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The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts [Paperback]

by Brian P. Akers
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 10, 2006 0761835822 978-0761835820
This work presents significant new readings in ethnomycology, a discipline that examines the role of fungi in human affairs. The greatest cultural and historical impact of mushrooms has resulted from psychoactive compounds found in certain species, and native interpretations of their mental effects in humans, as revealed through intensive multidisciplinary studies coordinated by the late R. Gordon Wasson, the father of ethnomycology. Wasson's research in the 1950s led to the elucidation of mushroom cultism in Mexico, a phenomenon dismissed as unfounded rumor by "experts" only a few decades earlier. Discoveries made by Wasson and his collaborators intersect a staggering number of disciplines, so much so that individual fields have had difficulty assimilating them. The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico presents six texts concerning the mushrooms. Five of them are translations of relevant scholarly sources in Spanish previously unavailable in English. The sixth is a transcript of The Sacred Mushroom, a celebrated episode of the classic television series "One Step Beyond." This T.V. program may have been the only show in broadcast history in which the host ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms and endured their effects on camera for the viewing pleasure of the home audience.

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Editorial Reviews


The true value of this book lies in the introductions and footnotes. These set the scene, with perceptive remarks on the diverse dramatis personae who have written about sacred mushrooms....This is a short and well-presented account of sacred mushrooms and their uses in Mexico, presenting old but fresh information that enriches the literature. (Economic Botany)

About the Author

Brian P. Akers, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has written a number of articles on ethnomycology and fungal systematics published in scientific journals. He is a member of the Mycological Society of America and the North American Mycological Association.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of America (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761835822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761835820
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,017,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and educating journey February 11, 2007
As a former department mate of Dr. Akers, I had the pleasure of anticipating this book as he relayed bits of the tales within it. I was witness to his mighty effort to acquire the texts and permissions, and to work through the translations in order to assemble this unique collection of articles about the discovery and research into the phenomenon of hallucinogenic mushrooms. I began to read, prepared to find a collage of interesting pieces on mushrooms and rituals. I was taken instead on a journey, beginning with the first whispering accounts of the existence of these mushrooms and their uses, and culminating with their story rupturing through the TV screens of America and into the common culture. Dr. Akers' multidisciplinary background allows him to approach this topic from a variety of angles. His introduction escorts you gently into the world of the mushroom, the people and the cultures involved. The seven chapters are coordinated together into a delightfully cohesive work. It creates in the reader an evolution of understanding that perhaps parallels in some form what the researchers and public experienced over the decades spanned by the various publications. This is a book that will take a long time to properly sample and consider, with its multiple layers of story, backup fact and supplementary information. It is a fascinating foray for experts and laypeople alike.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great addition to any magic mushroom library May 30, 2007
"The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico: Assorted Texts" is a must-have for mushroom fanatics wild about finding obscure Spanish-language reference papers now translated into English for the first time. Edited by Brain P. Akers, "Sacred Mushrooms" sets out to fill holes in bibliographies dating back to the sixties and seventies, digging out newly re-found scholarship on the Matlatzinca, Mixtec, Mixe, and other Central American sacred mushroom rituals from papers that are widely credited but (until now) never read. While some of the content in these rediscovered texts goes over territory well documented in Wasson-era accounts, the cultural richness of these obscure references reveals a vast depth of real shamanic knowledge, and demonstrates full breadth of Central American mushroom spirituality.

While listing the collection of texts in this volume might be enlightening to some, I think it would be more fitting to reprint some of the more tasty bits I came across, in no particular order. The first is from Walter S. Miller's research on the Mixe tonalamatl, a sacred calendric text, and its relation to the lore of sacred mushrooms. Here is a nice snippet:

"Another type of mushroom puts one to sleep, causing visions. The vision induced is always the same: two dwarfs or elves (dos enanitos o duendes), a male and a female, appear to the one who eats the mushrooms. They speak to him and answer his questions. They provide him with information as to where lost things can be found. If he has had anything stolen, these dwarfs or elves identify the thief and the location where the stolen item is hidden. If one plans a trip, he is told what kind of luck he will have."

This is just one mention of the hombrecitos, or the little men, who pervade mushroom mythology.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By J Irvin
The Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico by Brian P. Akers, 2007.

Rarely seen papers show a diverse history of Mexican mushrooming practices

Dr. Brian Akers, Ph.D., a mycologist with an extended education in anthropology and religion, provides the English speaking world with rare papers and discussions from Spanish and French studies never before in available in English:

Luis Reyes, Roberto Escalante H. And Antonio Lopez G., Robert Ravicz, Walter S. Miller and Fernando Benitez's studies (and the added transcript from ABC's One Step Beyond, 1961, with Andrija Puharich) provide a new and expanded view and history to Mexican mushrooming practices.

Excluding Puharich, the other papers presented are mostly from people who worked or studied along with R. Gordon Wasson from 1953 to 1960 that were published in Spanish or French. Aker provides us with wonderful translations of these essential documents for understanding the history and diversity of the indigenous Mexican use of the mushrooms. And in the case of Fernando Benitez, Aker's English presentation is an illustrious read - a beautiful translation which I can only imagine, not having read the Spanish, is probably just as beautiful as the original. I must say - excellent job!

When people refer to the "Mexican mushroom cult," exactly what are they referring to? That's like attempting to explain the beliefs of Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and Mormons as all "protestant". Or an even better example might be in comparing the beliefs of the so-called pagans: the Muslims, Celts, Druids, Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, Hindus and European tribes, etc., as just "pagan" - a clearly racist and prejudiced position. And need I even mention the word `gentile'? Each of these has widely varying rituals, practices and beliefs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relevant vintage articles on nanacatism February 27, 2014
By monyouk
that is the indigenous hallucinogenic fungus complex, are now available in English thanks to the meticulous translation from Spanish, coupled with careful editing, annotation and crucial background info preceding each chapter, all provided by anthropologist/mycologist Brian P. Akers, with the assistance of those duly acknowledged in the preface (pp. vii-xvii).
These papers were originally published between 1960 and 1972, in the classical period of ethnomycology, and are difficult to track down. They deal with some of the following topics: local folklore/ethnography; religious syncretism (Christian saints and native beliefs, deities in their pantheon existing side by side); ingestion of entheogenic mushrooms (almost exclusively Psylocibe species) for curative, divinatory purposes, or simply to be taken to "where God is" (ahí donde Dios está, p. 92, also p. 70); the role of Amerindian (shamanic) specialists (curanderos, brujos, sabíos and their female counterparts); reports of mushroom trance ('shroom speaks in the form of tlakatsitsin/hombrecitos: little men, elves, dwarves, children), etc.


Editor's introduction pp. 1-23: a history of ethnomycology, along with a particularly interesting part about the pioneering days and persons involved (the Rekos, Schultes, Weitlaner, Johnson et al.) in the 1930-40s.

Luis Reyes G. - 'Una relacion sobre los hongos alucinantes' (1970) pp. 25-8: features comments and anecdotes from locals that Wasson gathered through the author who was a native of Anatlán.
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