Religious use of hallucinogenic fungi: A comparison between Siberian and Mesoamerican cultures

Authors: Nyberg, Harri
Journal: Karstenia, Volume 32 (1992), Issue 2, pages 71-80.
Full text: PDF
Key words: Amanita muscaria, hallucinogenic fungi, Mesoamerican cultures, Psilocybe, shamanism, Siberian cultures

Abstract: The religious uses of hallucinogenic mushrooms in northern Eurasian and Mesoamerican cultures are compared. In northern Eurasia, some shamanistic cultures have used the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria (L.) Pers.); Mesoamericans, mainly mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe (Fr.) Kummer. The hallucinogenic potency of the former is due to isoxazole compounds and of the latter, psilocybine-type compounds. Despite similarities between ihe uses in these two cultural areas, there are also marked differences: the Fly Agaric did not seem to have been an object of religious, ritual veneration in northern Eurasia, whereas this was true for the Psilocybe mushrooms in Mesoamerica. This is suggested to be a result of the difference between these two mushroom groups in their pharmacological and clinical effects on man and also a result of vast cultural differences between the areas in question. The cultural and religious differences between northern Eurasian and Mesoamerican use of hallucinogenic fungi and the significance of these differences are discussed.