More than 180 species of hallucinogenic fungi exist worldwide, from Europe and Africa to Asia and the Americas. With over 50 types of magic mushrooms, Mexico has the greatest variety—the majority of which belong to the Psilocybe genus. Buy magic mushrooms
Before the western world popularized them, these fungal fruiting bodies were held sacred by Mexico’s Mesoamerican peoples.
But Catholic monks branded them as the devil’s work in the 16th century. Their ceremonial use was systemically condemned, and they became closely-guarded secrets—until the 1950s.
The rediscovery of magic mushrooms in Mexico spurred on newfound curiosity, psychedelic research, and mycological study.
Was it a blessing or a curse? Is Mexico’s mushroom movement still alive and well?
Find all these answers and more below but first, let’s take a quick journey back in time.
The Mystical Tools of Mexico’s Ancients
In Mexico, magic mushrooms are religious sacraments among several indigenous groups that still use them today. These include:
- The Matlatzincas and Nahuatls in the states of Mexico, Puebla, and Morelos
- The Mazatecs, Zapotecs, Chatins, and Mixtecas in Oaxaca
- The Totonacs in Veracruz
Besides regional, cultural, and language differences, the mushroom species used ceremonially among these groups also vary.
Still, psychoactive substance use was common among Mesoamerican societies in the pre-Columbian era. The Mayan mushroom stones (3,000 BC) and Teotihuacàn’s Tepantitla mural (500 CE) suggest ancestral knowledge of psychedelic fungi.
The first documented report of magic mushroom use dates back to 1598, written by an indigenous person called Tezozomoc. The account details celebrations of Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II’s coronation.
In the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, teonanácatl meaning “flesh of the gods,” refers to psilocybin mushrooms.
Spanish colonizers also recorded the use of sacred mushrooms in therapeutic, religious, and divination ceremonies. Mexican art that survived colonization reflects this, too, such as the Codex Vindobonensis and the Codex Magliabechiano.
The Condemnation of Native Customs
Following the Conquest of Mexico, Toribio de Benavente (also known as Motolinía) published History of the Indians of New Spain. The 1558 work chronicles the ingestion of magic mushrooms with honey and the “hellish” visions they supposedly invoked.
The Franciscan concluded that these psychedelic fungi were the devil’s work.
Like many other native customs, sacred mushroom ceremonies were declared heretical and prohibited by the Catholic clergy. Consequently, these practices only survived through clandestine secrecy, syncretic adoption, and isolation in the most remote villages.
Magic Mushrooms in Mexico: The Rediscovery
In 1938, Mexican ethnobotanist Blas Pablo Reko and the Father of Modern Ethnobotany Richard Schultes identified three other varieties in Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca.
Their work pioneered the rediscovery of psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico, though it remained largely unknown to the general public for decades.
Robert Gordon Wasson and Dr. Valentina Pavlovna Wasson
The turning point came in the 1950s, thanks to Dr. Valentina Pavlovna Wasson. She was an ethnomycologist, researcher, pediatrician, and scientist with a passion for fungi since childhood.
Her husband, Robert Gordon Wasson, a banker, was equally passionate about mycology. Contrary to the official version, Dr. Wasson led research expeditions to study the traditional uses of magic mushrooms in Mexico.
Robert Heim, credited for categorizing Psilocybe mexicana, and Guy Stresser-Péan, an expert in indigenous languages, joined the Wasson’s expeditions. They launched a massive multidisciplinary survey combining botanical, linguistic, and ethnographic approaches.
The Wassons spent several years visiting the mountainous village of Huautla de Jiménez, where they attended many veladas. They weren’t allowed to participate in these sacred mushroom purification rituals, though.
Dr. Gastón Guzmán
Dr. Gastón Guzmán was born in 1932 in the town of Xalapa, Veracruz. He studied biology at Mexico City’s Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas (ENCB) of the Instituto Politécnico Nacional.
Dr. Guzmán first became interested in mycology in 1956. In 1957, he met the Wassons while exploring Huautla de Jiménez, and a life-long friendship ensued. He also befriended Richard Evans Schultes and Roger Heim.
In 1958, Dr. Guzmán published his first of over 400 scientific papers, which concerned the ecology of the Psilocybe species.
In the 50 years that followed, he also published 20 books documenting the discovery of more than 300 new mushroom species. The works detailed everything from the taxonomy and ecology to distribution and cultural uses and included:
- Identificación de los Hongos, Comestibles, Venenosos, Alucinantes y Destructores de la Madera (1977): It was the first of its kind in Latin America, encompassing a wide variety of mushrooms in detail.
- The Genus Psilocybe: A Systematic Revision of the Known Species Including the History, Distribution, and Chemistry of the Hallucinogenic Species (1983): A comprehensive monograph that Dr. Guzmán continuously revised and updated.
- El Cultivo de los Hongos Comestibles (1993): The work of more than 10 years’ research on mushroom cultivation.
Expanding upon the Wassons’ and Heim’s ethnomycological research, Dr. Guzmán wrote about psychedelic mushroom use in Mexico. He also documented the medicinal and culinary uses of various fungi.
During his lifetime, Dr. Guzmán identified and classified more than 140 psychedelic mushroom species in the Psilocybe genus alone. From Mexico and South America to New Zealand and Japan, he found these fruiting bodies all around the world