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The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica Paperback – November, 1980

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Editorial Reviews


"City Lights can be congratulated on their re-issue of Wasson’s classic of cultural history and ethnomycology. Through his contact with Maria Sabina, the Mazatec mushroom curandera, Wasson brought about the cultural transfusion of an ancient entheogenic ritual into the modern world. In this beautiful and generously illustrated monograph, written with his customary scholarly acumen and literary elegance, Wasson established forever the central role of the visionary teonanácatl mushroom in the religion, art and culture of the Aztecs. A book filled with wondrous details about the meaning and significance of our relationship with these fabulous fungi." -- Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., Editor/Author of Sacred Mushroom of Visions

"Before Timothy Leary, Carlos Castaneda or Terrence McKenna tasted 'the flesh of the gods,' the mysterious R. Gordon Wasson turned 1950s America on to the wonders of the magic mushroom, beginning our long, strange trip into extraordinary states of consciousness." --Don Lattin, author of Distilled Spirits: Getting High, then Sober, with a Famous Writer, a Forgotten Philosopher and a Hopeless Drunk

"The great gift of Wasson's explorations & writings in The Wondrous Mushroom was their revelation for many of us of one of the deep sources of poetry as a visionary quest & spiritual resource. The central figure here was the Mazatec shaman María Sabina, whose poetic practice, rooted in ancient Mexican traditions, Wasson first brought to light, & with it an unprecedented insight, contemporary & historical, into the poetry & the traditions themselves. That City Lights Books, with its own history as a major poetic resource, should now restore this work for us is both totally appropriate & incredibly welcome."--Jerome Rothenberg, poet and author of Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin

"Inspired by his legendary mushroom experiences with Marina Sabina--described thoroughly herein--Gordon Wasson unfurls a rich, poetic, and seductive journey through ancient Central American mushroom lore. Like many fungal visionaries, Wasson tends to see the 'little children' popping up everywhere, but his exuberant mycophilic vision of Mexican civilization is bolstered with rich historical arcana and extraordinary images that seemingly tell more than the strict record will ever show."--Erik Davis, author of Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica

"R. Gordon Wasson’s The Wondrous Mushroom is at once the most accessible, comprehensive and factually grounded of his many excellent books on the history and cultural uses of psychoactive mushrooms. It focuses especially on so-called magic or sacred mushrooms that have been used in secret religious rites by indigenous peoples in Mexico and parts of Central America since ancient times. Anyone not yet familiar with the history and practice of these rites, which were 'discovered' and then widely publicized by Wasson and his wife Tina in the mid-1950s, will find reading this richly detailed account of their groundbreaking research both informative and an adventure. They’ll also find Wasson’s prose not only elegant and erudite but also clear and engaging, often striking a tone best described as conspiratorial. City Lights Books deserves praise for reviving this classic work of literary science for a new generation of sacred mushroom book seekers." --Thomas J. Riedlinger, Editor, The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: Essays for R. Gordon Wasson

"The fact that 'magic mushrooms' are now being shown to have great value in medicine and psychology owes much to the pioneering work of Gordon Wasson in Mexico over fifty years ago. The Wondrous Mushroom, long out of print, tells the fascinating story of Wasson's adventures taking the psychedelic mushroom himself and the many remarkable discoveries that followed. Now a whole new generation of readers will get to see why these mushrooms are considered not only magical but spiritual, and why many consider Wasson to be the father of ethnomycology."--Clark Heinrich, author of Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy

"From its groundbreaking, first-person depiction of mind-altering indigenous rituals to its intriguing exploration of the theme of ecstasy in ancient Mayan artwork, R. Gordon Wasson's The Wondrous Mushroom is an invaluable addition to the canon of psychedelic studies, lovingly brought back to life by City Lights Books."--Nicholas Schou, author of Orange Sunshine: How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World

"Author Gordon Wasson triggered the psychedelic revolution, and this reprint of his classic book is an in-depth study of shamanic realities, mushrooms, and traditions that can be traced back to pre-Conquest art, architecture, and culture."--Alexis Coe, SF Weekly

"His discoveries, certainly in Mesoamerica, are prescient and grounded and the republication of this book is necessary for a number of reasons. . . . it is a great book to have back on the scene and no doubt a vital starting place for anyone interested in magic mushrooms, Mesoamerican history, and the entheogenic analysis itself." -- Psychedelic Press
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Author Bio:
R. Gordon Wasson (1898–1986), former vice president of JP Morgan Trust, authored groundbreaking books and articles on sacred mushroom use, culture, and history.

Contributor Bio:
Daniel Pinchbeck is author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. He is an advocate for the conscious use of sacred plants and their role in well being. He is the editorial director of the Reality Sandwich web site and social network.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; Edition unstated edition (November 1980)
  • ISBN-10: 007068443X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070684430
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 6.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
_The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica_, No. 7 in the Ethnomycological Studies series, by newspaper reporter and banker turned ethnomycologist, R. Gordon Wasson, is a fascinating account of the hallucinogenic mushroom cult and its use among shamans in Mesoamerica. Wasson along with his wife Valentina Pavlovna had written their first account of hallucinogenic mushrooms in _Mushrooms, Russia and History_. Later, they extended their research to include the presence of the hallucinogenic mushroom cult among the Indo-European peoples in _SOMA: Divine Mushroom of Immortality_. The author refers to the hallucinogenic drugs he discusses as entheogens, a neologism coined to mean "God-within-us" referring to the quasi-religious experiences invoked by these substances. Wasson's writings focus on the mushroom cult as well as revealing its role in the origins of primitive religious practice and among shamans. Nevertheless, Wasson was opposed to the crass usage of the mushroom by pleasure and thrill seekers as well as hippies. He expresses his disgust at the "hippies, self-styled psychiatrists, oddballs, even tour leaders with their docile flocks . . . upsetting and abusing the quiet tenor of life in what had been, superficially at least, an idyllic Indian village". For Wasson, the mushroom was a sacred substance and therefore merited treatment with the highest respect. The regions discussed in this book begin at Nicaragua and run north and west to a wavy line that runs across Mexico just north of Mexico City.

The author begins by discussing his encounter with the mushrooms at a velada (a shamanic mushroom ceremony) in Huautla, Mexico. At this velada the author encounters Maria Sabina, a mushroom seeress who administers the mushrooms and undergoes a transformative rite.
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Format: Paperback
"The Wondrous Mushroom" has been selected for listing in "Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments: An Entheogen Chrestomathy." [...]
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