Mushrooms Encoded in Religious Art


This study which is exclusively my own work has been moved to “Hidden In Plain Sight”, and is undergoing editing and peer review, and will eventually be published into books, titled BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE, SOMA IN THE AMERICAS, and DECODING THE FLEUR DE LIS SYMBOL.

My research presents visual evidence that both the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom and the Psilocybin mushroom were worshiped and venerated as gods in the ancient world. These sacred mushrooms were so cleverly encoded in the religious art of both the New World, and Old World, “Hidden in Plain Sight” that prior to this study they virtually escaped detection.


Decoding the Fleur de Lis Symbol

Was Soma the Forbidden Fruit of Genesis

Decoding the Fleur de Lis Symbol


The author’s study of mushroom symbolism in pre-Columbian art would suggest that the cult of Soma, as well as other Vedic traditions, migrated to the Americas sometime around 1000 B.C. and that the Indians of the New World modeled their religion on Vedic beliefs and ritual practices. The author presents visual evidence of encoded mushrooms in ancient art that supports Wasson’s identification of the revered and deified mystery plant of the Rig Veda, called Soma in Indo-Aryan folklore, and called Haoma in Zoroastrian and later Persian mythology, as the Amanita muscaria mushroom. 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 publication has been moved to “Hidden In Plain Sight”



                       Mushroom Symbolism in Pre-Columbian Art


Carl de Borhegyi

Copyright  2010


The following research 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.

My study which began in 1996 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 human sacrifice and the Mesoamerican ballgame.He supported this theory with a solid body of archaeological and historical evidence.

This study which is exclusively my own work has been moved to “Hidden In Plain Sight”, and is undergoing editing and peer review, and will eventually be published into books, titled BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE, SOMA IN THE AMERICAS, and DECODING THE FLEUR DE LIS SYMBOL.

Decoding the Fleur de Lis Symbol




                        A New Road of Archaeological Inquiry

By Carl de Borhegyi

Copyright 2011

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.




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Decoding the Fleur de Lis Symbol

Ancient Maya “Poison Bottles”

Comments on four ancient Maya “Poison Bottles”  in the William B. Guynes  collection.

by Carl de Borhegyi

Above are two of the four Late Classic  period (A.D 600-900) Maya ceramic jars, commonly referred  to today as  Maya “poison bottles”,  in the William B. Guynes collection.

It has been suggested that these tiny ceramic jars were used  for the sole purpose of holding tobacco.  On the other hand, I will demonstrate that these tiny jars, which I would argue are too small to hold tobacco, most likely contained a narcotic mushroom based powder used in smoking cigars.  I base my theory on the iconography of these tiny jars, and on the esoteric scenes these poison bottles commonly depict of Underworld deities, ballplayers and Underworld portals.

The tiny ceramic jars have been called “poison bottles”  because they generally depict scenes of ballplayers, and Underworld gods such as  God L, God K,  and the Mexican goggled-eyed god Tlaloc.  The poison bottle above from the William B. Guynes collection, depicts an elderly bearded god that scholars have identified as God L  based on the deity’s trademark Muan-bird headdress.  The identity of this elderly god  remains uncertain, so scholars still call him by the name  of God L,  a name suggested by Schellhas (1904).  God L has been classified as both a Merchant God, and God of the Underworld. God L is  depicted above  inside  a four-lobed symbol scholars call a quatrefoil.  The quatrefoil symbol which goes back to Olmec times, represents a divine portal, a sacred entrance or opening into the Underworld.

I believe the connection of mushrooms with these so-called “poison bottles”  lies in our further understanding of God L  as a Venus God as well as ruler of the Underworld.  God L’s most common attributes  as God of the Underworld  as well as the Evening Star aspect of Venus, are his “were-jaguar”  features.  Under the influence of the hallucinogen, the “bemushroomed” acquires feline fangs and often other attributes of the jaguar, emulating the Sun God in the Underworld. This esoteric association of mushrooms and jaguar transformation was earlier noted by ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst.

The Maya God L can also be identified by his trademark Muan-bird headdress, which can be seen depicted above on the poison bottle.   I  propose that the bird on God L headdress is a young harpy eagle, linking God L with his Mexican counterpart  and ruler of the Underworld, Quetzalcoatl.  Both represent the Morning Star aspect of Venus.  The assumption that the poison bottles were used to contain tobacco  likely derived from images of God L  smoking a cigar.

According to archaeoastronomer  Susan Milbrath there have been several  unpublished studies linking the image of God L smoking a cigar with comets, (Palenque’s Temple of the Cross), and in one case, the passage of Halley’s comet in A.D. 684.

Quoting Milbrath, (1999, p. 251),

“Although God L is clearly a Venus god, his cigar could represent a comet”.

The planet Venus was the celestial object of greatest interest to the ancient astronomers of Mesoamerica, and I have linked mushroom worship with Venus, Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc worship (BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE).  It is likely that Venus was in many ways more important than the Sun.  As the Morning Star associated with the dawn, Venus was the Awakener, and harbinger of the new born sun (a young harpy eagle) , known as the Day-bringer. Time was measured in Venus cycles after Maya astronomers observed that Venus rises in the same spot every eight years as the Morning Star on the day Ahau, and that  five sets of 584 days, that is 2,920 days, equaled 8 solar years or 5 repetitions of the Venus cycle, identified in the Dresden Codex.

Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino Sahagun was probably the first to record the Aztecs use of mushrooms in his famous Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, written between 1547 and 1582.  Know as the Florentine Codex, the 12 volumes are now located in the Laurentian Library in Florence where it may have been sent to be judged by the Spanish Inquisition.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushrooms was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species, the Psilocybe mushroom, was called teonanacatl, a term Sahagun gives us, teo-, or teotl, meaning god, that which is divine or sacred, “the flesh of god” (Wasson, letter to Borhegyi, June 23, 1953).

Sahagun wrote that the Indians gathered mushrooms in grassy fields and pastures and used them in religious ceremonies because they believed them to be the flesh of their creator god. The friars who reported the ceremonial use of psychogenic mushrooms were sparing with their words and inevitably condemnatory in their description of mushroom “intoxication.” They were, in fact, repulsed by the apparent similarities of the mushroom ceremony to the Christian communion.

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

A passage from book 9 reads:

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

The “poison bottle” on the left, both of which are from the William B. Guynes,  collection, depicts a figure that looks to me like a merchant, painted black, wearing a bird headdress, holding a walking staff and wearing a backpack.  The poison bottle above on the right depicts what looks like a Teotihuacan inspired design.

Above is another Late Classic “poison bottle”  from the William B. Guynes,  collection, depicting a  formulaic inscription on each side known as the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS). The deity portrayed on the front is the Mexican god Tlaloc.  Tlaloc can be easily identified by his trademark goggled eyes, handlebar mustache and jaguar fangs.  Although generally associated with rain, lightening and water, he also is deeply connected with death and decapitation in the Underworld and most likely represents the Evening Star aspect of Venus.

In Maya iconography the god Tlaloc is predominantly associated with warfare.  Maya inscriptions tell us that the movement of the planet Venus and its position in the sky was a determining factor for waging a special kind of warfare known as Tlaloc warfare or Venus “Star Wars.” These wars, waged against neighboring city-states for the express purpose of taking captives for sacrifice to the gods, thus constituted a form of divinely-sanctioned “holy” war.

Fray Sahagun, also suggested that the Chichimecs and Toltecs consumed the hallucinogen peyote before battle to enhance bravery and strength.  Hallucinogens taken before the ballgame or before battle likely eliminated all sense of fear, hunger, and thirst, and gave the ballplayer, or warrior a sense of invincibility and courage to fight at the wildest levels.

Photograph © Justin Kerr

The gold Aztec figurine, above, depicts an Aztec warrior with a mushroom hanging from the end of his nose, thereby linking mushrooms with “Tlaloc warfare” or “Venus star-wars”.  Note that the warrior holds a shield depicting the “quincunx”, a Mesoamerican Venus symbol identifying the four cardinal directions of the universe and its cosmic center, the sacred portal into the spirit world.

In summery I propose that the so called Maya “poison bottles”  like the four depicted above in the William B. Guynes collection did not contain tobacco as many scholars would have you believe, but most likely they contained  a powdery form of narcotic mushrooms, based on the iconography of Underworld portals, and Underworld deities, like Tlaloc and God L. and of merchants who were known to have supplied the ancient Aztec and Maya elite with sacred mushrooms.

Photograph © Justin Kerr

Maya vase K4932 from the Justin Kerr Data Base, depict three merchants, painted black emulating God L, and carrying walking staffs.  Just like the Aztec merchants known as the pochteca as well as the Nonoalco merchants, the three merchants depicted above  appear to be carrying large bags over their shoulder (transparent bag) filled with what I believe are (cultivated?) sacred mushrooms .

Photograph © Justin Kerr

Above is a Late Classic Maya vase painting (600-900 C.E.) from highland Guatemala.  I believe that this complex scene may represent a passage in the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, in which the Hero Twins smoke cigars in the underworld. That the two smokers standing at the far right are smoking hallucinogenic cigars is clearly suggested by the mushrooms that the artist has encoded on their robes and in their mushroom-inspired headdresses.

Psilocybin Mushrooms Encoded In Ancient Maya Art

Spanish chroniclers recorded that the Aztecs, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, revered three different kinds of narcotic mushrooms. The Spanish chroniclers who reported these mushroom rituals were repulsed by what they perceived to be a devil-inspired misinterpretation of the Holy Eucharist.,

The Toltec /Maya vessel above is from Quintana Roo, Mexico, Postclassic Maya, 1200-1400 C.E.  The vessel depicts the image of a diving god, wearing the familiar guise of the harpy eagle, attributes that link this diving deity to Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star and god of Underworld resurrection.  I would argue strongly that the objects in the hands of the diving god Quetzalcoatl (Kukulcan in Yucatec Mayan) are the severed caps of psilocybin mushrooms, and do not represent, as other scholars would argue, balls of incense. The removal of the head of the mushroom or mushroom cap is a symbolic reference to ritual decapitation in the Underworld. The idea that Quetzalcoatl was in direct opposition to human sacrifice is simply not true. He was the god of self-sacrifice. Wasson writes that the stems of sacred mushrooms were removed and the mushroom caps consumed ritually in pairs prior to self-sacrifice.

Much of our understanding of Mesoamerican religion has been pieced together from Spanish chronicles and prehispanic and Colonial period manuscripts called codices. Unfortunately, for our understanding of the role of mushrooms in this religion, the Spanish missionaries who reported these mushroom rituals were repulsed by what they perceived to be similarities to holy Christian communion.  As a result, they made no attempt to record the rituals in detail and banished all forms of mushroom use.

Spanish chroniclers recorded that the Aztecs, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, revered three different kinds of narcotic mushrooms. This reference led me to a Wasson pamphlet in which he wrote that he had found this information in a guide for missionaries written before 1577 by Dr. Francisco Hernandez, physician to the king of Spain (Wasson, 1962: 36; see also Furst, 1990 ed., 9)

One of the Spanish chroniclers named 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).

Above left, is a closeup image from a page in the Codex Mendoza, an Aztec codex created just after the Spanish Conquest. The page shows tribute collected by Aztec civil servants from the province of Tochtepec.  Included in the tribute were psilocybin mushrooms which the Aztecs called Teonanacatl, meaning “Flesh of the Gods.” The enlarged image of a two-handled vessel containing sacred psilocybin mushrooms (second image from left on next to bottom row) shows the mushrooms emerging from what appears to be the Fleur-de-lis emblem.

There is plenty of evidence in Mesoamerican mythology linking the many avatars of Quetzalcoatl, Jaguar-Bird-Serpent, to the duality of the planet Venus. Archaeologist 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).

We know from the early chronicles that Quetzalcoatl (known in the Maya area as Kukulcan and Gucumatz) was a Toltec ruler, and was apotheosized as Venus according to archaeoastronomy expert Susan Milbrath (177).  Quetzalcoatl in the Mixteca-Puebla codices is also identified with Venus. Quetzalcoatl’s mushroom ritual of underworld jaguar transformation and Tlaloc Venus resurrection was so scared that, if one gave one’s own life in sacrifice the act emulated Quetzalcoatl, himself (Wauchope, Ekholm and Bernal, p.323).

Above, an image from the Codex Ríos, shows a deity who, although apparently bearded,  has been identified as the Aztec goddess Mayahuel, goddess of the maguey plant. The codex, a Spanish colonial-era manuscript now in the Vatican library (also called Codex Telleriano-Remensis), is attributed to Pedro de los Ríos, a Dominican friar who worked in Oaxaca and Puebla between 1547 and 1562. The codex itself was likely written and drawn in Italy after 1566. Based on the beard and mushroom headdress, the deity probably also represents an aspect of Quetzalcoatl, the god who bestowed sacred mushrooms to mankind and instructed humans on how to perform sacrifices in exchange for the gift of fire and immortality. Note that his crown consists of a stylized fleur-de-lis from which emerge three sacred psilocybin mushrooms.  Note also that two probable psilocybin mushrooms emerge from the fleur-de-lis emblem within the drinking vessel held in his right hand. The implication is that the vessel contains a psilocybin-based Soma beverage .

In Mesoamerica, as in the Old World, the royal line of the king was considered to be of divine origin.  Descendents of the god-king Quetzalcoatl and thus all kings or rulers were identified with the resurrected Sun God, and the Maize God of Mesoamerican mythology.

Many of the images I studied involved 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 God of Death.  It was said that (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p.184), they [the Quiche] 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.

Mushrooms were so closely associated with death and underworld jaguar transformation and Venus resurrection that I conclude that they must have been believed to be the vehicle through which both occurred. They are also so closely associated with ritual decapitation, that their ingestion may have been considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld.

Ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson believed that the origin of ritual decapitation lay in the mushroom ritual itself.  In a letter to my father, Mesoamerican archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi he writes:

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

“The top of the cap is yellow and the rest is the color of coffee, with the gills of a color between yellow and coffee. They call this mushroom, pitpa “thread-like”, the smallest, perhaps 2 horizontal fingers high, with a cap small for the height, growing everywhere in clean earth, often along the mountain trails with many in a single place. In Mije the cap of the mushroom is called the “head” “kobahk in the dialect of Mazatlan. When the “heads are consumed, they are not chewed, but swallowed fast one after the other,  in pairs.” ( June 7, 1954, MPM archives)

In summary, the mushroom imagery I found encoded in pre-Columbian art, 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.

For more on mushroom and Venus imagery in pre-Columbian art read, BREAKING THE MUSHROOM CODE:   by  Carl de Borhegyi


Maya vase painting K1381

By Carl de Borhegyi
Maya vase K1381, photographed in roll-out form by Justin Kerr, may depict a Late Classic scene from the Post Classic Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, in which the Maya vase ritual and mushroom enema ritual is performed by the mythical Hero Twins before they face the Lords of Death in the underworld ballgame (note the ballplayer in motion on the right). The god scholars have named God A Prime sits facing the

jaguar. He holds the sacred Maya vase in his hand and wears a scarf designating underworld decapitation. God A Prime, a young god commonly identified by death signs of self sacrifice, and self decapitation, probably represents a version of the older Hero Twin of the Popol Vuh named Hunahpu. Like the Hero Twins, he is associated with death and rebirth from self decapitation in the underworld. The jaguar sitting by the large jar or olla may represents Hunahpu’s brother Xbalanke, whose attributes are that of the underworld jaguar. Note the enema device sitting atop the olla or jar.

Hindu Mythology In Pre-Columbian Art


The drawing by Daniela Epstein-Koontz, is of a ball court relief panel from the archaeological site of El Tajin, in Veracruz Mexico.  My study would strongly argue that this ballcourt relief panel represents a pre-Columbian version of a Hindu creation scene, known as, The Churning of the Milk’s Ocean, often depicted in Hindu art.


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. 

The Churning of the Milk Ocean myth is told in several ancient Hindu texts, in which the  Vedic god Vishnu is the sea tortoise depicted as the pivot point for Mt. Mantara acting as the churning stick. At the suggestion of Vishnu, the gods, and demons churn the primeval ocean with the help of a serpent, in order to obtain Amrita, (which is the Amanita muscaria mushroom I would argue) which will guarantee them immortality.  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).  


In the drawing above 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 am certain that it does, than the two deities behind the central characters hold jars of Soma in their hands. 

For more evidence and visual study of Trans-Pacific Contacts read SOMA IN THE AMERICAS: by Carl de Borhegyi




Mushrooms and Fleur-de-lis Emblem Encoded In Maya Creation Scene

Photograph © Justin Kerr

By Carl de Borhegyi

Above is a carved Maya vessel K5420 photographed in roll-out form by Justin Kerr.  The drinking vessel depicts an esoteric scene of creation that takes place in the Maya  Underworld.  I propose that the bearded deity on the far right, represents the Mesoamerican creator god Quetzalcoatl who sports a fleur-de-lis emblem on his forehead which I believe symbolizes a divine trinity.  I also propose that the symbolism and iconography on the far left depicts a stylized mushroom emerging from the anus of an upside down feline, dog or deer undergoing the mushroom’s effect of Underworld jaguar transformation (note the hands of the bearded figure on the far right are stylized as felines). In both Nauha and Maya mythology the dog usually accompanies the deceased into the Underworld as does the dwarf who may be depicted sitting on the right in front of the bearded deity right below the monkey.  It should be noted in case the animal in question is a deer, that many Hallucinogenic mushrooms, such as the Psilocybe and Panaeolus genera mushroom, grow in the dung of certain quadrupeds making the deer extremely sacred. Mushrooms found growing in the dung of the deer were easy to find and safe to consume and maybe most important extremely easy to cultivate for the purpose of trade.

According to ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst…. 

“The discovery, by early migrants into Mexico, of a functional deer-mushroom relationship could, conceivably, have served to reinforce whatever ancient Asian traditions might then still have remained alive concerning the deer as source of supernatural power, and especially the visionary gifts of shamans.”

The deer, dog, or feline is depicted inside a turtle’s shell or carapace, a scene some what  reminiscent to Hindu mythology, in which the turtle acts as the central pivot point in the Vedic-Hindu myth of the Churning of the Milk’s Ocean.  The Churning of the Milk Ocean myth is told in several ancient Hindu texts, in which the  Vedic god Vishnu is the sea tortoise depicted as the pivot point for Mt. Mantara acting as the churning stick. At the suggestion of Vishnu, the gods, and demons churn the primeval ocean with the help of a serpent, in order to obtain Amrita, (which is the Amanita muscaria mushroom I would argue) which will guarantee them immortality.  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).    I would also argue that the turtle is a symbolic reference to the planet Venus as a divine resurrection star. I believe the symbolism of a deer sacrifice can be inferred by the trident axe located on the stem of the stylized mushroom, suggesting the ritual of Underworld decapitation. The trident blades used in ritual decapitation and the mushroom journey are both symbolic of divine portals of ancestor deification. The fleur-de-lis emblem in Maya art is an esoteric reference to a trinity of Maya gods, know as the Three Hearth Stones of creation, who separated the sky from the earth when they created the world at “Three Stone Place”. In the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, these gods were named, Thunderbolt Hurricane,  Newborn Thunderbolt, and Raw Thunderbolt (see also Palenque Tried). The skeletal demon in this scene represents the Evening Star aspect of Venus and presides over the death of the sacrificial animal (note symbolic turtle shell). The supreme hands of death and creation are evident on the skeletal demon who esoterically depicts the creator serpent above his elongated skull, tied to his head in a knot, reminiscent of the so-called “Toothache Glyph” which refers to the supreme act of tying the royal headband or bundle, the divine symbol of completion associated with period endings and the ritual act of decapitation.  On the far right we see a scene in which a tiny human or (maybe dwarf), and monkey are created from the divine hands (note hands) of Quetzalcoatl who represents the Morning Star of Venus in this scene, and that the monkey he creates represents the divine symbol of rebirth. Maya scholars point out that when the image of the monkey, known as God C, and meaning “divinity,” is merged with another object it marks the image as “holy.” In this case the act of creation. In Maya religion the monkey represents the first of the Nine Lords of the Night or Underworld. Called the Bolon Ti Ku, these gods 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.  The first god associated with re-birth was the Monkey (GI) and Quetzalcoatl (G9) was the last associated with death and completion. The word K’uh in Classic Mayan glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey profile was used to describe “holy” or “sacred,” referring to “divinity” or “god” (M.D. Coe 2001, p.109).

The monkey imagery in this creation scene may also alludes to the Five Suns cosmogonic accounts (Mary Miller and Karl Taube 1993; p.118), in which Quetzalcoatl in his guise as Ehecatl the Wind God presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler.  Archaeo-astronomer Susan Milbrath writes in her monumental book Star Gods of the Maya (1999,p. 256 ), that an analysis of the Dresden Codex identifies the monkey, itself,  as also related to Venus as the Morning Star.

For more on this subject read SOMA IN THE AMERICAS by Carl de Borhegyi

Maya Mushroom Stones from Kaminaljuyu, in Highland Guatemala

By Carl de Borhegyi

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

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

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

Archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi…

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

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

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

 “And when they found the young of the birds and the deer, they went at once to place the blood of the deer and of the birds in the mouth of the stones that were Tohil, and Avilix.  As soon as the blood had been drunk by the gods, the stones spoke, when the priest and the sacrificers came, when they came to bring their offerings.  And they did the same before their symbols, burning pericon (?) and holom-ocox (the head of the mushroom, holom=head, and ocox= mushroom”).

A passage from The Annals of the Cakchiquels,  (1953:82-83), records:

“At that time, too, they began to worship the devil.  Each seven days, each 13 days, they offered him sacrifices, placing before him fresh resin, green branches, and fresh bark of the trees, and burning before him a small cat, image of the night.  They took him also the mushrooms, which grow at the foot of the trees, and they drew blood from their ears.”

  R. Gordon Wasson postulated that…

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