushrooms in Guatemala.  One,  from The Annals of the Cakchiquels,  (1953:82-83), records:

“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.”

 Another passage from the Popol Vuh, (Goetz,1950:192) reads:

 “And when they found the young of the birds and the deer, they went at once to 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”).

Still another passage from the Popol Vuh identifies Tohil, not as a stone god, but as the charismatic leader of the Quiche Maya and a variant of Quetzalcoatl, ..Even though Tohil is his name he is the same as the god of the Yaqui people who is named Yolcuat and Quitzalcuat “.  (Tedlock, 1985:183)

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE”  at http://www.mushroomstone.com/index.htm

Comments on a carved jaguar bone from Tomb 7, Monte Alban which depicts the birth of the Mexican god Quetzalcoalt

by Carl de Borhegyi



Various scholars, primary among them Mexican art historian Miguel Covarrubias, have interpreted the above image as depicting the birth of the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl. Beautifully carved on a jaguar bone, it was found in Tomb 7 at the site of Monte Alban near Oaxaca,Mexico. Here Quetzalcoatl, the central figure, wears what looks like the goggles of Tlaloc. He is still attached by his umbilical cord to what I believe is a mushroom-inspired World Tree. The head on the left wearing goggles and depicted as emerging from the jaws of a serpent, represents Quetzalcoatl’s rebirth and resurrection from the underworld. The tree, which bears mushroom-like blossoms is, in essence, a divine portal and metaphor for the spiritual journey of deified resurrection. This Mesoamerican metaphor links the place of creation at the center of the universe (place of ballgame sacrifice)  with the resurrection star that is the planet Venus. I believe the artist has encoded the mushroom-inspired World Tree as it would have been seen through the goggled eyes of the Mexican god Tlaloc, a god associated with the Evening Star, underworld jaguar transformation, and decapitation. According to Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso, a sculpture in the Berlin Museum of Ethnography depicts Tlaloc’s goggled eyes as being made up of two serpents intertwined to form a circle around his eyes. The serpent imagery, and its connection with the vision serpent or bearded dragon,  identifies Tlaloc’s link to Quetzalcoatl and K’awil, his Maya counterpart. 

 Covarrubias, demonstrated that later images of Quetzalcoatl, feathered serpents, and rain gods like the Mexican god Tlaloc were all derived from the Olmec were-jaguar associated with sacrifice and the underworld (Miller and Taube, 1993:185)

 (Drawing of the birth of Quetzalcoatl taken from Covarrubias, 1957:.266)

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE”  at  mushroomstone.com

Ki, the ritual drink of decapitation and “the drink of lords” at Rabinal Achí

 by Carl de Borhegyi
Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock writes that in the Maya Highlands a dance drama that takes place in the town of Rabinal in the department of Baja Verapaz, called the Rabinal Achí, is based on a sacred drink. 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. The characters in the Rabinal Achi, like the characters depicted on the Maya vessel below, carry shields and hold axes which are shaped to form the heads of deities. 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’ also called “twelve poisons”  a mushroom beverage which, according to Tedlock, brings dreams to the character in the Rabinal Achí? In fact, a similar vessel like the one depicted above and below could have been used to hold this ritual drink before the ritual of decapitation?

  Above is a Maya vase painting from the Justin Kerr Data Base K1873, which depicts mythical ballplayers holding shields and trophy head axes in the act of self-decapitation. Dennis Tedlock  (2003), writes that among the Maya of the Guatemala Highlands there was once a strong drink called ki’ “that sent its drinkers out of their senses”. Colonial dictionaries for the Quiche and Kaqchikel Maya show that the word ki’ can mean “sweet” or “poison”.  According to Tedlock, the dictionary compiled by Fray Francisco Ximenez states that the word is a term used for “pulque,” an alcoholic beverage made from maguey. It may be that Ki‘ is, or was, indeed, pulque,  but, given the efforts by the Catholic Church to wipe out any trace of the once popular mushroom ritual, we cannot discount the possibility that it referred to a mushroom drink.

According to first-hand reports written at the time of the Spanish Conquest, the Aztecs ate the mushrooms or drank a mushroom beverage in order to induce hallucinatory trances and dreams. During these dreams they saw colored visions of jaguars, birds, snakes, and little gnome-like creatures.

Photograph  © Justin Kerr  
 Maya vase K1185 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, depicts a Maya scribe with what I believe is a sacred mushroom encoded into his headdress.  Painted Maya vessels like the one pictured above may have contained a divine drink concocted from the Amanita muscaria mushroom or other hallucinogenic mushrooms in a manner very similar to that described for the legendary Soma. Soma was prepared by extracting juice from the stalks of a certain plant. That certain plant was likely the Amanita muscaria mushroom, first identified by ethno-mycologist  R. Gordon Wasson. Soma was the divine beverage of immortality, and in the Rig-Veda Soma was referred to as the “God for Gods” seemingly giving him precedence above Indra and all other Gods (RV 9.42). The drinking of Soma by priests at sacrifice produced the effects of god within, and according to Wasson the act of collecting hallucinogenic mushrooms was always accompanied by a variety of religious sanctions. For example, among the present day Mixtecs the sacred mushrooms must be gathered by a virgin. They are then ground on a metate, water added, and the beverage drunk by the person consulting the mushroom.” (Borhegyi, 1961)

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE”  at mushroomstone.com

Comments on a painted textile from the Chimu culture of Peru, 1000-1400 A.D.

by Carl de Borhegyi

 The painted textile above is from the Chimu culture of Peru, 1000-1400 A.D.  It depicts a figure standing above, with feet between what I believe represents a hallucinogenic mushroom, quite possibly an Amanita muscaria mushroom judging by it’s size. The fanged figure is accompanied by two jaguars, which encoded esoterically the spots alluding to the Amanita muscaria mushroom. They symbolize the underworld journey of the deceased and the effect of the mushroom as jaguar transformation.  Under the influence of the hallucinogen, the “bemushroomed” acquires feline fangs and often other attributes of the jaguar, emulating the Sun God in his journey into the Underworld. This esoteric association of mushrooms and jaguar transformation was earlier noted by ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst (1976:78, 80)The twin jaguars symbolize sacrifice and death in the Underworld, associated with the planet Venus as an Evening Star, while the twin birds symbolize the heavens and divine resurrection from the Underworld as Venus, the Morning Star.  

Images like the one above with encoded mushroom and Venus imagery generally depict rituals of self-sacrifice and decapitation in the Underworld, alluding to the sun’s nightly death and subsequent resurrection from the Underworld by a pair of deities associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. This dualistic aspect of Venus is why Venus was venerated as both a God of Life and Death.  It was said that (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p.184), they [the Quiche Maya] gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day referring to Venus as the Morning star.
Note that the figure above has a stylized mushroom-shaped axe encoded into his headdress. This I believe is code for ritual decapitation, and that the three-step design or icon on either side of the mushroom inspired axe alludes to the mushroom journey into the Underworld. In Mesoamerica this icon represents a b
allcourt, and the ball court was thought of as the entrance to the Underworld. The three-step design, therefore, came to symbolize descent into the Underworld. The mushroom-shaped axe I believe is a metaphor or code for Mushroom-Venus resurrection, via the ritual of decapitation in the Underworld.

While I may be the first  to call attention to this encoded mushroom and Venus imagery, it can be viewed and studied with ease on such internet sites as Justin Kerr’s Maya Vase Data Base and F.A.M.S.I. ( Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc). 

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE”  at  mushroomstone.com  or write to deborhegyi@gmail.com


by Carl de Borhegyi

In 2007, when I began searching the Justin Kerr Data Base of Maya vase paintings for mushrooms, one of the first Maya vase paintings I found with encoded mushroom imagery was Maya vase K1490, illustrated below. This Late Classic Maya vase painting (600-900 C.E.) from highland Guatemala was like a Maya vase “Rosetta Stone” in the amount of information it contained.  I immediately saw the mushrooms in the robes of the twin smokers on the far right. I also noticed that the artist had encoded mushroom imagery into the headdresses, and that mushrooms were on the tips of the noses of the executioners with obsidian knives. A dark loop symbol was repeated three times along the upper rim of the vessel. Because of this repetition, I suspected that it might be important and related to mushroom-inspired religious beliefs. 

In the Popol Vuh, numerous passages reveal obscure connections between Maya creation myths, the ballgame, ritual decapitation, self decapitation (Borhegyi,1969: 501) and Maya astronomy, involving the movement of the sun, moon, and the planet Venus that are commonly depicted on  Maya vase paintings.


  Photographs © Justin Kerr  K1490 

 In the vase painting above, the Lord of the Underworld is depicted as the white skeletal god in the center of the scene. He holds a decapitated head in one hand and a  serpent-bird staff in the other. Known as Skeletal God A, his fleshless body represents death and decay,  but also the transformation at death from which life is regenerated.

Like many other Late Classic period carved and painted vessels, Maya Vase painting K1490 depicts the sacred (and improbable) ritual of self-decapitation. Note that the third individual from the right has no head. He holds in his left hand the obsidian knife with which he has decapitated himself. In his right hand he holds the cloth in which he will wrap the head. The fourth individual from the right is shown holding the decapitated head by the hair with his right hand, and a knife in his left hand.  After a close examination of this scene, it occurred to me that it might depict an early version of an episode related in the colonial period document known as the Popol Vuh.

Archaeologist Michael D. Coe was the first to recognize that many of the scenes depicted in Maya vase paintings are images of the Maya underworld, Xibalba, and versions of the creation story of the Quiché Maya of highland Guatemala. This myth, written in Quiche Maya using Spanish orthography, is known today as the Popol Vuh,  It involves two sets of divine twins.

The first set of twins, known as Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu, play a ballgame in Xibalba with the Lords of Death and are defeated. The Popol Vuh  tells us that these twin Maya gods, were sacrificed by decapitation in the underworld after losing a ballgame against the Lords of the Death. Their bodies were buried under the ballcourt at the place of ballgame sacrifice. The sons of Hun Hunahpu, another set of twin gods known as the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, follow their father and uncle into the Underworld to avenge their deaths. They also play a ballgame against the Lords of Xibalba.  Hunahpu and Xbalanque, however,  were accomplished tricksters as well as ballplayers. They were  ready for any trap that might be set for them by the Lords of Death. (Coe,1973, 1975a). 

I believe that this complex scene illustrates the passage in the Popol Vuh in which the Hero Twins smoke cigars in the underworld.That they are smoking hallucinogenic cigars is suggested by the mushrooms that are clearly painted on their robes and in their mushroom-inspired headdresses. The two smokers are the first two individuals on the right. The two figures in front of them, since they wear the same clothing as the first pair,  may be the same set of twins. One of the twins, however, has  undergone sacrificial decapitation. Another interpretation could be that the two smokers, through their hallucinations, are seeing the fate of their father and uncle in their underworld struggle against the Xibalbans.

In the scene depicted above,  all four of the figures on the right wear sacrificial scarves around their necks. The figure in black wears what appears to be a helmet shaped like a mushroom.  As noted earlier, he holds an obsidian blade in one hand, and the decapitated head of the figure behind him in the other. 

 Dennis Tedlock has identified five episodes involving underworld decapitation and self decapitation in his translation of the Popol Vuh. He notes that, based on evidence discovered by Borhegyi and Wasson, he does not rule out the presence of an Amanita muscaria cult in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock,1985: 250).  In one episode the Hero Twins decapitate themselves in the underworld in order to come back to life. The two decapitated heads shown in this scene belong to the twins.   (Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress)

 Maya Archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

  “According to the Popol Vuh, (Thompson, 1967, pp.27-28), the twin heroes Hunahpu, and Xbalenque (the decapitated Maya culture heroes who played ballgames with the Lords of Xibalba), became the moon (or morning star?) and the sun after their death. That the moon, sun, and morning star, as well as their cult symbols, the jaguars “sun” -vulture, moon-rabbit, and deer, were intimately connected with the Late Classic period ballgame is amply witnessed by their frequent representations on stone hachas and ballgame stone reliefs.” (1980:25)

Mesoamerican Scholar Esther Pasztory…

“The essence of the ballgame seems to be a contest between opposing forces, which may be represented by male twins or a couple, a contest which often involves a cyclically recurring pattern of death, rebirth, and revenge. in each case, one contestant is devoured or beheaded (an act ritually recalled by the practice of human sacrifice), as a result of which great benefits inure society, especially in the form of agricultural fertility”. (Pasztory 1976:209-210)     


Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya vase K8936, shown above, also depicts scenes associated with the Maya creation story.

According to the Popol Vuh, after the Xibalbans (the Lords of the Underworld) defeated Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu in a ballgame, they sacrificed them and hung the severed head of Hun Hunahpu in a calabash tree. The head of Hun Hunahpu  impregnated a daughter of the Xibalbans, named Blood Woman, with the Hero Twins by spitting into her hand.

In the scene above, the jaguar god of the underworld, shown on the far left, holds a decapitated head (likely the head of Hun Hunahpu). Seated below the jaguar is the pregnant daughter of the Xibalbans known as Xquik “Blood Woman”. She is painted blood red, and is shown stretching out her palm beneath the decapitated  head. The decapitated head of Hun Hunahpu spits semen onto her hands which fertilizes, giving birth to the legendary Hero Twins.  Her father, one of the Lords of death in the Maya underworld, is the skeletal god to the far right who also holds the bloody head of Hun Hunahpu.  

 In front of Blood Woman sits a character marked with cimi death signs (looks like a % sign) on his legs. He wears on his head what, I believe, is a mushroom-inspired headdress. In his hand he holds a drinking vessel which may contain a mushroom-based beverage which he will use to journey or portal into the underworld. The large jar or olla  that sits on his lap most likely contains cultivated mushrooms. The skeletal death god on the right  also carries a ceramic jar. It likely also contains a mushroom-based beverage to be taken at death for the ritual cross-over, or underworld journey. The large blood-stained  X-icon located on his skull cap represents the portal door to this journey of transformation.  

Directly behind Blood Woman, at the bottom of the scene, is a large transparent view of the inside of her womb. In it we see the unborn Hunahpu, the eldest of the Hero Twins. He is shown on his back with his knees pointed upwards. Hunahpu,  the first born of the Hero Twins,  personifies Venus. His daysign is One Ahau or Hun Ahau, the sacred date of the heliacal rising of Venus as Morning Star in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex. To the left of the unborn Hunahpu is a coiled serpent in the shape of a ballgame hoop.The hoop bears symbols of the four cardinal directions. The inner circle denotes the goal of the hoop as well as the central portal of resurrection. It is associated with the color green, which is the green quetzal-feathered serpent aspect of Quetzalcoatl as the planet Venus.

In Mesoamerican mythology Quetzalcoatl represents the Lord of the Ballgame and Lord of decapitation.  It is likely his image that the Maya saw as a decapitated ballplayer in the constellation of Orion. Orion was believed to be the belt or ballgame yoke of Hun Ahau or Quetzalcoatl.  The three stars of his yoke represent the three hearth stones of creation. 

Behind the serpent is a rabbit, a symbol of the moon and fertility, holding a ball between its knees. The ball is marked by the symbol of three, referring again to the three hearth stones that were placed at the time of creation by the pair of twins depicted directly above. These are clearly the Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh. The twin on the left with jaguar features can be identified as Xbalanke. He holds what appears to be the three hearth stones of creation (the three thunderbolts in the Popol Vuh?). Two of the three stones appear under the right arm and he is  placing the third stone in his left hand into the sky at the place of ballgame sacrifice.  Xbalanke’s trademark attributes are his jaguar spots, (note his spotted ear), symbolic of the Moon and underworld sun or Sun God.  He most likely represents the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus. To the right of Xbalanke is his older twin brother Hunahpu. He can be identified by his blowgun, which he holds like a paddle, rerminiscent of the Paddler Twins.  He is likely an aspect of the planet Venus as Evening Star. Both twins wear the scarf of underworld  decapitation, and both are depicted above their unborn bodies. The womb of Hunahpu is directly behind Bloodwoman, while the womb of Xbalanke is in the shape of a curled up jaguar and is depicted directly behind the rabbit holding the ball.

In summery, I believe that Mesoamericans,  came to the conviction, that, under the influence of the sacred mushroom, a divine force actually entered into their body–a state they may have described as “god within”.  Because mushrooms appeared to spring to life magically over night  from the underworld,  apparently sparked by the powers of lightning, wind and rain,  it would have been easy for these ancients to conclude that they were gifts from god, brought to them by the wind god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl and the rain god Tlaloc.

While I may be the first to call attention to this encoded mushroom symbolism and imagery, these roll-out photographs can be viewed and studied with ease at Justin Kerr’s Maya Vase Data Base and at F.A.M.S.I. ( Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc). 

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE” at  mushroomstone.com

Pre-Columbian Rituals of Decapitation and Mushroom Venus Underworld Resurrection

By  Carl de Borhegyi


 There is evidence of a very early relationship between ritual decapitation, jaguars, serpents and mushrooms.  Priests dressed as were-jaguars and emulating one of the creator gods performed the ritual decapitation of ball players or captives. Were-jaguars, half human/half feline supernatural beings, were associated with caves, pools of water, mountains, volcanoes and Venus. They were also linked to mushrooms and the underworld. Aztec legends 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 as an eagle. The Maya believed, as recorded in the Popol Vuh, that the Lords of Xibalba challenged the Hero Twins to a ball game in the Underworld. The Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque, were the ball playing culture heroes who, after playing a ballgame with the Lords of Xibalba in the underworld, are decapitated and then resurrected into the sky as the sun and moon (Venus?) (Thompson, 1967: 27-28). In Mexican mythology the twins are Quetzalcoatl and his underworld twin named Xolotl. Both represent the patron gods of the ballgame, and both deities represent the dualistic aspects of the planet Venus, as a Morning Star and Evening Star.   

Archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

 “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 “.  “I suggest that the custom of using human heads in competitive ballgames be added to the growing Pre-Classic inventory of ‘trans-Pacific contacts” (Borhegyi, 1980)

Human sacrifice by decapitation was, in actuality, often the fate of one or more of the ballplayers in the Mesoamerican ballgame. In some of these games decapitated human or jaguar heads were used in lieu of balls. (Borhegyi,1966;1980:3). The ballplayers’ sacrifice and the blood offering on the ball court, just as the sun’s victory over the forces of darkness with each new dawn, enabled the sun to rise, the plants to grow, and human life to thrive.This sacrificial death also allowed the decapitated ball player to pass through a divine portal to the Underworld where he was reborn through the auspices of the mythological were-jaguar. The ballgame became, then, a metaphor for the eternal cycle of life, death and resurrection.

According to mycologist R. Gordon Wasson,  the origin of ritual decapitation may lie in the mushroom ritual itself. In a letter to Borhegyi dated June 7, 1954, he writes:

“The cap of the mushroom in Mije (or Mixe) is called kobahk, the same word for head. In Kiche and Kakchiquel it is doubtless the same, and kolom ocox is not “mushroom heads”, but mushroom caps, or in scientific terminology, the pileus of the mushroom. The Mije in their mushroom cult always sever the stem or stipe (in Mije tek is “leg”) from the cap, and the cap alone is eaten. Great insistence is laid on this separation of cap from stem. This is in accordance with the offering of “mushroom head” in the Annals and  the Popol Vuh.  The writers had in mind the removal of the stems”.

  In the religion of the Maya, various twins or brothers represent the dualistic planet Venus. Maya creation stories record that twins were responsible for placing the three stones of  creation into the night sky at the beginning of this world age. These three stones, which represent the three original hearthstones, may also refer to a trinity of gods responsible for creating life from death. One of these gods, known as the Maize God, ruled as the Sun God in the previous world age. He was decapitated by the Lords of Death after being defeated in a ballgame. His twin sons, after finding his bones buried under the floor of the ballcourt, resurrected him from the underworld and placed him into the night sky as a deified ballplayer. I believe that the Maya could see this resurrected decapitated ballplayer, still wearing his ballgame belt, in the constellation Orion (see stela 10 Kaminaljuyu below).The resurrected Maize God, called First Father, is also identified as Quetzalcoatl and the planet Venus.  As the planet Venus, Quetzalcoatl rules the underworld, and was responsible for creating life from death, including that of the underworld sun or Sun God. The Toltecs, Aztecs and Maya all believed that Quetzalcoatl would return at the end of days. According to the Maya, he would perform the completion rites and then, like a seed of corn, sprout from a crack in the earth to become the new Sun God. 

The god identified with decapitation was particularly important to the highland Maya at the site of Kaminaljuyu. This drawing from Stela 10, a carved monument at Kaminaljuyu, depicts the trefoil eyed god (upper left) holding an axe in a scene of ritual ballgame sacrifice. The two floating or suspended gods above in this scene may represent the Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh, creator gods and divine mythical ancestors of the ancient Quiche Maya. The character below wearing a ballplayer’s yoke would than represent the Hero Twins father, Hun Hunapu who is decapitated by the Lords of Death in the Underworld.  Thus the three characters may represent the so-called three hearth stones of Maya creation who can be linked with the so-called Palenque Triad (GI, GII, GIII). Freidel and Schele (1998) have identified two of the Palenque Triad with the Hero Twins of the Popol Vuh. From inscriptions at Palenque scholars have identified that rulers believed they were the incarnation of GI (Secrets of the Maya 2004, p.109) a Maya god who began his mythical reign before the so-called creation, on March 10, 3309 B.C (GMT), or 3569 B.C. using the Herbert Spinden correlation of the Mayan calendar. The individual at the bottom, representing a ballplayer is about to be decapitated, by the trefoil eyed deity above. The soon to be decapitated ballplayer below wears a ballgame belt which incorporates three circles which I believe is code identifying the three hearth stones of creation, (Palenque Triad above?) with the so called “place of ballgame sacrifice”, which we know from the Popol Vuh is the Underworld (Popol Vuh).  The scene represents the belief that decapitation in the Underworld assures divine resurrection, and that the three circles on the ballplayers belt is code identifying the constellation of Orion, as a decapitated and thus resurrected ballplayer. Quetzalcoatl was as we know “Lord of the ballgame”.

According to Stephan de Borhegyi, the subject matter depicted on stone objects related to the ballgame consisted of  crouching or seated jaguars, bats, monkeys, vultures, toads, coatimundis, deformed and/or decapitated human, monkey and jaguar heads, sacrificial victims, and dismembered limbs. He believed that this indicated the existence, from late Pre-Classic times onward, of a rich, widely spread, and uniformly accepted folk tradition connected with the ballgame. Since this folk tradition transcended local, ethnic and linguistic boundaries, he believed that a close study of the related symbolism would shed much light on the ballgame itself (Borhegyi,1969: 253)

     The story of creation and destruction, death and rebirth appears frequently on Classic period  monuments and vase paintings. When we look at pre-Columbian art and see images that celebrate death, we must keep in mind that death to all Mesoamericans was just a prelude to rebirth–a portal to divine immortality. The sacrifice of one’s own life was believed to be the greatest gift one could give the gods, because it emulated the ways of their creator god Quetzalcoatl, who in legend sacrificed himself (at Teotihuacan) so as to become the new fifth sun and bring light back to the world: (Coe 1994:91)

For more read “BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE”  at http://www.mushroomstone.com/

An Analysis of Mushroom Rituals on page 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis


By  Carl de Borhegyi

Above is page 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis, also known as the Codex Vienna. The codex is one of the few prehispanic native manuscripts which escaped Spanish destruction. It was produced in the Postclassic period for the priesthood and ruling elite.  A thousand years of history is recorded In the Mixtec Codices, and Quetzalcoatl (9-Wind), who is cited as the great founder of all the royal dynasties, is the pervasive character. 

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 confirmed, although reluctantly, that they were indeed mushrooms. (Wasson 1980, p. 214).  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 ofQuetzalcoatl.  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 directly in front of him to open the portal to the underworld.  According to Peter Furst, who describes this  iconography, the scene depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms” (1981, p.151).  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 ones in the photograph below.

 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. (Furst, 1981: 155).  This symbol also appears in the scene above in association with a figure plunging through the V-shaped cleft into the Underworld.