A New Road of Archaeological Inquiry

By Carl de Borhegyi

Copyright 2011


Over the years there has been a lot of speculation among scholars concerning the true identity of the mystery plant in the Rig Veda called Soma, the only plant known to have been deified in the history of human culture, (Furst, 1972:201). While the hymns about Soma have come down to us through time, the botanical identity of Soma remains a mystery. Theories abound as to Soma’s forgotten identity, yet among Vedic and Hindu scholars Soma is believed to be a species of Ephedra. 

 We know from the sacred texts called the Rig Veda that Soma was an intoxicating plant worshiped as both a god and holy beverage by a people who called themselves Aryans. We are told that drinking Soma produces immortality, and that the gods drank Soma to make them immortal. 

The Aryans, who introduced their Soma religion into the Indus Valley civilization around 1600 B.C.,believed that sacrifices were necessary to keep the world in balance, which they believed were necessary. This balance was maintained through the acts of ritual sacrifice and the offering of a hallucinogenic drink called Soma, and Haoma among the ancient Persians of Iran.  After closely examining the archaeological and historical evidence, we find many parallels between the ancient Vedic religion of East India, with the mythology and religion of the Americas.

The prevailing anthropological view of ancient New World history is that its indigenous peoples developed their own complex cultures independent of outside influence or inspiration.  Any suggestions to the contrary have been generally dismissed as either fanciful, racist, or demeaning. The peoples of the New World, scholars have argued,  were fully capable of developing their own civilizations as sophisticated as any found in Asia or the West. Today trans-oceanic contact between the hemispheres is still considered highly unlikely despite the exception of the Viking outpost discovered in Newfoundland in the 1960’s, and the recent awareness that early humans reached far distant Australia by boat as many as 50,000 years ago. After viewing the visual evidence presented below, readers of this study may wish to challenge this view of New World history with a more open-minded acknowledgement of the capability of ancient peoples to explore their environment and disperse their intellectual heritage to its far corners. 

Transoceanic contact with the ancient civilizations of the New World will remain a problem until it can be demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that the traits of New World civilizations had their antecedent or origin in the Old World.

My study of pre-Columbian art  began in 1996, inspired by a theory first proposed over fifty years ago 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 presents visual evidence of encoded mushroom imagery never identified before, “Hidden In Plain Sight”,  that proves that the late ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson was in fact correct in surmising that the true identity of Soma was the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom. Moreover, I also believe that both the Amanita muscaria mushroom and the Psilocybin mushroom were worshiped and venerated in Mesoamerica like the god Soma in ancient India and southeast Asia. These sacred mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of both the New and Old Worlds, that prior to this study they virtually escaped detection.

 The following images of encoded narcotic mushrooms are presented for educational, scholarly, and artistic research purposes. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work on this page is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

Despite the reluctance of the archaeological community to accept a theory of a mushroom cult among the Maya, my father supported his theory with a solid body of archaeological evidence as well as historical evidence found recorded in various Spanish chronicles and Aztec codices.

The historical evidence came to the attention of my father through his extensive correspondence with R. Gordon Wasson.  Wasson  pointed him toward reports of ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms among the Aztecs in a number of Spanish chronicles written shortly after the Spanish conquest.   Wasson also directed him toward reports of the existence of modern-day ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in various parts of Mexico and, in particular, among the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca. Together, Borhegyi and Wassonsurmised that If the mushroom stones did, indeed, represent a mushroom cult, then the mushroom itself was an iconographic metaphor, and the mushroom stone effigies could supply the clues necessary to decipher their meaning.  

  As a result of my studies, and solid evidence from other Mesoamerican scholars, I have been able to expand the subject of mushroom cults far beyond my father’s pioneering efforts. I 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.

 This 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 my study besides the obvious depictions like mushroom stones they virtually escaped detection.  




Ethno-archaeologist  Peter Furst, who supported  Borhegyi and Wasson’s mushroom cult theory added:

“The connection between these [mushroom] sculptures and the historic mushroom cults of Mesoamerica has not always been accepted. Though many mushroom stones are quite faithful to nature, they were, until recently, not even universally thought to represent mushrooms at all, and a few die-hards even now, in the face of all the evidence, reject this interpretation.” (1972)

One of the most influential archaeologists of the time, the late Sir J. Eric S. Thompson, was a major doubter of an ancient Maya mushroom cult. He wrote my father as follows:

Quoting Sir J. Eric S. Thompson…. 

 “I had heard of the theory that these stones might represent a narcotic mushroom cult, but I would think it a difficult theory to prove or disprove… I know of no reference to their use among the Maya, ancient or modern” (Thompson to Borhegyi, March 26,1953, MPM Archives).    

Thompson was not unfamiliar with mushroom stones. He had found an anthropomorphic mushroom stone representing a seated individual with a mushroom cap in the course of a trial survey of the Southern Maya area.  The specimen came from the Central Highlands of Guatemala. Thompson described the piece as a huge mushroom-like object that some anthropologists thought to be stone stools–though he admitted that they could hardly have been comfortable seats!  He also excavated and illustrated several tripod mushroom stones with plain stems at Finca El Baul on the Coastal piedmont of Guatemala. These he also described as stone seats. (Borhegyi in Wasson, 1962:49)


The ballgame yoke fragment with footprint was excavated by J. Eric Thompson along with a tripod mushroom stone from a pit in front of Monument 3 at the Pacific coastal site of El Baul in Guatemala.


  The mushroom stone excavated by Thompson at El Baul  (Type D) came from an offertory-cache which included a small stone ballgame yoke, evidence that linked mushroom stones and mushroom rituals with the ritual ballgame and to the monument itself. Monument 3 at El Baul is a huge boulder sculpture representing a bearded individual with an aquiline-nose. I believe that the sculpture is an image of the (priest-king) Quetzalcoatl, and that the shrine itself was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl and to the planet Venus.  


R. Gordon Wasson writes…

  “If I were to postulate the nature of a mushroomic cult, it would be of an erotic or procreative character. Sahagun says that the narcotic mushroom incita a  la   lujuria,– excites lust. He described it in a dancing scene where it is eaten.” (Wasson to Borhegyi 3-27-1953)  

“Some Middle American specialists may challenge my assumption of a connection between the “mushroom stones”, which ceased to be made centuries before Columbus arrived on these shores, and today’s surviving mushroom cult.” ….For years I had only an assumption to go on , but now, thanks to discoveries made by the late Stephan F. de Borhegyi  and us, I think we can tie the two together in a way that will satisfy any doubter”   (Wasson,1972:188n)

Eric Thompson mentions the erotic practices introduced into Yucatan by the Itza which he says was introduced as part of the cult of Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan (J.E.S. Thompson 1966 p. 127)

Thompson mentions that the ruler of Chichen Itza, Nacxit, was the name for Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan, and that in the books of the Chilam Balam, he is called Nacxit Kukulcan who was ruler of Chichen Itza, who introduced violence and sin to Chichen Itza, (J.E.S. Thompson 1966 p. 128).


  Quoting  Maya Archaeologist David H. Kelley…

“Much of Aztec religion looks like a modified Hinduism in which one important change was the deliberate abandonment of religious eroticism” (Man Across the Sea, 1971, p.62).


  Quoting Maya Archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi….

I think that the story is as follows: the priest king Quetzalcoatl /Kukulcan, (Gucumatz) was expelled by his enemies from Tula (Tollan), sometime around 960A.D (Quetzalcoatl was accused with sodomy and incest.).  He left with a small group of his followers and went to Tlapallan, that is, the Laguna de Terminos region.  Here he apparently settled down.  It would seem that some of the Chontal tribes accepted the mushroom cult introduced by him and after a few years, the pressure of enemy tribes forced them to move on, led by descendants of Quetzalcoatl and his followers.  Some went northeast to Chichen Itza; others moved southward following the Usamacinta toward Guatemala” (Borhegyi to Wasson, April 1954).



Image of Quetzalcoatl as a “Weeping God”  from VANKIRK, Jacques, and Parney Bassett-VanKirk,  Remarkable Remains of the Ancient Peoples of Guatemala,  Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1996.)              

The stone carving shown above is a good example of the clever way in which the Precolumbian artist hid the sacred mushrooms of underworld jaguar transformation from the eyes of the uninitiated.   I believe that knowledge of the mushroom Venus resurrection ritual was considered so sacred that the artist deliberately obscured mushroom imagery. In this case the sculptor hid them behind the tears of the “Weeping God”,  known in legend as Quetzalcoatl Ce Acatl, the bearded god-king of the Toltecs.  In order to distinguish this semi-historical Quetzalcoatl from Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Serpent or Wind God deity,  the Toltecs prefixed his birth date to his name, Ce Acatl,  meaning “One Reed.”

Maya Archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi….

“…fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs, are commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God”. ( Borhegyi 1980:17)    

  While at first glance they give the illusion of dangling eye-balls, if you look closely at the mask you will see that the legendary tears of Quetzalcoatl are actually encoded Amanita mushrooms “hidden in plain sight.” This bearded and fanged deity shared feline, serpentine, and bird-like features. Identified as a Feathered or Plumed Serpent by archaeologists in his earliest representations,  he took on many additional guises and attributes over the years, and became known by a great variety of names throughout the New World. I have elected to refer to him, as did the Toltecs and Aztecs, as Quetzalcoatl.

There is plenty of evidence in Mesoamerican mythology linking the many avatars of Quetzalcoatl, Jaguar-Bird-Serpent, to the duality of the planet Venus.  Eduard Seler was the first to link feathered serpent imagery to the planet Venus and Quetzalcoatl and Seler believed that the jaguar-bird-serpent image was associated with war and the Morning Star ( Milbrath ).  In Aztec mythology the cosmos was intimately linked to the planet Venus in its form as the Evening Star, which guides the sun through the Underworld at night, as the skeletal god Xolotl, the twin of Quetzalcoatl.  As the Morning Star, Quetzalcoatl’s avatar was the harpy eagle.  Among the Quiche Maya,  Venus in its form as the  Morning Star, was called iqok’ij,  meaningthe “sunbringer” or “carrier of the sun or day.” (Tedlock, 1993:236). 

 According to Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran, (The Aztecs,1964, p.149) it was written that before Quetzalcoatl departed  his beloved Tula, he left orders that his figure be carved in wood and in stone, to be adored by the common people. “They will remain as a perpetual memorial to our greatness in the way that we remember Quetzalcoatl”.



           (Photograph of Maya mushroom stones by Dr. Richard Rose reproduced from Stamets, 1996)

  The Preclassic Mayan mushroom stone pictured at the far left isfrom the site of Kaminaljuyu in the Guatemala Highlands, which depicts a mushroom emerging from the back of a crouching jaguar. Mushroom stones with a double edge or groove on the underside of the cap, have been dated to the Late Pre-Classic period about 300-100 B.C. by Stephan F. de Borhegyi based on the few mushroom stones that have been excavated in context at Kaminaljuyu.


Quoting the late Ethno-Mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson…

“In examining these mushroomic artifacts we must keep in mind that they were not made for our enlightenment. They were iconic shorthand summarizing a whole bundle of associations ,–whatever those associations were. The Christian cross is to be found in endless shapes, including the “effigy cross” or crucifix, and all stem back to a complex of emotions, beliefs, and religious longings. The crucifix would reveal to an archaeologist eons hence more than, say, a Maltese cross. So with the mushroom stones, the subject matter of the effigies holds the secret”.

” There is little doubt that the substance called Soma in the Rig Veda has been identified as the fungus Amanita Muscaria.”

“In the association of these ideas we strike a vein that must go back to the remotest times in Eurasia, to the Stone Age: the link between the toad, the female sex organs, and the mushroom, exemplified in the Mayan languages and the mushroom stones of the Maya Highlands. Man must have brought this association across the Bering Strait (or the land bridge that replaced it in the ice ages) as part of his intellectual luggage.”

When we look at the mushroom stones we must always remember that in pre-Conquest times most art, if not all, was religious, as it once was in Europe. And we must remember that the hold on the inner life of the Mesoamerican peoples of the ethnogeny, notably the entheogenic mushrooms, was all-powerful, as it is to this day in remote corners of highland Mexico. Those who have not explored the role of the entheogens * in the cultural past of Mesoamerica easily overlook that role or assume that it was of minor importance, solely because for us it is of no importance”. (Wasson, 1980:189).

“I believe the whole corpus of surviving pre-conquest artistic expression should…be reviewed on the chance that divine mushrooms figuring therein have hitherto escaped detection”.  (from Thomas, 1993 p.644 11-17n)

[*] Entheogen, meaning “God within us” is the term used by Wasson for those plant substances that, when ingested, give one a divine experience.  This semantic distinction distinguishes their role in the early history of religions from their abuse and vulgarization by the “hippie” sub-culture of the l960’s and 1970s.


Spanish chronicler Jacinto de la Serna, 1892 (The Manuscript of Serna) described the use of sacred mushrooms for divination: “These mushrooms were small and yellowish (Psilocybin mushrooms) and to collect them the priest and all men appointed as ministers went to the hills and remained almost the whole night in sermonizing and praying” (Quest for the Sacred Mushroom, Stephan F. de Borhegyi 1957).Serna in 1650 pointed out that the Aztec calendar was called the “count of planets”. Serna  writes that the people of Mexico “adored and made more sacrifices to the sun and Venus than any other celestial or terrestrial creatures”, and that it was believed that twins were associated with the sun and Venus (The Manuscript of Serna).


The Rig Veda, never mentions any planets by name, but identifies the planets by the family name of Vedic seers. Vedic names like Surya (the Sun), Soma (the Moon), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Budha (Mercury) are  the classical Hindu names for the planets, according to Vedic scholar David Frawley.  According to Frawley, originally there was one line or family of seers, the Bhrigvangirasas, and that they were divided into two groups, the Angirasas and the Bhrigus. The Angirasas were led by Brihaspati (Jupiter) and the Bhrigus by Shukra (Venus) and that with the diffusion and division of the Aryan peoples, some of the seers left with the migrating people. The Bhrigus according to Frawley “appear related to many people supposedly non-Aryan cultures of the ancient world whose calendars were based upon the cycles of Venus (Bhrigu) like the ancient Egyptians and American Indians and Mayans”. Frawley suggest that based on astronomical references in the Rig Veda, that the Vedic seers had a calendar dating back to at least 6000 B.C. (from Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civiilzation p. 165-166).

 Out of the ten Rig Veda books, one hymn book is devoted entirely to Soma. The Vedas state that the god-plant Soma was found in the mountains and that the intoxicating juices from Soma were expressed from the flesh of the plant using so-called “Soma-stones.”  The juices of Soma were then filtered through wool into large jars.  In like manner, mushroom stones, when they have been found in situ in the course of archaeological excavation, are often accompanied by stone grinding tools known as manos and metates.  Accounts of mushroom ceremonies still in practice among the Zapotec Indians of Mexico confirm the use of these tools in the preparation of hallucinogenic mushrooms for human consumption. Though separated by vast distances,  it is tempting to conclude that these manos and metates are, in fact, the same as the sacred stones described in the Rig Veda that were used to prepare the intoxicating drink known as Soma.


Above are two of the nine miniature mushroom stones depicted and described below. They 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.  It was the mushroom communion in the Americas that actually transported one to the divine realm of the trinity. The nine mushroom stones were excavated from the Maya ruins of Kaminaljuyu, in Highland Guatemala.


Above is a Hindu carved relief panel (Sanchi stupasecond-first century B.C.)  In the middle of the carved panel is an umbrellashaped object, located above what might be a depiction of the Soma stone used in the preparation rites of the Soma beverage. According to the Rig Veda, the Soma stones were used to press the juices from the Soma plant. (photograph from

Rig Veda – Book 9, Hymn 4 (Griffith’s translation)
O flowing Soma, win and conquer high fame; [1ab]
And make us better than we are. [1cd]
Win the light, win heaven, and, Soma, all good things; [2ab]
And make us better than we are. [2cd]
Win skilful strength and mental power. O Soma, drive away our foes; [3ab]
And make us better than we are. [3cd]
Filterers- purify soma for Indra, for his drink: [4ab]
And make us better than we are. [4cd]
Give us our portion in the Sun through your own mental power and aids; [5ab]
And make us better than we are. [5cd]
Through your own mental power and aid long may we look upon the Sun; [6ab]
And make us better than we are. [6cd]
Well-weaponed Soma, pour to us stream of riches doubly great; [7ab]
And make us better than we are. [7cd]
As one victorious unsubdued in battle pour forth wealth to us; [8ab]
And make us better than we are. [8cd]
By worship, O flowing Soma, men have augmented you for support: [9ab]
And make us better than we are. [9cd]
O Indu [‘soma drop’]], bring us wealth in steeds, manifold, all-reaching; [10ab]
And make us better than we are. [10cd]


 Quoting Kavitha, Atmaya Nama Atmalingaya Nama Om…..

“The complexity of India art, ritual and belief system can be simplified into two forms of worship and adoration. One is for the miracle of death which is realized in the worship of ancestors in which the quest for afterlife and rebirth are dwelled upon and the other is for the miracle of life that is realized in creation and its constant presence around us in the world. This is pronounced in the depth of both Hinduism and Buddhism”. (from Indian Temples and Iconography: 



  The Amanita muscaria mushroom encoded in Hindu and Buddhist art

Indus Valley Civilization female fertility figurines

Soma: The Fly agaric or Amanita muscaria mushroom




               (photograph from the Walter Art Museum)

    Above left is a female fertility figurine from the Indus Valley Civilization 3rd-2nd century B.C. which depicts the Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess, with multiple Amanita muscaria mushrooms encoded into her headdress. 


Quoting Archaeologist David Freidel from the 1993 book Maya Cosmos…

“we were surprised that every element of Maya cosmology, no matter where we started, drove us towards a few basic central themes: the creation of the cosmos; the ordering of the world of people, and of the gods and ancestors of the Otherworld; the triumph of the ancestral humans over the forces of death, decay, and dissease through cunning and trickery; the miracle of true rebirth out of sacrifice; and the origins of maize as the substance of the Maya body and soul. All of these themes are expressed in the Popol Vuh, the Book of Council of the K’iche (Quiche) Maya of highland Guatemala. The genesis stories in the Popol Vuh are a redaction of the central myths celebrated by lowland Classic Maya as a fundamental expression of their own genesis”. These stories, as our colleague Michael Coe puts it, anchor Classic Maya thought in the same way that the Mahabharata and the Ramayana epics anchor popular Hindu experience and notions of royal power in Bali (Freidel, Schele, Parker, 1993 p.43).




The female figurine on the left with encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms in her headdress is from the Harappa culture, Indus Valley civilization 3rd-2nd century B.C.  The female figurine on the right with encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom in her headdress is from Puebla, Mexico, Tlatilco culture Early-Middle Preclassic period 1300-800 B.C.  Both female figurines depict what I believe are encoded mushroom inspired headdresses and both depict vulva-shaped or vulva inspired legs and hips referring to fertility. The idea of a Vedic Soma cult in the New World suggests a very early transpacific contact with the Americas.  

Above left is a standing female figurine from the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa Culture 3rd–2nd century B.C.  20.3 cm (8 in.) Terracotta, modeled face and hand-modeled body Classification: Sculpture Type, sub-type: Figure Indian, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, John Wheelock Eliot Fund Accession number: 27.135 Provenance/Ownership History: Purchased by the MFA in 1927.

 Above right is a female figurine Tlatilco culture, Puebla, Mexico, Early-Middle Preclassic periods, 1300-800 B.C. Dimension: 6.75in x 0in x 0in 17.145cm x 0cm x 0cm
Purchased with funds provided by The Lake Family Endowment
2000.017.005 (

(For documentation of a female fertility cult concept in Mesoamerica see Vaillant, 1950: 50-51, for documentation of a female fertility cult concept in the Old World see Pritchard, 1943)


The famous bronze statue on the left, of a young women sporting a club-like hand, is from Harappa, early Indus civilization. The figurine is thought to be about 4,500 years old. The standing female above right, represents a ballplayer from ancient Mexico wearing a protective helmet, ballgame glove and a mushroom-inspired ballgame protective cup and belt.  The figurine comes from the site of Xochipala, Mexico, Tlatilco culture in the western state of Guerrero, and dates to 1200-900 B.C.E It is now in the  Princeton University Art Museum. Note the symbolic reference to the number three in the Harappa figurine’s necklace, and the number of rings on the Tlatilco figurine’s ballgame glove and ballgame belt or yoke. (For more on ballgame hand stones and ballgame gloves see Borhegyi, 1961: 129-140.   (photograph of Xochipala female ballplayer from Whittington, 2001).

My father better known as (Dr. Stephan Borhegyi), was considered the leading researcher of the pre-Columbian ballgame before his untimely death in 1969. The late Maya archaeologist Lee A. Parsons, editor of my father’s manuscript entitled The PreColumbian -ballgame:  A Pan-Mesoamerican Tradition;  published posthumously in 1980, by the Milwaukee Public Museum, believed the manuscript to be the most comprehensive study of the ballgame ever attempted. My father believed, but could not prove that the grisly ritual of decapitation and the so-called “trophy head cult” that was intimately connected with the Mesoamerican ballgame, did not originate in the New World but had its antithesis in the Old World. 


Quoting Stephan de Borhegyi… (from de Borhegyi 1980, p.25)

 “A final word on decapitation, the ballgame, and cultural diffusion may be in order. 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 (for ballgames in Southeast Asia, see Loffler, 1955). The use of severed human heads in the polo games of Tibet, china, and Mongolia goes back at least as far as the Chou Dynasty (approximately 1100 B.C. -250 B.C.) and possibly to Shang times (about 1750 B.C. -1100 B.C.). By the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the polo game in China had become more refined and human heads were apparently replaced by balls. However, the custom of using “trophy heads” in the game must have survived in modern form in marginal areas, as evidence by the fact that the present day Tajik tribesmen of Afghanistan still use the head of a goat as a ball during the game (Abercombie, 1968). While more studies are needed along this line, it is tempting to suggest that the custom of using human heads in competitvive ballgames be added to the growing Pre-Classic inventory of “trans-Pacific contacts”.


   In Mesoamerica I believe a ritual beverage made from juice expressed from the Amanita muscaria mushroom was probably consumed before battle and before the ritual ballgame. This mushroom beverage, I believe, was the same drink as the Soma beverage of the Rig Veda which reputedly enhanced one’s bravery, and strength to its wildest levels.  Numerous ballplayer figurines have been found at Xochipala and at such other Preclassic sites as Tlatilco and Tlapacoya in the Valley of Mexico.  Borhegyi conjectured that a change in ballgame rituals and a switch from the Olmec influenced “hand ball game” most likely came as a result of the powerful influence of Teotihuacan and newly instituted Quetzalcoatl rites. (Borhegyi 1980: p. 24). 




   The sculpture above is of a Hindu Goddess, holding what appears to be a mushroom in her right hand. Relief of Alasa Kanya at Vaital Deul, Bhubaneswar. Photograph from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The sculpture above is of the Vedic-Hindu god Shiva, holding a mushroom in his right hand; ( Angkor Wat, Cambodia, ~1200 AD)  photo image from

Above and below are images I believe depict the Buddha beneath a stylized mushroom.


The caption to the photo above left identifies the image as a sandstone sculpture of Jina Parsvanatha, the 23rd ‘tirthankara’ (saint) of the Jain religion sitting beneath a Dhataki tree. (Image 2006AU5756 from the                    

For a more detailed description on the sculptures presented above visit,

(source below: Gods, Sages, and Kings – By David Frawley p. 43-64)


“The Indians built ships, navigated the sea and monopolized the international trade both by sea route and land route. Indian literature furnishes evidence with innumerable references to sea voyages and sea-borne trade and the constant use of the ocean as the great highway of international intercourse and commerce”.

Rig Veda

“The oldest evidence on record is supplied by the Rig Veda, which contains several references to sea voyages undertaken for commercial purposes. One passage (I. 25.7) represents Varuna having a full knowledge of the sea routes, and another (I. 56.2) speaks of merchants, under the influence of greed,  going sending ships to foreign countries. A third passage (I. 56.2)mentions merchants whose field of activity known no bounds, w ho go everywhere in pursuit of gain, and frequent every part of the sea. The fourth passage (VII. 88.3 and 4) alludes to a voyage undertaken by Vasishtha and Varuna in a ship skillfully fitted out, and their “undulating happily in the prosperous swing.” The fifth, which is the most interesting passage (I. 116. 3), mentions a naval expedition on which Tugra the Rishi king sent his son Bhujyu against some of his enemies in the distant islands; Bhujyu, however, is ship wrecked by a storm, with all his followers, on the ocean, “where there is no support, no rest for the foot or the hand,” from which he is rescued by the twin brethren, the Asvins, in their hundred-oared galley. The Panis in the Vedas and later classical literature were the merchant class who were the pioneers and who dared to set their course from unknown lands and succeeded in throwing bridges between many and diverse nations. The Phoenicians were no other than the Panis of the Rig Veda. They were called Phoeni in Latin which is very similar to the Sanskrit Pani”.  (


                     SOMA IN SOUTH AMERICAN ART

Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst…

 “Little is known of the pre-Hispanic mushroom use in South America, with the single exception of an early Jesuit report from Peru that the Yurimagua Indeans, who have since become extinct, intoxicated themselves with a mushroom that was vaguely described as a “tree fungus” (Furst, 1976 p.82).                    


 In the course of my studiesI not only found mushroom-related symbolism throughout Mesoamerica, but also in the art of the Inca, Mochica, Chavin, Chimu, and Paracas cultures of South America, and in the Rapa Nui civilization of Easter Island.  Peter Furst (1976, p.80-82)  writes that similar religious concepts of the Olmecs and Maya existed in South America. He has identified mushrooms and mushroom headdresses on Moche ceramic vase paintings (200-700 A.D.) such as those I found on the portrait vessels above and below.



Above are pre-Columbian ceramics called Moche portrait vessels, from Peru wearing headdresses encoded with the Amanita muscaria mushroom imagery. The Moche culture reigned on the north coast of Peru during the years 100-600 A.D.


Above, a gold mushroom inspired ornament, most likely was worn as an head ornament by an Andean ruler or priest. The ornament that bears the metaphorical shape of a half-sliced mushroom as well as a  ritual axe, is decorated with imagery reminiscent of the spotted caps of the Amanita muscaria mushroom.

There is also plenty of evidence of a trophy head cult in the archaeological record of South America. According to Andean researcher Christina Conlee (Texas State University) large numbers of decapitated heads or so-called trophy heads have been found in archaeological excavations in the area of Peru.  At the archaeological site of Tihaunaco not far from Lake Titicaca, several dozen decapitated bodies were found in a burial arranged in a geometric layout, buried alongside drinking vessels suggesting the act of ritual (Soma) sacrifice.    


  Above is a woven textile from Peru, South America, Paracas culture 750 B.C. to A.D. 100. The textile incorporates what appears to be mushroom-Venus iconography associated with a bodyless human head. The axe in his hand is a metaphor denoting mushrooms+ decapitation=portal to Venus resurrection. The axe is purposely shaped to look like an Amanita muscaria mushroom.  I believe that the design below the figure’s chin symbolizes Venus. Similar in design to Venus symbols from Mesoamerica and Easter Island, it represents the Evening Star aspect of Venus associated with the ritual of underworld decapitation.

As in Mesoamerica and South America, we find plenty of evidence in India of human sacrifice, and the offering of trophy heads to the gods. One account of mass sacrifice took place in Assam in north-eastern India in 1565 A.D. at a ceremony celebrating the re dedication of a temple to Rajah Nara Narayana. The Rajah celebrating this event had one hundred and forty men decapitated, and then offered their severed heads on copper and gold plates to the goddess Kali, wife of the Hindu god Shiva (Davies 1981, p.76). 


The painted textile above from the Chimu culture of Peru, 1000-1400 C.E.  depicts a figure standing astridewhat I believe is an Amanita muscaria mushroom. The fanged figure is accompanied by two jaguarswith 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. The 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 or axe-shaped icon encoded into his headdress. This I believe is code for ritual decapitation under the mushroom’s influence, 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.

   The mythological stories of two brothers who are successful tricksters is a story which is found throughout South America (Harold Osborn 1968, 1983 p.124).

  It is reasonable that a belief in the redemptive power and divinity of hallucinatory mushrooms could have spread from one culture to another. The first mushroom cult, identified by its powerful artistic expression of the were-jaguar, dominated Olmec culture as early as 1500 B.C.  As early as 850 B.C. a were-jaguar cult begins to appear in South America, identified in the religious art of the Chavin and Paracas cultures of Peru. B.C.   



For documentation of feline-human hybrid motif with fertility associations in Mesoamerica see S. F.  de Borhegyi, 1951a, 1951b: 110.  For documentation of feline-human hybrid motif with fertility associations in the Old World see M. Burrows, 1941: 209; H. G.May, 1931-1932: 73-98; W. F. Albright,1938: 1-2, R. S. Starr, 1937: I, 437-441; Kelso, J. L. and J. P. Thorley, 1945: 91;



Above left, “hidden In plain sight,”  the ceramic Precolumbian mask depicts the transformation of a human into a “were-jaguar,” a half-human, half-jaguar deity first described and named in 1955 by archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling. The were-jaguar appears in the art of the ancient Olmecs as early as 1200 B.C.  I believe this mask symbolizes the soul’s journey into the underworld where it will undergo ritual decapitation, jaguar transformation, and spiritual resurrection.  An Amanita muscaria mushroom (actual specimen shown in the photo on the right) is encoded into the head and nose of the human side, while the left half of the mask depicts the effect of the Amanita mushroom as resulting in were-jaguar transformation. The were-jaguar eventually came to be worshiped and venerated throughout Central and South America.  Mexican art historian, Miguel 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)

(photo below by Prof. Gian Carlo Bojani Director of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy) (Photo of Amanita muscaria by Richard Fortey)


Photograph © Justin Kerr 

Above, on the left, is the Amanita muscaria mushroom, and on the right a Maya figurine (300-900 C.E.) photographed by Justin Kerr (K 656a).  The figurine wears a headdress inspired by the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The figurine’s contorted face depicts what Olmec scholars call the “Olmec snarl”, a common motif in Olmec art which I would argue represents the mushroom’s esoteric effect of jaguar transformation and the soul’s mythical underworld journey.  The figurine holds in its hands a concave mirror.  Mirrors were used by shamans to see into the past and future and communicate with ancestors and gods.

For documentation of mirror gazing (captoptromacy) in Mesoamerica see T. Besterman, 1965,: 73-77; Museum of Primitive Art, 1965 and for documentation of mirror gazing in the Old World by J. Hastings, 1951: IV, 780-782)



Jaguar Effigy Incensario with an encoded stylized mushroom for a nose. Remujadas, Veracruz, Mexico. Classic period, circa 450-650 A.D. Height 14 ½”.  Above right is a cross section of Amanita muscaria fruiting body, (Wentworth Falls, Author, Casliber  Category:Amanita muscaria)   (Photo above left from Stendahl Galleries Fine Precolumbian Art).


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 sacred book of the ancient Quiche Maya,  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 taught that mankind must make sacrifices to the deity and transcend this world in order to achieve immortality. There is good reason to believe that this ritual was regularly performed  prior to sacrifice, whether the sacrifice was performed willingly by the participant, or carried out  by another individual.



     (jpg –…/s320/Mexico+City+080.jpg)

(Photo of Amanita muscaria, Fly Agaric Mushrooms from Salvia Space Ethnobotanicals)   

   Above, another Precolumbian incense burner (Toltec?) from Central Mexico encodes Amanita muscaria mushrooms as the “legendary tears of Quetzalcoatl.”  Note as well that the scroll at the bottom of the censer repeats a hook-shape symbol that I have come to believe is another symbol of a religion based on mushroom rituals and the worship of the planet Venus.

The Soma beverage, and the Soma sacrifice, according to Vedic scholars was the focal point of Vedic religion. According to the Rig-Veda, Vayu was the first of the Vedic gods to drink Soma.  As the Wind God,. he is  associated with sacrifice, death and warfare. The same can be found in Mesoamerican mythology, in which the god Quetzalcoatl, in the form of Ehecatl the Wind God, delivers mushrooms to mankind, and Quetzalcoatl like his Vedic counterpart Vayu, is also connected with the fate of the dead.  

Among the Koryaks of Siberia, the fact of the Amanita muscaria’s seedless growth lead to the belief that mushrooms were “virgin-births,” born from the divine spittle of god–the fluid we know as dew, that magically appears at dawn. In Mesoamerica the legendary Hero Twins of Maya mythology were also born miraculously from the spittle of their father’s decapitated head.

   In the groundbreaking book published by Robert Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, titled Mushrooms, Russia and History  (1957), the Wassons reported on the ritual consumption of mushrooms (the Amanita muscaria) among Siberian and northern Asian peoples, suggesting the possible antiquity of the mushroom cult to Stone Age times. The Wassons surmised that our own remote ancestors, perhaps 6000 years ago, worshiped a divine mushroom (Furst, 1972, reissued 1990, p.187).


  R. Gordon Wasson postulated that…

” There is little doubt that the substance called Soma in the Rig Veda has been identified as the fungus Amanita Muscaria.”


  In the New World beginning around 1500 B.C. an ancient people scholars call the Olmecs, appeared suddenly, their art and mythology fully developed and in full blossom, and built pyramids and megalithic stone sculpture adorned with the images of their gods and rulers.The pioneering achievements of the ancient Olmecs in the arts, architecture, and writing give us the first great civilization in the New World. The religion of the ancient Olmecs was grounded in sacrifice, and the need to offer men, women, and children to the gods. The ritual of decapitation was based on what I believe was an esoteric cult of the human head associated with a trophy head cult. Spread by the first true civilization, Olmec religion  set the tone for all future religious beliefs in the New World.       

(Photo of Amanita muscaria mushroom from Royalty Free Stock Photos)
The image above on the right is of an Olmec whistle photographed by Higinio Gonzalez of Puebla, Mexico. The figurine of a baby  likely comes from the San Lorenzo phase of Olmec culture, 1200-400 B.C.E.  These infantile baby-faced figurines, many of which depict the symbolism of a snarling jaguar, are a distinctive feature in Olmec art. This figure appears to represent an Olmec baby wearing an Amanita mushroom cap and holding a gigantic Amanita mushroom. According to ethno-mycologist Gastón Guzmán, one of the effects of the Amanita muscaria mushroom experience is to see objects as gigantic in size. (Guzman, 2010).

The rise of the Olmec, the first complex civilization in the New World in the swampy jungles of the Gulf Coast has puzzled archaeologists for some time. Archaeologists contend that Olmec culture appears to come from out of nowhere in full bloom at the site of San Lorenzo, in Chiapas, Mexico. Carbon 14 dates place Olmec civilization at San Lorenzo at 1200 B.C.E. (M. D.  Coe, 1970, p.21). 

The discovery of numerous toad bones in Olmec burials at San Lorenzo suggests that the Olmecs may have used other mind-altering substances, such as hallucinogenic toad toxin, in various ritual practices (Coe, 1994:69; Furst, 1990: 28; Grube, 2001:294).  Mushroom-shaped stones, many bearing toad images carved on their base, have been found throughout Chiapas, Mexico, the Guatemala highlands, and along the Pacific slope as far south as El Salvador.  (Borhegyi, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b). Gordon Wasson was the first to call attention to the pervasiveness of the toad and it’s association with the term toadstool, with the intoxicating or poisonous mushrooms in Europe. Tatiana Proskouriakoff demonstrated that in Mayan glyphs the toad is the divine symbol of rebirth (Coe, 1993:196)


Quoting ethno-archaeologist Peter T. Furst:

“It is tempting to suggest that the Olmecs might have been instrumental in the spread  of mushroom cults throughout Mesoamerica, as they seem to have been of other significant aspects of early Mexican civilization……” It is in fact a common phenomenon of South American shamanism  (reflected also in Mesoamerica) that shamans are closely identified with the jaguar, to the point where the jaguar is almost nowhere regarded as simply an animal, albeit an especially powerful one, but as supernatural, frequently as the avatar of living or deceased shamans, containing their souls and doing good or evil in accordance with the disposition of their human form” (Furst 1976, pp. 48,79).”

Photographs © Justin Kerr # 6608

Owner: Denver Art Museum Denver CO
Maya vase K6608 from the Justin Kerr Data Base of Maya vase paintings, depicts three underworld jaguars which may symbolize the three hearth stones of creation, a “trinity of gods” in Maya religion known at the archaeological site of Palenque as GI, GII, GIII.  The underworld jaguars all wear mushroom shaped ear plugs, and wear sacrificial scarves, symbolic of underworld decapitation. The scarves metaphorically bear the colors and spots of the Amanita muscaria mushroom.


Vedic worshipers partook in the Soma ritual because it reportedly produced a divine sense of power and inspiration. They believed that the gods themselves joined in the ritual drinking.  By pleasing the Vedic gods with sacrifice, song, drink and food, the devotees hoped to gain the support of nature and win favor with the gods. Sacrifice in both religions was both a symbol of fear and one`s affection towards the gods.

If the identification of the Vedic god Soma, the mystery plant, and ritual beverage described in the Rig Veda is in fact the Amanita muscaria mushroom, as proposed by Wasson, then there can be little doubt that the Amanita muscaria mushroom was indeed the model for the numerous small stone sculptures known as Maya “mushroom stones.” 

Above are the nine Preclassic mushroom stones that were found in a cache along with nine miniature metates at the highland Maya archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City. The contents of the cache were dated by Stephan  de Borhegyi at 1000-500 B.C.  The tall jaguar mushroom stone depicted above on the left with handles was excavated separately at Kaminaljuyu.

In describing the contents of a cache of mushroom stones depicted above excavated at the Preclassic site of  Kaminaljuyu in the Guatemala Highlands, Borhegyi wrote;


Archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

“The cache of nine miniature mushroom stones {depicted below} 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)

It should also be noted that the late Archaeo-astronomer David Kelly, notes links between the Mesoamerican calendar and the Hindu lunar mansions that track the positions of the moon amid the stars, and links the Mesoamerican cycle of the Nine Lords of the Night to the Hindu planetary week of nine days, that refers to five planets, the Sun and Moon, and two invisible planets believed to cause eclipses (Milbrath, 1999 p.292).

Diffusionists will argue that the best piece of evidence for trans-Pacific contact, is that both India and Mesoamerica shared a similar calendar, and that the sophistication in both calendars could not have been a duplicate invention.

The Vedic-Hindu religion of East India and the religions of Mesoamerica both venerated a trinity of creator gods, as well as recognizing hundreds of other named gods. Both cultures knew of the corbel arch, shared sacred numbers, and the development of a place-value system using the concept of zero. For documentation in Mesoamerica see  A. L. Kroeber, 1948: 468-472, and for documentation in the Old World see O. Neugebauer, 1951: 18,20,26,140-1460)


                                 Photo by Allan B. Richardson. Courtesy Wasson Collection.



Ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson…

“There is nothing incompatible between the mushroom stones and the ball game. Those who have mastered the mushrooms arrive at an extraordinary command of their faculties and muscular movements: their sense of timing is heightened. I have already suggested that the players had ingested the mushrooms before they entered upon the game. If the mushroom stones were related to the ball game, it remains to be discovered what role they played”. (Wasson, from Mushrooms Russia & History, p. 178)

 The bemushroomed person is poised in space, a disembodied eye, invisible, incorporeal, seeing but not being seen….In truth, he is the five senses disembodied, all of them keyed to the height of sensitivity and awareness, all of them blending into one another most strangely, until, utterly passive, he becomes a pure receptor, infinitely delicate, of sensations”. (Wasson, 1972a:198;  Borhegyi, 1962)



My father (Dr. Stephan Borhegyi), was one of the leading researchers of the pre-Columbian ballgame before his untimely death in 1969. In his manuscript entitled…

The Pre-Columbian ballgame:  A Pan-Mesoamerican Tradition; published posthumously in 1980, by the Milwaukee Public Museum. He writes that he believed that stone hachas , as well as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vertically and horizontally tenoned stone heads, were symbolic of the human (trophy) heads of earlier times. Stone hachas were worn on ceremonial ballgame yokes, while the tenoned stone heads were set into the walls of formal ball courts. (1980:17)


A miniature stone hacha, the Spanish word for axe, from Veracruz, Mexico (Late Classic Period, 700-900 C.E.) ( photograph from Whittington, 2001)

Hachas, like the one depicted above, fit into the belt or yoke worn by ballplayers in the Mesoamerican ballgame. This hacha was probably used in ceremonies associated with the ballgame. The hacha represents a decapitated trophy head of a wrinkled faced and toothless old man wearing a cone-shaped hat. The wrinkled face and toothless mouth suggest the Old Fire God (Xiuhtecutli), while a closer look reveals the image of a sacred psilocybin mushroom encoded in the cheek and hat. The conical or cone-shaped hat, in this case mushroom-inspired, is a trademark attribute of the Mexican god-king Quetzalcoatl and of his priesthood.

Anthropologist and author Irene Nicholson…

 “In spite of the great gulf that separates Precolumbian thought from our own in many of its external aspects; in spite of distortions, irrelevancies, decadence and subsequent annihilation by European conquerors of a great part of it; the culture which this mysterious leader established [Quetzalcoatl Votan] shines down to our own day. Its message is still meaningful for those who will take the trouble to make their way, through the difficulties of outlandish names and rambling manuscripts, to the essence of the myth”.   (from the book, Mexican and Central American Mythology 1967, p.136)



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)


  Expanding on my father’s and Wasson’s theory that the Amanita muscaria fly-agaric mushroom of Eurasia was likely the model for the ancient mushroom stones of Mesoamerica, anthropologist Weston La Barre, hypothesized in 1970, 


Anthropologist Weston La Barre…

“The American Indians interest in hallucinogenic plants represents a survival from a very ancient Paleolithic and Mesolithic shamanistic stratum, and that its linear ancestor is likely to be an archaic form of the shamanistic Eurasiatic fly-agaric cults that survived in Siberia into the present century, and that while profound socioeconomic and religious transformations brought about the eradication of ecstatic shamanism and knowledge of intoxicating mushrooms and other plants over most of Eurasia, a very different set of historical and cultural circumstances favored their survival and elaboration in the New World, which the early big-game hunters carried with them out of northeastern Asia as the base religion of American Indians”(Furst, 1976)


Archaeologists have also noted the almost exact similarity of an ancient board game played by the Aztecs called Patolli, with an ancient board game from India, called Pachisi (the so-called Pachisi-Patolli theory). Archaeologists like the late Gordon Ekholm argue that, because of the games layout and design, it could never have been developed independently on opposite sides of the worlds.  

Above is a page from the Aztec Codex Magliabecchiano, depicting the board game of patolli.


For documentation of Patolli-Parchisi game in Mesoamerica and the Old World see Z. Nuttall, 1961,  S. Culin, 1898: 854 ff; S. Piggott, 1950: 190-191


Above, Shiva and Parvati playing charpar, a game similar to Parcheesi.

(From, The Art of South and Southeast Asia The Metropolitan Museum of Art)



       Board game stone pieces, from Mohenjo-daro, Harappa culture,

Indus Valley Civilization


                          From, Games in Ancient Indus’ Mohenjo-daro:

Article from Past Horizons, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Photo above : bennylin0724, Flickr)(Image from


                          Dr. Stephan Borhegyi, 1921-1969

   My father, “the Baron” examining a miniature mushroom stone from Guatemala. For more on miniature mushroom stones see Borhegyi de,  S.F., 1961, “Miniature mushroom stones from Guatemala,” American Antiquity, vol. 26: 498-504.

      Mesoamerican Archaeologist Michael D. Coe…

   “I do not exactly remember when I first met Gordon Wasson, but it must have been in the early 1970’s. He was already a legendary figure to me, for I had heard much of him from the equally legendary and decidedly colorful Steve Borhegyi, director of the Milwaukee Public Museum before his untimely death. Steve, who claimed to be a Hungarian count and dressed like a Mississippi riverboat gambler, was a remarkably fine and imaginative archaeologist who had supplied much of the Mesoamerican data for Gordon and Valentina Wasson’s Mushrooms, Russia and History, particularly on the enigmatic “mushroom stones” of the Guatemala highlands. His collaboration with the Wassons proved even to the most skeptical that there had been a sort of ritual among the highland Maya during the Late Formative period involving hallucinogenic mushrooms” (from the book; The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: tributes to R. Gordon Wasson, 1990 p.43)


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 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.”

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”).


  Knowing that the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in association with the pine and birch trees in the cooler elevations of the Maya Highlands, its likely that these effigy mushroom stones may have been carved to symbolize rebirth and venerate the victims of sacrifice, such as toads,  birds, monkeys, jaguars, deer, peccary, rabbits, birds and humans.  The effigy mushroom stones may have been used as markers to honor the sacred spot where mushrooms sprouted  after lightening struck the ground. The knowledge that mushrooms suddenly sprout from the ground when lightening strikes is a concept also found recorded in the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda states that “Parjanya, the god of thunder and lightening was the father of Soma (Lowy 1974, p.188 and Wasson 1969).

   In the Vedas, as in Mesoamerica, the sun is compared to a bird or eagle flying across the sky. Soma, called the “Father of the Gods,”  was said to have been stolen from the highest heaven by an eagle to bestow insight and immortality to its drinkers. Agni the “God of Fire” was the intermediary between the heavens and earth,  and his two heads often depicted in Hindu art represents both domestic fire, and the fire of sacrifice. In Mesoamerica Quetzalcoatl is credited with introducing fire and sacrifice to mankind, and for fixing certain days in the sacred 260 day calendar for feasts and ritual sacrifice. If the Vedic god Soma was a mushroom, than the connection can be made to  Quetzalcoatl who is also credited with bestowing immortality to mankind by introducing them to divine mushrooms, as seen onpage 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis (depicted on a previous page).

   The ancient myth of Quetzalcoatl’s creation was preserved for us by a Franciscan friar named Jeronimo de Mendieta in 1596. In his manuscript, Historia Eclesiastica Indiana, Mendieta writes that it was “Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican Prometheus, the beneficent god of all mankind, descended to the world of the dead to gather up the bones of past generations, and, sprinkling them with his own blood, created a new humanity”. (Alfonso Caso, 1958; THE AZTECS, PEOPLE OF THE SUN)

 Soma as a deity was the brother of Indra (Furst 1972 reissued 1990, p.225). Indra, who in Hindu mythology represents the King of the gods and Lord of the Heavens, was a heavy Soma drinking warrior god in the Rig Veda. His weapons were thunderbolts, and his invincible strength came from drinking Soma. He was believed to protect those who possessed the stones used in the preparation of Soma. The Soma-drinking Indra is celebrated in more hymns than any other god in the Rig Veda.



  Above a sculpture of the Jain Goddess Ambika sitting on a feline or feline throne, holding a baby in one hand and what looks like the cap of an Amanita muscaria mushroom in her other hand. ( Photograph from  


In Mesoamerica, the mushroom and the feline or jaguar is a symbol of the Underworld. The mushroom ritual in Mesoamerican mythology is deeply connected to blood sacrifice and the journey into the Underworld. In Mayan mythology  this epic journey into the Underworld is taken by a pair of mythical Twins in the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh. One pair of twins known as the Hero Twins enter the Underworld in search of their father and uncle who were both decapitated by the Lords of Death after losing a ballgame in the Underworld. In all likelihood the Hero Twins in metaphor probably represent the planet Venus entering the Underworld as a divine resurrection star in which both Hero Twins fail to resurrect their father from the Underworld, leaving him behind to rule the Underworld, as the Underworld Sun (jaguar). The twins in their own effort to be immortal, trick the Lords of Death by decapitating themselves, and in the end, they both are resurrected from the Underworld as the sun and moon. This myth represents a Mesoamerican metaphor, in which the same journey is made, (mushroom journey) by a ruler or priest, emulating the journey each night  by the sun, or Sun God as he travels below the horizon and into the Underworld, land of the dead, transforming into the Underworld jaguar, and sacrificing himself each night by ritual decapitation, to be reborn and resurrected as baby jaguar.                 

Above and below are sculptures of the Hindu god Vishnu as Varaha, the boar avatar depicted here in separate sculptures with one foot on top of what appears to be a mushroom with little people beneath it.

Above is a closeup of the same sculpture of the Hindu god Vishnu as Varaha, the boar avatar, depicted above with one foot on top of a mushroom.  I would argue that this is Soma, a mushroom metaphor for the World Tree, with little people underneath.

Above is a figurine from Nayarit, Western Mexico, dated 100 C.E. depicting a figure under an  Amanita muscaria mushroom.  The figurine, which is 7.5 cm tall,  is now in the INAH Regional Museum in Guadalajara, Mexico.  According to first-hand reports written at the time of the Spanish Conquest, the Aztecs ate the mushrooms as well as 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. Another theory proposed by mycologist Gaston Guzman is that one of the effects of the Amanita muscaria mushroom experience is to see objects as gigantic in size.  Amanita muscaria mushroom photo © Michael Wood.


Photograph © Justin Kerr:

Maya figurines from the Justin Kerr Data Base. Above, on the left, is a  bearded dwarf, K2853 holding a shield and wearing a hat designed as an upside down Amanita mushroom (Princeton Art Museum). In Mesoamerican mythology the dwarf is related to Quetzalcoatl and guides the dead in their descent into the underworld. On the right is a photograph of an Amanita muscaria mushroom with its trademark skirt  (photograph copyrighted and owned by the artist, Esther van de Belt ).  According to Gordon Wasson,  among the various tribes in Siberia where the inebriating mushroom Soma has survived, words used for, or to describe the Amanita muscaria mushroom personify it as “little men.” 

  In Mesoamerican mythology dwarves were garanteed entrance into the paradise of Tlaloc called Tlalocan. In Maya vase paintings the dwarf is often depicted as the divine guide of rulers and the deified dead as they journey into the Underworld.


Photograph © Justin Kerr:

Maya vase K5505 from the Justin Kerr Data base depicts a bundle ceremony (bloodletting ceremony?) The female at the far right holds a vase with what may be a ritual drink (Soma sacrifice?).  The dwarf on the left gestures to an attendant who holds a staff and wears what appears to be an encoded mushroom in his headdress.

The mushroom inspired images I have presented to this point, most of which are cleverly encoded by the artist, are just a few of the many images I found that clearly  represent mushrooms and mushroom worship. In my study 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.

                      MUSHROOM OR UMBRELLA ? 


Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Avshalom Avital

Standing figure holding a mushroom, Comala style, Colima, West Mexico
250 BCE–250 CE  Clay and pigment  H: 55; W: 30 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Maremont, Chicago, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
Accession number: B78.1549


Above are two figurines from western Mexico, Late Formative period  300 B.C. to A.D. 200.

In Mesoamerica, mushrooms and dogs were believed to lead the deified dead into the underworld.

( Photograph on the left is from the Walter Art Museum,

(Photograph above right was provided by Dr. Gaston Guzman      <>)


  Above is a sculpture that depicts the Hindu god Vishnu striding across the sky.  The closeup on the right depicts what I would argue is a probable Amanita muscaria mushroom representing the Vedic-Hindu god Soma and not an umbrella. Carved relief from Mahabalipuram, seventh century.

The photo above is of a mythological battle scene in which a couple of umbrellas are depicted. I believe that the so-called umbrellas above actually represent Soma. The encoded mushrooms in the scene represents what we already know from the Rig Veda, that Soma was consumed by the gods before battle .

The photo above and the caption below are from

The sculpture above, “Mahisasuramardini, eighth century A.D., Mamallapuram. This depiction of Durga, which is one of the treasures of Indian sculpture, shows the goddess killing the demon of ignorance in the form of a “mahisha”, or buffalo. In Indic thought the only evil is that of our own confusion, or lack of knowledge of the truth. Deities such as Siva and Durga are shown attacking and vanquishing the demons of our ignorance. The battle of Durga and the “mahisha“ is one such depiction of the victory of knowledge over ignorance, of good over evil”.



 © South American Pictures/ Tony Morrison.( Photo from internet,  (Photo from internet,

  Here, at the Inca ruins of Chucuito in Peru, not far from Lake Titicaca, we see stone objects  that tour guides say represent phallic stones.  

Archaeologist Gordon F. Ekholm writes in a letter to Borhegyi that archaeologists Marion and Harry Tschopik found what they described as mushroom stones in the general fill at a Late Inca site on the shore of Lake Titicaca. It should be noted that there is an Inca legend of White Men with beards  who inhabited the shores of Lake Titicaca, (White God = Quetzalcoatl?) who built a great city, 2000 years before the time of the Incas. (Ekholm to Borhegyi, March 12, 1953, Borhegyi Archives, MPM)

Without doubt early man noticed the likeness of certain mushrooms to a human penis. This association could have led them to draw metaphors with fertility and birth. According to Mexican mythology, Quetzalcoatl created mankind and he did so from the blood he drew from his penis in the underworld.  The photo of the tallest and most noticeable monument shown above appears to have a  U-shaped cleft resembling the meatus of a penis. It could equally be Identified, however, as a well known Mesoamerican symbol of a portal or entrance into the underworld. I would argue that these stone statues actually represent mushrooms, some of which appear to have been ritually decapitated.

                               (SOMA WORSHIP?) OR PHALLIC WORSHIP ?



    Ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson writes..

“If I were to postulate the nature of a mushroomic cult, it would be of an erotic or procreative character. Sahagun says that the narcotic mushroom incita a  la   lujuria,– excites lust. He described it in a dancing scene where it is eaten.” (Wasson to Borhegyi 3-27-1953)  

Maya Archaeologist David H. Kelley writes…

“Much of Aztec religion looks like a modified Hinduism in which one important change was the deliberate abandonment of religious eroticism” (Man Across the Sea, 1971, p.62).



    The head of Buddha below a probable Soma mushroom?

Central Javanese period, Indonesia, Date: 9th–10th century.

(Photograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Lerner, 1988 Date: 9th–10th century Accession Number: 1988.431


Trans-Pacific Diffusion to and from the Americas 

 We know that the ancestors of the American Indians were from Asia, and that, wherever they came from, they brought with them from across the sea, or across the Bering Straits, a long tradition of shamanism. The foundation of shamanism, was the sacred substances used and rituals performed to attain divine ecstasy, which became the foundation of nearly all the religions of Mesoamerica and South America. 

“Diffusionism” is a term often used to describe the origins of cultural characteristics and their spread from one society to another.  As mentioned earlier, and worth noting again,  the prevailing anthropological view has been that the peoples of the New World developed their highly sophisticated civilizations completely on their own, without inspiration from the Old World and much less from extra-terrestrials.  While many of the more outlandish proposals have been discarded, the idea of trans-oceanic contact between the hemispheres is still considered highly unlikely, despite the fact  that we now know that early humans were using boats to explore their world as early as 50,000 years ago when they reached the shores of far distant Australia. 

 It may be that the origin of Soma and its rituals, as proposed by Wasson, is rooted in the shamanism of the Siberian forest people and came to the New World as early as the Paleolithic. In the late 1940s Gordon F. Ekholm proposed multiple transpacific contacts with the New World beginning as early as 3000 B.C. He believed  that this influence on New World civilization came from China, India or Southeast Asia (Ekholm, 1971). Ekholm and Geldern speculate that the Chinese, during the Chou and Han dynasties undertook planned voyages to and from the western hemisphere as early as 700 B.C.


Ethno-archaeologist Gordon F Ekholm…

“There are, of course, many problems concerning the kinds of evidence that have been presented in the area of transpacific contacts, but the principal difficulty appears to be a kind of theoretical roadblock that stops short our thinking about questions of diffusion or culture contact. This is true in anthropological thought generally, but the obstruction seems to be particularly solid and resistant among American archaeologists.” (From Man Across the Sea; Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, 1971, third printing 1976, Chapter 2, Diffusion and Archaeological Evidence, by Gordon Ekholm page 54)

Ethno-archaeologist Dr. Robert Heine Geldern…

“The influences of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of southeast Asia in Mexico and particularly, among the Maya, are incredibly strong, and they have already disturbed some Americanists who don’t like to see them but cannot deny them….Ships that could cross the Indian Ocean were able to cross the Pacific too. Moreover, these ships were really larger and probably more sea-worthy than those of Columbus and Magellan.”

After viewing the evidence in favor of transpacific contact, my hope is that historians will be more open-minded to the concept that the oceans, thousands of years ago, were highways not barriers, and that readers of this study will challenge the older view of New World history with a more open-minded acknowledgement of the seafaring  capability of ancient peoples to explore their environment and disperse their intellectual baggage to its far corners.

At some time during the Preclassic period around 1000 B.C. (de Borhegyi S.F. 1957, 1961, 1965a) a mushroom inspired religion originated or was introduced into the Olmec influenced Maya Highlands and Pacific coastal area of Guatemala. My belief is that the cult of the divine mushroom was brought to Mesoamerica by way of transpacific contact from India or southeast Asia.

 The visual evidence I present of a divine Amanita mushroom cult in the New World before the arrival of Columbus points directly to the Vedic inspired cult of Soma, a divine mushroom worshiped and venerated in the Vedas, which became the basic sacred literature of Hinduism. There composition may have started  before 2000 B.C. even before the Aryans entered India (Wing-Tsit Chan,1969, p.13). The Amanita muscaria mushroom, or the Vedic Soma religion likely absorbed or superseded the minor religious beliefs it encountered in the New World including Easter Island, and that the mushroom’s esoteric metaphors of death and rebirth may help explain the obsessive need to create megalithic stone sculptures.

 The great religions of Asia in essence, are fundamentally derived from Vedism, the Vedas being the sacred texts, that were introduced into the subcontinent (invasion from Iran?) around 1500 B.C. by the Aryans (Sanskrit for noble) a so-called invasion that postdated the Harappa/Indus civilization.

Haoma, in Zoroastrian religion is the name of a sacred plant and divinity that plays a major role in Persian culture and mythology.

The Amanita muscaria mushroom, identified by the late R. Gordon Wasson as the plant and god Soma from the Rig Veda, is I believe the metaphorical  key to decoding the esoteric religions of the Americas and of Easter Island.

(Compare the genesis myth the Nasadiya, the Rig Veda’s “Hymn of Creation” (X:129)  with the,  Rig Veda Americanus, Sacred songs of the ancient Mexicans, with a gloss in Nahuatl, edited, with a paraphrase, notes and vocabulary, by Daniel G. Brinton 1890 (Produced by David Starner, Ben Beasley and the PG Online Distributed Proofreading Team Gutenberg E-book online)

It should be noted that a controversial scholar, by the name of  Augustus Le Plongeon, suggested, “that the extraordinary similarities between the architecture, sculpture, and artifacts of Central America and those of Asia, Africa, and Europe, was that Mayan colonists had sailed westward from Central America to develop civilizations in Polynesia, Indochina, Burma, India, the Persian Gulf, Babylonia, and Egypt, all of this several millennia before Christ” (Tompkins, 1976 p.169) 

  The Vedic gods of East Indian philosophy are in many ways very similar to the pantheon of gods of Mesoamerica, for they too derived much of their strength from the sacrifices of men. Vedic Hinduism and the religions of Mesoamerica both believed in a three-tiered cosmos, with celestial gods traveling back and forth from the heavens to the Underworld, and saw a triadic unity in their gods (Hindu triad, and Palenque Triad) that was essentially related to cosmic forces such as wind, rain-lightening, and fire, and the unity of creation, preservation, and destruction creating the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In Hindu mythology Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, make up the Hindu Trinity of gods.

Mesoamericans believed in four great eras or world periods that ended in cataclysm prior to this world called the Fifth Sun. The idea of four previous worlds that were periodically destroyed, is also shared by early Vedics, Hindus, Buddhists, and Persian Zoroastrians.

My study of pre-Columbian art and religion was inspired by a theory first proposed over fifty years ago 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 the ritual act of decapitation and human sacrifice and the Mesoamerican ballgame.

It was believed by all Mesoamericans, that the greatest gift one could offer the gods was one’s own life; a concept of eternal life from death. It’s likely that in Mesoamerica the notion of divine immortality via Underworld decapitation was inspired by the mushroom ritual (Soma ritual?).

Plate 24 Codex Laud, depicts the improbable act of self decapitation. Note in the upper right hand corner of the codex, that the blood that flows from the severed head encodes the symbol of the Fleur-de-lis, a symbol of divinity that esoterically refers to immortality via a trinity of gods.  Note the symbolism of the number three in the number of flint blades and spear heads above. 

The same can be said of ancient India, where volunteers or willing victims, who provided their own severed head as an offering to the goddess Kali, were given many special favors, including women at their disposal, until their death at the annual festival to the goddess Kali (Davies, 1981; p.76).

Note the similarity in the following images that depict the sacredness of the number three (Trinity?) in the streams of blood which emerge from the neck of the decapitated figure.

Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya Vase K7152 also depicts a ruler (central figure), possibly one of the Hero Twins, in the sacred act of self decapitation. He holds the axe in his left hand. The blade is embedded in his severed neck, from which run three streams of blood. The personage on the far right smoking a cigar could represent a version of God L,  a Maya god of the underworld who frequently appears in scenes depicting cigar smoking and the mythical Xibalbans.  God L has been identified by scholars as the ruler of the Maya underworld. God L carries in one hand a drinking vessel and in the other an enema device. The possible mushrooms encoded under the monkey’s tail (figure on the left) indicate that both the vase and the enema device contain a mushroom-based liquid (Soma juices?). This is reinforced by the akbal symbol of death and darkness on the jar behind God L.  The image of the Monkey God, known to scholars as God C, is a symbol of “divinity,” and when merged with the image of an animal or thing such as a deer or tree, or even a mushroom, it marks the image as “holy.”  The word K’uh in Classic Mayan glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey-like profile was used to describe “holy” or “sacred” referring to “divinity” or “god” (M.D. Coe 2001, p.109). In Maya religion the monkey represents the first of the Nine Lords of the Night or Underworld, called the Bolon Ti Ku. These ninegods were responsible for guiding the Sun (identified as an underworld jaguar), into the underworld to be sacrificed by underworld decapitation and reborn and deified as the new Sun, or baby jaguar. The first god was the Monkey (GI) representing rebirth and Quetzalcoatl (G9), who was the last of the nine gods of the night (God L), represented the god of the underworld, underworld decapitation, and of period endings. He was therefore the god of life from death. The word K’uh in Classic Mayan glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey-like profile was used to describe “holy” or “sacred” referring to “divinity” or “god” (M.D. Coe 2001, p.109)The hairdo of the central figure is  fashioned into a mushroom- Venus hook. The three streams of blood, I believe, represent the three hearthstones of Maya creation and deified resurrection. In Maya cosmology the planet Venus was believed to be the sun from the previous world age. Before this world was destroyed it was ruled by God L.  The tail of the monkey (figure on the left) forms the mushroom-Venus loop of divine Venus resurrection. According to Maya mythology, the humans who survived the previous world age were turned into monkeys.  

Above is an East Indian painting depicting what I would argue is the ritual drink (Soma?) consumed before the ritual act of self decapitation. The improbable act of self decapitation is also a common theme depicted on Maya drinking vessels. For this reason I would argue that the mushroom cult in Mesoamerica was tied to a ritual beverage aka Soma beverage and associated with decapitation (and self decapitation) and a trophy head cult. (The above image is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Above image is from


Above is a 19th century, woodblock painting depicting the decapitated goddess Chinnamastā, standing above Kama and Rati, the god of love and his wife, holding a sword in one hand and her severed head in the other. Like the Maya vase painting below three streams of blood gush from her neck.

                           (The above image is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

In Hindu religion the Kali Yuga “the age of the demon”, represents the completion of the four world ages in Hindu mythology.


Like Mesoamericans, awaiting the return of Quetzacoatl at the end of the Mayan and Aztec calendars,  Hindus are also awaiting the return of a demon god associated with the ritual of decapitation at the end of the present world age known as the Kali Yuga (above). Note the similarities of the outstretched tongue on both the Aztec goddess Tlaltecuhtli, and the demon avatar Kali Yuga both deities associated with the Underworld sun (note sun rays behind head) and a trophy head cult and the ritual act of underworld decapitation, at the completion of the calendar and of the Kali Yuga.


Above is a carved stone altar of the Aztec god Tlaltecuhtli / Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, Mexico / Jean-Pierre Courau / The Bridgeman Art Library.


The ceramic three faced incense burner above comes from the ancient Maya site of Comalcalco, located in Tabasco, Mexico near the mouth of the Usumacinta River. Its tempting to think that the figures depicted on the incense burner above, (note tongue sticking out) may represent a Vedic-Hindu inspired trinity of Maya gods, known to scholars as GI, GII, and GIII. (Photograph © Rob Mohr, 2010)



 Above is a closeup image of the central portion of the famous Aztec calendar stone, which depicts the Fifth Sun, surrounded by the four previous world ages, and their year bearer.

      At the center of the Aztec calendar stone is the Sun God depicted with a flint-tongue, or tongue esoterically in the image of a flint knife. The deity at the center of the Calendar Stone, looks more likely the Aztec, Great Goddess, sometimes male sometimes female Tlaltecuhtli.  Note the similarities of the extended tongue depicted on both Tlaltecuhtli and the Aztec Sun God with the images of the Kali Yuga demon avatar above.   


In southern India, we find megalithic stone sculptures called kuda-kallu (umbrella stones) which strongly resemble giant Amanita mushrooms, dating approximately 1000 B.C. to 100 B.C. around the same time that mushroom stones begin to appear in the Olmec-influenced Maya Highlands, where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows.  According to eminent scholar Giorgio Samorina(Integration, vol. 6, pp. 33-40, 1995)the megalithic kuda-kallu are found in an area where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows. These megalithic stone sculptures, when seen from the sky at sites like Kerala in south eastern India, look like large mushroom patches. 

                                                    ANCIENT INDIA’S

                    Kuda-kallu: umbrella-stones or mushroom-stones?


 According to researcher Giorgio Samorini (Integration, vol. 6, pp. 33-40, 1995) “On the average the Kuda-kallu are 1.5-2 m. high and 1.5-2 m. wide. They consist of four stones cut like half segments, forming a base which supports a fifth stone having the resting side flat and the other one convex. The whole thing may resemble a parasol, but even more a large mushroom.”

(Photo above of kuda-kallu, or mushroom-shaped megalith from



Indus Valley Civilization and Mesoamerican wheeled animal toys

The discovery of pre-Columbian wheeled toys, also called chariots (A.D. 300-900) in Mexico has caused some scholars to re-examine the notion that the principle of the wheel was not known anywhere in the Americas before Columbus. Researchers have already noted the similarities of wheeled clay toys dug up in Mexico with wheeled clay toys from Mesopotamia, Syria, China, and India. The question remains,  of whether the invention of the wheel could have been made independently in both the Old Word and the New World.

For documentation of wheeled animal figurines in Mesoamerica see G.F. Ekholm, 1946; C. Irwin,1963; 131-135, and for documentation of wheeled animal figurines in the Old World see H. G. May, 1935: 23-24. E. Speiser, 1935: I, 68ff.; R. S. Star, 1937: I, 425.

Above is a wheeled toy from the Indus Valley Civilization, India, Harappa Culture from Chanhu- Prehistoric

14.0 cm (5.53 in.)
Classification: Ceramics
Type, sub-type: Pottery
India (Prehistoric, Harappa Culture from Chanhu-
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Joint Expedition of the American School of Indic and Iranian Studies and the Museum of Fine Arts, 1935–1936 Season
Accession number: 36.2266

Provenance/Ownership History: Findspot Information: From Chanhu-daro, Sind. From Mound II, Level: 7.20 ft. Locus: Summit (226). See Mackay Reports. History of Ownership: [Expedition date:] 1935-1936 Season

Above is a Pre-Columbian Wheeled Dog Figurine – Ceramic El Salvador – Pipil – 10 to 40 cm. in height. – Early Post Classic – Collection of Banco Agricola Comercial de El Salvador




  While there clearly have been no elephants in the Americas since the extinction of the mastodon and wooly mammoth thousands of years ago, numerous images resembling elephants have been noted in Mesoamerican art over the years. A sampling are reproduced here leading the reader to wonder if the artists who produced the images could possibly have had any first hand knowledge of elephants. It should be further noted that, while all of the images bear some resemblance to Asian elephants,  none resemble an African elephant.  It is also doubtful if any of the images are depicted with tusks. 

                        Drawing by Alfred P. Maudslay – Quirigua, Guatemala 19th c.(Image of elephants in Maya sculpture,


   Several glyphs in William Gates, Dictionary of Maya Glyphs (1978: 165,165) are widely believed to represent Indian elephants. They are depicted in row 421. Below, in row 436 is a glyph that may represent an Amanita muscaria mushroom. 


     In row 434, the elephant’s head variant is depicted in association with a jar or olla possibly identifying  the so-called Soma beverage of immortality, and just below in row 436 is a glyph I would strongly argue represents an  Amanita muscaria mushroom. 

 In the Rig Veda, Soma whose identity has been forgotten, was a divine inebriating plant, worshiped as a god by the Indo-European people who invaded or arrived in India from the northwest around 1600 B.C. The Rig Veda describes Soma as a sacred plant sent to earth by the god Indra, who consumed the intoxicating beverage before battle.

Soma was an integral part of Vedic religion where it was drunk by the priesthood during sacrifices, and verses in the Rig Veda refer to Soma as the  “single eye”, the eye of the sun, symbolism, that can be clearly seen in the iconography at the ruins of Teotihuacan in highlands of Mexico, at the temple of Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc and priesthood of the Feathered Serpent (the disembodied eye). The intoxication and ecstasy of Soma induces  supernatural vision, similar to that of the Mexican god Tlaloc whose goggled eyes represent the vision of divine immortality and his paradise of Tlalocan. Those who died in battle were taken to the paradise of Tlaloc called Tlalocan. Like Indra Tlaloc is also a god associated with lightening and  warfare. Known today as “Tlaloc warfare”, the goal of this warfare was not to go into battle and kill, but to bring home as many captives as possible for later sacrifice to the gods.

  I believe strongly that this “Tlaloc Warfare” also known as “Venus Star Wars”, was conducted under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and like the Vedic god Indra who consumed Soma before battle, those who consumed sacred mushrooms before battle experienced the effects of supernatural strength and vision which made them feel invincible in battle.

  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. One of the first twelve Franciscans to arrive shortly after the conquest of Mexico was Toribio de Paredes who the Indians affectionately called Motolinía “poor man”.   Motolinía recorded...

“They had another way of drunkenness, that made them more cruel and it was with some fungi or small mushrooms, which exist in this land as in Castilla; but those of this land are of such a kind that eaten raw and being bitter they….eat with them a little bees honey; and a while later they would see a thousand visions, especially serpents, and as they would be out of their senses, it would seem to them that their legs and bodies were full of worms eating them alive, and thus half rabid, they would sally forth from the house, wanting someone to kill them; and with this bestial drunkenness and travail that they were feeling, it happened sometimes that they hanged themselves, and also against others they were crueler. These mushrooms, they called in their language teonanacatl, which means ‘flesh of God’  or the devil, whom they worshiped.”(Wasson and Borhegyi, 1962)

Motolinía also described the calendar and Venus as the star Lucifer, which he said the Indians adored above all others save the sun. They performed more ritual sacrifices for it than for any other creature, celestial or terrestrial. He concludes that “the final reason why their calendar was based on this star, which they greatly revered and honored with sacrifices, was because these misguided people believed that when one of their principal gods, called Topiltzin or Quetzalcoatl, died and left this world, he was metamorphosed into that radiant star.” (Lafaye,1987 )

  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.

 Spanish chronicler Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon… 

 “Although I think that it will not be held against me to speak of my opinions about why these heathen customs and superstitions have remained and have been continued for so long in these natives after baptism, and even some that were not permitted to them in their heathen state, such as drunkenness– which in their heathen state, had the penalty of death. And the others have a weak foundation, because a tradition of their false gods is hardly found among their stories as much because they did not know how to write as because one has not been able to find absolute clarity even about how they have come to inhabit this land or by what route.”

 “Thus the religion and devotion to their gods had few or no roots and the drunkenness which at present runs among them is so injurious and such a cruel enemy of Christian customs that it is today the worst of their vices.  This is the cause of the total destruction of the health of their bodies and consequently the sufficient and principal barrier to their preservation and increase. And although one offers me the objection that, since it has not been possible to prevent the lesser, neither will it be possible to remove the greater which is idolatry relative to drunkenness”  (Treatise on the heathen superstitions that today live among the Indians, p.39)

  Although Soma’s actual identity has been lost through time, Soma was described as a god, and as a  “heavenly liquor”  that was guarded by a Serpent. The name of the Aztec-Toltec-Maya god  Quetzalcoatl can be translated to mean Feathered Serpent. 

  Throughout northern Asia, the Amanita muscaria mushrooms grow in a symbiotic relationship beneath giant birch trees. This fact likely gave rise to belief in a Tree of Life, and in Asia it was believed to have been surmounted by a spectacular bird, capable of soaring to the heights, where the gods meet in conclave. (from Furst 1976, p.102)  There are repeated references to the Food of Life, the Water of Life, the Lake of Milk that is hidden, ready to be tapped near the roots of the Tree of Life.” “There where the tree grows near the Navel of the Earth, the Axis Mundi, the Cosmic Tree, the Pillar of the World.” (from Furst 1976, p.103)       

It may not be coincidental that in Mesoamerica there is a parallel belief in a Tree of Life. In the Mayan creation story told in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiche Maya of Highland Guatemala, a great bird monster known as Itzam-Yeh, the Principal Bird Deity, 7 Macaw or Vucub Caquix, sits atop the World Tree.



  Ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson was the first to identify the above icon as an Aztec symbol representing sacred mushrooms. The mushroom symbol above right depictingstylized cross-cut mushrooms is from the Aztec statue of Xochipilli.

 The late Post-Classic period Aztec monument shown above left, now in the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, depicts a bird sitting on top of the world tree. There are also six mushroomic symbols referring to the sacred number five. This symbol, called a quincunx, refers to the five synodic cycles of Venus as well as to the four cardinal directions and their sacred center. The four corners of each quincunx are made up of images which appear like cross-cut mushrooms like those already identified on the Aztec statue of Xochipilli.  The tree at the center of the quincunx is a divine portal leading up and down, which I would argue is a portal of mushroom-Venus resurrection.


Above is a sixteenth-century drawing from the Florentine Codex, Book 11, by Frey Bernadino de Sahagun. The top image on the page depicts the sacred mushroom of Mexico, called teonanacatl  by the Aztecs meaning “Gods Flesh”. The image of a bird perched on top of the mushrooms is a possible metaphor that alludes to the Principal Bird Deity that sits atop the world tree in Mesoamerican mythology.

Above is another a scene, middle left from the Florentine Codex, depicting a seated figure wearing a white robe, drinking from a goblet. Note that directly in front of the seated figure are two mushroom caps  depicted next to the mushroom’s stem which is still in the ground, evidence of a mushroom ritual among the Aztecs.
Static Monoscenic Narration

Above is a carved relief panel of the Sanchi stupa,(second-first century B.C.) depicting the worship of what I would argue is not an umbrella but a mushroom, the symbol of the god Soma,depicted in Buddhist-Hindu World Tree mythology. (Photographs are from

Limestone carving of the enlightenment of the Buddha, 1st BCE. Note the possibility of two maybe three Amanita mushrooms underneath the sacred bodhi-tree. Also note that at the base of the empty throne are the Buddha’s footprints. .British Museum, London, Great Britain (from


  The carved relief panel above is one of a series of six carvings in the vertical side walls of the South Ball Court at El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico (drawing from Coe, 1994, p.117). The carved panel depicts an individual, a ruler or Underworld god, with were-jaguar fangs, in the sacred act of drawing blood from his penis. Note that the figure in the water below receiving the blood offering, wears a fish headdress, which may be a symbolic reference to a mythological ancestor from a previous world age, who survived a world ending flood by being changed into a fish. The bearded god above him, with two bodies, likely represents Quetzalcoatl in his twin aspects of the planet Venus representing both the Evening Star and Morning Star. Most importantly, note that there are tiny mushrooms depicted on the limb of a tree just left of center. This tree, I believe, represents the world tree as the portal leading up and down at the center of the universe.  The bottom of the panel has an intricate scroll design which I  believe is more than mere decoration and likely represents a stylized cross-section of a mushroom. Stylized Venus symbols are also depicted on the panel at both of the sides. Each Venus symbol is associated with three circles, maybe representing the three hearth stones of creation.


Above is a photograph of a carved panel from a Hindu temple in India, depicting probable mushrooms encoded in the so-called “world tree” or “Tree of Life”.   Note that the tree emerges from what looks to me like a Mesoamerican Venus symbol.


Stephan de Borhegyi…

“When one world collapsed in flood, fire, or earthquake, they believed another was born only to come, in its turn, to a violent end”. “This philosophy probably led religious specialists to divine by magical computations the sacred cycle of 52 years, at the end of which cosmic crisis threatened the survival of mankind and the universe”. “Mesoamericans further believed that in order to avoid catastrophe at the end of each 52-year period man, through his priestly intermediaries, was required to enter into a new covenant with the supernatural, and in the meantime, he atoned for his sins and kept the precarious balance of the universe by offering uninterrupted sacrifices to the gods” (Borhegyi,1965a:29-30)..



Above is a drawing by the late Linda Schele, which likely depicts a scene from the Maya creation story as told to us in the Popol Vuh in which the Hero Twin named Hunahpu on the right wearing a mushroomic looking hunters cap, strikes down the bird monster, 7 Macaw, or Vucub Caquix from his tree using a blowgun. Note on the left that a serpent can also be seen hanging from the tree.

 In the Maya creation story of the Popol Vuh, we are told that the decapitated head of the Hero Twins father Hun Hunahpu after being sacrificed in the Underworld by the Lords of Xibalba, after a ballgame, was placed in a tree, and that the daughter of one of the Lords of Xibalba named Xquic becomes impregnated when she visits the decapitated head for herself, and that the severed head of Hun Hunahpu spits in the palm of her hand, impregnating her, thus creating the miraculous birth of the legendary Hero Twins. According to Wasson (in Furst 1976, p.85) divine spittle is also related to the origin of the Amanita mushroom in Siberia.


We also are told in the Popol Vuh that one of the creator gods named Gucumatz, whose name literally means feathered serpent, (the Quiche Mayan translation of Quetzalcoatl) created the earth, raised the sky, and fashioned humans from maize.


    Above are depictions of the World Tree and the Principal Bird Deity. On the left is a drawing of the famous sarcophagus lid of Lord Pacal of Palenque, and on the right Izapa Stela 2 .
                     (Image of Izapa Stela 2, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


In the Rig Veda, Soma,  the plant around which the Vedic sacrifices took place, is described as an intoxicating liquid  that was pounded or pressed out of the plant using special pressing stones (RV IX.11.5-6;IX.109.17-18)  Similarly, there is archaeological evidence from the Guatemalan highlands supporting the use of metates to grind  sacred hallucinogenic mushrooms prior to their consumption in a mushroom ceremony. This possibility is supported by the fact that the practice survives to the present in  Mazartec mushroom ceremonies in southern Mexico. (Borhegyi, 1961:498-504)

 In the highlands of Guatemala where the majority of effigy mushroom stones have been found, and where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance, archaeologists discovered nine miniature mushroom stones in a Maya tomb, along with nine mortars and pestles, stone tools which were likely used in the mushroom’s preparatory rites (see Borhegyi,1961, 498-504).

  In the Rig Veda, Soma and Agni, are gods, the sacred drink and the sacred fire. Like the blood in humans and animals, the juice of Soma was considered to be the divine fluid in all beings, just as Agni was their life giving spark. Agni is a god representing a trinity of earthly fire (hearth fire), lightning, and the sun. Agni’s power was personified in the god Soma.  Soma and Agni represent the two great roads between this world and the other world …They are the great channels of communication between the human and the divine: the sacred fire and the sacred drink: (from Furst 1976, p.102). 



According to Vedic literature, the Gods got together at the beginning of time and churned
the ocean to extract a substance which would offer them immortality. According to Richard J. Williams author of “Soma in Indian Religion” Etheogens as Religious Sacrament (2009 p.2 Introduction), The Gods agreed to share this mighty elixir, calling it  Amrita, or Amrit which is a Sanskrit word for “nectar”, a sacred drink also in Buddhist mythology that grants their gods immortality.

Rig Veda…..  

  “Flow on Soma as the great ocean, the Father of the Gods through all the laws (Rig Veda IX.109.2)”.

  “Flow on Soma as peace for us, draw out for our milk an ambrosial juice, increase the ocean of the hymn (Rig Veda IX.61.15)”. 

 “The oceans roars in the original laws, generating creation as the king of the world (Rig Veda IX.97.40)”.

  “Soma (the Moon) stirs the ocean with the winds (Rig Veda IX.84.4)

  “You are the all knowing ocean, oh seer, yours are the five directions in the law, you transcend Heaven and Earth, yours are the constellations, flowing Soma, who are the Sun (Rig Veda IX.86.29)”.

  “The ocean-going angels have flowed to the wise Soma (Rig Veda IX.78.3)”.

 “Flowing Soma, the Divine King, the vast truth, crosses the ocean by the wave (Rig Veda IX.107.15)”.

  (from David Frawley, author of  Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civiilzation)


The Churning of the Milk Ocean, is told in several ancient Hindu texts, the avatar of the Vedic god Vishnu is the sea tortoise depicted below as the pivot for Mt. Mantara acting as the churning stick. At the suggestion of Vishnu, the gods, and demons churn the primeval ocean in order to obtain Amrita, which will guarantee them immortality  (Kangra painting eighteenth century).


The gods and anti-gods churning the cosmic sea for the butter of immortality
(Above image is from

In both Vedic (Hindu kalpas) and Mesoamerican cosmology (Popol Vuh) there was the belief in cyclical creations, a multi-tiered heaven and underworld, deities who reside at the four cardinal directions and its sacred center (see Madrid Codex below).  Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation in the Hindu Trinity of Gods. Among the ancient Maya the Turtle has been identified with rebirth, and the shell with divinity. In the creation mythology of the ancient Maya the first created image was the turtle constellation Ac, identified as the three stars (hearthstones of creation?) of the belt of Orion (Brennan,1998 p.93).


  Above is a sculpture that depicts the Hindu god Vishnu striding across the sky.  The closeup on the right depicts what I would argue is a probable Amanita muscaria mushroom representing the Vedic-Hindu god Soma and not an umbrella. Carved relief from Mahabalipuram, seventh century.

East Indian scholar Aiyangar Naryan mentions in his book;  Essays on Indo-Aryan Mythology, that Vishnu represents the sun god, and that Vishnu’s so-called “three strides” (depicted above) across the sky, represents his placing one step at the point of the winter solstice in the south (the beginning of the Uttarâyana), the second step at the point of the vernal equinox, and the third step at the point of the summer solstice in the north…”  According to Aiyangar Naryan, Vishnu is said to “rise” at the winter solstice, which is a sort of rebirth common in the stories of sun gods”. (from Was Krishna Born on December 25th? by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S; Internet source).  Naryan mentions that the tortoise or sea turtle is mentioned in the Vedas in two places , the Satapathabrahmana V.1,5, and the Taittiriya-Aranyaka, I.28-25; and that the tortoise is clearly stated to be the Creator of the universe. In the Rig Veda both the summer and winter solstice were of great importance in the Soma rituals.


I found a drawing by Daniela Epstein-Koontz, of a ball court relief panel from the archaeological site of El Tajin, in Veracruz Mexico.  As far as I know I am the first to connect this ballcourt scene with Hindu mythology, and the Churning of the Milk’s Ocean, often depicted in Hindu art. Note the dual headed serpent at the bottom of the scene on the right and left, emerging from the ocean’s depth. The turtle at the bottom of the scene, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu acts as the central pivot point, below the churning mechanism which is composed of an intertwined serpent being pulled at both ends by sky deities (four cardinal directions) who create the new born sun (Vishnu ?), the arrows in the scene representing what will be the sun’s rays of light. If this ballcourt scene does represent Hindu mythology, and I feel certain that it does, than the two deities behind the central characters hold containers or ritual buckets in their hands filled with the Soma beverage.

For documentation of motif of ritual bucket (bag?) held by figures in hieratic scenes in Mesoamerica see Drucker, Hiezer, & Squier, 1955: 198. For documentation of motif of ritual bucket (bag?) held by figures in hieratic scenes in the Old World see H. Frankfort, 1955: pl.83.

The photograph above K4880, from the Justin Kerr Data Base, is of a turtle depicting an incised  Venus glyph. The turtle carved from shell, was excavated from a burial in the Mundo Perdido of Tikal, Guatemala.  In Maya creation myths the first manifestation of creation is a Cosmic Turtle from which First Father is reborn.  The turtle artifact above is in the National Musuem of Guatemala. Museum no. 1875. length 4.5 cm.  In Mesoamerican mythology  the planet Venus, (aka Quetzalcoatl) is clearly linked with the creation of the universe, and an analysis of the Paris Codex (Milbrath, 1999; p.176) Zodiac pages 23-24, suggests that the turtle is closely linked with the constellation of Orion (see cosmic turtle, Bonampac murals room II) just like the turtle is in Hindu mythology. According to Mesoamerican scholars Mary Miller and Karl Taube, (1993:175) there are a number of Late Classic altars carved in the form of a turtle. One such turtle altar (Itzimte Altar 1), depicts Maya Kaban curls.  Legendary Maya scholar Linda Schele has deciphered that the Hero Twins father, Hun Hunahpu, is reborn (as Sun God?) from the Underworld through the back of a cosmic earth turtle. Resurrection myths in Mesoamerica are clearly linked to a cosmic turtle, the ritual ballgame and the belt of Orion. I believe that the turtle is linked to the planet Venus and thus Quetzalcoatl as both a Morning Star, and a feathered serpent. In the Quiche creation myth of the  Popol Vuh, Plumed Serpent swims in the sea before the dawn of creation.

The drawing above by Jenni Bongard is taken from the Madrid Codex, which depicts the three hearth stones of creation, placed on the back of the Cosmic turtle. The X-symbol depicted on each of the three stones likely represents the glyph jal, a verb according to Michael Coe, to create ( see Coe’s, Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163).  Note as well that the turtle’s tail is in the shape of the Maya kaban curl.


               The Churning of the Milk Ocean in the Codex Selden                                  

 Depicted above in the Codex Selden, is another scene that I feel quite certain, represents a Mesoamericanized version of the Hindu inspired creation myth known as The Churning of the Milk Ocean. The complex scene on the page is first and foremost divided into three sections, separating the upper world, from the underworld, and the middle world from which the tree emerges.  The upper world is depicted and framed at the corners of the page with a sky band depicting disembodied eyes, which represent the soul of the deified ancestral dead as the stars above.  Framing in the bottom portion of the page is a two-headed feline/serpent, depicted with a stylized design of criss-crossing  bands which can be linked to a Maya verb jal, which means create, (Coe; p.163). The dual headed serpent which frames the bottom of the page also surrounds a body of water that I believe represents the so-called Milk ocean of Hindu mythology. Emerging from this sea of creation (note waves) is a tree depicting a single eye, and intertwined serpents, emerging from a sacred altar platform that depicts a band of stylized step glyphs, symbolizing the descent and emergence from the underworld. Its worth noting that verses in the Rig Veda refer to Soma as the  “single eye”, the eye of the sun, symbolism, that can be clearly seen in the iconography above. Coiled around the trunk and branches of this sacred tree is a two-headed serpent, which depicts  feline fangs symbolizing the serpents descent into and out from the underworld. The serpents feline attributes represent the underworld transformation that takes place prior to the Sun God’s resurrection from the underworld.  The central portion of the scene likely symbolize middle earth, from which the Tree of Life emerges. The codex scene depicts two main characters or deities sitting on opposite sides of  the tree. I believe they symbolize both the God of Life and the God of death. The God of Life and god of the upper world sits at the left of the tree. He appears to have emerged from the mouth of the serpent below him at left.  Opposite the God of Life, on the other side of the tree is the God of Death, who has emerged from the mouth of the serpent with the feline head. 

Both deities hold in their hands a ritual sacrament, to be eaten or offered as a gift to the Tree of Life, from which the Sun God is reborn and immortality is obtained.

At the top of the page we see the newly born Sun God emerge from a V-shaped cleft depicted in the upper branches of the Tree of Life. To the right of the Sun God in the upper right hand corner of the page is an icon that is shaped like a drinking vessel that bears a symbol of five points beneath the vessel that refers to the so-called  “fiveness” of Venus, referring to the planets five sonodic cycles, noted by scholars in the Dresden Codex. I believe that this symbol is linked to the Soma ritual and the sacred day Ahau, in the Venus calendar,  when Venus is first visible rising from the Underworld as the Morning Star. I would argue that this Venus resurrection ritual is intimately connected with the Soma beverage and Soma sacrifices mentioned in the Rig Veda. The symbol to the left of the Sun God, and opposite the probable Soma vessel located at the left hand corner of the page is the year sign in the Aztec calendar.        

 Moving on to the middle portion of the scene, I believe the sequence of events, reads from right to left, and is as follows. Just to the right of the altar platform from which the Tree of Life emerges, there is a bleeding turtle just above a body of water I believe refers to the “Milk Ocean” in Hindu mythology. The bleeding turtle is located just below the deity identified as the God of Death and the Underworld.  The bleeding turtle in this scene represents the sacrificial victim, whose shell or carapace in this scene will be the sacred portal linked to immortality and divine resurrection. The turtle’s bloody heart can be seen sitting on top of the altar platform just to the left of the tree, as a sacrificial gift to the Gods of Life and Death who are responsible at times completion for the death and daily rebirth and resurrection of the Sun God. Note that the three turtle carapaces depicted in the primordial sea moving from right to left, under the Tree of Life, is a reference to the three hearthstones of creation, and that the turtle carapace located on the far left just below Tlaloc’s severed head appears to have a star symbol inside the shell, which likely alludes to the planet Venus and that the turtle represents Venus as a divine resurrection star.                                              

Just below the Tree of Life, underneath the altar platform is the carapace of the turtle with the head of a feline emerging, symbolizing the turtle’s transformation in the underworld into the Underworld Jaguar. The sequence of events moves to the left, and then up, with the empty turtle carapace still in the sea, but just above and  to the left of the altar platform is a stylized severed head, associated with the ritual act of decapitation. The stylized severed head bears the image of the Mexican Rain and Lightening God Tlaloc, who also represents the God of the Underworld and thus he represents the god of underworld decapitation, as the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus. Tlaloc’s severed head in this scene is stylized to represent a divine star reborn from the Underworld.  Tlaloc can be easily identified in this scene by his trademark goggled eyes, feline fangs, and handlebar mustache. Those who died for Tlaloc or were under his watchful eye, went directly to his divine paradise called Tlalocan.

The Soma ritual was an integral part of Vedic-Hindu religion where Soma was drunk by the priesthood during sacrifices. Verses in the Rig Veda refer to Soma as the  “single eye”, the eye of the sun, symbolism that can be seen encoded in the trunk of the Tree of Life, above in the Selden Codex, and above along the top border, in which the stars represent the disembodied eyes of deified ancestors who look down upon them from Tlalocan. 

The “single eye” motif is a common icon in the pre-Hispanic codices, and can be found in the iconography at the great city of Teotihuacan in the highlands of Mexico where Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl the Feathered Serpent shared the same temple.



The Churning of the Milk Ocean myth depicted in a Mural at Tulum?

(drawing by Felipe Davalos G)

Above is a drawing of a Mural from the Maya site of Tulum, Structure 5, in Yucatan Mexico, which depicts what I believe is a Post Classic Maya version of the Hindu myth, The Churning of the Milk Ocean. Note the intertwined serpents in the main section of the scene as well as a serpent swimming below in the primordial sea along with a fish and a turtle in the lower section. The turtle bears the so-called head of a god scholars have identified as God N.  Once again the turtle acts as the central pivot point, below the churning mechanism, which is composed of intertwined serpents. The characters above likely depict the gods from the four cardinal directions representing both life and death, upper world and underworld.  The four deities use hand gestures to churn the Milk ocean, and together with the serpent and turtle, (both are avatars of the planet Venus), create and resurrect the reborn sun god.  (drawing of Mural 1 from Tulum from Milbrath 1980).




Above is page 19, from the Madrid Codex, also known as the Maya Tro-Cortesianus Codex  depicts what I believe are elements of the same Hindu inspired myth The Churning of the Milk Ocean. Note that the deity above the turtle is painted blue, just like the Hindu god Vishnu is in Hindu art, and that the turtle below once again acts as the pivot point for the churning stick. The serpent’s intertwined body is the mechanism by which the gods churn the milk’s ocean. In the scene above the artist depicts the importances and creative forces of self sacrifice by substituting a rope for the serpents long body, depicting a blood letting ritual in which the rope (the serpents body) is being pulled through the penises of the gods above. The glyphs in the scene marked with the X-symbol, may represent the Maya word jal, a verb meaning to create ( see Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163).

The Vedic god who may have been the inspiration or prototype for the ancient Maya rain god Chac, depicted in the scene above on the upper right with an elephant inspired nose, was the Vedic rain god Indra, a warrior god who according to the Vedas assumed many of the attributes of the god Soma.

                       Maya Kaban curls associated with Hindu altars

Above is a photograph taken byLaurence Caruana, of the altar in the inner sanctum of the Devi Jagadambi temple in India, built by the rulers of the Chandella dynasty between the 10th and the 12th centuries. The photo on the right is a closeup of the altar with possible mushroom, taken by Laurence Caruana. Caruana, noted the probable mushroom, and made drawings (below) in his notebook of symbols he found etched in the floor below the possible mushroom altar.


Above are the symbols Caruana drew in his notebook that he found etched in the floor, in the inner sanctum of the Devi Jagadambi temple in India. Three of these symbols are commonly found in Maya vase paintings as I will demonstrate. The ?-mark symbol depicted above in the upper left hand corner of Caruana notes is a symbol similar to the Maya symbol known as the “kaban curl”, (Stephen Houston, June 17, 2010   This symbol is often depicted in Maya vase paintings associated with the ear of the sacrificial deer, or ancestor or deity impersonating a sacrificial deer (control F Maya vase K7152). The encircled cross depicted in Caruana notes in the middle row is also a common symbol in Maya art depicted below with four kaban curls in the Maya plate K6363. The X-symbol according to Michael Coe ( Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163,) represents the glyph jal, a verb for creation.


A glyph in William Gates, Dictionary of Maya Glyphs (1978: 165,165) row 436 depicts what I would argue is an Amanita muscaria mushroom glyph, and to the far right is an image of an incense burner with a ?-mark shaped symbol called a “kaban curl”.

Below are several Maya plate and vase paintings from the Justin Kerr Data Base which depict a ruler or priest making hand gestures similar to those found in Hindu art.  


Photographs © Justin Kerr

Above is Maya plate K6363 that depicts four ?-mark shaped symbols called kaban curls within the so-called encircled cross. Note the were-jaguar sitting at the center, and that the four figures surrounding the encircled cross are making a hand gesture similar to those found in East Indian art.

Photographs © Justin Kerr

In Maya vase K2802  the three characters in the vase painting appear to be one and the same individual journeying into the Underworld. The scene was probably intended to read from right to left. The figure on the far right with an elongated head is depicted with an enema device protruding from his rectum. He makes the same hand gestures as the Maize God from Copan and wears what looks like a ballgame belt or yoke decorated with three dots–a symbol which may refer to the three hearth stones of creation seen in the constellation of Orion. That he ( Hun Ahau?) embarks on a journey of death into the Underworld is indicated by the middle character, a skeletal death god wearing a death collar formed by a circle of disembodied eyes. He holds another disembodied eye in his right hand. He can be identified as the same individual because of the bloody defecation that now streams from his rectum.  Note that the defecation is mushroomic and decorated with the ?-mark symbol known as the kaban curl that I believe is code for the Soma sacrifice. His ceremonial death in the Underworld by ritual decapitation  is indicated by the severed head shown on top of what appears to be either a jar, or a possible mushroom stone, at his feet. The mushroom enema and symbolic journey into the Underworld, plus the Maize God’s sacrifice (decapitation) in the Underworld, transforms him into the so-called were-jaguar or Jaguar God of the Underworld, depicted at the far left. 

                   South American vessel with Aryan Swastika symbol



Above is a vessel dating from early Sican/Lambayeque period. The vessel was found in a pyramid, and depicts a Swastika symbol painted in carbon, nicknamed the German vessel by the staff at the Huaca Rajada Site Museum where it is on display.


                    North American vessel with Aryan Swastika symbol

                            Hohokam pottery vessel in the Pueblo Grande Museum, Phoenix Arizona.


Similarities in East Indian and Mayan Hand Gestures            
Above is a painting from Hindu mythology (Trichinopoly painting, 1820) depicting Rama making a hand gesture to a monkey deity.

Above is a fifteenth century painting of Jain art depicting Mahavira the great teacher of Jainism who lived around the same time as Budda. The hand gesture depicted in the image above and below is a common hand gesture in Maya vase paintings. Note the similarity of the use of the X-icon above in Maya vase painting K3059  and the above image. In Mesoamerican the X-icon I believe represents a symbol identifing a portal of divine immortality linked to sacred mushrooms or a mushroom beverage like Soma, connected with Underworld decapitation and Venus resurrection. The symbol of the swasyika, depicted above has been found in the New World, and is thought to have originated in the Indus Valley (Harappa) which is one of the earliest places where the swastik or swastika is found.
     Above is Maya vase K2796 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, known as the Vase of 7 Gods, which depicts the Maya God L on the far right making a hand gesture, to six other Underworld deities, as he smokes his trademark cigar. The vessel is from the archaeological site of Naranjo,  and depicts a  4 Ahau 8 Cumku calendar round date.

Above is Maya vase K5353 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, that depicts a ruler making a hand gesture to a willing victim of self sacrifice. The likely victim of decapitation in the Underworld, the possible victim holds both of his hands hands on opposite shoulders which is likely a symbol of submissiveness.  Note the figure on the far right also makes the same hand gesture as the ruler, and that a drinking vessel sits by the rulers side, containing what might be a possible mushroom beverage made from the juices of the possible Amanita muscaria mushrooms sitting in the offering plate below him.

Above is Maya vase K7999, which depicts a Maya ruler sitting on his throne, making a hand gesture to a sacrificial victim who crosses his arms, hands to opposite shoulders, a submissive gesture I believe that refers to suicide or self sacrifice to the gods most likely by the ritual act of decapitation.  I propose that the ancient Maya believed that decapitation whether in real life or in the Underworld, was the sacred act of deification, note the X-symbol, which I believe refers to a sacred portal of immortality (mushroom inspired), and that the ancient Maya believed that the stars in the night sky were the decapitated heads of deified ancestors.
Photographs © Justin Kerr

Photographs © Justin Kerr

Above is  Maya vase K6316, depicts a Maya ruler wearing what I believe is a mushroom inspired headdress, making a hand gesture to an elite across from him who may be holding a mirror or  presenting an offering. Although difficult to see the offering held in front of the ruler may be a sacred mushroom.  The woman standing behind the ruler, maybe his wife, is holding an offering plate which contains a decapitated head.

Photographs © Justin Kerr

Above is a Maya vase painting which depicts a mirror ceremony, in which the ruler makes a hand gesture with one hand and holds a flower or mushroom in the other.


Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya vase K5062; from the Justin Kerr Data Base depicts the mushroom mirror ritual of underworld jaguar transformation. In Mesoamerica mushrooms and mirrors were used in esoteric rituals to portal themselves into the Underworld to communicate with the deified dead. Archaeologist Gordon Ekholm was the first to see the resemblance of Mesoamerican mirrors with Chinese bronze mirrors and noted that both Asian and Mesoamerican cultures shared the idea of hell, its demons and its torments. The mirror ceremony in Mersoamerica dates back to the Pre-Classic Olmec civilization. The priesthood and/or the royal elite, likely used narcotic mushrooms, and stared into obsidian mirrors for purposes of divination, introspection, and communication with certain patron deities and the ancestral dead.  Note the mushroom with turned up cap in the bowl next to the ruler’s right hand. Below the ruler, notice the encircled cross below on the three large jars called ollas, which may contain the Soma beverage.
The three jars in front of the ruler, refer symbolically to creation, and the three hearthstones of creation, and they most likely contain a hallucinogenic beverage Soma, identified by the encircled X-symbol. which is why the other individuals in the scene wear  jaguar, puma and deer headdresses, all symbols of sacrifice.

   Above are Maya glyphs number 436, depicting an Amanita muscaria mushroom, my so-called Soma glyph, along side a glyph number 438, that depicts the ?-mark symbol, or kaban curl on a three-pronged (Trinity?) incense burner.  (From William Gates, Dictionary of Maya Glyphs (1978: 165,165)

Keep in mind the strong relationship between the deer and the mushrooms found growing in deer dung and sacrifice. Note that in the Maya vase painting above K2802, (control F) the same ?-symbol or Kaban curl appears in the blood stream of the mushroom enema of the death god holding a disembodied eye in his right hand. Both vase paintings depict an enema scene in the Maya Underworld in which the act of decapitation (note decapitated head in Maya vase K2802) is associated with a jar or olla (Soma beverage?) and mushrooms. The S-symbol above right, although depicted backwards in Caruana’s drawing is a common motif seen below seven images down in the Vase of the Seven Gods, (Kerr number K2796). The X-symbol above in the circle, is a symbol I believe represents a portal to the Underworld, a symbol I’ve seen depicted on ollas or jars which I believe contain a ritual beverage like the Soma beverage (urine possibly?), note the turned up mushroom in the bowl by the rulers side, in Maya vase painting K5062 above. Also on the Home page, control F, Maya vase K3066  which depicts the same encircled X-symbol associated with mushrooms, a central portal, and the four cardinal directions.


Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya Vase K7289 from the Justin Kerr Data Base depicts a ruler or priest involved in a mushroom ritual of underworld jaguar transformation. The ruler at the right is depicted holding a ceremonial bar from which emerges the divine vision serpent (bearded dragon) known to scholars as the Och Chan.  A deity wearing what appears to be the ear of a deer with ?-mark symbol blowing upon a conch shell, emerges from the jaws of the vision serpent. This ?-mark icon must be code for the transformed deer god. Note that the ruler or priest wears a mushroom inspired ceremonial cloak and the headdress of the underworld jaguar.

Above is Maya vase K2011, which depicts symbols that resemble two of the East Indian symbols depicted above in the drawings by Laurence Caruana.  Note the encircled X-symbol encoded on the shields of the warriors on the left, and the Kaban curls encoded in front of their faces.

Maya archaeologist Stephen Houston…

  “Perhaps: the Kaban curl invokes a heady, glandular, earthy odor, the musk of the peccary or other mammal, thus joining many other cues in Maya imagery to the nature of smells, both strong and delicate. As a glyph, the sign is securely read KAB, “earth,” as shown by direct substitution with [ka-ba] in texts at Palenque and elsewhere. But, in imagery, “musk, strong odor” helps to explain a number of other features. Many of us have noticed the common appearance of the Kaban curl within the ears and, more rarely, the faces of deer, some of which occur as day signs”.





Above is page 22 of the Madrid Codex which depicts what I believe is an Amanita muscaria mushroom, in the hand of the Maya Rain god Chac, bottom left,(Indra?) and what may be the preparation of the ritual  Soma drink by the blue deity in the scene at the bottom right (Vishnu?).

Below are more pages from the Madrid Codex which depict what I believe is the offering of an Amanita muscaria mushroom to a seated ruler or Sun God, painted blue on the left page below (Vishnu ?) in the middle registry.

Above right on page 95 of the Madrid Codex 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 bloodletting or maybe in the act of self decapitation. At the bottom in the middle we see the Maya long-nose god Chac holding an axe in one hand and a severed head in the other.


The two pages above are also from the Maya Tro-Cortesianus Codex, and depicts what I believe are noticeable glyphs representing the Amanita muscaria mushroom, in the middle registry of both pages, which I have suggested may represent the Vedic worship of Soma the mushroom of immortality.(pages of Madrid Codex from F.A.M.S.I)



The Mesoamericans, I believe, came very early to the conviction that, under the influence of the sacred mushroom, “the near death experience” I like to call it, a divine force actually entered into their body–a state they described as “god within” (Maya?).  Because mushrooms appeared to spring 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 divine gifts  brought to them by the wind god Ehecatl, and the rain god Tlaloc, both of them avatars of Quetzalcoatl.

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)



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 ofHun 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 eldestof 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 ofthe 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.


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)     


Many other parallels can be found between the legends of the Hero Twins, as told in the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, and those of the Ashvin Twins in the Rig Veda. One of the Twins named Yama from the Rig Vida is a primal being who, as the first to die,  becomes the lord of the dead. In a similar story in the Popul Vuh, the HeroTwins, whose father was also a twin, is decapitated in the Underworld where he remains the Lord of the Underworld. Yama’s name actually means “twin.”  The name “Quetzalcoatl”  can also be translated as “Precious Twin”.


Spanish chronicler Jacinto de la Serna, (1892,The Manuscript of Serna)…

 Serna in 1650 pointed out that the Aztec calendar was called the “count of planets”. Serna, writes that the people of Mexico “adored and made more sacrifices to the sun and Venus than any other celestial or terrestrial creatures”, and that it was believed that twins were associated with the sun and Venus.  

 Serna also described the use of sacred mushrooms for divination:

“These mushrooms were small and yellowish and to collect them the priest and all men appointed as ministers went to the hills and remained almost the whole night in sermonizing and praying”.



 Pallava, late 7th century AD
Varaha Cave Temple, Mamallapuram

Late 7th century — Relief Sculpture of a self Decapitation Scene with the Hindu Goddess Durga at Varaha Cave Temple at Mamallapuram, India — Image by © Michael Freeman/CORBIS

Durga, the first goddess to have tried soma, stands surrounded by attendants, in this photo from the interior of the shrine. Below her and to the photo left, a devotee prepares to cut off his own head as a sacrifice to the goddess. Overhead, a Soma mushroom is sprouting, as a symbol of fertility and good fortune.

Image and caption found at:…


The above sculpture depicts a scene of self-decapitation with the Hindu goddess Durga at Varaha Cave Temple at Mamallapuram, India. The seated figure at the lower left of the scene holds his hair in his left hand and the sacrificial knife in his right hand.  The scene above also depicts dwarfs, a deer and a feline all of which are associated with sacrifice and the Underworld in Mesoamerica.  Note the sacred mushroom image above the head of the Goddess Durga (central figure).  (compare another very similar scene from Draupadi Ratha)                              

Durga stands surrounded by attendants, in this photo from the interior of the shrine. Below her and to the photo left, a devotee prepares to cut off his own head as a sacrifice to the goddess. It is thought that this horrible rite actually did take place – not too often, one hopes – in Durga temples.  Human sacrifice was regarded in the Veda as the highest form of sacrifice especially to the goddess Durga (Jan N. Bremmer, 2007 p.159)

Durga’s association with decapitation is attested by scenes like this, and also by ritual texts and myth (Mahishasuramardini). (photograph above and caption from


Above is an Indian painting showing mystical decapitation of the “I”s by the Divine Mother.

(Above caption and image from Gnostic Anthropology Teaching Image Pool


The improbable act of self decapitation is also a common theme depicted on pre-Columbian Maya vase paintings. The practice of decapitation became a widespread phenomenon in Mesoamerica by Classic times becoming increasingly more popular by Late Classic times when the grisly act becomes intimately connected with the pan-Mesoamerican ballgame. According to Borhegyi, a leading researcher of the pre-Columbian ballgame before his untimely death, writes (1980:25),

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 (for ballgames in Southeast Asia, see Loffler, 1955).

Photograph © Justin Kerr

  Maya vase K1230  depicts a possible scene from the Popol Vuh. Here Hunahpu, the older HeroTwin, is shown in the act of self-decapitation in the underworld. His younger brother, Xbalanque, represented by the underworld jaguar who appears encircled by a serpent, surrounded by five Venus symbols, one of which is located on the axe suggesting decapitation and Venus resurrection. The story suggests that, after the twins sacrifice themselves in the underworld in front of the Lords of Death, they become immortal and come back to life defying death and resurrect as the Sun and Moon.

  Maize (Corn)  in India ?

The Hindu sculptures above present evidence favoring the belief in pre-Columbian transportation of maize away from the New World.  Note the similarities above in Hindu art and below in Maya art in which corn or maize is held in one hand and the other hand is held palm forward.




Photographs © Justin Kerr     (Photo of Hindu statue from

The photo above on the left depicts the deity scholars identify as the Maya Maize God, known as First-Father, Hun-Nal-Ye.  The Maize God  sculpture itself is of the Late Classic period, and is from the Maya ruins of Copan, in Honduras. He makes what appears to be the same hand gesture commonly depicted in Hindu and Buddhist art.The Maya artist encodes what looks to me like three stylized mushrooms, two as ear plugs associating the sacred mushroom with the number three and the mythical three hearth stones (or deities) of Maya creation.  The photo on the right represents the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who makes the same hand gesture, and holds in her hands objects that could be stylized mushrooms.  

Photographs © Justin Kerr

In Mesoamerica, according to a Toltec legend, maize was the sustenance of life, given to mankind by the god Quetzalcoatl.  Above is a ceramic representation of Quetzalcoatl as the maize god, wearing what I would argue are mushroom-inspired ear plugs.  It was from the ancestral bloodline of Quetzalcoatl that man descended into heaven at the moment of death. The royal line of the king was considered to be of divine origin and descendents of Quetzalcoatl were identified with the Sun God Hun Ajaw,  the Maize God of Maya mythology. The king, who was a descendent of Quetzalcoatl and his divine offspring, was known as the aj k’uhunn, “the keeper of the holy books”.                       



Above is a comparison of ancient scripts, which clearly shows the similarities between the script of the Indus civilization and Easter Island’s Rongorongo script.

Above in the top row of the Rongorongo script from Easter Island is a glyph which looks a lot like a mushroom.


Above on the left is a Maya mushroom stone from Highland Guatemala, and on the right is a giant Moai statue from Easter Island. Its important to note the obvious that both sculptures have the same ear design.

Above is a bearded Moai statue (Quetzalcoatl?) from Easter Island with the same ear design as the bearded mushroom stone effigy above from the highlands of Guatemala, where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows.   

(Above photograph from Alejandro Vega Ossorio


  Above is one of the giant Moai statues from Easter Island with what appears to be a mushroom encoded into the head and nose.  If the mushroom Venus cult did reach Easter Island, as I have postulated was it introduced by seafarers from the American mainland or by trans-Pacific contact from India or southeast Asia.  The encoded mushroom in metaphor might also represent a T-shaped symbol (see image below) or cross known in Mesoamerica as the symbol ik, a sacred day in the Mayan calendar meaning wind, breath, and spirit, all attributes connected to the wind god Ehecatl/Quetzalcoatl.So important is this symbol that in the Maya codices this T-shaped symbol is encoded as the eye of Chac, the Maya god associated with rain and lightning (fertility), who is also deeply connected with the underworld, decapitation, and the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus.  Chac may be equated with Kukulcan,  the Maya/Toltec version of the god Quetzalcoatl. The word k’ul, means “holy spirit” or “god”, (Freidel, Schele, Parker, 1993 p. 177) and the word chan or kan means both serpent and sky.  

It should be noted that the words “navel of the world” are the words used by both the ancient Olmec/Maya and Easter Islanders to describe their island and their place in the universe.


 Above, is an Ik glyph,  a symbol used in Olmec times and a Maya icon often shaped more like amushroom than a cross or what resembles a modern day capital-T. The Ik glyph, which is one of the most sacred symbols among all Mesoamericans signifies wind, breath (breath=Life) and spirit.  Ik also represents a sacred day in the Mayan calendar that is linked to the birth of the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl as 9-Wind.The exact symbol can be found in the Old World, called the Tau Cross, representing a symbol of the god Mathras of the Aryans of India. 

Sri. A. Kalyanaraman, an Indian author who has studied the Vedas, argues in his book Aryatarangini: Saga of the Indo-Aryans,  that the Aryans of ancient India were a sun-worshipping sea-people, who sailed around the world, to the New World as well as to many parts of the Old.

    “Maya according to the Rig-Veda, was the goddess, by whom all things are created by her union with Brahma. She is the cosmic egg, the golden uterus, the Hiramyagarbha.” (The Project Gutenberg EBook of Vestiges of the Mayas, by Augustus Le Plongeon)

In searching for the origin of the name Maya, one should revisit the strange coincidence that the Sanskrit word for the divine power, and enlightenment from Soma was called Maya. We are told that the gods themselves were described as Mayin. Linguists have already identified a number of Sanskrit words in Quechua, the Andean language of the Inca (Fox, 2005, p.118).     

  According to the the New World Encyclopedia;   

   In the  Rigveda, the term Maya, (maya)  is introduced referring to the power that devas (divine beings) possessed which allowed them to assume various material forms and to create natural phenomena.                

   Maya (Sanskrit māyā, from “not” and “this”)  In early Vedic mythology, maya was the power with which the gods created and maintained the physical universe.

    Maya is the power that brings all reality into being as it is perceived by human consciousness. Therefore, all the particular things contained within this material world are products of maya.

Soma (Soma),was considered to be the most precious liquid in the universe, and therefore was an indispensible aspect of all Vedic rituals, used in sacrifices to all gods, particularly Indra, the warrior god. Supposedly, gods consumed the beverage in order to sustain their immortality. In this aspect, Soma is similar to the Greek ambrosia (cognate to amrita) because it was what the gods drank and what helped make them deities. Indra and Agni (the divine representation of fire) are portrayed as consuming Soma in copious quantities. (Excerpt is from New World Encyclopedia)



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 head, representing divine enlightenment.  Painted Maya vessels like the one pictured above were made to contain a ritual drink concocted from the Amanita muscaria mushroom or other hallucinogenic mushrooms in a manner very similar to that described of Soma in the Rig Veda. 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,(Soma stones?) water added, and the beverage drunk by the person consulting the mushroom.” (Borhegyi, 1961)


Ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson…

“It {the mushroom} permits you to see, more clearly than our perishing mortal eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of this life, to travel backwards and forward in time, to enter other planes of existence even as the Indians say, to know God”.

 Metaphorically, then, the  mushrooms bestowed to mankind represent the soul and flesh of Quetzalcoatl. If human beings partake of him they acquire some of his divine essence. In the scene below from the Codex Vindobonensis, Quetzalcoatl holds in his left hand the head of the underworld god of death. I interpret this as symbolizing their belief that a ritual decapitation in the underworld would result in the deceased’s resurrection and rebirth. I believe that this interpretation is strengthened by the two depictions of the V-shaped cleft symbolizing the portal to the underworld in the left panel of this scene. The upper scene depicts the deceased in the act of plunging through the portal into the underworld. In the lower scene, the portal is shown being opened by the outstretched arms of Quetzalcoatl.  It would not have been difficult for them to conclude that  mushrooms were indeed a gift to mankind from the gods..

 Bernard Lowy, 

“Maya codices has revealed that the Maya and their contemporaries knew and utilized psychotropic mushrooms in the course of their magico-religious ceremonial observances” (Lowy:1981) .

In the Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus  [below], believed to be a 14th century Mixtec document, the original of which is now held in the National Library of Vienna, Austria, page 24 shows the ceremonial use of mushrooms held in the hands of gods. Attention was first called to these figures by Alfonso Caso, who provisionally identified what he called “T-shaped” objects in the manuscript as mushrooms. Heim later published this page in color and accepted without hesitation its mushroomic interpretation. More recently, Furst has concurred in this opinion in his minute examination and analysis of the codex. Also summarizing the significance of this page, Wasson concludes that it shows “the major place occupied by mushrooms in the culture of the Mixtecs.” The additional collateral evidence to be considered further supports the validity of these opinions, and extends the base upon which they rest (Lowy 1980 pp.94-103).


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 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. 

    Of all the Mesoamerican gods Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc is most connected with sacrifice and like the Vedic God Soma, Quetzalcoatl is credited with bestowing divine mushrooms to mankind through which he could achieve divine immortality. Quetzalcoatl’s mythological avatar as a resurrection god is the harpy eagle,who carries the new born Sun God up and across the sky.

 Bicephalic or two-headed birds are a common theme in Hindu mythology as they are in Pre-Columbian art.  In Mesoamerica two-headed birds and/or two-headed serpents are linked to both accession and rulership, as well as to the dualistic nature of the planet Venus (see Codex Vindobonensis page 24). Two-headed birds and two headed feline-looking serpents commonly represent Quetzalcoatl as both the Morning Star and Evening Star.

The first depictions of double-headed birds and serpents in Mesoamerica goes back to Olmec times, with both deriving from the Olmec Dragon.  This mythical creature represents the principal sky god who may derive zoomorphically from the harpy eagle (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.126).  Images of two-headed birds and serpents are found throughout Mesoamerica and South America, and are also commonly found in rock art on remote Easter Island.  The two headed mythological bird of Hindu mythology called the Gandaberunda is depicted often as an intricately sculptured motif in Hindu temples. The antiquity of the double headed bird in Hindu mythology may date back as far as 2000 BC.  Many years ago Eduard Seler linked  the jaguar-bird-serpent god associated with Venus and warfare to the god Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star  (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.104).


  Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso…

“It has been said with great truth that fear and hope are the parents of the gods”.

“Man confronting nature, which frightens and overwhelms him, sensing his own inadequacy before forces that he neither understands nor is able to control, but whose evil or propitious effects he suffers, projects his wonder, his fright, and his fear beyond himself, and since he can neither understand nor command, he fears, and he loves; in short, he worships”.    (Alfonso Caso: 1958, p.3)



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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