History of Magic Mushrooms

The Stoned Ape Theory

A controversial theory propagated by the author and psychonaut Terrence Mackenna, aptly named the “Stoned Ape Theory” suggests that the use of magic mushrooms thousands of years ago aided in the speedy advancement of human evolution and reproduction. The psychoactive properties of the fungi are said to increase acuity resulting in hunting prowess while its aphrodisiac effects helped facilitate the growth of human population.

The Effects of Magic Mushrooms

There are over two hundred species of magic mushrooms in the world. These mushrooms contain psilocybin and psilocin, which give the fungi psychedelic effects that are comparable with those of LSD. These substances are given the name “recreational drugs” because they induce a sense of euphoria and relaxation in the users. Spiritual awakenings and out of body experiences are also credited to the use of magic mushrooms.

Magic Mushrooms in the Prehistoric Times

The history of magic mushrooms is almost as old as human civilization itself. We cannot tell when humans first discovered the uses and effects of magic mushrooms, but there is evidence that supports its use during the prehistoric age.

Rock paintings in Spain, dated to be from 6000 years ago, indicate the use of a species of magic mushroom, the Psilocybe Hispanica, for religious rites while another set of stone paintings found in North Africa imply that Saharan aboriginal tribes explored the benefits of magic mushrooms as early as 9000 B.C. Still, it is highly possible that humans were already consuming these psychedelic fungi long before the evidence suggest.

Historians found interesting ancient rock carvings deep in the mountain ranges of Algeria. The carvings depict figures drifting away from their physical bodies; others show masked individuals with mushrooms sprouting from their limbs. These reliefs, dated somewhere in between 4000 – 7000 B.C, are considered as one of the earliest proofs of psilocybin use.

Magic Mushrooms in Central America

In Central America, ancient artworks from the Aztec, Miztec, and Mayan civilizations exhibit that these cultures have been using magic mushrooms for religious rituals, mainly to connect and communicate with their deities. However, when European colonizers started invading the Central Americas, they banned the use of psilocybin mushrooms. They further associated the effects of ingesting the mushrooms with devil worship and made drastic moves to convert the natives to Christianity.

Magic Mushrooms in the West

It took a while for the West to learn about the influence of magic mushrooms. It was Robert Gordon Wasson who contributed much to the introduction and publication of mushroom use during the late 1950s. Afterward came a surge of interest in magic mushrooms and its mind-altering properties.

The Harvard Psilocybin Project

In the 1960s, Harvard professors Dr. Leary and Dr. Alpert conducted a study in the applications of psilocybin mushrooms after experiencing its influence in Mexico. They administered psilocybin mushrooms in prison to see if it can reduce re-offense, and gave mushrooms to divinity students to test its spiritual effects. Although both experiments yielded promising results, Harvard shut the project down and later on, in 1968, the U.S declared a federal ban on psilocybin.

Magic Mushrooms and the Hippie Culture

Despite the ban and the classification of magic mushrooms as a Schedule 1 drug, the 1970s saw the popularity of using magic mushrooms spread like wildfire. Teenagers and adults alike realized there was a new way of getting high with lesser risks than purchasing LSD from dealers on the streets and shady avenues. Although the fungi were illegal, authorities had a hard time telling psilocybin mushrooms and common mushrooms apart.

Magic Mushrooms and the Law

Due to the United States’ influence in the United Nations, the international body followed suit and outlawed psilocybin in 1971. The UN required all its members to declare the substance illegal and any offense related to its possession and use is deemed punishable by law.

Both the U.S and Canada prohibit the possession of dried shrooms although fresh ones are allowed. In the U.S, psilocybin is a schedule 1 drug while it is considered as a Schedule 3 substance in Canada.

Magic Mushrooms in the Modern Times

The legal implications that surrounded the use of magic mushroom decreased its popularity in the 1980s and the succeeding years. However, people nowadays have developed a sense of awareness and open-mindedness regarding the matter that resulted in a resurgence in the use, effects, and benefits of shrooms.

The history of magic mushrooms is long and winding — from the deserts of the Sahara to new age research facilities. They were once venerated, and then vilified, and then condemned.  It is safe to say, though, that we are making progress. As medical scientists take more interest in the therapeutic capabilities of the fungi and promote its benefits to mental health, the stigma associated with magic mushrooms starts to lift.