© Uni Kaya

“Extensive accounts of psilocybin use in pre-Columbian history comes from the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica, namely in Mexico and Guatemala. After conquering these areas in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish forbade psychedelic mushroom use by indigenous peoples, regarding it as a savage and uncivilized cultural practice. Despite this, the indigenous shamans ignored Spanish law in secret for over 400 years to preserve their shared cultural heritage with these mushrooms.

“The first reliable account in the West of “intoxication” with psilocybin mushrooms came in 1799 when four children were accidentally fed Psilocybe semilanceata, a species of psychedelic mushroom.

“In 1971, psilocybin was listed in the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances [4] as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., making it illegal for all purposes. However, psilocybin mushrooms were not part of the UN convention, which, to this day, allows countries who have signed the convention (essentially a treaty) to regulate mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin as they see fit.

“Today, psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in most countries, although there are exceptions.”

Use of Magic Mushrooms Historically

Like other cognition-affecting plants, mushrooms have been used by humans for as long as humans have existed. The Third Wave’s article on the history of magic mushrooms is very informative, so we’ve gone ahead and condensed the most crucial parts of the article. 

“Archaeological evidence from the Sahara desert suggests that humans have been using psychedelic mushrooms for 7,000 years or more.[1] Mushrooms are represented in prehistoric art across many different geographic regions. In most cases, they’re thought to be religiously symbolic, often in the context of rights of passage ceremonies. If our ancestors did use mushrooms, such a powerful experience almost certainly would have influenced prehistoric culture, from art to religion to social values that regulated everyday life.

“Some have gone even further. Terence McKenna’s ‘Stoned Ape Hypothesis’ suggests that early humans or pre-human hominids ingested mushrooms, leading to evolutionary benefits including advancements in intelligence. It should be noted that the scientific community regards this hypothesis with skepticism because some of its assumptions lack convincing evidence.

© Jonathan Solter

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