Maya Mushroom Stones from Kaminaljuyu, in Highland Guatemala

By Carl de Borhegyi

Above are two of the nine miniature mushroom stones that were found buried together in a Maya tomb, along with nine miniature stone metates and manos (Soma stones?) used in the preparation of a ritual mushroom beverage. The nine mushroom stones were excavated from the Maya ruins of Kaminaljuyu, in Highland Guatemala.

Shortly after the Spanish Conquest, chroniclers reported on the Aztecs ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms, who called their sacred mushroom Teonanacatl, meaning “Gods flesh”  “Teo” meaning god in the language of the Aztecs.

In a manuscript written by Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon between 1617-1629, called ” Treatise on Indian Superstitions”  known today as Treatise on the heathen superstitions that today live among the Indians, which records in great detail the religious beliefs and rituals among the Aztecs.  Ruiz de Alarcon reported that the indigenous peoples believed that their sacred plants were gods, and described a tawny-colored mushroom made into a drink from its pressed-out juices.

Archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

“The cache of nine miniature mushroom stones demonstrates considerable antiquity for the “mushroom-stone cult,” and suggests a possible association with the nine lords of the night and gods of the underworld, as well as the possible existence of a nine-day cycle and nocturnal count in Preclassic times. The association of the miniature mushroom stones with the miniature metates and manos greatly strengthens the possibility that at least in some areas in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica metates were used to grind the sacred hallucinatory mushrooms to prepare them for ceremonial consumption.” (Borhegyi 1961: 498-504)

While reading through one of my father’s (Stephan F. de Borhegyi) correspondences with ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, he mentions two interesting passages from native chronicles written around 1554.  Both related to indigenous use of mushrooms in Guatemala. 

A 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”).

A passage 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.”

  R. Gordon Wasson postulated that…

“the use of mushrooms, if I am right, spread over most of Eurasia and the Americas, and as Stone Age Man has emerged into the light of proto-history these strange fungi may well have been the primary secret of his sacred Mysteries”.   

 

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About deborhegyi
My research was inspired by a theory first proposed by my father, the late Maya archaeologist Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi, that hallucinogenic mushroom rituals were a central aspect of Maya religion. He based this theory on his identification of a mushroom stone cult that came into existence in the Guatemala Highlands and Pacific coastal area around 1000 B.C. along with a trophy head cult associated with human sacrifice and the Mesoamerican ballgame. My study, which is exclusively my own work, presents visual evidence that both the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom and the Psilocybin mushroom were worshiped and venerated as gods in ancient Mesoamerica. These sacred mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of the New World, "Hidden in Plain Sight" that prior to this study they virtually escaped detection. This online research study, "BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE" is an enormous document containing over 300 images, is presented in five parts at this time (the Home Page, Soma in the Americas, Part I and Part II, and 2012 Alert ). In the course of my study have found an abundance of archaeological evidence supporting the proposition that Mesoamerica, the high cultures of South America, and Easter Island shared, along with many other New World cultures, elements of a Pan American belief system so ancient that many of the ideas may have come from Asia to the New World with the first human settlers. I believe the key to this entire belief system lies, as proposed by R. Gordon Wasson, in early man's discovery of the mind-altering effects of various hallucinatory substances. The accidental ingestion of these hallucinogenic substances could very well have provided the spark that lifted the mind and imagination of these early humans above and beyond the mundane level of daily existence to contemplation of another reality. In summary, the encoded mushroom imagery occurred with such frequency and in such indisputably religious context that there can be no doubt as to their importance in the development and practice of indigenous religion.

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