Magic mushrooms have been used for the purpose of connecting with the divine by people across the world throughout history. Many people report that taking psilocybin mushrooms can lead to mystical or religious experiences. Others say their powerful psilocybin journeys do not impress them as particularly spiritual. It is worth noting that the nature of mystical experiences, with or without a psychedelic substance, elude consensus opinion and are highly personal encounters that vary widely.
Psilocybin Mushroom Spirituality
Things to Know
- Mushrooms have likely been used by humans in a spiritual context for longer than recorded history
- There are numerous retreat centers offering psilocybin mushroom ceremonies to the public
- The U.S. is home to many psychedelics-based churches using mushrooms as a sacrament
- The DEA has granted religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act.
Indigenous Use of Mushrooms
Mushrooms have likely been used in spiritual contexts longer than recorded history. Anthropologists and archeologists suspect this because of the discovery of clay mushroom artifacts1 and drawings left behind by past civilizations in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador. The Aztecs and the Mayans in particular considered mushrooms sacred and used them in religious ceremonies to connect with the divine.
The Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico are well known for their mushroom ceremonies,2 also known as veladas.3 Ceremonies are conducted by medicine women or men who consume mushrooms to find something that is lost or heal others from sickness. The most famous Mazatec curandera (or medicine person) is Maria Sabina, who introduced psilocybin mushrooms to Gordon and Valentina Wasson who documented their experience in a story in Life magazine. Sabina’s writings express the profundity of her experience with psilocybin mushrooms and the spiritual relationship she had with them.
Psychedelic Mushrooms in Christianity
While it’s impossible to prove the use of entheogenic mushrooms in Christianity, it is theorized that they had significant early impact on the religion. Some anthropologists believe church fathers and gnostic gospel church leaders used entheogens roughly until the Inquisition.4
In early Christian art, Jesus is represented with what appear to be psilocybin mushrooms. One of the best examples of this is demonstrated in Saint Michael’s Church in Hildesheim, Germany. Psilocybin mushrooms are clearly depicted in five art pieces, one of which is the Transfiguration of Jesus. It’s a significant scene because it’s one of the two times in the Bible where a miracle happens to Jesus.
In this scene, the Old Testament prophets appear and confirm Jesus’ lineage, and while he is standing there with his disciples on his side, under him are very prominent psilocybin mushrooms. It’s believed that mushrooms were not suppressed by the orthodoxy, and seemed to have happened much closer in time to the Inquisition.
Modern Psilocybin Mushroom Ceremonies
There are hundreds of mushroom retreats around the world available to the public today, offered both legally and through the gray market. The format of many of these ceremonies is designed to honor the mystical experience produced by psilocybin mushrooms.5
Modern Psilocybin Mushroom Churches
There are an increasing number of self-described churches in the U.S. using psychedelics as a sacrament. Many of them use psilocybin mushrooms as their primary sacrament in psychedelic churches.6 In the U.S. some psilocybin mushroom churches claim to be operating legally under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that has yet to be tested in court.
Psilocybin and Mystical Experience
According to research by Johns Hopkins University, the spiritual effects of psilocybin can last for as long as a year. Some people believe that the impact of these experiences can have an effect throughout their lifetimes. Seventy percent of the terminally ill patients who received psilocybin as part of the Johns Hopkins study rated the effect of psilocybin as one of the top five spiritual experiences of their lives.