I have mentioned mescaline as one of the oldest psychoactive substances known to mankind, but psilocybin mushrooms probably predate it. Archaeologists have found rock art which suggests that shrooms may have been used for various ritual purposes since way before recorded history.
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Also known as magic mushrooms, shrooms and psychedelic mushrooms, psilocybin mushrooms encompass some 200 different species, and they can be found on all continents. Tryptamine psilocybin is the active substance in these mushrooms and it acts upon serotonin receptors in the brain.
Western culture first encountered the magic shrooms in 1855. During the 1960s, shrooms were used for the treatment of various psychological disorders.
As mentioned, there are literally hundreds of different species of mushrooms which belong in this psychoactive category.
The most prominent source of tryptamine psilocybin is Psilocybe cubensis, belonging to the Psilocybe genus of the Strophariaceae family.
The Psilocybe genus alone is comprised of more than 100 different species.
That said, due to their common appearance, Psilocybin mushrooms can be easily mistaken for some other species, which may be toxic. Therefore, extra care is advised when it comes to sourcing your shrooms.
P. cubensis is usually consumed orally, in various forms and formulations. The mushroom itself is first dried. This process removes some 9/10ths of its original weight. Given that the lost weight is water weight, it is safe to conclude that dried shrooms are 10 times more potent than fresh ones.
Shrooms are mostly consumed orally. Besides simply ingesting the right dose, one can brew it into a tea as well. With a 5 g dose of P. cubensis, a cup of tea can be obtained. Users drink the first as well as the second infusions.
Psilocybin mushroom dosage
1-2 g of P. cubensis make a light dose. For a common dose, you will need 2-4 g of dried shrooms.
Going over 4 g makes a heavy dose and going way above it is flirting with overdosing.
Again: this dosage is for dried P. cubensis. The potency of the active compound varies greatly from one species to another, so for other shrooms, different quantities may be in order.
For truffles, a light dose is 3-7.5 g. A common dose requires some 7.5-12.5 g of the dried material, while a strong dose calls for 12.5-15 g. Anything above 15 g is a heavy dose.
Cognitive effects of psilocybin mushrooms
Shrooms are famous for the introspection they generate in users. They also enhance thought connectivity, conceptual thinking, and thought organization. Ego death has also been reported, together with occasional ego replacement, emotional enhancement, empathy, and cognitive euphoria.
Autonomous voice communication is one of the more interesting effects. Catharsis and rejuvenation occur during the offset stage of the effect-cycle.
P. cubensis and other magic shrooms are also known (and appreciated) for the hallucinatory stages they induce.
“Proper” internal hallucinations are triggered by higher doses. These come complete with autonomous entities, interactivity and lucidity. The experience has often been likened to lucid dreaming.
External hallucinations triggered by similarly large doses of Psilocybin mushrooms can be just as believable and lucid dreaming-like as the internal ones mentioned.
Auditory hallucinations is a relatively common side effect as well.
Mexican Magic Mushrooms
Mexican magic mushrooms, known as Teonanacatl (literally “divine mushroom;” teōtl means “god, sacred” and nanācatl means “mushroom”) by the Aztecs, and scientifically as Psilocybe mexicana, has been used for ceremonial, religious, and shamanic purposes for hundreds if not thousands of years in its native land which nowadays is known as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.
Since the 1960s, this magical mushroom has been one of the popular “shrooms” used by oneironauts in the West after Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD, isolated from them the active ingredients psilocybin and psilocin in 1958.
As with other magic mushrooms in particular and entheogens in general, Mexican magic mushrooms should not be taken for recreational reasons. This is not a “party drug,” but a potentially life-transforming substance, which can generate an incredibly positive or terribly negative experience based on the state of mind of the person using it, the preparation one goes beforehand, and the environment – physical and social – in which the mushrooms are taken.
Traditionally this mushroom was used mainly by female shamans and mostly for divinatory and healing purposes (especially of fever and gout, but also toothaches, stomach and intestinal disturbances, migraines and headaches, swelling, broken bones, epileptic seizures, acute as well as other acute and chronic ailments), not even for entheogenic purposes. As the famous Mexican shaman María Sabina remarked “[b]efore Wasson, nobody took the children [the shrooms] simply to find God. They were always taken to cure the sick.” The mushrooms are said to determine causes of disease, localize lost objects, and even reveal answers to familiar problems.
Even though the mindset and setting have a great influence over the experience, entheogens seem to have a “will” of their own that accommodates the real need of their users. You may think that by following all the instructions for positive set and setting, you will definitely have a positive experience. But that might just be an “ego-trip.” If the “spirit” of the mushroom feels that a seemingly negative experience is what you really need for your healing, then that is what you will get. This is the main reason why I do not regard entheogens and most other hallucinogenic drugs as fit for purely recreational purposes.
In the following article, I will describe the rituals and preparations used traditionally by Mexican Indians, as described in The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants by Christian Ratsch.
Disclaimer: I do not condone ingesting mushrooms where they are illegal. You are responsible for finding out whether or not they are legal in your region. Also, you MUST consult with your doctor and get her permission before using psychoactive substances, including magic mushrooms, especially if you’re using any medications or suffering from medical conditions, including psychiatric and psychological disorders. Even hypertension may be a risk factor. If pregnant or lactating, avoid taking any drugs.
Preparing to Use Mexican Magic Mushrooms
It is not recommended to ingest entheogenic substances, including magical mushrooms, spontaneously. There are important steps to be taken in preparation for the “trip.”
If you’re hunting the mushrooms yourself, never do so without an expert. It is very easy to confuse magic mushrooms with poisonous ones, such as Inocybe. One way to identify psilocybin containing mushrooms is by bruising them. If the bruise turns blue, then they may contain psilocybin.
The tradition of picking up magic mush had been preserved in writings of Christian missionaries who ironically sought to uproot this culture, which they believed was idolatrous. One cleric for instance wrote that “to collect them the priests and old men, appointed as ministers for these impostures, went to the hills and remained almost the whole night in sermonizing and in superstitious praying. At dawn, when a certain little breeze which they know begins to blow, they would gather them, attributing to them deity.”
According to a different source, the “mushrooms are collected in the forests at the time of the new moon by a virgin girl.”
Although fruiting from May to October, it is said that Mexican magic mushrooms should be harvested in summer.
Once you find (or grow) Mexican magic mushrooms, traditionally, a prayer is said before harvesting them. Offer three candles, kneel before the magical mushrooms, and say:
Tum’Uh. Thou who art the queen of all there is and who was placed here as the healer of all sicknesses. I say to you that I will carry you from this place to heal the sickness I have in my house, for you were named as a great being of the earth. Forgive this molestation, for I am carrying you to the place where the sick person is, so that you make clear what the suffering is that has come to pass. I respect you. You are the master of all and you reveal all to the sick.
After collecting the mushrooms, place them on an altar for three days, offering incense to them. During these three days, it is customary to avoid all sexual activities, and refrain from drinking alcohol, using drugs or medications, engaging in agricultural work, and eating poultry, pork, eggs, and vegetables.
On the morning of the fourth day, take a bath and eat a light breakfast. Traditionally, this meal was made from corn.
Fast for the rest of the day until you eat the mushrooms.
Know what to expect
Once you ingest the mushrooms, the experience should begin within 15 minutes to an hour.
The peak is reached within 2-4 hours, and the whole trip may last for up to 8 hours in total. This of course depends on dosage. The effect of consuming a low dose may only last 4 hours.
The visions that appear on the magic mushroom trip may be shaped by the culture of the person ingesting them. Mexican Indians are said to often see visions of snakes and jaguars, the sun and the moon appearing as a boy and a girl, the children of the wind, and Mother Earth.
However, there is also a possibility that the Mexican magic mushrooms will induce a “Mexican-Indian” experience, especially if one is aware of the fact that the shrooms one is using are indeed of the Mexican variety. This phenomena is exemplified in Albert Hoffman’s own experience as described in The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens:
As I was perfectly aware that my knowledge of the Mexican origin of the mushrooms would lead me to imagine only Mexican scenery, I tried deliberately to look on my environment as I knew it normally. But all voluntary efforts to look at things in their customary forms and colours proved ineffective. Whether my eyes were closed or open, I saw only Mexican motifs and colours. When the doctor supervising the experiment bent over me to check my blood pressure, he was transformed into an Aztec priest, and I would not have been astonished if he had drawn an obsidian knife. In spite of the seriousness of the situation, it amused me to see how the Germanic face of my colleague had acquired a purely Indian expression.
Some people do not experience visions but hear voices providing advice, diagnoses, or inquiring about the reasons for ingesting the mushrooms.
Whether the experience is visual or auditory, most people can expect to obtain profound insights into their state of health and learn how they may become healthier and more complete.
You may also experience intense emotions, such as excitation and sorrow. You may find yourself singing or crying.
Usage and Dosage
Mexican magic mushrooms are traditionally consumed either fresh or sun-dried. Sometimes only the caps are eaten.
Dried magic mushrooms produce a light trip when up to 2 grams are eaten. For absolute beginners, stick with 0.8-1 grams until you feel comfortable to increase the dosage. A more common dose is 2-4 grams, while anything higher than that will produce a strong trip.
If you’re using fresh mushrooms, double these numbers by 10, thus a common dose will require 20-40 grams of fresh mushrooms.
If you’re using magic truffles (an underground clump yet to mature into a mushroom, which at the time of writing is legal in the Netherlands), a light dose is 3-7 grams and the common dose is 7 to 12 grams. For a strong trip, more than 12 grams are required, whereas anything over 15 grams is said to produce a heavy trip. The length of a truffle trip is shorter, only 3-5 hours.
It is customary among Mexican Indians to eat the mushrooms in pairs. Children eat 3 pairs, women 7, and man eat up to 9 pairs of shrooms.
On festival days, the mushrooms are often taken first thing in the morning.
A cacao drink is sometimes ingested beforehand, and the mushrooms are eaten with honey, pulque (an alcoholic beverage made from agave), or chocolate.
Psilohuasca: Empower the Experience with Syrian Rue
If you only have a very small amount of mushrooms or you want to experience a stronger trip than the mushrooms produce on their own, it is possible to enhance, lengthen, and strengthen their effects by consuming a plant containing MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) together with the shrooms. This admixture is known as Psilohuasca (psilocybin + ayahuasca).
The MAOI containing plant often used for this purpose (not by Mexican Indians though) is Syrian Rue.
Smoking Mexican Magic Mushrooms
Anyone who read Carlos Castaneda’s books about the teachings he received from Don Juan, a shaman who allegedly made use of several psychoactive plants, may wonder whether it is possible to smoke Psilocybe mexicana. The smoking blend used by him was described as containing sage and powdered psilocybe mushrooms among other undisclosed ingredients.
Here’s an excerpt from Castaneda’s book A Separate Reality, which clarifies this issue:
Don Juan’s procedure to utilize the mushrooms was to let them dry into a fine powder inside a small gourd. He kept the gourd sealed for a year and then mixed the fine powder with five other dry plants and produced a mixture for smoking in a pipe. In order to become a man of knowledge one had to “meet” with the ally as many times as possible; one had to become familiar with it. This premise implied, of course, that one had to smoke the hallucinogenic mixture quite often. The process of “smoking” consisted of ingesting the fine mushroom powder, which did not incinerate, and inhaling the smoke of the other five plants that made up the mixture.
While some people report experiencing psychoactive effects smoking shrooms, others report none and even harmful consequences, which they suggest may result from “inhaling directly a combination of spores, dust, and other fungal growth.”
Your mindset throughout the process of preparation and ingestion should be of utmost respectfulness to the power of the mushrooms. We all possess “egos,” or a feeling of self-importance, at least until we become aware of our Buddha nature through years of meditation and spiritual work, which reveals that in reality there is really no self at all.
By cultivating respect toward the shrooms, you at least acknowledge your imperfection and become less identified with it, and invite the experience to be therapeutic, to dissolve your ego. Any “ego-trip,” or clinging to your sense of self-importance, will make the process of ego-death brought about by consuming entheogens a lot more difficult.
With entheogens, such as magic mushrooms, you will be going through a mini death experience. Death of the ego. Unlike the ego death which is the consequence of spiritual enlightenment through meditation, the process here will occur at once and with no preparation. The more you cling to your ego and identify with it, the more difficult the experience will be.
Also, be careful that any goals you have for the session are not ego goals. Wanting to have power over others or anything else that sets you aside from other people are not legitimate wishes from the spirit of the shrooms. Healing yourself and others or gaining knowledge for the benefit of others are.
It is necessary to believe that the mushrooms have the power to heal you.
Moreover, suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, may also make the experience more difficult. In these cases, I do not advise to avoid the experience since it may provide the healing you need, but I would recommend to go through the process with an experienced guide that will help ground and calm you throughout the experience and properly integrate it once it’s over.
Again, the experience produced by ingesting magic mushrooms may not be a “fun” experience, even if the trip is positive.
For me, when I first took shrooms as a 19 years old mildly depressed young man, I experienced God-consciousness and infinity (being aware of being aware of being aware of being aware ad infinitum) for short periods of time which when I emerged from caused great panic. For the first time in my life, I realized that I do not exist as I thought I do. I’m not separate from the whole. I am the whole.
This was not a comforting thought at all; it was scary. I thought I was losing my mind rather than reaching drug-induced cosmic consciousness. The life that I thought I was living was infinitely insignificant and meaningless compared to the true reality which was revealed to me. I had no one to help me integrate the experience, which I thought will leave me forever depressed, knowing how futile my life is. Only after several years, I came to see how incredibly positive and transformative this difficult experience truly was.
I was also not physically well, and suffered from a cold at the time. This again is not a contraindication for using mush. Perhaps if it was a recreational drug, such as marijuana, then I would say it is (though it can help with some symptoms of disease such as nausea and pain). But magical mushrooms, and other entheogens, have the power to heal both mental and physical disorders.
Nevertheless, if you are experiencing a passing illness which requires no cure besides the passage of time, such as a cold or even a flu, it might be wise to let it the disease run its course before embarking on this divine trip. But for chronic disease or illnesses which normally require medication, magic mushrooms may provide the cure you need or at least insight into what that cure might be.
To summarize this section on proper mindset, avoid using mush while not in a positive mindset which has persisted for at least a few weeks.
In what environment should you eat Mexican magic mushrooms?
Should you do so alone or with other people?
Following are some factors to take into consideration regarding the setting of the trip, which consists of the physical and social environment.
Most important is to take mushrooms in a familiar and pleasant environment in which you feel safe.
Music, Sounds, Noise
It is believed by Mexican Indians that entheogenic plants, including magical mushrooms, do not “like” noise and will not speak if they feel disturbed. This is true from my own experience. This knowledge can be used as a double-edged sword. In Shamanic ayahuasca rituals, various musical instruments are often available for use by the participants. When the room is silent, the trip can reach its full power. If it becomes too powerful, one can play sounds or sing, which produces grounding and reduces the intensity of the trip.
In Santo Daime ayahuasca rituals, most ceremonies involve the singing of hymns and dancing. This allows the participants to remain grounded throughout the experience. Only in Concentração (concentration) rituals of meditation, when the group sits silently, or in the short moments between hymns, the full power of the experience may be felt.
Depending on the goal of your session, you can decide whether you want a silent environment or to include sounds and music.
One thing though to keep in mind is that outside noises may be disruptive unless they are sounds of nature. Sounds such as those of traffic, honking, or non-participating people shouting or speaking are best avoided during the trip. Preparing a set of headphones can be helpful where you are unable to prevent disrupting external noises.
Traditionally, the person eating the mushrooms is accompanied by 1-2 friends/family members, which function as “trip sitters.”
The trip sitters’ responsibilities include paying attention to the things that the person who eats the mushrooms says. They may also use copal (in Nahuatl language copalli means “incense”), when problems arise. The incense which was used traditionally was likely a resin from the Copal Tree (Protium copal) or from Coyol Palm, scientifically known as Acrocomia aculeata (formerly Acrocomia mexicana).
In our culture which is not always sympathetic to the use of mind-altering substances, it may be difficult to find a supporting friend or family member willing to serve as a trip sitter. In such cases, it may be tempting to eat mushrooms alone. I do not recommend it, especially for people who are inexperienced, suffer from mental issues, or if more than a minimal dose is taken.
Your trip sitter should be a trusted person, ideally an experienced psychonaut, who is willing to remain sober and be with you for at least 8 hours.
I may be available to serve as a trip sitter. (Learn more.)
Traditional Mexican Magical Mushrooms Ritual
Place two eggs next to the mushrooms.
Light a candle and burn some incense.
Speak the following prayer:
Thou who art blessed. I am now going to swallow you so that you heal me of the illness I have. Please give me the knowledge I need, thou, who knows all of what I need and of what I have, of my problem. I ask of you the favor that you only tell me and divine what I need to know but do nothing bad to me. I do not wish an evil heart and wickedness. I only wish to know of my problems and illness and other things that you can do for me. But I ask you, please do not frighten me, do not show me evil things but only tell all. This is for the person with a pure heart. You can do many things, and I ask you to do them for me. I now ask your forgiveness for being in my stomach this night.
After the mushrooms are swallowed whole with water, sit in silent meditation.
Vomiting or sweating indicates that the sickness is being released so you shouldn’t try to suppress it.
If you’re looking to gain knowledge, you may ask your questions and wait for an answer. This shamanic use of mush is described by well-known Mazatec shaman María Sabina (published in Plants of the Gods):
There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby, and invisible. And there is where God lives, where the dead live, the spirits and the saints, a world where everything has already happened and everything is known. That world talks. It has a language of its own. I report what it says. The sacred mushroom takes me by the hand and brings me to the world where everything is known. It is they, the sacred mushrooms, that speak in a way I can understand. I ask them and they answer me. When I return from the trip that I have taken with them, I tell what they have told me and what they have shown me.
If you want to dive deeper into the trip, it may help to put on headphones and a blindfold to simulate a condition of sensory deprivation.
If the trip becomes too intense, sing or play some music or sounds that you have prepared beforehand. Taking a walk, especially in nature, may also ground you and reduce the intensity of the experience.
In modern mushroom ceremonies, the shaman often chants for hours. María Sabina’s chants in particular has been studied. Here’s an excerpt:
Woman who thunders am I, woman sounds am I.
Spiderwoman am I, hummingbird woman am I.
Eagle woman am I, important eagle woman am I.
Whirling woman of the whirlwind am I, woman of a sacred, enchanted place am I,
Woman of the shooting stars am I.
Smoking cannabis may also help for people who normally use marijuana, though some strains may make any anxiety you are already experiencing worse. Keep in mind that cannabis often amplifies feelings and emotions.
Mexican Magic Mushrooms as an Oneirogen
Sleepiness can occur during a mush trip, especially if one is really tired, and if it does, I encourage you to go with it and see what dreams the mushrooms induces for you.
Mexican Indians are reported to have beautiful dreams in which they believe they are very rich and possess many slaves, while others have embarrassing dreams where for instance they are caught while committing adultery or of being wicked forgers or thieves facing their punishment.
After the Session
When the trip is over, it is time to start integrating what you have experienced. To do so, it helps to describe your visions, experiences, and dreams to your trip sitter, or to write them down in a journal.
On the morning after the session, it is customary to eat a large quantity of chili peppers.
Abstain from meat and alcohol for the following month. I believe this is necessary mostly for lengthening the “afterglow,” or the residual state of consciousness, including feelings, emotions, and thoughts, which accompany one after using entheogens.
Do not trip again until you feel you have fully integrated your experiences and readjusted to regular life.
Experimenting with magical mushrooms, including Psilocybe mexicana, the Mexican Magic Mushroom, will probably change your life profoundly. With adequate preparation and proper mindset and setting, you can minimize the possibility of experiencing bad trips or lingering negative experiences. The mushrooms will provide the healing and evolution that you truly need (not desire), whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual.
They are incredible, fantastical gifts from God or nature, making me wonder if part of the reason they are shunned by Modern society may be the financial damage they may cause to the whole medical profession, including doctors, psychiatrists, insurance companies, psychologists, therapists, and drug companies. The other, more significant reason in my opinion is that the political structure and organized religion dread the possibility of people waking up and having a free consciousness unbounded by irrational, irrelevant norms, laws, and values.
Indeed, the prosecution of users of Mexican magic mushrooms began during the Spanish conquest of America when Catholic missionaries saw this culture as idolatrous, allowing them to communicate with devils. The indigenous use of the mushroom was not only forbidden, but also brutally suppressed by the Spanish Inquisition. Sadly, they are still suppressed today, not by torture in most countries, but you can definitely spend years in jail if you are caught possessing them.
So whether you’re looking to heal yourself or others, find answers to any questions you may have, or to take steps towards your spiritual freedom,
I will end this article with an excerpt from Timothy Leary‘s experiences with Mexican mush:
I laughed about my daily pomposity, that narrow-minded arrogance of the scientist, the impertinence of the rational […] I was gone, off to the department for fantastic optical effects. The palaces of the Nile, the temples of the Bedouins, shimmering jewels, finely woven silk garments that breathed colors, of muso-emerald glistening mosaics, Burmese rubies, sapphires from Ceylon. There were jewel-encrusted snakes, Moorish reptiles whose tongues flickered, turned and reeled down into the drain in the center of my retina. Next there followed a journey through evolution […] I slipped down the channel of recapitulation into the ancient production rooms of the midbrain: snake time, fish time, big-jungle-palm time, green time of the ferns. Peacefully I observed how the first ocean creature crawled onto the land. I lay next to it, the sand crunching under my neck, then it fled back into the deep green ocean. Hello, I am the first living creature […] I came back a changed person […] I learned more about the mind, the brain, and its structures than I was able to during the preceding fifteen years as a busy psychologist. […] I experienced that the brain is an unused biocomputer that contains billions of unexplored neurons. I learned that normal waking consciousness is a drop in the ocean of intelligence. That the brain can be programmed anew.