Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy
Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index
The Apples of Apollo:
Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist
Ruck, Carl A. P.; Staples, Blaise Daniel, and Heinrich, Clark. (2001)
Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press.
Description: Paperback, xiv + 272 pages.
Contents: List of Illustration, Foreword, Acknowledgments, 6 chapters, references, index.
Chapter 1: Bacchus Amongst Us
by Carl A. P. Ruck
But how? In Nysa, Dionysos discovered a magical plant that would allow him to escape. It was the vine: a plant, that left to its own divides, would grow like a useless weed, twining its shoots over all the land, and never fruiting. For the vine fruits only on new growth, and the civilized arts of cultivation must intervene, pruning back the sterile greenery, to wrench it away from its natural wildness and force it to fruit with its luscious clusters of grapes. In Nysa, all the plants are toxic by themselves in their natural state, dangerous and poisonous, the food of primitive beings; but the grape has something to offer. Not a natural intoxicant, but a cultivated and sophisticated one. From its fruit is manufactured the magical drink called wine.
With the secret of this plant, and its inestimable message of reconciliation between wild with the cultivated, Dionysos came back to this world, a journey beset with all the dangers travelers or shamans are apt to encounter as they cross the frontier between realms, especially the ultimate one that divides the two halves of one's identity. (page 6)
... Greek wine was a sacred potion, like the god himself, bridging the frontier between cultured and natural toxins. The manufactured product of the vinter's art was only half of his identity; the other was the green world of Nysa. Wine was fortified with herbal additives, a custon still followed today in Greece with, what is only the best known example, the resin added to retsina. These additives were not only modifications of the flavor, but also of the wine's toxicity. In addition to detrermining the number of draughts, the host chose the mix with which he would challenge his guests. Wines that needed eight-fold dilution were still drunk in the Roman era, a wine that back in Homeric times had required twenty parts of water, a truly heroic drink. (pages 7 - 8)
But Dionysos belonged also to the woman of the sisterhood who had tended him back in Nysa, and to the creatures of the wildness, who were the other half of his drink. For this the ceremony reverted to the female citizenry, the ordinarily subjugated mothers and daughters. Although usually confined within the inner chambers of the house and denied access to the outside world, they left the city and convened on the mountainside, the nearest holy place called Nysa, in the winter when gardens die; and joined in the old tripartite division of maiden, mother, and crone, to celebrate the god in his pre-viticultural manifestations with country revelry. They were called maenads, wild women, cognate with "maniac" in English; or bacchants, after the god's other name as Bacchus ... . (page 8)
... The rite was a reversion to the primitive world. They hunted with their bare hands, presumably for herbs, since they had no experiences as hunters - but animate plants or entheogens, as is the appropriate term ... . Euripides described their drink as oozing upwards from the ground, a natural wine, not the manufactured sophisticated ferment, but something like water, or milk, or honey, hearlded by the bellowing of bulls, for the women's ecstasy makes them low like cows in estrual heat. This is not only to be expected in a place called Nysa: for nyssein means "prick" of "goad," like the stinging oistros of the insect that pursued cow maiden Io, and that gives its name to the oestrus; a place of narcosis, as well, for nystazo in both ancient and modern Greek means to "get drowsy." This enthnobotanical complex of metaphors suggests a fungal avatar, a wild sacred mushroom, as the primordial herb, equivalent in symbolism to the ivy, which is transmuted into the cultivable fungal yeast; and also the assimilation of that entheogen with the narcotic poppy of the pre-Greek cult; but now not so much a narcotic, but something that could induce the extraordinary feats of strength also reported of the maenads. (pages 8 - 9)
Theater of Dionysos
Th sacrificial meal was always an occasion for music and dance, as well. But the greatest of the god's achievements was the Theater, by its very name, a place for seeing something sacred. From origins that go back to displays of ecstatic shamanic possession at the tombs of heroic persons - with the spirit of the deceased overtaking the priest and speaking through him to tell his myth, his story, the drama as a ritual moved in the sixth century from the countryside into the very center of the city, eventually accorded space on the south slope of the Acropolis, below the monuments that were being constructed above it throughout the Classical Age. (page 12)
... Eventually the Theater area, which earlier had been something impromptu in the marketplace, was established in the prime location of its present ruins. This was the space according to the Drug Lord, so stated to demonstrate the more appropriate neologism of entheogen, the sacred and animate plant of the god's identity.
The nature of the Theater experience was one of mass spiritual possession with a positive or beneficial outcome. What might in more destructive circumstances have been a ghostly visitation was transmuted into a communal feeling of oneness with their shared cultural identity and the spirits who were the city's allies from the netherworld. When the actors donned their masks, they were overcome by the persona each was meant to impersonate, as if there were a magnet in the other world to which they were being drawn. ... It was as though everyone were just an iron filing, aligned with the spiritual attraction from the other realm, delineating a total field of force, with each attuned to the ghostly possession.
Since such was the meaning repeatedly given to the entheogenic experience of the god, it was inevitable that he who had shown his willingness top die as prelude to resurrection would also lead us all along the pathways he had established. So death itself was the final optimistic encounter with the god, the lethal potion, an orgasmic cosmic embrace. ...
Rather than leaving the drink meaningless, or of giving it the counter-cultural meaning of a criminal act, wine was a sacrament. Essential to the theme of the Mysteries we are pursuing in the ensuing essays is this central role of psychoactive herbalism in the religious and cultural life of pagan antiquity and its assimilation into Christian traditions. (pages 13 - 14)
Chapter 2: Mistletoe, Centaurs, and Datura
The flower which Cook instructs us to disregard (although he claims to see two of them, apparently adding one to the missing part of the mirror), and that the Wassons and Graves identified as a mushroom, is clearly not mistletoe. Ixion, however, is named for that sacred plant or entheogen of the ancient Druids: ixos, in Greek (and also ixia), or more exactly (w)ixos, before the loss of its initial consonant. ... To trace it back to its ultimate origin, the mistel is derived from Sanskrit mehati ("he urinates") ... .
Not only royal, but poisonous too, is this sacred twig called urine branch, although the nature of its toxins deserves consideration: beta-phenylethalamine and tryamine, the latter found in ergot and certain psychotropic toads and cephalopods, like the stinging squid.
As for the former, beta-phenylethylamine and similar amine toxins, it occurs in several psychotropically active plants, such as nutmeg and certain cacti associated with peyotl.
The ingestion of mistletoe can slow the pulse, but only in severe cases will it cause lethal failure of the cardivascular system. As to whether the symptons include visionary experience, the reports are mixed. The mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant inasmuch as it does photosynthesize, but it extracts and sequesters fluid and chemicals from its host. Hence, mistletoe grown on different hosts will contain differing elements, which in certain instances are visionary (beyond the two already mentioned). In view of its name, it deserves consideration as to whether the toxins persist or are modified in the metrabolite in urine, or whether the mistletoe perpetuates this aspect of the fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria, the mushroom that was the original Indo-European entheogen) only by symbolic association. It shares with the mushroom the tradition that they are both planted by the celestial lightening bolt; and its branches glowing a simiular golden color in the winter when the fly-agaric is not fruiting would make a suitable symbolic surrogate. The toxins in fly-agaric, moreover, are difficult to access without ethnopharmaceutical knowledge and vary with maturity of the specimen and manner of preparation, the urinous metabolite avoiding many of the unpleasant and frightening side effects; possibly, mistletoe played a role in activating the desired experience of fly-agaric.
Although mistletoe grows commonly on various trees, such as apple, poplar, and willow, it was only the much rarer form found on the oak that the Druids considered sacred (probably Quercus Aegilops and Quercus Ilex, the trees that the Greeks called drys and are mycorrhizal hosts as well to fly-agraric); and it was from the oak that the priests derived their name. Clad in white, they climbed the tree and harvested the mistletoe with a golden sickle, while others below received it in a white cloak, never allowing it to touch the ground. It was present in all their religious rituals, and they did eat it, sometimes making a potion from it. They were experienced herbalists, and may have had procedures for extracting the desired chemicals. ... (pages 18 - 20)
Although Ixion is the mistletoe victim, as the ancestor of the centaurs be became associated with other toxic plants or entheogens, especially those involved with Apollo, who is the god in Greek ritual who still demanded human victims, although in Classical times the sacrifice was often merely symbolic. ...
One such plant is what the Greeks called "horsemad" or hippomanes, which is Datura stramonium. This is the most likely candidate for the flower on the Etruscan mirror's depiction of Ixon's torment.
To identify the flower as a mushroom, as did Graves and Wasson, it is argued that it is depicted in cross-section; but the base of the flower is clearly not typical of a fungus, tapering as it does to a stem. It looks very much like the calyx of a trumpet-shaped blossom such as Datura, whose visionary properties were noted by Dioscorides as being "not unpleasant." (pages 24 - 25)
Chapter 3: Perseus, the Mushroom Picker
Perseus was the first of the Greek heroes. He appeared at the time when the Greek-speaking Indo-Europeans were just beginning to arrive from a place they remembered as the Hyperborean homeland and were merging their own traditions and religion with that of the peoples who were already in residence in the Greek lands. The integration of the two different cultures can be seen in the ethnobotany of their shamanism, in which the shaman and the deity both are consubstantial with the sacred plant or entheogen. We shall demonstrate that the Gorgon Medusa and Perseus (and related figures such as Chrysaor, Perasos, Iamos, Ion, Io, Orion, and Ouranos) display symbolic characteristics descriptive of the fly-agaric mushroom or Amanita muscaria. These include the spectrum of color, as well as common metaphors describing the Soma plant as golden apples, an eye, a multiplicity of eyes, golden water, honey, lightning bolts, golden urine, golden semen, golden rain, golden snow, estrual cows, bellowing bulls, golden hides, pelts, phallus, vulva, wings, etc. Far from being marginal to Classical culture, here with the first of the heroes we see a central involvement of a mushroom as an enthnobotanical sacrament in mythical traditions. So also in the major pre-Christian Mystery. The fly-agaric had a role in the Eleusinian religion of the two goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, but for reasons that we shall discuss, probably not as the secret potion that was drunk each year by the hundreds of initiates. Nor finally does it seem possible that the fly-agaric was unknown to the general public; we shall demonstrate that the audience of Aristophanes' comedy Clouds could be expected to recognize the playwright's parody of the Sophists (or philosophers) as ethnobotanical shamans. ... (pages 41 - 42)
Incidental to the myth of the Greek hero Perseus is the detail that he was said to have picked a mushroom on the site of the city of Mycenae to quench his thirst. Alternately the plucking of the fungus can also be seen as the culmination of his career, or at least as equal in importance to the better known episode in which he decapitates the Gorgon queen Medusa ... An artist from the fourth century BC, however, knew that the two stories, the plucking and the decapitation, were one and the same. Perseus is shown harvesting the head of Medusa with a pruning hook or sickle (harpe), which is his traditional implement in all depictions of the event; but the episode takes place in the Garden of the Hesperid sisters, and the decapitated head, which he holds in his hand, is equated to the Golden Apples of the tree - and with a pair of mushrooms.
Nor should there be any doubt that the mushrooms in question are no ordinary mushrooms, but are psychoactive or an entheogen. (pages 42 - 43)
So we come full circle, back to the Cosmic Tree beneath which Perseus slew Medusa, harvested mushrooms, and picked apples. We know why mushrooms are associated with pine, birch, and oak, but now the olive tree has been thrown into the mix. As far as we know, Amanita muscaria doesn't grow beneath olive trees. And what on earth do apples, golden or otherwise, have to do with these four trees?
When apples are ripe, the reddest, ripest ones drop to the ground. If one were to approach a forest of pine at the right time of the year, one might see beneath some of the trees what also look like fallen apples on the ground. But one would be mistaken. In its early stage of growth, just after splitting open its own veil-enclosed "egg" and popping its head into the open air, the Amanita muscaria resembles a round, red fruit. The stipe, or stalk, is usually hidden at this stage. The fruits - for mushroom is a fruit - appear to be lying on the ground. At the appropriate time, this same scene can be found beneath all the mushroom's other host trees as well.
Returning to the same forest a week or so later, one would find a different landscape. There would still be red "apples" lying about, only new ones; the former apples will have changed color and shape. If there had been a lot of rain in the intervening days, the older mushrooms would be soggy, discolored, and rotting. But if it had been clear and warm, these same mushrooms would have turned a beautiful and metallic golden-orange, the warmer and winder the weather, the more golden and metallic the mushroom. This is the optimum time to harvest. Careful drying produces the same effect.
So, figuratively speaking, all the host trees of Amanita muscaria produce "apples" that later turn to gold. Apples and golden apples have long been code names for the mushroom wherever both the mushroom and apples are known, even to the present day. Now we can see why it was that Perseus harvested not only the Medusa's head and entheogenic mushrooms from beneath the tree of the Hesperides, but golden apples as well: more will be said below about Medusa's correspondence to Amanita muscaria. (pages 49 - 50)
The god plant Soma, from which the Soma drink was pressed, was called the sharp-horned bull, the dappled bull, the dappled cow, the bull or stallion bursting with seed. It was called many other names as well, but these animal epithets were frequently invoked. These are all animals that were used, along with their hides, in daily life of the Aryans, to be sure, but why would they be associated with Soma?
When the fly-agaric bursts its way through the ground, it does so with the aid of its universal veil. The white material of this is what surrounds the embryonic mushroom when it forms beneath the ground. The portion of the veil that covers the nascent cap is separate from it, even though it adheres firmly. Over the cap, the veil thickens and forms specialized, pointed segments which cover the cap contiguously. As the mushroom expands beneath the ground, these pointed cells insinuate themselves between cracks in the soil. As this expansion continues, the segments split apart, helping to break the soil open so that the mushroom can emerge. Because of this, Soma was called the bull who breaks up the earth with his shining "horns." To the Greeks, these same "horns" were also the sharp boar's "teeth" of the Medusa.
Soma was also called the heavenly udder from which the divine drink is milked. The large, rounded red caps speckled with white veil fragments resemble breasts, or udders, spattered with milk. Once harvested and dried, these "breasts" change color, flatten, and shrivel: but when they are put in water, they swell up again, at which time they are "milked" by the pressing stones. Io, the dappled cow of changing colors, fits this imagery perfectly (in addition to the fact that she was pursued by Zeus in the form of a "bull").
The bull or stallion bursting with seed is a reference to the phalloid stage of the mushroom's growth, before the cap begins to pull away from the stipe in its expansion, as described above. Rather than the breast or udder splattered with milk, at this earlier stage it is a glans penis splattered with semen. (For Judeo-Christians, a more apt metaphor would be a lamb, since the white fragments also look like a pure white wool; but a bloody lamb.) Its size is much more suggestive of the member of a bull or horse - or a god - than a human.
When harvested and dried, the caps from these metaphoric animals become - what else? - metaphoric hides. Coincidentally, they even bear a resemblance to hides. The caps are leathery and supple and look like the hides of small round animals. So we have Orion, himself born from hides, as a hunter of intoxicating hides, with a wife who has the red "hide" of a pomegranate. In the Soma sacrifice, before the "hides" of the bull Soma were immersed in water and pressed, they were first displayed on the hide of a bull - a red bull. (pages 77 - 78)
With regard to the sound the Gorgons emitted; apart from the hissing of their serpents, it is generally agreed that the Gorgons mooed; the lowing of cattle of cattle was their sound. This mooing coincided with the shamanism that accomplished the refounding of several towns. ... [Thebes, Mukalessos, Mukale, Mukenai (Mycenae].
For mooing is an onomatopoetic word in Greek, mukema, imitating the sound it represents, used also for the bellowing of bulls, the rumbling of thunder, the roar of earthquakes, and the rushing of subterranean winds. In Aristophanes' Clouds, the chorus of clouds enters as a bee swarm, heralding their approach with the "mooing of thunder."
And it can pun with mukes, the word for mushroom (as "mushroom" in English). ... [I]t is cognate with Mystery (Greek musterion). Muops in Greek can mean with "squinting eye," as in myopic; the word, however, also means the "cow goad" and the "gadfly:" and hence it is a version of the oistros, implying, moreover, "closed eyes" or the trance state. [Could this be the origin of Socrates referring to himself as a "gadfly"?]
In the chamber beneath Mycenae, "the stony ground roared with mushrooms" when Perseus confronted the mooing sisterhood. And no doubt, the thunder roared, the winds rushed, and the earth quaked to allow passage for the sudden bright emergence of the subterranean entheogen. ... (pages 79 - 80)
Chapter 4: Jason, the Drug Man
The magical item that is the object of the hero's quest in Greek mythology is always the sacred entheogen. In the case of Jason, the Golden Fleece was ultimately Amanita muscaria. In such a quest, the hero is a shaman whose identity, as we have seen, becomes consubstantial with the drug of his shamanism so that many of his characteristics have ethnobotanical referents and some of the events are not only his experience, but that of the entheogen itself, that is his analogue. Hence, Jason was trained as a shaman and displayed symbolic features such as his single, muddy foot, his non-birth, and his name as a drug man. Amongst those who sailed with him on the quest were the Dioskouroi and their cousins, the Moliones, whose identities also are ethnobotanical, as Pillar, St. Elmo's Fire, Cap, Lotus, and hermaphroditic Sphere. Similarly, the Fleece has metaphoric characteristics of the quested entheogen, such as the Golden Apple, the fleecy Hide, the Shield, the tiny Man, the Egg, the Serpent, the horned Bull, the Bird, and the Ball of Eros. To initiate him for his heroic ordeal of consubstantiality, Medea anoints him with the herb of Prometheus, whose theft of Fire was ultimately that of Vision and the sacred plant. The theme of the Fleece persisted in alchemical occult knowledge, becoming ostensibly the parchment on which was written the secret formula of chrysopoeia, although it, too, recalls the ethnobotanical original. (page 87)
School for Shamans
Jason is the Latin name for the leader of the band of heros known as the Argonauts in Greek myth who sailed in the ship Argo on the famous expedition to the eastern shore of the Black Sea to fetch back the Golden Fleece; in his own language, Jason's name was written as Iason. This was not his original name. His parents had called him Diomedes, a good name meaning that he was a lord in the tradition of the god Zeus. But to protect the child from his enemies when he was born, his mother had pretended that he had died, and she sent him secretly up onto Mount Pelion, above the town of Iolchos in Thessaly, to be raised by the Centaur Cheiron. It was he who named him Iason, which means "drug man" or doctor, because he taught the child all he knew about botanical pharmacology. (pages 89 - 90)
As should be apparent by now, the Golden Fleece of the ram named "Golden Apple," guarded as it was by the dangerous serpent, is identical to the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, guarded by the snake-haired Gorgon sisters, and all - the fleece, apples, and serpents - represent the fly-agaric mushroom. In the story of Talos, above, it was mentioned that carefully-dried fly-agaric caps turn a metallic golden-orange color. This is the reason both the magic fleece and the magic apples are called "golden." What may be less apparent is why the mushroom should be compared to a fleece, or an apple, golden or otherwise.
In its ovoid embryonic stage, the fly-agaric is completely covered by a pure white membrane called the universal veil. The portion of the veil that covers the nascent cap is comprised of contiguous pointed segments, the purpose of which is to protect the cap and, by insinuating these "horns" into tiny cracks in the covering soil, aid the mushroom in breaking through to the air. As the mushroom cap grows and expands, the segments separate and are spread apart, giving the opened red cap its characteristic white-spotted appearance. Looked at closely, these veil fragments, sometimes up to a quarter-inch high and wide, resemble white wool, especially to those of a pastoral society. The blood-red "skin" of the cap heightens the illusion.
When harvested, the cap of the mushroom is usually severed from the stalk to prevent infestation from fly larvae often found there. These larvae, unless stopped, burrow up the inside of the stipe and spread through the gill structure beneath the cap, devouring it. The separated cap is then dried, both to prevent infestation and rot and to make the mushroom a more potent entheogen, for drying converts ibotenic acid to the much more effective muscimol.
Several other changes occur as well. As the cap dries, it deflates, shrinks in overall size, and wrinkles; as mentioned, it also turns a beautiful golden color with a metallic sheen, or a tawny orange if handled carelessly. Caps will always re-absorb a little moisture from the air after drying, giving them a suppleness and feel similar to cured animal hides, which they now also resemble: they look and feel like the hides of tiny animals. If you ever have seen such "hides," the "Golden Fleece" and the "little fleece of Zeus" epithets suddenly come into focus.
The fly-agaric is a mycorrhizal fungus; that is, its mycelium will only grow in association with the rootlets of certain trees. Because of this, the fruiting bodies of Amanita muscaria mycelia, the red and white mushrooms themselves, will always pop their round white-spotted heads into view beneath the canopy of their host, giving the impression that they are ripe fruit that has fallen from the tree. Because they are round and red and the proper size, they are likened to apples by anyone familiar with that fruit. And again, because they turn golden as they dry, they therefore become golden apples.
Golden Fleece and Golden Apples: only, and always, found in certain special "gardens," on certain special trees. And just as with the Garden of Eden and its special tree, always guarded by a white-toothed serpent. (pages 118 - 119)
The Theft of Fire
Prometheus was the first of the new age shamans to open the pathways of communication between what are now the two metaphysical realms. Without him, the celestial and chthonic worlds would have stood apart. ... From the juice-like ichor that falls from Prometheus would sprang the entheogen that is consubstantial with him in his torment. Prometheus's family suggests that they, too, were shamans. ...Before the theft, Prometheus, like Ixion, had been honored to dine with the Olympians on ambrosia and nectar. And it went under the name of "Fire," this thing that he stole. But "fire" was both the lighteningbolt and the fiery core of the volcano. ...
As we have seen, Prometheus is the antipode of his brother Atlas, who is the father of the Hesperides, and the tender of the Garden of the Golden Apples, which some knew had been "Golden Cattle" before they metamorphosed into "Apples," in which case Atlas was their herdsman instead. ...
Prometheus hid the stolen "Fire" in a narthex, the stalk of the giant fennel (Ferula communis). He is shown in vase paintings with the fire burning at the tip of the long hollow columnar reed, a simulacrum of the Axis. Such stalks were used by herb gatherers as containers for the plucked plants; and the narthex is interchangeable with the thyros as the emblem of the ecstatic devotees of the god Dionysos, and an indication of the symbolism involved in their mountain revels. Not surprisingly, several books on medical herbalism were entitled Narthex. The nar-thex is, in fact, etymologically the "narcotic container." The fire at the tip of the narthex, moreover, describes the fly-agaric, with the red narcotic cap atop the stipe; in fact, the stipe of a mushroom was commonly called its thyros. (pages 131 - 134)
Angi and the Firebird
Agni is the Vedic god of fire; his name, in fact, means fire. Latin ignis, "fire," and English ignite and ignition are cognate with Sanskrit agni. In many Vedic hymns and other Hindu stories, Agni is also identified with Soma, the wondrous elixir pressed from dried and rehydrated Amanita muscaria: the two names are often interchanged in the same story. This is because of the fiery nature of the the divine mushroom; not only does the bright red-orange cap shine like a glowing coal (with the veil fragments on the cap resembling white ash), but when eaten it has a slightly hot taste and often causes the eater to sweat profusely. When in the throes of such intense perspiration, it is easy, in fact almost logical, to think that one has swallowed a form of fire.
This confusion of names is exemplified in the Vedas by the combined form Agni-Somau, which literally means "fire-juice," for Soma itself means "the pressed one," and that which is expressed as its fiery juice. Just as Soma was simultaneously fire and water, Agni was thought to have been born from the waters, for he is also the heavenly fire, lightning, that falls from the rain clouds and sets the earth ablaze with terrestrial fire. We should note in this regard the many myths world-wide which equate lightning strikes with the birth of mushrooms, most notably Amanita muscaria. This is the reason Agni was thought to have carried Soma from heaven to earth. In personified form he is said to have carried Soma in a hollow reed, the same "narcotics container" used by Prometheus when he stole fire from heaven. In Vedic myth, however, it is not fire that is stolen from heaven, but the fiery mushroom elixir! (page 135)
Chapter 5: Jesus, the Drug Man
Christianity evolved within the context of Judaic and Hellenistic healing cults, magic, shamanism, and Mystery initiations. All four of these inevitably imply a sacred ethnopharmacology, with traditions going back to earlier ages of the ancient world. As a contemporary of Jesus, and similarly deified, the shaman Apollonios of Tyana aroused the ire of those who chronicled the origins of the Church Triumphant, as did also the various Christian cults they deemed heretical. Apollonios journeyed to the Brahmans of India and was baptized with the Soma sacrament of the Vedic religion. Although probably not the first to do so, he brought this knowledge back to the "Naked Sages" of Egypt and the Mediterranean lands. It was from the healing and baptismal cults of Judaea and Egypt, such as the Therapeutai and the Essenes, that Christianity arose, perpetuating ethnobotanical sacraments that go back to Moses and the magical food called manna. (page 143)
The Jesus from Nazareth
In the Hellenized world, the Jews tended to replace their Hebrew names with Greek names that sounded similar. Hence many an assimilated Jesus was called Iason, like the Jason of Classical mythology, perhaps to avoid the approbrium of belonging to the people who had crucified the Nazarene, but even Christians adopted this manner, inscribing their name on the walls of the catacombs. (page 145)
... In Greek, this Iao is the root for the "drug" (ios) of the "drug man" or doctor (ia-tros) who performs the act of "healing" (iasis). As a healer, Iesous was the "savior" of his namesake Iesoue (Joshua): easily recognized as a male version of Iaso (or Ieso), the Greek goddess of healing. All the gospels use the verb "to heal" (ia-sthai) of Jesus' ministry; and he refers to himself quite ofter as a "drug man."
Hence, the Nazarene was Lord and Savior, Iao's agent in healing. The iao-root, moveover, fortuitously reinforces the assimilation of Iesous to the name of the mythical hero Iason (Jason), for Jason was so named for the ceremonial chrismation or anointing that made him a shaman. In the Hebrew tradition, Messiah is the name for the "anointed," who in Greek is called Christos. It is as the Christ that Lord Jesus Savior can lay claim to the fulfillment of the prophesies, announcing the return of Iao. The ritual of chrismation had become a validation for the authority of kings and prophets; but the unguent of annointment originally conferred its power through the entheogen that made the recipients consubstantial with the sacred plant of their shamanism, for both kings and prophets were divinely inspired. They were a manifestation of the presence of god among us, which is the name Emmanuel." (pages 146-148)
[footnote] 18. ... Chrismation was also a mode of administering healing balms. In the Old Testament, chrismation involves pouring the anointing oil over the head, which functions to purify (obviously in a spiritual sense, not to cleanse physically) and to confer power, strength, or majesty. Its most common occurrence is the coronation of kings, which sometimes is accomplished by Yahweh, himself; but priests and prophet-shamans are also anointed, as also are objects to set them aside from profane use. In Exodus 30,23 sq., Yahweh specifies the ingredients for the chrism, making clear that such unguents contained herbal additives to the oil: Cannabis sativa (kaneh bosm, usually translated "aromatic cane") is combined with perfuming spices (cinnamon, cassia, and myrrh) in oil. ...
The psychoactivity of the "spices" in the anointing oil, in addition to the Cannabis, deserves attention. Cinnamon and cassia are mild to moderate stimulants. Myrrh is reputed to have medical properties. ...
The first solid evidence of the Hebrew use of cannabis was established in 1936 by Sula Menet (Benetowa), a little known Polish etymologist from the Institute of Anthropological Sciences, Warsaw. Cannabis, usually thought to be of Scythian origin, has a much earlier occurrence in Semitic languages and appears several times through out the Old Testament. The word in question is kaneh bosm, which in traditional Hebrew is kannabos or kannabus. Kan means "reed" or "hemp"; and bosm, means "aromatic." It is now translated as "calamus," the mistranslation starting as early as the Septuagint. Kaneh bosm occurs also in Song of Songs 4.14, where it grows in an orchard of exotic fruits, herbs, and spices: on the Song of Songs as an ethnobotanical encomium of the entheogen. It occurs also in Isiah 43,24 where Yahweh lists amongst the slights received in sacrifice, the insufficient offerings of kaneh bosm; and Jeremiah 6,20, where Yahweh, displeased with his people, rejects such an offering; and Ezekiel 27.19, where it occurs in a catalogue of the luxurious items in the import trade of Tyre. Benet concludes that these references confirm that hemp was used by the Hebrews as incense and intoxicant. This conclusion has since been affirmed by other scholars. It is ironic that calamus "sweet flag," the substitute for the alleged cannabis, is itself a known hallucinogen for which TMA-2 is derived. (pages 147 - 149)
On first glance, it may appear to be only a strange coincidence that the Brahmans of India would have an anointing rite that closely resembles those of the early Greeks, Jews and, later, Christians; that there may be a causal link between all of them only comes into focus when scrutinized under the lens of ethnobotany. Amanita muscaria, the fly-agaric, is a mushroom of unusual effects and potency. Though usually consumed in its dried state, either alone of compounded with admixtures of milk, honey, berry juice or water, the dried mushroom can also be ground, with oil, into a paste of varying density and fluidity. The resultant mix can either be strained of its solids or left intact; either way its color will be reddish-gold, or amber, as was the ointment of the fiery bath of the Brachmanes. Drugs compounded with oil and rubbed into the skin are absorbed into the skin along with the oil, where the drug readily enters the bloodstream via the capillaries. The thinner the skin at the point of application, the more quickly and easily the drug will be absorbed. The human skin hangs, as it were, from the skull, where it is pulled taut and thin by its own weight, making it a prime site for anointing."
... If enough of the drug enters the bloodstream, one is indeed initiated into a Mystery, one in which sensations of rising above the ground or even flying are not uncommon. The statement that the earth "billowed like the sea" refers to the liminal onset of the entheogenic experience, with auditory hallucinations, when all forms of matter appear to dissolve into waves of pure energy.
(pages 153 - 154)
Eusebios [compiled] his history of the Christian church for the Emperor Constantine, with only Philo's essay as his source ... But Eusebios was heir to what Christianity had become, after the heretical in-fighting of its earliest years. It was a purified religion now, that had expunged what was unacceptable to the ruling powers of the Roman world, and had reserved certain rites, kept secret, for an elite. Paul, who is largely the creator of this religion, had soon divorced his branch of Christ's disciples from any somatic involvement, at least publicly, in the spiritual rapture. In Corinth, no more than forty miles down the coast from the great Eleusinian sanctuary, in language that no one in his audience could have misunderstood, Paul declared the new Mystery, the Second Coming, which in those days was expected as imminent - even using the Platonic metaphor of the mirror; finally to see the Vision face to face instead of through a glass darkly. Flesh would put on immortality (athanasia), appropriating for the new cult even the entheogen of the ancient Gnostic visionary philosophies, the pharmakon tes athanasias or "drug of immortality." Paul even speaks defiantly of "drinking down the draught of Death and finding that it has lost its goad," the sting, which for the Greek hearer would be the old metaphor of the Bacchic estrual madness. (pages 162 - 163)
The Burning Bush
Moses was a magician; of this much we can be certain. Whatever of the occult arts he may have learned from the priest-magicians of Egypt, as a young man under the protective wing of Pharaoh's daughter, he took with him to the wilds of Midian, when he fled for his life after killing an Egyptian. ... (page 163)
... He was raised from early manhood in Pharaoh's household, and as such would have been exposed to the traditions of Egyptian magic and religion. He fled to the wilderness, according to the paradigm of the shamanic initiation and enlightenment. We are told he herded sheep on the Mountain of God, where he met a fiery, talking god-plant that empowered him with divinity: fly-agaric mushrooms are found in that region in the sparsely forested mountains, and only for a period of two or three months following the rains. This is where and when sheep are grazed in an arid land. ... The mysterious plant, never before seen by Moses, appears to be aflame: fly-agarics resemble burning coals flecked with white ash. Moses hears the plant calling his name: aural hallucinations are not uncommon experiences of entheogenic intoxication. That the plant says "I am" is given as a sign of authenticity: a true entheogen awakens the "I am" of God within the initiate. As proof of his new empowerment, his stall is transformed into a serpent ... .... The serpent is emblematic of the shaman's essential journey to the underworld, the hole its entrance. The second sign is the white "leprous patches" on Moses' breast, for he and the entheogen are now consubstantial. According to the narrative, the "snake's scales" have been magically transferred to Moses. These patches, the veil remnants, are sticky and readily adhere to the picker's hand, but are easily wiped off. Then he turns the water red: placing
fly-agarics, especially dried specimens, in water turns water diffuse red, as if it were mixed with blood. By these signs an initiate would know the right mushroom had been found. Moses thereby is endowed with superhuman courage and confidence. These are well documented symptoms of fly-agaric intoxication, along with physical strength and endurance.
That night, the plant attempts to sacrifice Moses: fly agaric is capable of producing a violent illness in the initiate that can easily be interpreted as ecstatic death. ... Fly-agaric sickness is not unto death, all appearances to the contrary. One always revives, even from a coma-like state, in due time, automatically.
No shamanic initiation is complete without a visit to both heaven and hell, the ecstatic death and rebirth; and now Moses has experienced both. (pages 165- 166)
Shamans in the Desert
... And Jesus, too, of course, was "a holy thing in his mother's womb." This represents the cult of "Separation" emphasized in the Qumran scroll, from the Hebrew root NZR, or "Naziritism." Such people were called Nazorites of Nazoraeans. Jesus was a member of this cult; there was no town of Nazareth in his day. The so-called Jesus of Nazareth was a misunderstanding of his cult affiliation. Similarly, its placement supposedly in Galilee is a misunderstanding of the fact that Galilee was a center of Nazoritism. Galilean is a code name for the bathing sect of the Sikaroi.
Jesus was supposedly "immersed" by John the Baptist, himself. And when he emerged from the waters, the heavens opened up, and he saw the Spirit of God, in corporeal form as a dove descending; and a voice from heaven acknowledged him as its son. The event is easily seen as Jesus' initiation as a magos or shaman, consubstantial with the entheogen of his initiatory experience, complete with the dove as his animal familiar and the transcendent illumination. ... Thereupon, Jesus separated or withdrew into the wilderness for his Nazorite period of spiritual trial and torment, another common element in the shaman's initiation. (pages 172 - 173)
... A plant that went by the name of aphrodisias in Latin, for example, is probably to be identified as "sweet flag" or Calamus (meaning "reed"), a marsh iris; the same plant in Greek is called akoron, named for its "healing" properties. Hence, "medicinal" and "aphrodisiac" metaphors coincide. In actual fact, Calamus is a powerful stimulant, chewed in Britain during the Depression as a substitute for tobacco. Its use by Native Americans includes puberty rites in which the initiates feel themselves "walking a foot above the ground." One informant claimed "an experience very similar to LSD" with a hefty dose. The active agent is TMA-2, which is ten times more active than mescaline. (page 188)
Bread and Wine, Flesh and Blood
The author of the Gospel of John literalizes to the extreme in his rendition of what Jesus himself said regarding this magical meal - or does he?
"I am the bread of life (manna). Your fathers are manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world."
At this, his incredulous audience argued amongst themselves, asking, "How can this man give is his flesh to eat?" Jesus replied:
"I tell you most solemly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my flood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever."
These are the words of a magician. Jesus has identified himself as the true manna, "bread" from heaven. But this bread has a curious quality; it is also flesh that contains blood. ...
There is only one substance that corresponds perfectly to the terms bread and blood as they are used here: Amanita muscaria, the fly-agaric mushroom. It seems to come on the clouds and fall from heaven with the fertilizing rains, appearing as if by divine fiat in the virgin earth beneath trees, with no farther apparent but the heavenly. Like leavened bread, this divine "infant, wrapped in the white swaddling of its universal veil," expands in size over time. The color of its cap is crimson, the color of blood. When the mushroom cap is dried, as it should be before use, it mellows to a tawny color similar to that of bread; and because dried mushrooms re-absorb moisture from the air after drying, they tend to stay as supple, similarly shaped and colored as a round of the familiar pita bread. When mushrooms are put into water, their former red color manifests itself once more, tinting the water as if blood had been infused, rather than mushroom juice. One could say that such water resembles blush wine, the white wine that has drawn a rose color from contact with the grape skins, in much the same way that water draws color from fly-agaric caps. When moistened, the dried cap changes completely in its texture and feel. It now takes on qualities eerily similar to human flesh - and when squeezed, "blood" runs out; it bleeds.
Eating the "flesh" of this "bread" and drinking its "blood" fills one with such vitality that ordinary life seems unidimensional and empty by comparison, as Jesus implied. This feeling of "true life" becomes so overwhelming that one identifies not only with God but with eternity. A state of grace is achivied, a communion of divine love and gratitude - thankfulness, as in the Nag Hammadi Hymn of Thanksgiving, in the knowledge through God that eternal life can be obtained, after an ecstatic death that was only somatic. (pages 195 - 196)
The magical food called manna in Greek, from the Hebrew man (MN) was supposedly named for the astonished question, "What is this?" (MN HWA) when it miraculously appeared to the Israelites; for it was also the answer, "This is what." ...
... It is even possible that the Greek word amanites itself, i.e., Amanita, which has no Indo-European etymology (mukes or mykes being the Greek word for mushroom from the Indo-European root) was assimilated from the Hebrew man; amanites does not occur in Greek before the Hellenistic period, although it became the common word for "mushroom" in modern Greek as manitari. ... (pages 196 - 197)
An early Christian agape hall has recently come to light beneath the basilica at Aquileia in northern Italy, which is still used as a church. Its mosaic floor was laid before 330 AD. The design depicts the Gnostic theme of the struggle of the forces of Light and Darkness, as a combat between a cock and a tortoise, with a pillar separating them, surmounted by an ampule of perfume, symbolizing the sweet fragrance of the mystical ecstasy. The panel is framed by six wheels of fire and four stylized mushrooms. The mosaic also depicts baskets of snails and mushrooms, the snails being emblematic of resurrection, and the mushrooms quite possibly identifiable as fly-agarics. A tombstone from the same area and period depicts a baptismal scene as a mushroom homologue. (page 207)
Transfiruration of Gethsemane
Too close to divulging the Mystery, perhaps, is Luke's account of the Test, for not all of the manuscripts include the apparition of an angel to strengthen Jesus in his agony: for hsis sweat fell like great drops or clots of blood (thromboi haimatos). John, for similar reasons, omits the whole Gethsemane Test, except to have Christ accept the betrayal and arrest as a Cup that the Father has given him to drink.
The Cup is not a metaphor at all, but the fiery potion for the enlightenment conferred upon those initiated into the full Mystery of the Eucharist. Symptomatic of fly-agaric is the sweat that fell from Jesus, that cool spring night, like large drops of blood, when he came face to face with his Tester. The mushroom can produce copious rivers of feverish sweat; since the initiate becomes consubstantial with the entheogen, the bloody clots of "sweat" correspond to the "bloody" drops that issue from a hydrated mushroom cap, coloring the water in which it soaks a vinous blush red. The drops of blood also describe the initiate's ordeal, a condition known as hematidrosis, in which blood issues from capillaries in the skin due to extreme emotional or spiritual excitement. It is a cup of some fiery mixture ... (page 210)
The agony of Gethsemane took place at the Oil Press, perhaps an element of the mythologizing: for Jesus was the prophesied Messiah, anointed, as it now would appear, with the same amber feverish pharmakon that Apollonios discovered among the Brachmanes. This act of pressing is significant, since not only does it yield the oil of chrismation, but also the juice of the grape, the wine that will be transubstantiated into the blood of Jesus. The Soma of the Brahmans was named with the epithet of the "Pressed One," pressed in sacrifice from dried mushrooms soaked in water, to produce the drink of blood. In the Hellenistic age of religious syncretism, it would have been inevitable that Soma be confused with the Greek word for "body," soma (although its cognates are probably to be found in Greek sus, and in English "swine," the boar being a common metaphor of fly-agaric). The communion experienced through the Eucharist was real and profound. They "tasted the goodness of the Lord," as Peter phrased it, and afterward had the conviction of faith that only the direct experience of God could produce. Initiation with the fly-agaric creates intense feelings of oneness with God, uniting all together into a confraternity: "For where two or more meet in my name, I shall be there with them." And since it is the body and blood of the entheogen that produced this oneness, it too partakes of the unity. (page 211)
This compilation by Thomas B. Roberts & Paula Jo Hruby, © 1995-2002 CSP