Re-opening Old Roads of Archaeological Inquiry

Carl de Borhegyi: Copyright  2020

Mycolatry In Mesoamerica, is dedicated to the pioneering research of Maya archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi and ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, and his wife Valentina Pavlovna Wasson. From the time of their initial meeting in Guatemala in 1953 until Borhegyi's untimely death in 1969, the two scientists worked in close cooperation and shared a voluminous correspondence of over 500 letters (Wasson Archives Harvard University). 

Inspired by the research of  Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi - Milwaukee Public Museum (S.F de Borhegyi 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b), the author discovered that sacred mushrooms are not only frequently identifiable in the prehistoric art of both the Old World and New World, but that in Mesoamerica in particular, they played a major role in the development of indigenous religious ideology. 

In this revised version of Mycolatry 101 (a work in progress), the author extends his father’s research by pulling out and illustrating, with words and images, a few threads in the complex fabric of Mesoamerican art, history and mythology. These threads illustrate a relationship between the “mushroom stones” and hallucinogenic mushrooms, with Venus warfare and the Mesoamerican ballgame, linked to a trophy-head cult and the ritual act of decapitation, associated with the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc. The author proposes that all variants of the Toltec/Aztec gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, and their Classic Maya counterparts, Kukulcan, Gucumatz, Tohil, K´awil and Chaac, though they may have different names and be associated with somewhat different attributes in different culture areas, are linked to the planet Venus through divine rulership, lineage and descent.

Mycolatry: is a term used to describe the study of Mushroom Worship; specifically, worship of the entheogenic mushroom species in proto and prehistory as a means for communicating in grave circumstances with the Almighty Powers (Wasson, 1980 p.XIV). 

a term meaning “God within us” is the preferred term for those plant substances that, when ingested, give one a divine experience. This semantic distinction distinguishes their role in the early history of religions from their abuse and vulgarization by the “hippie” sub-culture of the l960's and 1970s.

"These unique plants [mushrooms] in fact, may have played a significant role in human evolution, both physically, in offering selective advantages such as strength, endurance, and improved visual acuity, and due to their marked effects on cognition, which probably lent important stimulus to the emergence of the human capacity for abstract reasoning, symbolic thought, and language, as well as stimulating the religious capacities that distinguish our species" (Shamanism: Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture, Volume 1edited by Mariko Namba Walter, Eva Jane Neumann Fridman) (Dobkin de Rios 1984; Devereux 1997; McKenna 1992).


Mesoamerica: is a term that "defines those areas of Mexico and Central America that witnessed the development of advanced pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Teotihuacano, Toltec, Mixtec, and Aztec, all of which shared a number of interrelated cultural traits involving religious concepts, ritualism, architecture, arts, and crafts, hieroglyphic writing, and calendrics". A term conceptualized by Paul Kirchhoff (1943: 92-107), that recognizes that these advanced cultures shared similar ideologies and mythologies derived from earlier Olmec cultural roots. The two most important linguistic and cultural streams to emerge during pre-Columbian times from the developed civilizations of Mexico and Central America are the Nahua (Central Mexico) and Maya cultures.

After the conquest of the New World, Europeans were horrified by the stories of the native inhabitants eating mushrooms and worshiping idols, making offerings of human sacrifice to pagan gods and partaking in rituals of human cannibalism. To most Europeans, Mesoamerican religion appeared to be devil worship, consisting of an endless array of bloody rituals which were thought to be demonic and bizarre. However, in the minds of the Indians these rituals represented the highest praise one could spiritually devote in honor of the gods who made water plentiful, and food possible. In Mesoamerica human sacrifice and the ritual of decapitation was believed necessary to save mankind from calamity and the cosmos from collapse. 

Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran ...
(Duran, 1971)

“The Indians made sacrifices in the mountains, and under shaded trees, in the caves and caverns of the dark and gloomy earth. They burned incense, killed their sons and daughters and sacrificed them and offered them as victims to their gods; they sacrificed children, ate human flesh, killed prisoners and captives of war....One thing in all this history: no mention is made of their drinking wine of any type, or of drunkenness. Only wild mushrooms are spoken of and they were eaten raw.”

Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran (1537—1588) mentions that the word for sacrifice, nextlaoaliztli, in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, meant either "payment", or the act of payment. He writes that young children were taught that death by the obsidian knife was a most honorable way to die, as honorable as dying in battle or for a mother and child to die in childbirth. Those who were sacrificed by the obsidian knife were assured a place in Omeyocan, the paradise of the sun, the afterlife. Its been said by Spanish chroniclers that 30,000 human victims were sacrificed at the coronation of the Aztec king Moctezuma II. 

Some writers have accused the Spanish chroniclers of exaggeration in their accounts of human sacrifice. Duran was one of the first Spanish chroniclers to record the Aztecs use of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and he recorded that the Aztecs called the sacred mushroomteonanacatl” which in their language means “God’s flesh”. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushroom was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species was called teonanacatl, a term Frey Bernadino de Sahagun also gives us, teo, meaning god, that which is divine or sacred (Wasson, letter to Borhegyi, June 23, 1953).  

Duran records that before the sacrifice of prisoners at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the victims were presented to the public as honorable victims, claiming that by offering their chest and throats to the obsidian knife they will die here but their fame will live forever. 

            Fray Diego Duran:

"They became so inebriated and witless that many of them took their lives in their hands. With the strength of these mushrooms they saw visions and had revelations about the future, since the devil spoke to them in their madness" (Duran 1964 The Aztecs: p.3).

Spanish chronicler Fray Sahagun in the sixteenth century (Sahagun, 1946: I, 317-318) described this Aztec paradise called Tlalocan, as the second of the nine resting places of the deceased, on the arduous journey to Mictlan, the ninth and final resting place of the Aztec dead. Sahagun, who was the first to report mushroom rituals among the Aztecs, also writes that the Chichimecs and Toltecs consumed hallucinogens before battle to enhance bravery and strength (Peter Furst 1972, p.12).

The Wassons believed that the mushroom cult reported by the Spanish friars found full expression in the mushroom stones of the ancient Maya (Wasson and Wasson, 1980:75 -178). Their first-hand reports tell us that the Aztecs ate  mushrooms or drank a mushroom beverage in order to induce hallucinatory trances and dreams. During these dreams they reportedly saw colored visions of jaguars, birds, snakes, and little gnome-like creatures. 

The sacred mushroom ritual shared by these Mesoamerican cultures was intended,  I believe, to establish direct communication between Earth and Heaven (sky) in order to unite man with god. As told in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiche Maya, the sun-god of the ancient Maya, Kinich Ajaw, and his Aztec equivalent, Huitzilopochtli, would be extinguished in the underworld if not nourished with the blood of human hearts.  According to Borhegyi, it was believed that in order to avoid catastrophe at the end of each 52-year period which always ended on the day Ahau, man through his priestly intermediaries, was required to enter into a new covenant with the supernatural. In the meantime, he atoned for his sins and kept the precarious balance of the universe by offering uninterrupted sacrifices to the gods (Borhegyi,1965a:29-30). The 52-year Calendar Round was considered to be so important that the world would end at the completion of 18,980 days (52 years) if sacred termination ceremonies were not performed. 

Quetzalcoatl's essence in the world as a god-king and culture hero was to establish this communication. Page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis, depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms and its relationship to self sacrifice ( Peter Furst,  1981, pp.151-155). Quetzalcoatl taught his children, that they must eat the sacred mushrooms and make blood sacrifices in order to achieve divine immortality. 

There are numerous historical reports that link mushroom consumption to the ritual act of self sacrifice. These include blood letting, penis perforation, and even the improbable act of self-decapitation. With so much visual evidence suggesting that hallucinogenic mushrooms were consumed prior to ritual decapitation, it seems reasonable to propose that they were considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld. The Mesoamerican ballgame was one of the means by which the offering of human blood to the powerful gods was accomplished. Ritual sacrifice was a way for the ancients to nourish and sustain all the living beings of the cosmos which gave order and meaning to their world.

Chronology of Mesoamerica:

Early Pre-Classic Period:    2000 BCE. - 1000 BCE.
Late Pre-Classic Period:      1000 BCE. - 200 A.D.

Early Classic Period:            200 - 500 A.D.
Late  Classic Period:             500 - 900 A.D.

Early Post-Classic Period:     900 - 1200 A.D.
Late Post-Classic Period:      1200 - 1524 A.D.

Forward by Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest, Ph.D.

Mesoamerican mushroom imagery first came to the attention of the modern world in the late 19th century when the German geographer Carl Sapper published a picture of an effigy mushroom stone from El Salvador in the journal Globus (29 May 1898). Sapper noted that the stone carving was “mushroom-shaped” but did not consider whether it actually represented a mushroom, but that the stone object was a phallic symbol (Wasson and de Borhegyi, 1962 p. 42). This connection was supplied two months later by Daniel Brinton in an article in Science (29 July 1898) when he noted that “they (mushroom stones) resemble in shape mushrooms or toadstools, and why should not that be their intention?”  (Wasson, 1980: p.175). 

However difficult it was for scholars to accept the mushroom stones as representations of actual mushrooms, the case for their association with a psychogenic mushroom cult came in 1952 when R. Gordon Wasson and his wife, Valentina Pavlovna, came on the scene. Although neither of them were professional anthropologists--Wasson was a New York banker with the firm of J.P. Morgan, and an amateur mycologist; his wife, Valentina Pavlovna, a pediatrician--they were engaged in writing a book about the cross cultural role of mushrooms in history. In the course of their studies they learned of the existence of an entheogenic mushroom cult among the Mazatecs and Mixtec Indians in southern Mexico. They also found reports of the pre-Conquest use of “inebriating” mushrooms written by such prominent Spanish historians as the Dominican friar Diego Durán (1964, 225-6), Fray Bernardino de Sahagun (1947,:239, 247), and Motolinía ,(1858, Vol. I: 23). 

The friars who reported the ceremonial use of psychogenic mushrooms were sparing with their words and inevitably condemnatory in their description of mushroom “intoxication.” They were, in fact,  repulsed by the apparent similarities of the mushroom ceremony to Christian communion.  Wasson and Pavlovna, however, read these reports with great interest. They were particularly excited when, In 1952, they learned that archaeologists working at the Maya site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City had found a tripod stone carving in the shape of a mushroom bearing the effigy of a jaguar on its base. Sure that it corroborated the existence of a Pre-Colombian mushroom cult (Wasson and Wasson, 1980:75 -178), they consulted American Museum of Natural History archaeologist Gordon Ekholm.

The author’s father, Stephan de Borhegyi, became the intermediary in their investigations. A recent emigrant from Hungary with a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology and Egyptology from the Peter Paszmany University in Budapest, Borhegyi had been invited to Guatemala to study American archaeology by  the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Working under a grant provided by the then Viking Fund of New York (subsequently the Wenner Gren Foundation) his project was to catalog the extensive archaeological collections of the Guatemalan National Museum. In the course of this project he came across numerous unprovenanced small stone sculptures shaped like mushrooms which he described in correspondence with Ekholm. Ekholm put him and the Wassons in touch with one another. Shortly thereafter, the Wassons,  Borhegyi, and I, (his wife and the author’s mother, Suzanne), embarked on a trip through the Guatemalan highlands in search of evidence of an existing mushroom cult such as had been reported among the Mazatecs and Mixtecs of Mexico. No such cult was uncovered, but both the Wassons and the Borhegyis suspected that the lack of evidence might be explained by the extreme sacredness and sensitivity of the subject among the Maya Indians, coupled with an inadequate amount of time devoted to winning the confidence of their informants. Wasson did, however, find corroborating evidence of inebriating mushrooms in a number of Mayan word lists for the Cakchiquel linguistic area around Guatemala City (Wasson, 1980, pp. 181-182).

Following their sojourn in Guatemala, Wasson and Pavlovna went on to visit the remote village of Huautla de Jimenez in southern Oaxaca. Here they not only found evidence of an existing mushroom cult, but had the opportunity to participate in a mushroom ceremony conducted by a local curandera, Maria Sabina. The results of their research exploded into worldwide notoriety in 1955 with the publication of Wasson’s article entitled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom.” in the popular magazine LIFE   (May 13, 1957).  To Wasson's consternation, his description of the mushroom ritual reverberated through the hippie culture of the time. Seemingly overnight the little Oaxacan village was mobbed with thrill seekers—“hippies, self-styled psychiatrists, oddballs, even tour leaders with their docile flocks.” (Wasson, 1980, p. XVI). Wasson sent samples of the hallucinogenic mushroom to a pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland for analysis with the result that the active agent was both identified and made into synthetic pills. The era of widespread abuse of the psychedelic mushroom began with a vengeance that rocked society.

It is strange that, in the half century since Borhegyi published his first articles on Maya mushroom stones and proposed their use in connection with Maya psychogenic mushroom ceremonies, little attention has been paid to this intriguing line of research. I propose that the oversight is related to the worldview classification scheme established by Wasson, in which he distinguished between peoples and cultures that liked mushrooms (mycophiles) and those that feared them (mycophobes) (Wasson, 1980: XV). This classification might be extended to include all psychogenic or mind-altering substances with the exception of alcohol. Their use in the Western world is considered to be objectionable, immoral and, for the most part, illegal. In any event, it is clear that, while the Pre Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica were decidedly mycophilic, the majority of archaeologists who have studied them are mycophobes. The result has been that their possible centrality to ancient Mesoamerican religious rituals has been either overlooked or, at best, barely acknowledged (Martin and Grube, 2000:15; Coe, 1999: 70; Sharer, 1994: 542, 683).

There may, however, be another, more immediate, reason for this neglect. That, I believe, is the memory of the very unsettling period in our recent history when too many individuals, most of them young people, “tripped out” on a variety of psychedelic substances, and in too many cases harmed themselves in the process. While neither Steve nor I ever took the sacred mushroom. Our son, Carl (without my knowledge I might add), did experiment with the mushroom during his student years in the late 1970s at Southwestern Michigan College and the early 1980s at the University of Wisconsin. This enables him to speak from experience of the mushroom’s awe-inspiring effect on the mind and body. He is quick to say that he would not repeat the experiment today, but he does not deny the obvious—that one has to have experienced the “magic” effects of the mushroom to truly comprehend the mushroom experience. Quoting from Daniel Breslaw’s book Mushrooms, “a smudge on the wall is an object of limitless fascination, multiplying in size, complexity, and color,” (1961).  It is our sincere hope that, by calling for a new, and much needed, look at the role of  entheogenic mushrooms in Pre-Columbian art and ideology, we will not inadvertently encourage a new wave of thrill-seeking experimentation with the mushroom and its derivatives. It should be possible to engage in the former, without provoking the latter....  


Mushroom Stones of Mesoamerica:

In 1952 archaeologists working at the Maya site of Kaminaljuyu on the outskirts of Guatemala City found a tripod stone carving in the shape of a mushroom bearing the effigy of a jaguar on its base. Sure that it corroborated the existence of a pre-Columbian mushroom cult, the Wassons consulted American Museum of Natural History archaeologist Gordon F. Ekholm, who put the Wassons in touch with archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi, better known simply as Borhegyi. Borhegyi, published the first of several articles in which he proposed the existence of a Mesoamerican mushroom cult in the Guatemalan highlands as early as 1000 B.C. This cult, which was associated from its beginnings with ritual human decapitation, a trophy head cult, warfare and the Mesoamerican ballgame, appears to have had its origins along the Pacific coastal piedmont. Borhegyi developed this proposition after finding a significant number of small, mushroom-shaped sculptures in the collections of the Guatemala National Museum and in numerous private collections in and around Guatemala City. While the majority of these small stone sculptures were of indeterminate provenance, a sufficient number had been found during the course of archaeological investigations to permit Borhegyi to determine approximate dates and to catalog them stylistically (Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b, "Mushroom Stones of Middle America").

            Dr. Borhegyi’s proposal of a mushroom cult:

"My assignment for the so-called mushroom cult, earliest 1,000 B.C., is based on the excavations of  Kidder and  Shook at the Verbena cemetery at Kaminaljuyu. The mushroom stone found in this Pre-Classic grave, discovered in Mound E-III-3, has a circular groove on the cap. There are also a number of yet unpublished mushroom stone specimens in the Guatemalan Museum from Highland Guatemala where the pottery association would indicate that they are Pre-Classic. In each case the mushroom stone fragments has a circular groove on the top. Mushroom stones found during the Classic and Post-Classic periods do not have circular grooves. This was the basis on which I prepared the chart on mushroom stones which was then subsequently published by the Wassons. Based on Carbon 14 dates and stratigraphy, some of these  Pre-Classic finds can be dated as early as 1,000 B.C. The reference is in the following".....(see Shook, E.M. & Kidder, A.V., 1952. Mound E-III-3, Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala; Contributions to American Anthropology & History No. 53 from Publ. 596, Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. (letter from de Borhegyi to Dr. Robert Ravicz, MPM archives December 1st 1960 ).

           Quoting Borhegyi:

"There seems little doubt that the jaguar-effigy mushroom stones and the stone mortars were placed in the tomb as burial offerings. It should also be noted that three other fragments of the heads of mushroom stones were found in the fill of Mound E-III-3" (S.F. de Borhegyi 1961 p. 499).

Type B, Jaguar mushroom stones, both excavated from the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu in Highland Guatemala. The Pre-Classic tripod jaguar mushroom stone on the right was discovered in a Miraflores phase Tomb 1 E-III-3 , dated 1000-500 BCE.  This same tomb, E-III-3, also contained four small mortars and pestles used in the mushroom's preparatory rites,  two of them in the shape of toads (S.F. de Borhegyi 1961 p. 499)

Mushroom stones that have a circular groove around the base of the cap are classified as Type B, and according to Borhegyi without exception, are of Early and Late Pre-Classic date (1000 BCE.-A.D. 200).

Borhegyi found the mushroom stone figures so intriguing that he prepared a monograph for submission to the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.  "Notes on Middle American Archaeology and Ethnology". Before submitting it, however, he sent it off to be critiqued by archaeologist Gordon Ekholm at the American Museum of Natural History. Gordon Ekholm, in turn, showed Borhegyi's monograph to his friend Gordon Wasson, an amateur mycologist who was looking for archaeological evidence of an ancient hallucinogenic mushroom cult in Mesoamerica. Wasson, author of The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica (1980), and Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968, 1971), proposed the idea that the pursuit of immortality by the ancients, revolved around the covert ingestion of the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom. Wasson wrote to Borhegyi  and within months the two embarked on what became an intense and fruitful collaboration that lasted until the end of Borhegyi's tragically short life.  

             Quoting Gordon Wasson (1957):

"Dr. Borhegyi's chart suggests to us that hallucinatory mushrooms were the focus of a cult in the highland Maya world that goes back at least to early pre-classic times, to B.C. 1000 or earlier, the earliest period when technically such artifacts could be carved in stone. Thus tentatively we trace back the use of the divine mushroom in Middle America to the earliest period from which a record could be expected to survive. Beyond that horizon may we project the mushroom agape back through millennia, to the Eurasian home-land whence our Indians' ancestors migrated."

In the years that followed Stephan de Borhegyi’s death, the existence of a mushroom cult in ancient Mesoamerica, and specifically among the ancient Maya, was denied or essentially dismissed as inconsequential. Borhegyi's proposal of an ancient mushroom cult met with limited, highly skeptical acceptance at best among his archaeological colleagues. Few in the Mesoamerican archaeological community seriously considered the possibility that the mushroom-shaped sculptures had an esoteric religious significance. To this day, the subject remains relatively little known and generally missing from the literature on Mesoamerican archaeology, art history, and iconography.     

Admittedly the author has bypassed the traditional route of doctoral studies in New World archaeology, art history, and religion. It should be noted, however,  that I am far from the first layman to make some significant contributions to Mesoamerican scholarship. The important contributions to our understanding of Maya glyphic writing by the late Soviet lay scholar, Yuri Knorosov, comes immediately to mind. It is, in fact, a partial tribute to his discoverer, Maya archaeologist, Michael D. Coe. 

            Quoting archaeologist Michael D. Coe

 "These peculiar objects , one of which was found in an E-III-3 tomb, are of unknown use. Some see vaguely phallic association. Others, such as the late Stephan de Borhegyi, connect them with the cult of the hallucinogenic mushrooms still to this day prevalent in the Mexican highlands, and it is claimed that the mortars and pestles with which the stones are so often associated were used in the preparatory rites" (The Maya, 1993 fifth edition, by M.D. Coe, p. 60).

"I do not exactly remember when I first met Gordon Wasson, but it must have been in the early 1970's. He was already a legendary figure to me, for I had heard much of him from the equally legendary and decidedly colorful Steve Borhegyi, director of the Milwaukee Public Museum before his untimely death. Steve, who claimed to be a Hungarian count and dressed like a Mississippi riverboat gambler, was a remarkable fine and imaginative archaeologist who had supplied much of the Mesoamerican data for Gordon and Valentina Wasson's Mushrooms, Russia and History, particularly on the enigmatic "mushroom stones" of the Guatemala highlands. His collaboration with the Wassons proved even to the most skeptical that there had been a sort of ritual among the highland Maya during the Late Formative period involving hallucinogenic mushrooms" (from the book; The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: tributes to R. Gordon Wasson, 1990 p.43)

Photo of Gordon Wasson (above left), from Life Magazine 1957. The replica mushroom stone next to Wasson was a gift from Borhegyi (above right). Dr. Borhegyi's association with Guatemalan antiquities began in 1949 when he became associate professor of anthropology at San Carlos University in Guatemala City. The Central American republic decorated Borhegyi in 1951 for his reorganization of the National Museum of Archaeology in Guatemala City. 

Borhegyi, an emigrant from Hungary with a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology and Egyptology from the Peter Paszmany University in Budapest, had been invited to Guatemala to study American archaeology by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Working under a grant provided by the then Viking Fund of New York (subsequently the Wenner Gren Foundation) his project was to catalog the extensive archaeological collections of the Guatemalan National Museum. While at work on these collections Borhegyi came across a number of small, unprovenanced carved stone effigy figures that resembled mushrooms to such a degree that they were called "mushroom stones."  

In a letter to Gordon Wasson from Borhegyi dated  March 20, 1953:

"I was very interested in your suggestion that these mushroom stones might be connected with the narcotic mushroom cult. However, in spite of the fact that the cult was known to exist and still survives in the Zapotec, Chinantic, and Mazatec region, no mushroom stones have ever been reported from there. On the other hand, as you will see from the photographs, the effigy mushroom stones much more frequently represent animals than humans although the human effigies do seem to be from the earliest period. So far I have found no specimen with the gills or lamellae that could prove conclusively that it was a true representation of a mushroom. Unfortunately this seems to be a food that has completely escaped the attention of the ethnologists but I will check further for references to its use.  I would be very glad to hear more about ethno-mycology from you and the role it has played on human culture" (letter from Borhegyi to Wasson March 20, 1953, Wasson Archives Harvard University).

The historical evidence came to Borhegyi's attention through his extensive correspondence with Wasson. Wasson pointed him toward reports of ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms among the Aztecs in a number of Spanish chronicles written shortly after the Spanish conquest. Wasson also directed him toward reports of the existence of modern-day ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in various parts of Mexico and, in particular, among the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca.
As the result of their collaborative efforts they both surmised that if the mushroom stones did, indeed, represent a mushroom cult, then the mushroom itself was an iconographic metaphor, and the mushroom stone effigies would supply the clues necessary to decipher their meaning.

The Wassons published Borhegyi’s article on Middle American Mushroom Stones in their monumental book, Russia; Mushrooms and History, (Wasson and Wasson, 1957). In the monograph Borhegyi identified the existence of an ancient mushroom stone cult that may have begun as early as 1000 B.C.E. The Wasson's also included Borhegyi's chronological distributional chart of Pre-Columbian mushroom stones and pottery mushrooms, found at various archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Pre-Columbian pottery shaped mushrooms have also been found in El Salvador, and Guatemala in both the highlands and the lowland Maya rain forest and in Mexico in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Veracruz  (Wasson and Wasson, 1957, Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b.). 

            Quoting ethno-archaeologist Peter T. Furst:

"In its pages [ Russia; Mushrooms and History, 1957 ] Borhegyi and Wasson suggested a connection between the sacred mushrooms of Mexico and the prehistoric stone mushrooms of Guatemala, the first time that such a possibility had been considered in print. The connection between these sculptures and the historic mushroom cults of Mesoamerica has not always been accepted. Though many mushroom stones are quite faithful to nature, they were, until recently, not even universally thought to represent mushrooms at all, and a few die-hards even now, in the face of all the evidence, reject this interpretation." (1972)

Some of the earliest mushroom stones in Mesoamerica which date to Olmec times 1200 BCE to 400 BCE, bear toad or frog images carved on their base (Wasson and Wasson, 1957, Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b.) The discovery of numerous toad bones in Olmec burials at San Lorenzo (1200-900 B.C.E.) suggests that the Olmecs may have used other mind-altering substances, such as hallucinogenic toad toxin, in various ritual practices (Coe, 1994:69; Furst, 1990: 28; Grube, 2001:294). Certain toads discard a toxin from the skin when touched, that can be dried and can be smoked or taken orally (Eva Hopman, 2008).  
Mushroom stones bearing toad images carved on their base have been found throughout Chiapas, Mexico, the Guatemala highlands, and along the Pacific slope as far south as El Salvador (Borhegyi de, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b).

Quoting R. Gordon Wasson;

“In two examples of mushroom stones, one stone has a mushroom emerging from the mouth of a giant toad, another stone has a mushroom rising from the back of a toad with an anthropomorphic face”. (Wasson, 1957; p.185) Many more such mushroom toad stones have been found...”Strangely moving is the sporadic recurrence throughout the northern hemisphere of this chthonic deity, the toad, with the entheogenic mushroom."    

The Wassons were the first to call attention to the pervasiveness of the toad and it's association with the term toadstool, with the intoxicating mushrooms in Europe. The Amanita muscaria mushroom is considered a poisonous and deadly mushroom, however human deaths from eating the mushroom are very rare. Wasson noted the recurrence throughout the northern hemisphere of a toad deity associated with the entheogenic mushroom (Wasson 1980, p.184-185).

            Quoting Wasson:

"In our 1953 travels throughout the Maya highlands we discovered a convergence of three ideas in one Mayan word: 'toad' 'mushroom' and for the external genital organs of the woman. Borhegyi sent us afterwards a chart in diverse Mayan languages and dialects giving us supporting evidence for this in Quiche" (Wasson 1980 pp. 185-186).  

"The toad effigy mushroom stones express a tripartite association of ideas that link in a common embrace Early Man throughout the Northern hemisphere" (Wasson 1980 p.197) 

Quoting Wasson (!957)

"In the association of these ideas we strike a vein that must go back to the remotest times in Eurasia, to the Stone Age: the link between the toad, the female sex organs, and the mushroom, exemplified in the Mayan languages and the mushroom stones of the Maya Highlands. Man must have brought this association across the Bering Strait (or the land bridge that replaced it in the ice ages) as part of his intellectual luggage".

The ancient Olmec, Zapotec and Maya, used toad toxin and or Amanita muscaria mushrooms as additives to create a hallucinogenic ritual beverage. This ritual beverage was first reported after the Spanish Conquest by Thomas Gage in the early 1600's. Gage reported that the Pokmam Maya of the Guatemala Highlands added toads to their fermented beverages to strengthen the results (The Ancient Maya, Sharer/Morley, 1983 p.484). Spanish chronicler Pedro Perez de Zamora, in his "Relacion de Teticpac", Papeles de Nueva Espana 1580, reported the use of sacred mushrooms among the Zapotec Indians, in the Valley of Oaxaca. (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, p. 37 1962).

Ordonez y Aguiar (1907 note 24) reports a recipe for a fermented drink among the Aztecs, that included a live frog to hasten the fermentation (S.W. Miles:Handbook of Middle American Indians part 1, 1965  p.286).

Some of the small mushroom-shaped sculptures were plain and realistic, (depicted above), others were adorned with human and animal effigies. While the majority of mushroom stone sculptures were of indeterminate provenance, a sufficient number had been found during the course of archaeological investigations as to permit Borhegyi to classify and date them typologically. The majority had been found in Guatemala in the highlands or on the Pacific Piedmont--Maya areas along the intercontinental mountain range which were heavily influenced in Preclassic times by the powerful Olmec culture (Borhegyi de S.F. 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963). 

R. Gordon Wasson and legendary mycologist Gaston Guzmán both shared the belief that mushroom stones were modeled after the Amanita muscaria mushroom. (Guzmán, 2002:4). In a letter to Wasson (June 30, 1962)

           Quoting Wasson:

"In examining these mushroomic artifacts we must keep in mind that they were not made for our enlightenment. They were iconic shorthand summarizing a whole bundle of associations ,--whatever those associations were. The Christian cross is to be found in endless shapes, including the "effigy cross" or crucifix, and all stem back to a complex of emotions, beliefs, and religious longings. The crucifix would reveal to an archaeologist eons hence more than, say, a Maltese cross. So with the mushroom stones, the subject matter of the effigies holds the secret"  (Wasson and Wasson, 1957, Borhegyi de, S.F., 1957b.)

Pottery mushrooms (above and below) have been excavated at Maya Lowland sites like El Mirador and Berriozabal in the Maya Rainforest, and in 1962 archaeologist Richard E. W. Adams reported finding several pottery mushroom specimens in the Maya Rainforest at the site of Altar de Sacrificios (Borhegyi, 1963 Vol.28, No.3, p.330). For more on pottery mushrooms see Borhegyi de, S.F., 1963, “Pre-Columbian pottery mushrooms from Mesoamerica”, in American Antiquity, vol. 28:328-338.  

Archaeologist  Brent Woodfil and Jon Spenard (personal communication with both archaeologists) found two ceramic mushroom pots or pottery mushrooms (the middle and right) in the Candelaria cave system in the San Francisco Hills near the lowland Maya site of Cancuén, Petén, Guatemala (Spenard, M.A thesis, 2006). Cave ritualism on an elite level is evident as early as 1000 B.C. at the Olmec influenced site of Chalcatzingo, near the Valley of Mexico (Pasztory, 1997:90).  The caves investigated in the south region of the Guatemalan Highlands include Saber, CHOC-05, Ocox, and Cabeza de Tepezquintle. According to Spenard, "Ocox is a canyon-like system that runs through a large hill with a rock shelter component at its northern-most extent....Ocox is a Q'eqchi Mayan word for mushroom, a reference to the large quantity of mushrooms that are growing from the floor of the rock shelter."  

Preclassic mushroom stones from the Olmec ceremonial center of La Venta located in the present-day Mexican state of Tabasco. Mushroom stones and similar pottery mushrooms are known from the states of Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Guerrero, and Veracruz in Mexico; from the Western and central Highlands, the Pacific Coastal Piedmont, and from El Salvador.  

During Preclassic times (1500 BC to AD 250), the source of cultural influences radiated from the Olmec heartland on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz in Mexico. The influence of these Olmec ceremonial centers extended in all directions and Olmec culture seemingly laid many of the foundations for the Zapotec, Maya, Teotihuacanos, Toltec, Mixtec, and Aztec civilizations that were to follow. Borhegyi theorized that Maya civilization developed as the result of direct influences from the Olmec civilization of La Venta, and suggested that the Olmec of La Venta most likely spoke a Proto-Mayan, living among such other Maya speakers as the Huaxtecs, and proto-Totonacs (S.F. de Borhegyi 1965a p.19). Words like muxan and okox (mushroom) are two of several words borrowed or loaned by the ancient Maya, perhaps as early as 1000 B.C. (Furst, 1976, p. 79). Dictionaries of Maya highland languages compiled after the Spanish Conquest mention several intoxicating mushroom varieties whose names clearly indicate their ritual use. One type was called xibalbaj okox, "underworld mushroom" in reference to the belief that mushroom transported one to a supernatural realm of the underworld  (Robert J. Sharer, 1983: 484). 

Ballcourts and caves were believed to be portals or entrances to the underworld. The intention of the mushroom ritual was to open communication directly with the underworld spirit world, often through a form of animal transformation into a were-jaguar. 

The worship of animal spirit companions and the concept of human-animal transformation is so ancient, that the origins of these beliefs appear to predate the development of agriculture. Since these beliefs are also present throughout North and South America that they may very well have been brought there by the first hunters and gatherers to reach the New World. We find the first evidences of these shamanistic rituals in Mesoamerica in the art of the ancient Olmecs along with the development of agriculture, food production, and settled village life.      

Much of the mushroom imagery the author discovered was associated with an artistic concept referred to as jaguar transformation. Under the influence of the hallucinogen, the "bemushroomed" acquires feline fangs and often other attributes of the jaguar, emulating the Sun God in the Underworld. This esoteric association of mushrooms and jaguar transformation was earlier noted by ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst, together with the fact that a dictionary of the Cakchiquel Maya language compiled circa 1699 lists a mushroom called "jaguar ear" (1976:78, 80).  

Above on the upper left, is a ceramic pre-Columbian mask that depicts the transformation of a human into a "were-jaguar," a half-human, half-jaguar deity first described and named in 1955 by archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling. The were-jaguar appears in the art of the ancient Olmecs as early as 1200 B.C.   A closer look,  you will see a Amanita muscaria mushroom encoded into the head and nose of the human side, while the left half of the mask depicts the effect of the Amanita mushroom as resulting in were-jaguar transformation. The mask symbolizes the soul's journey into the underworld where it will undergo jaguar transformation, ritual decapitation and divine resurrection. The were-jaguar eventually came to be worshiped and venerated throughout Central and South America. (photo above of the "Were Jaguar" from Prof. Gian Carlo Bojani Director of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy) (Photo of Amanita muscaria by Richard Fortey) 

The earliest evidence of a mushroom-based religious cult in the New World, appears to date to approximately the same time period, around 1000-400 BC, and the beginnings in Mesoamerica of Olmec culture. The rise of the ancient Olmec in the New World has puzzled archaeologists for some time. The Olmec, the first complex civilization of the New World emerge from the jungles of the Gulf Coast of what is now present day Mexico, sometime around 1500-1200 B.C. Archaeologists contend that the Olmec culture appears to come from out of nowhere in full bloom at the site of San Lorenzo, in Veracruz, Mexico. Carbon 14 dates place Olmec civilization at San Lorenzo at 1200 B.C. E. (M. D. Coe, 1970, p.21). 

The powerful unitary religion of the Olmec, appears to spread quickly throughout the New World with certain elements of the belief system that spread as far as the Andean area of South America. We know this culture by its powerful art style featuring adult and baby "were-jaguars;" an art style so pervasive that it led the late archaeologist Matthew W. Stirling in 1955 to call the Olmec the "people of the jaguar." He speculated that the Olmecs believed that at some time in their mythical past a jaguar had copulated with, and impregnated, a human female. According to Olmec archaeologist Michael Coe  "...the concept of the were-jaguar is at the heart of the Olmec civilization" (Michael D. Coe, 1962, p.85).   

Above is an Olmec figurine, that most likely comes from the San Lorenzo phase of Olmec culture, 1200-400 B.C.E.  These infantile baby-faced figurines, many of which depict the symbolism of a snarling jaguar, are a distinctive feature in Olmec art. This figure appears to represent an Olmec baby holding what appears to be a gigantic Amanita muscaria mushroom. According to ethno-mycologist Gastón Guzmán, one of the effects of the Amanita muscaria mushroom experience is to see objects as gigantic in size. The Amanita muscaria mushroom, considered a poisonous mushroom by many contains muscarine and ibotenic acid, the toxins or chemicals that cause the powerful psychoactive effects (Gaston Guzman, Sacred Mushrooms and Man: 2013 p.489) (photograph by Higinio Gonzalez of Puebla, Mexico). 

The so-called "Olmec snarl"  a common motif in Olmec art may represent the powerful psychoactive effects of the Amanita muscaria, and Amanita pantherina mushrooms, resulting in were-jaguar transformation. Mushroom intoxication, according to Spanish reports gave sorcerers (priests or shamans), the power to seemingly change themselves into animals, and that the powerful visions and voices the mushrooms produced were believed to be from God. 

           Quoting from ethno-archaeologist Peter T. Furst:

"It is tempting to suggest that the Olmecs might have been instrumental in the spread  of mushroom cults throughout Mesoamerica, as they seem to have been of other significant aspects of early Mexican civilization......" It is in fact a common phenomenon of South American shamanism  (reflected also in Mesoamerica) that shamans are closely identified with the jaguar, to the point where the jaguar is almost nowhere regarded as simply an animal, albeit an especially powerful one, but as supernatural, frequently as the avatar of living or deceased shamans, containing their souls and doing good or evil in accordance with the disposition of their human form" (Furst 1976, pp. 48, 79)."

The ancient Olmec appear on the scene having already developed a highly evolved system of writing, where no earlier or simpler forms have been found. Renowned Maya archaeologist Sylvanus G. Morley, noted that there was also the lack of known direct antecedents of Maya culture in the Maya region (Morley 1946, p.46). Morley noted writing as a perfect example, that even in its earliest known forms, it was already a highly evolved system, that no earlier, simpler forms of writing out of which it might have grown are known anywhere (Stephen C. Jett 1971,p.46). 

Mexican Art Historian Miguel Covarrubias....

"The mystic spirit of "Olmec" art suggests the presence of highly intellectual sorcerers, who may have developed the astronomical knowledge basic for weather predictions and timereckoning, culminating in the development of such liturgical traits as religious architecture, secret symbolic art, and glyphic writing." "Olmec art has significant traits suggesting an early stage in the development of the Classic cultures, particularly the Maya, Teotihuacan, Tajin, and Monte Alban" (1954:79) 

The ancient Olmec (1200-400 BCE) are considered the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica, responsible for the rapid dissemination of innovations, including hieroglyphic writing, the 260-day sacred calendar, the planning and orientation of ceremonial centers, and a complex cosmology and mythology that incorporated the World Tree, were-jaguars and the feathered serpent. It's at the Olmec site of La Venta, where we find the earliest known relief sculpture or example of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl, in Mesoamerica on Monument 19. Prior to La Venta, the first Olmec culture to emerge in Mesoamerica was at San Lorenzo in the modern day state of Veracruz (1200-900 BCE). 

The custom of circularly grooving the base of the mushroom stone cap (Type B) was discontinued after the Early Pre-Classic period (1000 BCE.). The Late Pre-Classic (500 B.C.--A.D. 200) and Classic period carved effigy, plain, and tripod mushroom stones have only plain caps (for their distribution by archaeological sites see Borhegyi de, 1961).

Surprisingly, in spite of their obvious shape as mushrooms, many archaeologists refused to identify them as such. They suggested instead that they may have served as phallic symbols, small stools, or molds for making rubber balls for the Mesoamerican ballgame.

           Quoting Sir J. Eric S. Thompson:

"I had heard of the theory that these stones might represent a narcotic mushroom cult, but I would think it a difficult theory to prove or disprove... I know of no reference to their use among the Maya, ancient or modern" (Thompson to de Borhegyi, March 26,1953, MPM Archives).

While some anthropologists and archaeologists had accepted Borhegyi's and Wasson's idea that mushrooms and other hallucinogens were used in ancient Mesoamerica, their use was, in most cases, dismissed as relatively incidental and devoid of deeper significance in the development of Mesoamerican religious ideas and mythology. With a few exceptions, notably the research and writings of ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst, further inquiry into the subject on the part of archaeologists came to a virtual halt. Fortunately, a few mycologists, most notably Bernard Lowy and Gaston Guzmán, (2002:4; 2009) continued through the years to make important contributions to the scientific literature. 

Borhegyi supported his theory of a mushroom cult among the ancient Maya with a solid body of archaeological and historical evidence. In the years that followed Borhegyi's death, the existence of a mushroom cult in ancient Mesoamerica, and specifically among the ancient Maya, has been essentially ignored and dismissed as inconsequential.  

The Wassons may have provided an important explanation for this lack of interest. He and his wife, Valentina, had observed that, across the globe, cultures seemed to be divided into those who loved and revered mushrooms, and those who dismissed and feared them. The first group of cultures they  labeled "mycophiles," while the latter were "mycophobes."  In the New World, it appears that all of the native cultures were, and still are, unquestionably mycophilic. In contrast, the great majority of archaeologists and ethnologists who studied and described them, and who traced their cultural origins to Western Europe, were decidedly mycophobic. This major difference in cultural background may be responsible for what I believe should be seen as a lamentable gap in our understanding of indigenous New World  magico-religious origins.   (Wasson: 1957)

Quoting Wasson (1957):

"Dr. Borhegyi later combed the Quiche and Cakchiquel chronicles and legends for references to mushrooms. There come down to us from early times two native narratives of the Highland Maya, one in Quiche and the other in Cakchiquel, the Popol Vuh and the Annals of the Cakchiqnels. Written in the native languages, they have been translated into Spanish and English. Dr. Borhegyi discovered in each of them one reference to mushrooms, and in each case mushrooms are associated with religious observances. "

Mushroom stones that reappear in the highland Maya area during Late Classic times (600-1000 C.E.) are mostly the plain and or tripod variety (Type D) common to the Pacific Coast and Piedmont area as well as in Western El Salvador. 

In the Central and Western Highlands of Guatemala, Type D tripod mushroom stones resembling stone-stools (toad-stools?) have been reported from Kaminaljuyu, the Antigua-Agua area, Amatitlan, Mixco Viejo, Tecpan, Zacualpa, and San Martin Jilotepeque (de Borhegyi, S.F. 1965a, p.37).   

Wasson postulates that the very word “toadstool” may have originally meant the “demonic stool”, and may have been a specific name of a European mushroom, that causes hallucinations (R.G. Wasson, Life Magazine, May 13, 1957).

Mushroom stones that carry an effigy, like the ones depicted above have been mostly found at the higher elevations of the Guatemala Highlands. This is an area of woodlands and pine forests where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance. It likely that the Amanita muscaria mushroom was the inspiration or model for the earliest mushroom stone carvings. 

             Quoting Borhegyi in a letter to Wasson:

"In connection with the altitude distribution of mushroom stones there seems to be some difficulty. The mushroom stones are not exclusively confined to the Highlands but also occur in the South Coast where the altitude does not exceed 1000 feet. However, as I learned from my informants, the anacate [fly ageric?] grows in this region also. An interesting feature is the fact that the mushroom stones from the lower altitudes are of the late type and are plain or tripod, possibly representing a secondary manifestation of the original idea"  (Borhegyi to Wasson, June 14, 1953 Wasson Archives Harvard University).

The Type D plain or tripod mushroom stones, (below) which carry no effigy on the stem have been typically found at lower elevations...(for their distribution by archaeological sites see Borhegyi de, 1961a, p. 500). 

Above is a ballgame yoke fragment with footprint (excavated in 1948 by J. Eric S. Thompson) along with a tripod mushroom stone (Type D) from a pit in front of Monument 3 at the Pacific coastal site of El Baúl in Guatemala (Milwaukee Public Museum Archives). Type D tripod mushroom stones (plain and effigy style) were frequent in the Pacific Coast and Piedmont area as well as in western El Salvador (Borhegyi de, 1965: 37). Borhegyi who excavated at the sites of El Baúl and Bilbao, believed that most of the Cotzumalhuapa stone sculptures are of the Late Classic period (600-1000 C.E.) (Borhegyi de, 1965: 36, 39).

Maya archaeologist J. Eric Thompson found a anthropomorphic mushroom stone representing a seated individual with a mushroom cap in the course of a trial survey of the Southern Maya area. The mushroom looking specimen came from the Central Highlands of Guatemala. Thompson described the piece as a huge mushroom-like object that some anthropologists thought to be stone stools. 

In 1948 Thompson wrote that the ballgame imagery in the highlands of Guatemala and the Piedmont sites suggested that the ballgame was closely connected with Quetzalcóatl (Thompson, 1948: figs. 10-15). The ballgame was one of the grisly means by which human sacrifice to the god-king Quetzalcoatl was accomplished, in order to perpetuate life here on Earth. Similar ballgame themes of heart extraction, decapitation, and dismemberment can be dramatically seen in the ballcourt relief carvings at El Tajin in Veracruz, Mexico. The earliest known archaeological site from which actual ball game paraphernalia (stone yoke, rubber ball) has been recovered is El Manati, on the Mexican Gulf Coast dating around 900 B.C.E. Gerard Van Bussel analyzed the relationship between the Maya words for blood and semen, and concluded that the ball game may be an allegory of life through dynastic succession, and that the serpent-shaped scepter found at El Manati, a mound complex at San Lorenzo, may be an insignia of power and kingship (Van Bussel 1991 Ibid pp. 256-57).   

The ballgame most likely originated on the Gulf coast of Mexico, were the properties of rubber (latex) were probably first observed. In Mexico rubber-producing trees are found growing along the hot coastal pains in the southern region of the country, extending south across the border into Central America. Archaeologist Michael Coe excavated a probable ball court and found figurines of ball players at the Olmec site of San Lorenzo dating to 1250–1150 B.C. in the heart of the Olmec country in Veracruz Mexico.  

Borhegyi concluded that the plain, un-carved type of mushroom stone must have been re-introduced to Guatemala and the Cotzumalhuapa area along with new ball game rituals during Late Classic times, by these “Tajinized Nonoalca” Pipil groups (Borhegyi de, 1965: 37; Borhegyi de, 1980: 25; Borhegyi letter to Wasson, November 30, 1953, Wasson Archives). We find images of decapitated ballplayers carved on the walls of formal ballcourts at El Tajín and Chichén Itzá that supports the western origin of the ballgame carried by the Putún-descended peoples when they relocated north to Chichén Itzá and south to the Guatemala Highlands and Pacific coast. The extension of stone yokes, hachas, and palmas southward through the Isthmus of Guatemala and El Salvador almost certainly corresponds to the diffusion of an intensified, sacrificial version of the ballgame (S. Jeffery K. Wilkerson, 1991 p.58, in The Mesoamerican Ballgame). 

            From the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel

"These are the precious stones which our Lord, the Father, has abandoned. This was his first repast, this balche, with which we, the ruling men revere him here. Very rightly they worshiped as true gods these precious stones, when the true God was established our Lord God, the Lord of Heaven and earth, the true God. Nevertheless, the first gods were perishable gods. Their worship came to its inevitable end. They lost their efficacy by the  benediction of the Lord of Heaven, after the redemption of the world was accomplished, after the resurrection of the true God, the true Dios, when he blessed heaven and earth. Then was your worship abolished, Maya men. Turn away your hearts from your old religion" (Inga Clendinnen, 1987 p.161)

This area near the border of Mexico and Guatemala, is most likely where the mushroom stone cult got it's start, based on the numerous mushroom stones found in this area going back to Olmec times. This is where the archaeological site of Izapa is located (with its distinctive Izapan art style), on the Pacific coast, near the border of Guatemala, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Among the Izapan cult motifs are trophy heads, U-shaped symbols (ballgame yokes) serpent worship, descending sky deities, and the Long-lipped or Long-nose god Chaac also known as God B (Facts and Artifacts of Ancient Middle America 1978 p.82). 

Archaeologists have theorized that Izapa may have been settled as early as 1500 B.C. E. making Izapa as old as the Olmec sites of La Venta and San Lorenzo. Maya researcher Vincent Malmstrom proposes that the origin of Mesoamerica's Ritual 260 day calendar is from Izapa, and that he places the calendar's origin at 1359 B.C. (Susan Milbrath 1999 p.64).  

It was in this region where mushroom stones were re-introduced to Guatemala and the Cotzumalhuapa area that the ballgame, along with its bloody rituals of decapitation and the dismemberment of body parts reached new levels. Nowhere else in Mesoamerica does the ballgame imagery appear so gruesome. Ballgame scenes depict players, some with sacrificial knives holding trophy heads, and human sacrifice performed by were-jaguars, and heart sacrifice and dismemberment of human body parts. Some of the players wear conical hats symbolic of Quetzalcóatl, offering gifts to diving sky gods associated with the ballgame. 

During the Middle Classic period, ballcourts were built throughout the highlands and along the Piedmont sites at Bilbao, El Baúl, Palo Verde, Palo Gordo, Los Tarros, El Castillo, and Pantaleon, and Tonalá during a time when the area was dominated by the influence of Teotihuacán. Teotihuacan's influence over all of Mesoamerica  between A.D. 300-700, can be identified archaeologically by the widespread distribution of Teotihuacan ceramics which depict their gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc. In Mesoamerica one of the earliest appearances of the feathered serpent occurs upon the original facade of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan where he represents the avatar of the planet Venus as the Morning Star. Quetzalcoatl was identified with an important office of rulership (Miler & Taube 1993 p.162). Mesoamerican Rulers were believed to be incarnates of the god Quetzalcóatl the Feathered Serpent. Dr. Herbert Spinden (A Study of Maya Art 1975 p.62) writes that the serpent is seldom represented realistically, and that the serpent itself is a badge and cloak of godship. Dr. Eduard Seler was the first to link feathered serpent imagery to the planet Venus and Quetzalcoatl. Seler believed that the jaguar-bird-serpent image was associated with war and the Morning Star (Milbrath 1999). The name Quetzalcoatl has been interpreted to mean “Precious twin,” indicating that Venus as the Morning Star and Evening Star are one and the same (Caso, 1958:.24; Duran:325). At Teotihuacan, Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc merged together to represent the dualistic aspects of the planet Venus, and shared the same temple at Teotihuacan as both Morning Star and Evening Star. Although the god Tlaloc is generally associated with rain and water, Tlaloc is also deeply connected with warfare, the ballgame and the planet Venus. Known as "The Master", Tlaloc as a storm god, was also known as the “provider”,  “he who made things grow”, because he also came in the form of gentle soothing rain that brought new life and growth to the fields and meadows. Tlaloc provided the sustenance needed for everlasting life, in return for the shedding of human blood on earth. The maintenance of life itself depended on his benevolence, because most cataclysmic natural disasters were believed to be due to his wrath.  Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso believed that the cult of Tlaloc was so popular that it influenced all the cultures of Mesoamerica. Here is a description of Tlalocan through the lens of the "bemushroomed" 

              Quoting Robert Gordon Wassan

 “The bemushroomed person is poised in space, a disembodied eye, invisible, incorporeal, seeing but not being seen….In truth, he is the five senses disembodied, all of them keyed to the height of sensitivity and awareness, all of them blending into one another most strangely, until, utterly passive, he becomes a pure receptor, infinitely delicate, of sensations”. (Wasson, 1972a:198)

Classic Veracruz figurines depicting ballplayers wearing Tlaloc's divine goggles. 

Archaeologist Richard Diel, proposes that the Classic Veracruz hollow figurine tradition, so famous for its "smiling faces" and other bizarre facial expressions are believed to portray intoxicated or drugged sacrificial victims (Death Gods, Smiling Faces and Colossal Heads: Archaeology of the Mexican Gulf Lowlands).  

Quoting Gordon Wasson (1957):

"If we were to postulate mushrooms in pre-Conquest art in Mexico, we would direct our search precisely to frescos dealing with Tlaloc and the Paradise of our mushroomic visions, to the very frescos where we have found mushroomic shapes.

In Nahuatl poetry, the poets speak of inebriating flowers referring to the visionary experience induced by teonanacatl, the sacred mushroom of the Aztecs, that took the "bemushroomed" to another world, a world of strange and wonderous beauty, that they called their Tlalocan, the paradise of Tlaloc. 

             Quoting Wasson (1957)

"It [the mushroom] permits you to see, more clearly than our perishing mortal eye can see, vistas beyond the horizons of this life, to travel backwards and forwards in time, to enter other planes of existence, even (as the Indians say) to know God." 

Borhegyi writes this about the acceptance of the Teotihuacan-designed "earthly paradise" and after-world, called Tlalocan (Borhegyi de, 1961a: 501-503)

Quoting Stephan F. de Borhegyi:

"In the concept of the Tlalocan, Teotihuacan offered something tangible, something desirable, a rich and readily available compensation that no previous Mesoamerican culture was able to offer. Appropriate initiation rituals perhaps included bloodletting or self-torture, or baptismal rites by the use of holy water, or purification rites with copal incense (the "blood" of the copal tree) and the ceremonial consumption of such mind-changing hallucinogens as the sacred mushroom (teonanacatl, "the flesh of god"), or peyote."

Spanish chronicler Fray Sahagun in the sixteenth century (Sahagun, 1946: I, 317-318) described Tlaloc's paradise called Tlalocan, as the second of the nine resting places of the deceased, "the place of nine waters" on the arduous journey to Mictlan, the ninth and final resting place of the Aztec dead. Those who were killed in battle or sacrificed by the obsidian knife were assured a place in Tlalocan the afterlife paradise of the Tlaloc.

Sahagun writes that the great ballcourt at the Aztec's capital of Tenochtitlan was "in the same temple" referring to in front of the Templo Mayor, a dual pyramid complex dedicated to the gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli. Sahagun also describes the great tzompantli, or skull rack, where the skulls of sacrificed victims were displayed, and writes that it was opposite the Templo Mayor. According to Mary Miller, this architectural relationship of skull rack (tzompantli) to ballcourt can be seen in at least two other Postclassic sites: the Toltec capital of Tula (Ballcourt 2) and Chichen Itza (Mary Miller 2001 p.91, in  "The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame"). 

Above  is a ceramic incense burner lid, portraying the lineage founder of the Maya city of Copan, in present day Honduras. The founder of the Copan  dynasty bears the name Yax K' uk' Mo', and he is portrayed above wearing padded shoulder protection, and the goggle-eyed mask of Mexican god Tlaloc. According to archaeologist Richard Diel, the ballgame was more of a ritual than a sport, and that it played a crucial role in rituals conducted when classic Maya rulers ascended to the throne. At the Maya ruins of Copan, Yax K' uk' Mo', is credited on Altar Q, with the founding of the Copan Dynasty, an event (ballgame or Tlaloc warfare ?) that took place on A.D. 9/3/426, when Venus was a Morning Star (Milbrath 1999, p. 196-197).

Above is an image of the Mexican god Tlaloc from Mural 1, at the Patio of the Jaguars in Zone 2 at Teotihuacan (200-650 C.E.). Tlaloc's image is superimposed on a five pointed Venus star symbolizing the "fiveness" of Venus referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex (Milbrath 1999 p.199).  

In the Tepantitla Palace murals at Teotihuacan (depicted below in the upper left hand corner) there is a depiction of Tlaloc, "with a water lily in his mouth, and very possibly, a hallucinogenic morning glory grows in the middle of the scene" (The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame 2001 p.48). Maria Teresa Uriarte writes (2001 p.46-47) that the rhizomes of water lilies are hallucinogenic and she links both these hallucinogens with Tlaloc and there obvious association with water, but also interestingly enough, connects them with the entrance to the Underworld. Similar to the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms,  she writes "the taking of consciousness altering substances to enter a different reality".

Above are three images of Tlaloc with encoded Venus glyph. In the Tepantitla Palace murals at Teotihuacan (above upper left hand corner) the image of Tlaloc's headdress is I believe a superimposed symbol of Venus. The Maya Venus glyph on the bottom right is from Michael Coe's book Reading the Maya Glyphs 2001 p.163). The Ek symbol above has been identified as a Venus symbol. 

In the Dresden Codex Venus pages, Venus is referred to "chac ek" meaning "Great Star". Both the Maya god Chaac (also spelled Chac) and the Mexican god Tlaloc represent the god of ritual decapitation in the Underworld.  According to Milbrath, the axe glyph has been interpreted as the word ch' ak,  a close counterpart for Chaac's name, and that both Chaac and Tlaloc are found in similar sets of five, symbolizing once again the "fiveness" of Venus referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex. There is plenty of evidence linking the two gods together, both Tlaloc and Chaac (God B) are commonly depicted in the codices holding lightning serpents and an axes, and Milbrath writes " It seems clear they are essentially the same deity, but rendered in different styles (Milbrath 1999 p.199 and 201).    

This configuration of five, identified as the quincunx, symbolizes the "fiveness" of Venus , or five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex (Milbrath 1999 p.199). The axis mundi or center of the quincunx is the central portal of Underworld Venus resurrection. It should also be noted that the number 5 was specifically associated with the god Quetzalcoatl as an avatar of Venus and his quincunx symbol. According to J. Eric Thompson the idealized Venus cycle always ended on the day 1-Ahau. The synodic revolution of Venus, from Morning Star to Morning Star is 584 days, and that these revolutions were grouped in fives, (see Maya  Dresden Codex) so that 5x584 equaled 2,920 days, or exactly eight solar years (Milbrath 1999 p.170).

           Photographs © Justin Kerr
           Owner: Popol Vuh Museum, Guatemala:

Above is a Late Classic (A.D. 600-900) Maya vase painting K3060, that depicts a long-lipped bearded deity with a bulbous nose and serpentine eye, known as Chaac. Chaac is a long-lipped Quadripartite Maya god designated as "God B," by Schellhas, and is the most frequently depicted Maya god in the three surviving pre-Hispanic codices. Chaac, like his Aztec-Toltec counterpart Tlaloc, represents the embodiment of lightning, rain and thunder (Herbert Spinden 1975 p.62). Although some scholars seem reluctant to identify Tlaloc and Chaac as the same deity both are connected with underworld decapitation and Venus resurrection, as well as Venus warfare and with the four cardinal directions and it's sacred center. In the Dresden Codex Venus pages, Venus is referred to "chac ek" meaning "Great Star". The Maya god Chaac like his Mexican counterpart Tlaloc wields the axe of Underworld decapitation, and both deities are intimately associated with sacred mushrooms that act as divine portal to the Underworld. These sacred portals to the Underworld are located at the four cardinal directions and it's sacred center, which the artist esoterically depicted above in Maya vase painting K3066.  David Freidel writes that "the ballcourt was not only a place of sacrifice; it was an entry portal to the time and space of the last Creation" (Maya Cosmos 1993, p. 352). Note what the author proposes are encoded mushrooms located at the four cardinal directions. Chaac, like his Mexican counterpart Tlaloc, are commonly depicted in art wielding an axe of ritual decapitation and lightening bolts in the shape of serpents.  Although Chaac is identified with the four cardinal directions, he was sometimes thought of as the "one" god who resided at the center of the universe.  A page in the Dresden Codex portrays four Chaacs seated in the trees located at the four cardinal directions of time and space. A fifth Chaac is seated in a cave representing the cosmic center of the world. Once again symbolizing the "fiveness" of Venus referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus. The Maya god Chaac may also be equated with the Maya god Kukulcan, who was the Maya/Toltec version of the god Quetzalcoatl. The word k'uh, means "holy spirit" or "god", and the word chan or kan means both serpent and sky (Freidel, Schele, Parker, 1993 p. 177).

           Quoting Maya archaeologist Dr. Herbert Spinden:

"Many authorities consider God B to represent Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent, whose Aztec equivalent is Quetzalcoatl (Spinden 1975 p.62). 

Above on the right is a ball court marker found near the border of Mexico and Guatemala, at Bilbao, or El Baúl that the author believes is encoded with stylized mushrooms . This configuration of five, identified as the quincunx, symbolizing the "fiveness" of Venus, it is a reference to the central portal of Venus resurrection and the four cardinal directions. The Maya plate painting K4565 above on the left depicts this same configuration of the quincunx, in an image some have called the resurrecting of the Maize God. Note that the figure's body arms and legs form the quincunx, a symbol first identified as a Venus symbol by Herbert Spinden. The Maize God which Schellhas has termed God E, usually bears an elongated head embellished with maize foliage. The Dresden Codex Venus pages provide a template for understanding the seasonal aspects of five Venus gods representing the newly emerged Morning Star over the course of an eight-year cycle that was tracked over hundreds of years. According to Susan Milbrath (1999, page 173), on page 47 of the Dresden Codex  the deity Lahun Chan (10-Sky)  is the second seasonal manifestation of the Morning Star, and that his markings on his torso are the segments of a scorpion's thorax, and that Lahun Chan's headdress also has a prominent maize elements. A closer look at the deity on Maya plate painting K4565, reveals that the artist may have encoded mushrooms esoterically to resemble the figure's legs and arms or vice versa.  In Maya art, the Maize God can often be identified by his elongated head, which is shaped like an ear of corn, and maize foliation, that is often depicted on his headdress. Every culture has its own story of genesis. David Freidel and Linda Schele write that the Maize God, named Hun-Nal-Ye, "One-Maize-Revealed", oversaw the new Creation of the cosmos, and that the ancient Maya recorded this birth day of the contemporary cosmos at 4 Ahaw 8 Kumk'u (Maya Cosmos 1993, p.61-63). David Kelley identifies the Maize God with the father of the mythical Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh. He is named Hun Hunahpu, a name incorporating the sacred day 1 Ahau. This day in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex corresponds to the heliacal rise (first sighting) of Venus as Morning Star and suggests that the uncle of the Hero Twins, Vucub Hunahpu, may represent the Evening Star aspect of Venus (Milbrath 1999 p.159). In the Popol Vuh, the father of the Hero Twins, Hun Hunahpu, who was decapitated in the underworld, at the place of ballgame sacrifice, is not resurrected from the underworld. He is, in fact, left behind by his sons to rule the underworld. His sons, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are resurrected from the underworld transformed into the Sun and Moon. This could mean that the Hero Twins, when they journeyed into the underworld, represented the planet Venus as both Morning Star and Evening Star.  

Ceramic Incense Burner with relief figure of supposed Maize Deity: Tlateloco A.D. 1350-1521. Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City

Mushrooms, Trophy-Heads and the Mesoamerican Ballgame: 

Many of the observations in this Chapter reflect the work of Borhegyi carried out from the 1950s through 1969 and in the book The Pre-Columbian ballgames: A Pan-Mesoamerican Tradition, published posthumously in 1980 by the Milwaukee Public Museum where he had served as the Director. For a comprehensive description of the pre-Columbian ball games and its various and occasionally regional uses of ball-game paraphernalia, and on the "trophy head" cult as related to the games, see (Borhegyi de, S.F. 1960a, 1961c, 1963b, 1965a: 22-23, nn. 23, 28, 1965c, 1968a, 1968c, 1980).

Quoting R. Gordon Wasson:

 “There is nothing incompatible between the mushroom stones and the ball game. Those who have mastered the mushrooms arrive at an extraordinary command of their faculties and muscular movements: their sense of timing is heightened. I have already suggested that the players had ingested the mushrooms before they entered upon the game. If the mushroom stones were related to the ball game, it remains to be discovered what role they played”. (Wasson, from Mushrooms Russia & History, p. 178) 

According to Borhegyi: "The ritual ballgame can only be explained as a cross-cultural phenomenon, for it transcended all linguistic barriers in Mesoamerica. Perhaps the games channeled competition short of warfare, between villages or ceremonial centers, into the field of skill and were a means of predetermining the selection of human victims to fulfill the requirements of the cyclical, or annual ritual sacrifices” (Borhegyi de, 1980: 3).  

Quoting Borhegyi:

“On the Basis of the widespread use of stone hachas, palmas, yokes, and manoplas, we can safely state that by Middle Classic times the competitive ballgames played in formal courts from northern Mexico to as far south as Honduras and El Salvador achieved a Pan-Mesoamerican magnitude” (de Borhegyi 1980 p.3).

Ballcourts were believed to be entrances or portals into the underworld, and mushrooms and their powerful effects on the mind were likely the means of divine transport, thus the portal or gateway into the underworld in which one is deified and resurrected at death. It's now believed that Mesoamerican people may have played the ballgame to symbolize the movements of the sun, moon and the planets, most notably the planet Venus as a resurrection star, and that the ball symbolized the sun’s continuous struggle to free itself at night from the clutches of the underworld. Rituals of self-sacrifice and decapitation in the underworld, allude to the sun's nightly death and subsequent resurrection from the underworld, by a pair of deities (twins or brothers) associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening Star. This suggests that the ballgame and its rituals are associated with the 584-day Venus cycle. As described in the Dresden Codex, the synodic revolution of Venus from Morning Star to Morning Star is 584 days, and that these revolutions were grouped by the Nahuas and Maya in fives, so that 5 x 584 equaled 2,920 days, or exactly eight solar years. 

In El Titulo de Totonicapán, it is said that the Quiché gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day, the day-bringer, referring to Venus as the Morning Star. The Sun God of the Aztecs, Tonatiuh, first found in Toltec art, is frequently paired with Quetzalcóatl in his aspect of Venus as Morning Star. The mushroom ritual associated with warfare, and the ballgame was probably timed astronomically to the period of inferior conjunction of the planet Venus. At this time, Venus sinks below the horizon and disappears into the "underworld" for eight days. It then rises before the sun, thereby appearing to resurrect the sun from the underworld as the Morning Star. For this reason, mushroom-induced decapitation rituals were likely performed in ballcourts, a metaphor for the underworld, which was timed to a ritual calendar linked to the movements of the planet Venus as both a Morning Star and Evening Star.  

Among the ancient Maya, and Nahua, the ballgame and human sacrifice and the ritual of decapitation were believed necessary to save mankind from calamity and the cosmos from collapse. Since the greatest gift one could offer the gods was one’s own life, emulating the ways of the god-king Quetzalcoatl, who took his own life, to create the fifth sun, the purpose of human sacrifice was to preserve life rather than destroy it (Muriel Porter Weaver 1972 p. 205).  Here we see the cyclic nature of life in which death is not the end, but the prelude to rebirth. As the description of Quetzalcoatl's rebirth in the Annals indicates, it was believed throughout Mesoamerica that the rays of Venus as Morning Star as it rises before the heralded rebirth of the sun were tremendously powerful and terribly dangerous (Markman & Markman 1992 p.289).  When the planet Venus rises as an Evening Star it comes into view just after sunset and then follows the sun into the underworld for underworld decapitation. When Venus rises as a Morning Star just before sunrise it appears to resurrect the sun from the underworld (Miller & Taube 1993 p.180). According to the Florentine Codex, the planet Venus could be good or evil, but that most people believed it to be a source of dangerous rays.

In the book The Mesoamerican Ballgame (1991), Susan Gillespie writes that sacrificial victims of the ballgame were probably war captives, and that sacred histories relate that even a change in entire political hegemonies was accomplished via a ballgame, which served as dynamic threshold between succeeding empires". She mentions that in an Aztec myth (Mendieta 1945:88), a ballgame defeat by the Toltec king Quetzalcoatl caused him to abandon his capital city, thus marking the end of the Toltec empire". According to Gillespie, Quetzacoatl was the source and legitimator of kingship and dynasties. In the account given in  Leyenda de los Soles, the text connects the fall of the Toltec empire with the god Tlaloc. In it the last Toltec ruler Huemac defeats Tlaloc in a ballgame causing Tlaloc's messengers the Tlaloques to take the corn away for four years, a punishment that was instrumental in the fall of the Toltec kingdom (Markman & Markman 1992 p.194). 

That the game was a boundary maintenance mechanism between polities, with the sacrificial victim representing a "social decapitation", the removal of a member of the society (sometimes its ruler, its political "head") from the "body politic". "This seems to be the case in Postclassic Highland Guatemala where the ballgame was played between the Quiche and other ethnic groups on the frontier" (Susan Gillespie 1991, Chapter 13, p.340-341). John Fox in his chapter of the book The Mesoamerican Ballgame, writes, "the Quichean peoples of the Postclassic Guatemala Highlands built more ballcourts at this time than anywhere else within the Maya world". "That at a number of outlying Quichean sites, ballcourts appear to have been built upon the takeover of more distance Putun-derived "brethren" (John W. Fox 1991, Chapter 12, p.213-225). According to Fox, Quiche warriors massed together in a single nucleated community with the ballcourt as the centralizing point. Warrior sites like mountain-top fortress at Hacawitz. occupied a pivotal spatial position according to Fox (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.219). Fox writes that the Temple of Hacavitz, an attached temple-ballcourt complex, that housed their patron deity Hacavitz, was a beacon of the first morning light and was viewed as Venus emerging from the Underworld's night. It should be noted that no ballcourts occur in the Quiche basin and adjoining mountains prior to the intrusion of the Quiche during the Early Postclassic period (Fox. 1991, Chapter 12, pp. 218, 221, 230). It has been proposed that at the small sites like Hacavitz, the ballgame may have served as a political mechanism for uniting inherently fractious lineages (John W. Fox. 1991 p.221).        

             John W. Fox:

"The lower-lying ballcourt may have represented ritualized opposition to the "people of darkness" by the "people of light," later allied under the aegis of Nacxit, a spokesman and apparent descendant of the Feathered Serpent" (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.219).  

Thomas Babcock writes that some of the sources indicate that this Nacxit the Lord King of the East was none other than Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, who abandoned Tula, and founded Chichen Itza (Babcock 2012 p.32). 

The Popol Vuh states that the Quiche and Cakchiquels and various other tribes were given their patron deities at Tollan Zuyua (also spelled Tulan). If the name Hacawitz (also spelled Hacavitz) sounds familiar it's because there is a passage in the Popol Vuh in which the Quiché tribes migrating to their various homelands, carry their gods on their back, in pack frames: stating...the founders of the Quichéan lineages traveled a great distance eastward “across the sea” to the Toltec city called Tulan Zuyva where they received their gods “whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs” (Christenson, 2007: 198) "we have found that for which we have searched, they said... "packing their gods on their backs and watching continuously for the appearance of the Morning Star,..."the first god to go out was Tohil, carried in his pack frame by Balam Quitze..."then the god Auilix (also spelled Avilix) was carried out by Balam Acab, (Balam = jaguar) in his pack frame, followed by Hacavitz (Hacawitz) the name of the god received by Mahucutah…

Above is a Type D tripod mushroom stone from Guatemala that has a human effigy on the stem (Late Classic, A.D. 600-900). The mushroom stone figure above wears a traditional mecapal strapped around his forehead (tumpline) to carry what appears to me to be a giant mushroom on his back, or is this a representation of the Quiche god Tohil? According to the Popol Vuh, the founders of the Quichéan lineages traveled to the Toltec city called Tulan Zuyva (Tollan) where they received their gods “whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs” (Allen J. Christenson, 2007: 198) (Photo by Stan Czolowski, A Brief History of Magic Mushrooms in BC [2018], Vancouver Mycological Society:     

In the Popol Vuh, the Quiche say that after they left Tollan to seek their home, the sun rose for the first time at Patohil, Pauilix, and Hacavitz and there all at once, the gods and the first animals suddenly turned to stone. 

           Quoting Dennis Tedlock:

"The stone whose genius or spirit familiar was Tohil was carried in a backpack by Jaguar Quitze, founder of the Cauecs when he left Tulan Zuyua He placed this stone on a mountain that came to be called Patohil, literally "At Tohil" apparently located above or near concealment canyon, where the god Auilix was placed. (Tedlock 1985 p.365)

The temple dedicated to the patron deity Hacawitz is attached to a ballcourt, and according to Fox, the only comparable attached temple-ballcourt complex known so far is at Chichen Itza, where the Temple of the Jaguars is attached to the Great Ballcourt. According to Fox, the Quiche Lords worshiped the patron deity Hacawitz as Venus/Hunahpu. According to Tedlock, During the time when the Quiche lords occupied the citadel of Hacauitz (also spelled Hacavitz, uitz means mountain) the spirit familiars of Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz were regularly seen bathing at this place, a location that is unknown (Tedlock 1985 p366). Was this a reference to a ballcourt, and of bathing in blood? those bringing tribute gave offerings to Tohil before they made their presentations to the Quiche lords (Tedlock 1985 p.365). Tohil is the patron deity of the Quiche who demands blood offerings from his people, and so they sacrifice to him both their own blood and the blood of captives of war. (Mary Miller and Karl Taube, 1993:136, 170). Tohil, gave humans fire, but only after human sacrifice to him had begun. The word hom is a Quiche term for ballcourt, as well as a term for graveyard, which suggests the deadly nature of the game described in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock 1985 p.326) Auilix was also the name of the temple that housed the god Auilix in the citadel of Rotten Cane, its doors facing west across the plaza, towards the temple that housed the god Tohil (Tedlock 1985 p.326). Tohil is referred to in the Annals as Gucumatz, which is “feathered serpent” a variant of the name Quetzalcoatl (Wasson & Wasson 1957 p.281). In Quichean mythology, the sun was carried across the sky by a two-headed serpent (Venus) named Gucumatz  (also spelled K'ucumatz) the Quiche variant of the Toltec god-king Quetzalcoatl-Kukculcan  (Fox 1991 Chapter 12, pp.220-221).  

At the suggestion of Tohil, the Quichés leave Tollán. They sacrifice their own blood to him, passing cords through their ears and elbows, and they sing a song called ‘The Blame is Ours’, lamenting the fact that they will not be in Tollán when the times comes for the first dawn. Packing their gods on their backs and watching continuously for the appearance of the Morning Star, they began a long migration. (Allen Christenson, 2007: 198). Tedlock writes that the Quiche especially lamented leaving the Yaqui people behind (Tedlock 1985 p.327). After the fall of Tula the Yaqui people migrated, presumably from the Gulf Coast to the Guatemalan Highlands. Yaqui is a term applied to Toltec followers of Quetzalcoatl in the Popol Vuh who were ancestors to the Quiche. According to S.W. Miles, (1965 Handbook of Middle American Indians Vol. 2) the Yaqui explicitly identify with their god Quetzalcoatl and a class of priests, the Yaqui sacrificers, and Toltecat. She mentions that the coastal Pipil (Cotzumalhuapa culture) were called Yaqui by the highlanders of Guatemala (S. W.  Miles 1965 p.286).

            Quoting Borhegyi in a letter to Wasson, dated March 3, 1954: 

“I discovered two interesting sentences relating to mushrooms from Indian Chronicles, written around 1554 by natives. In the Popol Vuh, translated from the Spanish version by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley, University of Oklahoma press, Norman Oklahoma, 1950, page 192. “And when they found the young of the birds and the deer, they went at once to a place the blood of the deer and of the birds in the mouth of the stones that were Tohil, and Avilix.  As soon as the blood had been drunk by the gods, the stones spoke, when the priest and the sacrificers came, when they came to bring their offerings.  And they did the same before their symbols, burning pericon (?) and holom-ocox (the head of the mushroom),holom=head, and ocox= mushroom”. I think this section definitely indicates that the Quiche used mushrooms in connection with their religious ceremonies.  I even wonder what made the stones speak “.

"Unfortunately, we do not know what the stone idols of Tohil, Hacavitz and Avilix looked like. Tohil is referred to in the Annals as Gucumatz, which is “feathered serpent” a variant of the name Quetzalcoatl and we might assume that he was so represented. However, What type of god Avilix was is still a question? It would be more than pleasant to think of him as a mushroom God! I think they prove beyond any doubt that at least some sort of a mushroom cult must have existed among the Quiché and Cakchiquel Mayas". 

According to testimony recorded in 1554 in the Colonial document entitled El Titulo de Totonicapan (Land Title of Totonicapan), the Quiché Maya revered mushroom stones as symbols of power and rulership, and before them they performed rituals (of blood sacrifice) to pierce and cut up their bodies. (Sachse, 2001, 363).

"  The lords used these symbols of rule, which came from where the sun rises, to pierce and cut up their bodies (for the blood sacrifice). There were nine mushroom stones for the Ajpop and the Ajpop Q'amja, and in each case four, three, two, and one staffs with the Quetzal's feathers and green feathers, together with garlands, the Chalchihuites precious stones, with the sagging lower jaw and the bundle of fire for the Temezcal steam bath."

Tedlock writes that, based on evidence discovered by Borhegyi, he does not rule out the presence of an Amanita muscaria mushroom cult in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock, 1985: 250).  

Above is a Late Classic period Maya vase K4932 from the Justin Kerr Database (Photo by Justin Kerr). The author proposes that the transparent bundles depicted on this vase painting may actually be filled with Amanita muscaria mushrooms, the Quiche gods “whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs” (Allen J. Christenson, 2007: 198) . 

The followers of  Quetzalcoatl, I believe, came to the conviction very early on that, under the influence of the sacred mushroom, a divine force actually entered into their body--a state described as "god within".  Because mushrooms appeared to spring magically over night  from the underworld, apparently sparked by the powers of lightning, wind and rain, it would have been easy for these ancients to conclude that they were divine gifts brought to them by the wind god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, and the rain god Tlaloc, both of them avatars of the planet Venus. 


Above is a scene from Page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis, that portrays the Wind God Ehecatl-Quetzalcóatl carrying what appears to be a mushroom god on his back, similar to a passage in the Popol Vuh, where the three founders of the Quichéan lineages traveled a great distance eastward “across the sea” to the Toltec city called Tulan Zuyva where they received their gods “whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs” (Christenson, 2007: 198) According to Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst, the scene on page 24 depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms (1981, pp.151-155).

Above is a scene from Page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis, that portrays the Wind God Ehecatl-Quetzalcóatl carrying what appears to be a mushroom god on his back, similar to the story in the Popol Vuh, where the founders of the Quichéan lineages traveled a great distance eastward “across the sea” to the Toltec city called Tulan Zuyva where they received their gods “whom they then carried home in bundles on their backs” (Christenson, 2007: 198) According to Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst, the scene on page 24 depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms (1981, pp.151-155).  

In the Codex Vindobonensis, it was Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl the god of wind who taught his children mankind, that they must eat the sacred mushrooms and make blood sacrifices in order to achieve immortality. Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God is the roadsweeper who sweeps the road for the Storm God Tlaloc, who is the provider. 

Above on the left is a incense burner with the head of the Mexican Storm God named Tlaloc. The god Tlaloc also known as, "The Master", shared the same temple as Quetzalcoatl (Twin temple) at the great city of Teotihuacan, where archaeologists have found the remains of some 200 sacrificial victims, buried under the temple. As a Rain God Tlaloc controlled thunder and lightning and provided the sustenance in return for the shedding of human blood on earth.  

The rulers of Teotihuacan, who were devout followers of the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, established a vast empire that reached as far south as Kaminalyuju, a large Maya city in the highlands of Guatemala. There is plenty of evidence that Teotihuacan set up enclaves at Kaminaljuyu, and other key sites along the intercontinental mountain range which were heavily influenced in Preclassic times by the powerful Olmec culture. Teotihuacan merchants probably in the guise of warriors and priests had moved into the Maya area around A.D. 400. and established a port of trade center at Kaminaljuyu. Wherever the Teotihuacanos went they took their gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc and their sacrificial rituals with them. We know from Maya inscriptions that the lowland Maya at Tikal an even larger Maya city in the lowlands of Guatemala and the Teotihuacanos had been in contact with each other from at least the first century A.D.. Teotihuacan-style objects depicting the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc occur at Tikal and elsewhere in the Maya Lowlands (Schele & Freidel, "Forest of Kings", 1990 p.159). 

              Linda Schele & David Freidel 1990:

"The most extraordinary record of the conquest [of Uaxactun by Teotihuacan backed Tikal] was inscribed on a Ballcourt Marker that was recently discovered in a lineage compound south of the Lost World group. The ballgame with its decapitation and sacrificial associations had been a central component of Maya ritual since the Late Preclassic period, [Olmec times] but the marker recording the Uaxactun conquest is not typical of the floor-mounted stone disk used in the Maya ballcourts. This Tikal marker, in the shape of a thin cylinder surmounted by a sphere and disk, is nearly identical to ballcourt markers pictured in the murals of the Tlalocan at Teotihuacan itself. It rests on its own Teotihuacan-style platform and a two-paneled inscription wraps around the cylinder base. Its form emulates the style of Teotihuacan ballcourt markers as a reflection of the importance of the Tlaloc-Venus war in its record" (Schele & Freidel, "Forest of Kings", 1990 p.158).

The Tikal ballcourt marker itself was erected by a Maya lord who named himself "the Ahau of Tikal" meaning Lord of Tikal (Schele & Freidel, Forest of Kings 1990 p.159). The artwork on the ballcourt marker known as the "marcador", depicts the image of the Teotihuacan god Tlaloc. No other ballcourt marker of this kind has ever been found at Tikal, and according to Peter Harrison (The Lords of Tikal, 1999 p.81), "this object displays evidence that new war methods were introduced to Tikal at the time of its conflict with Uaxactun". 

The author proposes that the new war methods Teotihuacan introduced to Tikal included the use of sacred mushrooms. Milbrath suggests that Quetzalcoatl's role as a creator god was subordinated to a Venus cult connected with warfare and sacrifice in the later years of Teotihuacan (Milbrath 1999, p. 184). This Teotihuacan military symbolism can be seen on Tikal Stela 31, in which the Early Classic Maya ruler of Tikal, Yax Nuun Ahiin (A.D. 379-406) is portrayed wearing Teotihuacan military garb, and he holds a shield with the image of the Mexican war god Tlaloc. This war-related Tlaloc imagery from Teotihuacan is linked to the religious cult of the Feathered Serpent. The Maya Rulers of Tikal adopted the mushroom-related Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc war cult that was timed to the planetary conjunctions of Venus. By adopting Teotihuacan military symbolism featuring Tlaloc-Venus warfare, Maya kings aligned themselves with what was then the most powerful political and economic center in Mesoamerica (Andrea Stone & Mark Zender, Reading Maya Art, 2011 p.85).  

            Quoting Mary Miller and Karl Taube (The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya:  1993 p.181) 

"These "star wars" were the greatest conflagration in Classic Maya times and took place with increasing frequency during the 8th century, probably contributing to the Classic Maya Collapse". 

The author believes that hallucinogenic mushrooms (drugs) may have been the leading cause to the Classic Maya Collapse. This theory which calls for further research is based on the sacred mushroom's close association with Venus-warfare, and the ritual ballgame, both of which are strongly linked to human sacrifice and a trophy-head cult. The consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms before battle most likely eliminated all sense of fear, hunger, and thirst, as well as enhancing one's vision (night vision for night raids) and gave the raging combatant a sense of invincibility and courage to fight at the wildest levels. 

Above is a figurine holding what the author proposes is an Amanita muscaria mushroom in his left hand. There is plenty of evidence that ballplayers from the Gulf Coast area wore knee pads with the Ahau glyph design a symbol of Lord, and Maya kingship (Borhegyi de, 1980: 8). Note that the ballplayer figurine above depicts three Ahau glyphs, one on each knee and one on his waist protector called a ballgame yoke. Also note that the ballplayer figurine depicts large goggle-shaped eyes, that are the trade-mark attribute of the Mexican god Tlaloc (Figurine from Denver Museum collection).

Archaeologist Michael Coe writes, "Venus is the only one of the planets for which we can be absolutely sure the Maya made extensive calculations (The Maya fifth edition 1993, p.182). Throughout the Codex Borgia, painted around A.D. 1500, symbols of Venus are directly connected with the ballgame (Whittington 2001 p.42). Of all the planets Venus was the most important in Mesoamerican art, cosmology, and calendrics, and the Tlaloc-Venus cult associated with Central Mexico and the Teotihuacan invasions into the Maya area during the Classic period emphasizes the Feathered Serpent-Tlaloc Venus cult. There is also evidence of a Venus warfare at Chichen Itza (Milbrath 1999, p.196). 

The ritual ballgame was played to commemorate the completion of time periods in the sacred calendar, such as a 20-year time period called a katun that always ended on the day Ahau. Most Maya monuments were erected to mark the end of a katun or half- or quarter-katun (Thompson 1963 p.214). It was on that day Ahau, after inferior conjunction that Venus reappears as the Morning Star. The ballgame also emphasized the pervading dualities of night and day, sun and moon, upper world and underworld, rainy season and dry season, and death and rebirth.  

Study of astronomically tagged dates suggests that the Evening Star (mostly associated with Tlaloc) was of greater importance during the Classic period, and that the Morning Star (mostly associated with Quetzalcoatl) received greater emphasis during the Postclassic period according to the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex (Susan Milbrath p.159). Star-war dates are also recorded at the Maya lowland site of Dos Pilas on Stela 2, (formerly known as Stela 16) and at the site of Aguateca on Stela 2. According to Milbrath both stela bear a "star-over-Seibal" glyph compound that refers to a Venus war event corresponding to the first appearance of the Evening Star. (Milbrath 1999, p.195). Schele and Freidel, link both these stela monuments to an astronomical cult related to Tlaloc. On both monuments the ruler wears a Tlaloc mask and a headdress with a Mexican-style year sign, which is associated with Teotihuacan (Forest of Kings, 1990, p.445) (Milbrath 1999, p.195-196)   

The Maya city of Caracol also mastered the same Tlaloc-Venus warfare, and subsequently used this warfare in their victory over Tikal on April 11th, A.D. 553. Inscriptions tell us that Caracol conducted an "ax-war" (for trophy heads) in the land of "the Ahau of Tikal". The inscriptions on Altar 21 at Caracol mention that they conducted a "star at Tikal" war event on May 1st A.D. 562 (Schele & Freidel, "Forest of Kings", 1990 p.173). Another star-war event took place on May 4th, A.D. 627, this time involving Caracol's victory over the lowland Maya kingdom of Naranjo. On that day, Venus was at its stationary point as Morningstar, a position believed to be favorable for victory in battle.

 According to  Linda Schele & David Freidel in their book Forest of Kings, the result of Naranjo's defeat was a sacrificial event that clearly referred to a ballgame ritual, and that this event was commemorated on the stairway text at Naranjo. Schele & Freidel write, "the ballgame was often used as a ritual for the disposition of war captives" (Schele & Freidel, 1990 p.176). According to Scarborough (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.130) "In the southern Maya Lowlands, ballcourts were forums for expressing political alliances and religious doctrine". On December 27th, 631, Caracol set out on another brutal attack on Naranjo, only this time it took place on the night when Venus first appeared as the Evening Star over Naranjo (Schele & Freidel, 1990 p.177) . 

Closely allied with the cult of the Feathered Serpent, is the city of mythical stature Tollan. Noble lineages claimed decent and legitimacy from Tollan, and it's likely that Tollan may have originally been Teotihuacan. It's becoming more apparent that the city of Tollan may have been a name applied to any great city. After the fall of Teotihuacan it became the Toltec capital of Tula, Hidalgo, and later Tollan became attributed to cities, such as Cholula, El Tajin and Chichen Itza.  This Venus-mushroom-warfare cult is closely linked to Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl, and was probably imported from Teotihuacan. This cult according to Susan Milbrath seems to be associated with lineage founders at a number of sites, suggesting that foreigners bringing the cult with them may also have founded dynasties in the Maya area. Milbrath writes that Venus may be linked with the founders of some Maya lineages. The "founder glyph" appears on Yaxchilan Lintel 25, depicting a double-headed serpent bearing a ruler wearing a mask of the goggle-eyed deity Tlaloc. The lineage founder of the Maya city of Copan who bears the name Yax K' uk' Mo', is also depicted wearing the goggle-eyed mask of the Mexican god Tlaloc on Altar Q, where he is associated with the founding event on A.D. 9/3/426, when Venus was a Morning Star (Milbrath 1999, p. 196-197).

The drawing above is from a Classic period (200-650 CE.) Teotihuacan drinking vessel. The scene depicts either the Teotihuacan god Tlaloc or a ruler impersonating or dressed in the guise of Tlaloc crowned with a trefoil symbol that the author proposes is a New World version of the Old World Fleur de Lis symbol, having exactly the same meaning as Lord. Note that the Tlaloc figure carries a bloody axe in one hand, and three arrows in the other, symbolic of warfare and sacrifice, and that Tlaloc. or a ruler impersonating Tlaloc is surrounded by footprints, a common motif in pre-Columbian art, that esoterically refers to the long arduous journey into the Underworld (Drawing from Kubler 1967, fig. 14). 

Because of Tlaloc's association with decapitation as the Evening Star, Teotihuacan rulers likely portrayed themselves impersonating Tlaloc, just as their Maya counterparts impersonated Chac-Xib-Chac, or GI of the Palenque Triad.  

The importance of the ballgame and its bloody rituals associated with ballcourt complexes in city planning, and the game’s relationship to a feathered serpent cult associated with Venus warfare, should not be underestimated, for there are over 1200+ archaeological sites in Mesoamerica that have identified at least one ballcourt, and cities like Chichen Itza with eleven ballcourts, and El Tajín in Veracruz, Mexico that boast a minimum of 11 ballcourts, and as many as 18 ballcourts (S. Jeffery K. Wilkerson, 1991 p.58, in The Mesoamerican Ballgame).  

The drawing above is of carved relief panel from the vertical side walls of the South Ball Court at El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico. Note what appears to be encoded mushrooms sprouting from the Tree of Life in both creation scenes above and below. (drawings from M.E. Kampen "Classic Veracruz Grotesques and Sacrifical Iconography"). The bearded god above him, with two bodies, likely represents Quetzalcoatl in his twin aspects of the planet Venus representing both the Evening Star and Morning Star.

As already stated, there are numerous historical reports as well that link mushroom consumption to the ritual act of self sacrifice and ritual decapitation. These include blood letting, penis perforation, and even the improbable act of self-decapitation. With so much visual evidence suggesting that hallucinogenic mushrooms were consumed prior to ritual decapitation, it seems reasonable to propose that they were considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld or in the ritual ballgame.

The carved relief panel above is one of a series of six carvings in the vertical side walls of the South Ball Court at El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico (drawing from Coe, 1994, p.117). The carved panel depicts an individual, a ruler or Underworld god, with were-jaguar fangs, in the sacred act of drawing blood from his penis. In Mesoamerica mushrooms were also most likely consumed by priests before the holy act of penis perforation. In this ritual blood was drawn from the penis and sprinkled upon the exhumed bones or cremated ashes of deceased ancestors, thus emulating in myth the way of Quetzalcoatl. Note that the figure in the water below receiving the blood offering, wears a fish headdress, which may be a symbolic reference to a mythological ancestor from a previous world age, who survived a world ending flood by being changed into a fish, according to the Nahua Five Suns cosmogonic accounts. Most importantly, note that on the left in the scene there is a sacred tree, that appears to encode tiny mushrooms on the tree's branches. The ancient Maya, as well as all Mesoamericans believed that the gods who created the present world raised the sky by placing a vertical axis, a World Tree at the center of the cosmos.

The "Tree of Life", located in a paradise of immortality, or the "Garden of the Gods", is one of the most pervasive and enduring legends in the history of religion. In the Bible, in the Genesis account of the origins of humanity, there is a "tree of life" and a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" found growing in the Garden of Eden, and that God is afraid of humans attaining the secret knowledge from that tree of eternal life. 

Above is a pre-Columbian drinking vessel that encodes the fruit from the legendary Tree of Life, as sacred mushrooms (Source: Metropolitan Museum 1978.412.113).  The belief in a "World Tree" or "Tree of Life" that interconnects the upper world with the underworld, is a concept that has it's origin in the Old World. Throughout northern and central Asia, the Amanita muscaria mushrooms grow in a symbiotic relationship beneath giant pine and birch trees. This fact likely gave rise to belief in a Tree of Life, and in Asia it was believed to have been surmounted by a spectacular bird, capable of soaring to the heights, where the gods meet in conclave. "There where the tree grows near the Navel of the Earth, the Axis Mundi, the Cosmic Tree, the Pillar of the World" (from Furst 1976, p. 102-103).

It was through blood sacrifice that Mesoamerican rulers and priests nurtured the gods who had been their ancestors. I believe that mushrooms were likely consumed in rituals of human sacrifice and self sacrifice. Self sacrifice by means of ritual bloodletting was likely the most important ritual among the ancient Maya. The act of bloodletting was so sacred in fact that according to Michael D. Coe, today's unofficial  "Dean of Maya studies", that the perforator itself was worshiped as a god (from Olmec Bloodletting: An Iconographic Study 1991). 

Both the ballcourt panels from El Tajin encode an intricate scroll design which may be more than mere decoration and likely represents a stylized cross-section of a mushroom. Stylized Venus symbols are also depicted on the panel at both of the sides. Each Venus symbol is associated with three circles, maybe representing the three hearth stones of creation, and a Trinity of creator gods. 

Regarding the Classic Veracruz art style of El Tajin, here is a bold quote from Michael D. Coe, author of the book, Mexico, From the Olmec to the Aztecs:

"This style [El Tajin] can be mistaken for no other in Mexico; on the contrary, its closest affinities seem to lie, for no apparent reason, across the Pacific with the bronze and Iron Age cultures of China" (Michael D. Coe, 1994, p.115).

Archaeologist David Kelley also noted the striking similarities between the Late Chow decorative styles of China of 700-200 B.C.E. and those of the El Tajin culture of Veracruz, Mexico, of A.D. 500-1000 (Stephen C. Jett 1971, p.44) (Heine-Geldern, 1959a).   

In the late 1940s Ethno-archaeologist Gordon F. Ekholm proposed a theory that Chinese visitors from the Shang Dynasty crossed the Pacific and taught the Olmec how to write, build monuments, and worship a feline god. Ekholm proposed multiple transpacific contacts with the New World beginning as early as 3000 B.C. He believed that this influence on New World civilization came from China, or Southeast Asia, and argued that the Chinese, during the Chou and Han dynasties undertook planned voyages to and from the western hemisphere as early as 700 B.C. in search of gold, jade, and feathers.  

Not enough is really known about the Olmec people, the language which they spoke, what they may have called themselves, and where this ancient civilization originally came from. We know very little about the religious beliefs of the Olmecs and their contemporary neighbors, other than they apparently revered the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, which they portrayed in small stone sculptures known as mushroom stones, associated with the ancient cultures of the Olmec and Maya, that are now being interpreted as evidence for the usage of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mesoamerican religion spanning almost 3,000 years (S.F de Borhegyi 1957, 1961, 1963, 1965a, 1965b). 

Ekholm contends that planned voyages may have been religiously motivated particularly based on the well-known Buddhist predilection for proselytizing (see, for example, Ekholm, 1953: 88). Ekholm writes  that scholars have underrated the maritime capabilities of the early Chinese, who not only invented the compass, but used a more seaworthy rudder than those used in the voyages of Columbus. 

The late Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist who studied comparative mythology and religion believed that Asian culture was responsible for Mayan myths, religion, and astronomy, and noted that the Mayan eclipse table in the Dresden Codex was identical to a table that Chinese astronomers produced during the Han Dynasty. According to Gunnar Thompson, author of Secret Voyages to the New World,  both tables predicted 23 eclipses within a 135-month period when in fact, only 18 eclipses actually occur. In other words, both Mayan and Chinese eclipse tables were faulty; and that they both contained the same errors. Campbell realized that identical errors could not occur if the original observations had been made independently in China and Mexico. Therefore Campbell concluded that the Mayan eclipse table was derived from a Chinese prototype" (Gunnar Thompson, 2010 p.63) 

In her book Pale Ink (self-published c. 1958), anthropologist Henriette Mertz noted two Chinese expeditions to America. Both expeditions are in the Chinese records, one in the fifth century A.D., and the other, much earlier in the twenty-third century B.C. (Peter Tompkins 1976 p.352-353). The 5th century Chinese expedition is described by Hwui Shan a Buddhist monk who reported on the travels of five Buddhist missionaries to a country far to the east called "Fu-sang", which Mertz and several other historians including Joseph de Guignes 1721 - 1800, who was the first to propose the idea that Fu-sang was ancient Mexico. According to Mertz, "this 5th century visit to Mexico changed the entire course of Mexican history" (from Peter Tompkins 1976 p.352-353).

Joseph de Guignes during his course of study came across a story, retold by Ma Twan-lin, in his "Antiquarian Researches" published in 1321, of a Buddhist priest, Hwui Shan by name, who, in the fifth century, reported having been to a far country to the east of China. After translating the account, de Guignes believed that he recognized the country described by Hwui Shan to be that of Mexico." ( Henriette Mertz, Pale Ink: self-published c. 1958)

             Dr. Gunnar Thompson author of the book, Secret Voyages to the New World, 2010, writes..

"...according to a scribe in the court of Emperor Laing  Wu Ti, a Buddhist missionary claimed that he had returned from a trip to Fu Sang in the year 498 AD. The missionary Hui Shen, said that he had left China on a pilgrimage to spread the blessing of the Buddha to the lands of barbarians across the Eastern Ocean. He visited a country that was situated 20,000 li (or about 6000 miles) to the east of Siberia. That would place Fu Sang in the vicinity of Mexico." (Thompson 2010, p.65). 

The great Emperor Qin Shi Huang who ascended the throne in 246 BCE., commissioned the voyages to Fu Sang, in his search of the legendary ling chich, the mushroom of immortality (Gunnar Thompson 2010, p.55). This is the same Emperor who built the Great Wall of China, and a mausoleum guarded by thousands of Terracotta Warriors. The great Emperor Qin Shi Huang died in 210 BCE., at the age of 49, after a futile search for a mushroom of immortality.

"By the 3rd century BC, the Chinese were building oceangoing merchant vessels up to 80 feet long and weighing up to 60 tons. According to the Shi Chi chronicle, in 219 BC, during the reign of Emperor Shi Huang, a fleet of ships, led by Captain Tzu Fu, left China for Fu Sang, a far-off land to the east, also known as the Isle of the Immortals. The purpose was to bring back the legendary ling chih mushrooms for the ailing emperor. (source May 2009)

Shijiahe jade effigy figure with mushroom emerging from head, 2000 BCE, China. 

Dennis Lou (1964), noted a resemblances between the Mesoamerican mushroom stones, and certain Chinese ancestor "tablets" of the Shang dynasty, and suggested that the mushroom stones of Mesoamerica are derived from the early Chinese tablets. Lou also noted early literary sources refer to those Shang dynasty objects as being not only of stone and pottery but also of marble, jade, silk, bronze, and wood, and were used in rituals connected with the departed spirits of clan ancestors (Trans-Pacific Contacts symposium in Spain 1964).

             British biochemist, historian and sinologist Joseph Needham, Ph.D (1900–1995) author of Science and Civilization in China:

"there is no doubt that Chinese Taoists rarely hesitated in consuming "magic mushrooms"..." in the quest of immortality"  (from Frederick R. Dannaway March 2009).

Wasson writes of cults that “survived in China until the 12th century, and in that century an unfriendly official of the Chinese government reporting on their activities complained that in their religious rites they consumed too many red mushrooms and performed ablutions with urine, apparently human urine” (Wasson 1992).  According to Wasson (1957) in China, long before the Buddhist era, in the Taoist philosophy of Lao-Tse, there is the legend of the ling-chih: wherein 'ling' means spiritual or potent or divine, and 'chih' is a word for 'mushroom'. According to the legend as it survives today, the ling-chih was a mushroom that bestowed immortality on the eater.

           Quoting R. Gordon Wasson:

"Now if, as seems likely, the Chinese once worshiped an hallucinogenic mushroom and employed it in religious ritual and medicine, and if some of their sages reached the New World, by accident or design, they could of course have introduced some of their own advanced pharmacological knowledge, or at least the idea of sacred mushrooms, to the ancient Mexicans. The same would apply to early India, whose calendrical system, like that of China, bears a perplexing resemblance to its pre-Hispanic Mexican counterpart" (Furst, 1976 p.104).

In pre-Columbian art, ballplayers are often depicted wearing stone objects that archaeologists have called stone axes (hachas) and palm frond-shaped stones (palmas). According to ancient murals and relief sculptures, the hachas and palmas were part of the protective gear worn by players in the ballgame. Borhegyi believed that stone hachas, as well as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vertically- and horizontally-tenoned stone heads associated with the ballgame, were symbolic of the human trophy heads of earlier times (Borhegyi de, 1980: 24-25).  

Stone hachas depicted on ceremonial ballgame yokes worn around the ballplayer’s waist, while the tenoned stone heads were set into the walls of formal ballcourts. The subject matter most frequently seen on stone yokes, hachas and palmas are decapitated heads, skulls, skeletons, trophy heads, dismembered hands, limbs and bodies, severed ears, gouged-out eyes, and outstretched tongues, etc. Based on the widespread use of this ballgame paraphernalia, he proposed: “that by Middle Classic times the competitive ballgames played in formal courts from northern Mexico to as far south as Honduras and El Salvador achieved a Pan-Mesoamerican magnitude” (Borhegyi de, 1980: 3). 

Above is a miniature Late Classic stone hacha from Veracruz, Mexico (Figure from Whittington, 2001), represents a decapitated trophy head of a wrinkled and toothless old man wearing a cone-shaped hat that suggests the Old Fire God (Xiuhtecutli), while a closer look reveals the image of a psilocybin mushroom encoded in the old man's cheek and hat. The conical or cone-shaped hat, is a trademark attribute of the Mexican god-king Quetzalcóatl and of his priesthood. 

According to Borhegyi (1965: 36), ballgame yokes, hachas, and palmas most likely originated on the Gulf coast of Mexico, where they have been found in the greatest number and variety. Borhegyi made an important connection here; he noted that carved stone yokes worn by ballplayers are rare in Guatemala and those found depict ether serpent heads or death-heads (Borhegyi de, 1980: 7). Stone yokes in association with stone hachas are known from only three other sites in Mesoamerica, at Bilbao and Patulul, Guatemala, and at Viejon in Veracruz, Mexico. Borhegyi proposed that the earlier Olmec-influenced handball game played in this area was probably played in open fields or open plazas, and may have used the severed heads of humans and jaguars to mark out the boundaries or as targets or goals. 

In Mesoamerican art, ballplayers are often depicted wearing curious stone called "palmate stones" or palmas (above). Palmate stones were likely used for ceremonial purposes and not worn during actual play. A carved relief panel on the vertical side wall of the South Ball Court at El Tajin, in Veracruz, Mexico, shows how the palma was attached to the stone yoke worn by two ballplayers. Note that both ballgame palmas depicted above appear to have steps, (thirteen on the left and nine on the right) that appear to lead up to an esoteric symbol that may represent a divine mushroom in profile.  In Mesoamerican iconography, specific numbers like the number thirteen is associated with the sky or heaven, and the number nine is associated with the underworld (Marvin Cohodas "Ballgame Imagery of the Maya Lowlands: History and Iconography" 1991 p.274).  

Borhegyi noted the significance of the number nine with a group of nine deities known as the "Nine Lords of the Night", and gods of the underworld (de Borhegyi, S.F. 1961 p.501-503).  Borhegyi also writes that Maya cosmology included thirteen Gods of the heaven (Borhegyi letter to Wasson August 31, 1954 Wasson Archives Harvard University).  

In the highlands of Guatemala where the majority of mushroom stones have been found, and where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance, archaeologists working at the Preclassic site of Kaminajuyu discovered nine miniature mushroom stones in a Maya tomb, along with nine mortars and pestles, stone tools which were likely used in the mushroom's preparatory rites (see S.F de Borhegyi,1961, 498-504). Borhegyi noted the significance of the number nine with a group of nine deities known as the "Nine Lords of the Night", and gods of the underworld (de Borhegyi, S.F. 1961 p.501-503).  

           Borhegyi, describes the contents of the Kaminaljuyu cache: 

"The cache of nine miniature mushroom stones demonstrates considerable antiquity for the "mushroom-stone cult," and suggests a possible association with the nine lords of the night and gods of the underworld, as well as the possible existence of a nine-day cycle and nocturnal count in Preclassic times. The association of the miniature mushroom stones with the miniature metates and manos greatly strengthens the possibility that at least in some areas in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica metates were used to grind the sacred hallucinatory mushrooms to prepare them for ceremonial consumption." (de Borhegyi 1961: 498-504)

In Mesoamerica the Nine Lords of the Night, were responsible for guiding the Sun, into the underworld to be sacrificed by ritual decapitation and reborn again as baby jaguar, the new born Sun God. In Maya religion the monkey represents the first of the Nine Lords of the Night or underworld. Called the Bolon Ti Ku, in Yucatec, the first god associated with re-birth was the Monkey (GI) and Quetzalcoatl (G9) was the last, associated with death, decapitation and time's completion. The word "Ku" in Classic Maya glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey profile was used to describe "holy" or "divine," referring to "god",  Lord, or king (M.D. Coe 2001, p.109). 

Above is an anthropomorphic mushroom stone (Type C) from El Salvador, Esperanza period 300 to 600 A.D. now in the Rietberg Museum in Zurich. The nine pointed halo star comprising the headdress around the deity's head may allude to the 9-layers of the Maya underworld, and may represent G-9, the last of the Nine Lords of the Night (or underworld). Among the Toltecs and Mixtecs of Oaxaca, Quetzalcoatl as Ehecatl was known by his calendrical name of "9 Wind", for the day on which he was born. G-9 of the Nine Lords of the Night has been identified as the supreme ruler of the underworld and the sacred day Ahau. It should be also noted that the Mexican god Tlaloc (Evening Star aspect of Venus) who shared the same temple with Quetzalcoatl (Morningstar aspect of Venus) at the great city of Teotihuacan, also represents the ninth lord of the Nine Lords of the Night, and that his calendrical name was 9-Ocelotl (Facts and Artifacts of Ancient Middle America, 1978 p.164). 

Above are four Type C, monkey effigy mushroom stones. An analysis of the Dresden Codex identifies the monkey, itself,  as being related to Venus as the Morning Star (Susan Milbrath, Star Gods of the Maya: 1999, p. 256 ), and according to the Five Suns cosmogonic accounts  Quetzalcoatl in his guise as Ehecatl (the Wind God) presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler (Mary Miller and Karl Taube 1993; p.118). 

According to testimony recorded in 1554 in the Colonial document entitled El Titulo de Totonicapan (Land Title of Totonicapan), the Quiché Maya revered mushroom stones as symbols of power and rulership, and before them they performed rituals (of blood sacrifice) to pierce and cut up their bodies. (Sachse, 2001, 363).

"  The lords used these symbols of rule, which came from where the sun rises, to pierce and cut up their bodies (for the blood sacrifice). There were nine mushroom stones for the Ajpop and the Ajpop Q'amja, and in each case four, three, two, and one staffs with the Quetzal's feathers and green feathers, together with garlands, the Chalchihuites precious stones, with the sagging lower jaw and the bundle of fire for the Temezcal steam bath."


There seems to be conflicting views as the to whether the pre-Columbian cosmos consisted of either nine or thirteen celestial layers extending upwards from the ground and nine layers extending downwards to the underworld. There is however a Nahua legend in ancient Mexico of a paradise of "nine heavens" [maybe referring to the Underworld ?] that was dedicated to their god Quetzalcoatl, called Tamoanchan where there was a sacred tree that marked the place where the gods were born and where sacred mushrooms and all life derived. "In Tamoanchan...On the flowery carpet...There are perfect flowers...There are rootless flowers" (Hugh Thomas 1993, p.474) (Wasson 1980 p.92)    

Aztec poems recorded by Spanish scribes, speak of a land called Tamoanchan, which translated from the Mayan language means "Land of the Serpent". It was said that "this was a land settled long before the founding of Teotihuacan, where there was a government for a long time, and it was a paradise of gods, ancestors, and humans". 

           Quoting Borhegyi:

"...the presence of nine offerings in a ceremonial cache from the Pre-Classic period indicates that the Maya belief in nine gods of the underworld , and possibly in the 13 gods of the sky, may have originated as early as 1000 B.C. This period also saw the beginning of mound-building activities and rich tombs in the Maya Highlands" (S.F. de Borhegyi 1961, p.503).

Maya archaeologist David H. Kelley also noted the significance of the number nine and the similarity between the Mesoamerican calendar and the cycle of the Nine Lords of the Night, to the Hindu planetary week of nine days, and noted the parallel belief of four previous world ages and their cataclysmic destruction, a belief shared by Hindus, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Susan Milbrath, 1999, p.292).  Kelley pointed out that within the twenty named days of the 260-day calendar there is a sequence of animals that can be matched in similar sequence within the lunar zodiacs of many East and Southeast-Asian civilizations, a resemblance, according to archaeologist Michael Coe far to close to be merely coincidental (M.D. Coe, The Maya, fifth edition 1999, p.45).

Kelley (1960) and anthropologist Paul Kirchhoff (1964) detail a large number of exact correspondences between the Hindu and Mexican calendars and their religious and mythological associations, suggesting diffusion from India or Southeast Asia to Mexico (Man Across the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts: 1971, p. 36-37). Kirchhoff was of the opinion that the Aztec and Maya ritual calendar was a Chinese invention. (The Ancient Past of Mexico 1966, Alma M. Reed p.41-42), and Dr. George C. Vaillant noted that at the ancient site of Zacatenco, in the central valley of Mexico, a settlement that flourished around 1100 B.C., had burials with  bodies covered with red cinnabar and buried with jade funerary offerings, a burial custom also found in China (Alma Reed, 1966, p.17).

             Anthropologist Alice B. Kehoe...

"China and Mesoamerica shared the complication of two simultaneous calendars, of differing lengths, that meshed like cogwheels, arriving at the same day starting point every so many years, 52 for Mesoamerica, 60 for China".   (Alice B. Kehoe, 2008, Controversies In Archaeology, p.162).

"Kelley’s (1970) basic thesis are as follows: (1) The animal names of the Mesoamerican calendars are similar in nature, in sequence and absolute position to those of Eurasian animal cycles. (2) The sequence Twin-Death-Deer-Rabbit-Water and the opposition Rain in Middle America reflects the Hindu deity sequence. (3) The Mesoamerican days (and World Ages) of Wind, Fire, Earthquake, and Rain correspond to the complex Eurasian concepts of the World Ages and the Four Elements. (4) The use of an era in Mesoamerica, the association of colors with World Ages and the deities of the lunar mansions point directly to India" (From,  REVIEW ARTICLE The Evolution and Diffusion of Writing The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs. HUGH A. MORAN and DAVID H. KELLEY. 1969 p.301). 

Kelley also noted the striking similarities between the Late Chow decorative styles of China of 700-200 B.C.E. and those of the El Tajin culture of Veracruz, Mexico, of A.D. 500-1000 (Stephen C. Jett 1971, p.44) (Heine-Geldern, 1959a). 

           Quoting Maya archaeologist and epigrapher David H. Kelley:

"New data and new techniques of analysis will eventually show that a great many contacts have occurred between far separated cultures, and more sophisticated analyses of the processes of cultural change will eventually allow clear-cut positive or negative conclusions about many cases that now remain in doubt." 

             Quoting Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi:

            " the ballgame, and cultural diffusion may be in order"

"While human decapitation was a widespread custom throughout both the Old and New Worlds as early as the Paleolithic period, its association with ancient team games seems to have occurred only in central and eastern Asia, Mesoamerica, and South America (for ballgames in Southeast Asia, see Loffler, 1955). The use of severed human heads in the polo games of Tibet, China, and Mongolia goes back at least as far as the Chou Dynasty (approximately 1100 B.C. -250 B.C.) and possibly to Shang times (about 1750 B.C. -1100 B.C.). By the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the polo game in China had become more refined and human heads were apparently replaced by balls. However, the custom of using "trophy heads" in the game must have survived in modern form in marginal areas, as evidence by the fact that the present day Tajik tribesmen of Afghanistan still use the head of a goat as a ball during the game (Abercombie, 1968). While more studies are needed along this line, it is tempting to suggest that the custom of using human heads in competitive ballgames be added to the growing Pre-Classic inventory of "trans-Pacific contacts" (S.F. de Borhegyi 1980, p.25).

Sometime between the 7th and 8th century, with the fall of Teotihuacán and its influence diminished, northern and central Mexico as well as parts of highland Guatemala and most of the Yucatan Peninsula was dominated by the Toltecs, and it seems that a revival of bloody ball game rituals of Preclassic Olmec fertility rites of human decapitation once again took center stage in the great ceremonial centers of Mesoamerica. 

According to Theodore Stern, the ballgame served as a substitute for direct military confrontation.  Ixtilxochitl who was commissioned by the Spanish viceroy of New Spain to write histories of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, in his Relación histórica de la nación tulteca (usually called Relación, written between 1600 and 1608) recounts a story in which Topilzin Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec king, played the ballgame against three rivals, the winner to rule the others (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991, p.15). Mentioned earlier, there is an Aztec myth (Mendieta 1945:88), that the Toltec king Topilzin Quetzalcoatl was defeated in a ballgame and that this event caused him to abandon his capital city (Susan Gillespie 1991, Chapter 13, p.340).

According to Borhegyi, the Toltecs, under the influence of their ruler Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl, were responsible for a brief revival (A.D. 950-1150) throughout Mesoamerica of a trophy head cult associated with warfare and the ritual ballgame (Borhegyi de, 1980: 25). Toltec influence previously foreign to the highland Maya can be seen in new ball-game rituals and paraphernalia, associated with idolatry and heart-sacrifices (the feeding of idols with food, incense and blood) and the decapitation of prisoners captured in warfare (S.F. de Borhegyi 1965a p.54-55). Borhegyi further proposed that the change in ballgame rituals and the switch from the Olmec handball game to the hip ball game most likely came as a result of the newly instituted Quetzalcóatl rites (Borhegyi de, 1980: 24). He believed that the ballgame and these bloody fertility rites were linked esoterically to the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms and that these bloody rituals were banished or forced underground during the heyday of Teotihuacán (Borhegyi de, 1980: iv). According to Coe, before the Toltec era, animals rather than people may have been the more common victims of sacrifice offered to the Maya gods (The Maya fifth edition 1993, p.182).

Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl was regarded as "The Father of the Toltecs", and became ruler of Tollán/Tula, and by his inspired enlightened way he encouraged the liberal arts and sciences, and was revered for the cultural advancement of his people. His life of fasting and penitence, his priestly character, and his benevolence toward his followers, are evident in the material that has been preserved in the 16th century Spanish chronicles and in the hand-painted books of the indigenous people. He was also known as the lawgiver and, according to Spanish historians, he was unwilling to harm any human being, despite the temptation from demons to perform human sacrifice. 

The immense popularity of Quetzalcóatl is indicated by the lengthy descriptions accorded to him by almost all of the early chroniclers of New Spain, today Mexico. Quetzalcóatl is alluded to in Nahua myth as the great civilizer and King of the Toltecs, and in Maya legends was known as Kukulkán or Gukumatz, also meaning "Lord Feathered Serpent". All three culture heroes were reputed to be the inventors of the science of measuring time as serpents represented the bondage of time and its cyclical nature. Additionally, the Annals of Cuauhtitlán (Nahua manuscripts) record that it was Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl who invented the ballgame, and wherever a temple stood dedicated to Quetzalcóatl, there existed a ballcourt (Nicholson, 1967: 117). 

            Anthropologist Irene Nicholson...

 "In spite of the great gulf that separates Precolumbian thought from our own in many of its external aspects; in spite of distortions, irrelevancies, decadence and subsequent annihilation by European conquerors of a great part of it; the culture which this mysterious leader established [Quetzalcoatl Votan] shines down to our own day. Its message is still meaningful for those who will take the trouble to make their way, through the difficulties of outlandish names and rambling manuscripts, to the essence of the myth".   (Mexican and Central American Mythology 1967, p.136)

Aztec chronicles tell us that Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl sailed across the Gulf of Mexico toward Yucatan at approximately A.D. 978. The Itzá Maya of Yucatan called this ruler Kukulkán, meaning Feathered Serpent, and it is believed that Kukulkan and his followers established their capital at the great city of Chichén Itzá, and that he introduced idolatry, and that he later left Chichen Itza and founded a new capital called Mayapán. According to Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran, it was written that before Quetzalcoatl departed his beloved Tula, he left orders that his figure be carved in wood and in stone, to be adored by the common people. "They will remain as a perpetual memorial to our greatness in the way that we remember Quetzalcoatl" (The Aztecs, 1964, p.149).

Borhegyi noted the connection between the re-appearance of mushroom stones and a trophy-head cult associated with the ritual act of decapitation, and that many Late Classic (A.D. 600-1000) stone carvings relating to the ballgame depict balls incorporating human skulls or depict human skulls in lieu of balls. He also believed that the stone heads, and later stone rings set in the walls of formal ballcourts, were symbolic replacements for the hanging of the losers’ heads on walls – the trophy heads of earlier times. The hanging of human heads can be found in a passage in the Popol Vuh, in which one of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu, and his father Hun Hunahpu had their decapitated heads hung in a tree (Borhegyi de, 1980: 24-25). The Popol Vuh relates that it was a series of ballgames with the Lords of the Underworld that ultimately decided the fate of their father Hun Hunahpu. In fact, almost all evidence of ballgame sacrifice relates to the act of ritual decapitation, both self-decapitation and by execution, which takes place metaphorically in the underworld. The practice of obtaining trophy heads, especially in warfare, continued until the conquest. rules 

On April 8, 1954, Borhegyi wrote to Wasson noting that: "…mushroom stones follow the same pattern as the three-pronged incensarios, figurines, rimhead vessels etc. That is, they are abundant during the Preclassic, disappear from the archaeological scene completely during the Early Classic, and are revived in somewhat changed form in the Late Classic". The apparent absence of mushroom stones in Early Classic tombs (A.D. 200-400) or within ceremonial precincts suggests that the sacred mushroom cult of Preclassic origin, proposed by Borhegyi to be ritually connected to the ballgame, was discontinued, or banished from the Teotihuacán-occupied, or influenced highland Maya ceremonial centers.

Soon after the end of the Classic period A.D. 800-900 around the time when most of the Classic lowland Maya cities had been mysteriously abandoned, coinciding with the abandonment of valley sites as ceremonial centers, and the beginning of hilltop defensive sites in the highlands of Guatemala, Thompson writes that (1963:23), "Mexicans or Mexican influenced people introduced Mexican religious and architectural ideas into the Maya region. Robert Stantley calls this period the Early Toltec period (ca. A.D. 750-950) when settlement patterns were highly aggregated, and many communities were situated in defensible locations, implying a very competitive and highly balkanized political atmosphere" (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.7).

Around A.D. 900-1000 a group of Chontal Mayas from the Laguna de Terminos region (this is the Itza group) moved up to Yucatan, and that a similar group of Chontal Mayas moved down towards Guatemala, probably following the Usamacinta River, and that this group would be the Quiche, and Cakchiquel Mayas who like the Itzas claimed decent from Tula, and were devout followers of the Feathered Serpent god-king of the Toltecs Quetzalcoatl and his mushroom Venus religion.

Susan Milbrath writes that the Venus cult connected with Quetzalcoatl appears to have been imported from central Mexico. There is evidence she says of a cult to Quetzalcoatl-Kukulcan in the Classic period architecture at Uxmal. She mentions that according to Jeff Kowalski (1990:51-53) the feathered serpent cult and its symbolism probably spread from Chichen Itza between A.D. 850 and 900, and that the chronicals imply the cult centered on a form of worship linked to a central Mexican ruler named Quetzalcoatl who died in Yucatan. According to the chronicles in the year 1 Reed, Quetzalcoatl died and was transformed into the Morning Star (Milbrath p.177).

We are told that the Itzas were likely Chontal Mayas who Thompson refers to as the Putun, they made their way by sea around Yucatan to Cozumel and eventually established themselves in Chichen Itza by the year A.D. 918. This 1st invasion according to Thompson was prior to the arrival of Kukulcan or Quetzalcoatl and the Toltecs (The Classic Maya Collapse 1973 p.128). Thompson writes, "they were called foreigners and they spoke broken Yucatec Maya; they were abhorred for having introduced oppression,strife, and erotic practices among the Maya". "Yet they were also called the Holy Itza". "I suspect that shortly after their arrival at Chichen Itza, they came under the rule of immigrants from Tula under the leadership of Kukulcan who introduced Toltec architecture and the worship of the feathered serpent and other Toltec gods" (Thompson 1963 p.24).

Toltec groups from Mexico undoubtedly traveled by both land and sea to penetrate the Maya region at various times. There is ample evidence in the archaeology of Yucatan for a sea-borne invasion by the Toltecs in the late tenth century (Hedrick, 1971: 262). As far as the Itzá who invaded Chichén Itzá, one can not be certain whether they were Toltec conquerors or a Maya-speaking people from Tabasco who absorbed many central-Mexican traits. According to Friar Diego de Landa, 1566, "They [the Indians] say that he [Kukulcan] came from the West, but are not agreed as to whether he came before or after the Itzas, or with them". "They say that he was well disposed , that he had no wife or children, and that after his return he was regarded in Mexico as one of their gods, and called Cezalcohuati [Quetzalcoatl]" (Landa, 1566, Yucatan Before and after the Conquest, translated by Gates 1978, p.10). 

           Quoting archaeologist E. Wyllys Andrews IV

"The Toltecs appear to have stimulated the last upward surge of Maya civilization. There origins are uncertain; their disappearance seems to represent their absorption by the Maya. Whoever they were, their impact on the Maya physical type and language was minimal" (The Classic Maya Collapse 1973 p. 255). 

The history of the Toltecs in Yucatan tends to support the arrival of Kukulcan in the year A.D. 987 Anales de Cuauhtitlan (Muriel Porter Weaver 1972 p.222). The Chontal-speaking Maya who called themselves Itzá, were devout followers of the god-king Quetzalcóatl. Borhegyi believed the Quiché and Cakchiquel Maya were also Nahuatl-influenced Chontal Mayas as both were linguistically related and shared a common Toltec-inspired genealogical origin (Borhegyi letter to Wasson, March 22, 1954).  

The Quiche and Cakchiquel being Maya, are likely the ancestors of the tribes that invaded Guatemala, who imposed themselves, and then were absorbed by the Maya-speaking native population ? It seems that the mushroom stone cult was either adopted by the new comers after their arrival, or else common to the native population and to the invaders. 

The history of the Quiche peregrination of their ancestors, a Nonoalca-Pipil-Toltec-Chichimec group or Putun Maya called Nonoalca, is described in detail in the Popol Vuh (Facts and Artifacts of Ancient Middle America 1978 p. 135) According to the Popol Vuh, some Pipil groups continued on to Guatemala and became the forebears of the Quiché Maya. It's worth mentioning again that Borhegyi believed that the plain, un-carved type of mushroom stone must have been re-introduced to Guatemala and the Cotzumalhuapa area along with new ball game rituals during Late Classic times, by these “Tajinized Nonoalca” Pipil groups, where the severing of human heads reached new levels (Borhegyi de, 1965: 37; Borhegyi de, 1980: 25; Borhegyi letter to Wasson, November 30, 1953, Wasson Archives). 

In the highlands of Guatemala and southern Mexico, around A.D. 900-1000, a new type of ball court came into fashion, indicating a change in rules and how the game was played. The type of ball court that was characteristic of the lowland Maya region was open-ended with a central playing alley between parallel sloping side walls, and at the top of each side wall were three vertically tenoned, stone heads, a precursor of the stone hoops found in later Mexican courts. According to Borhegyi (1980) all these later ball courts that were introduced were enclosed at both ends forming the capital I shape, and that the side walls were vertical rather than sloping, and that in the center of each wall was an elaborately carved, horizontally tenoned, stone ring or hoop. 

Depictions of ritual ballgame sacrifice by decapitation appear to be a common theme in Preclassic Olmec times (Borhegyi de, 1980: 23). Borhegyi proposed that the change in ballgame rituals and the switch from the Olmec handball game to the hip ball game most likely came as a result of the newly instituted Quetzalcóatl rites (Borhegyi de, 1980: 24). The great city of Teotihuacán’s overt and disruptive presence on the Maya people during the Classic Period resulted in a suppression of Olmec-inspired rituals and cult paraphernalia, such as mushroom stones and three-pronged incense burners, commonly used during the Preclassic period. They were replaced with pottery vessels and incense burners of a Teotihuacán-type decorated with human skulls, jaguars, and such deities as Quetzalcóatl, Tlaloc and Xipe-Totec.    

Similar to the Itza's propensity for offering treasures and human sacrifices to the sacred cenotes in Yucatan, the custom of casting precious treasures into sacred waters to propitiate the gods, also prevailed in the highlands of Guatemala. As early as the middle of the 19th century, travelers to Guatemala frequently mention archaeological specimens found along the shores of Lake Amatitlan. In 1957 a group of Guatemalan aqualung enthusiasts under the supervision of Borhegyi carried out a number of under water explorations in the Guatemalan lakes and cenotes. Among the nearly 400 virtually intact pottery vessels, incense burners, and stone sculptures found at the bottom of Lake Amatitlan were fragments of mushroom stones, along with manos and metates used to grind the sacraments, and a complete stone ballgame yoke. One of the larger objects with a modeled Tlaloc face was found 30 feet from shore at a depth of 20 feet, that contained liquid mercury and fragments of cinnabar along with ceremonially smashed fragments of jade. The predominance of jaguar features on incense burners and images of Tlaloc suggest that the Maya Rain God Tlaloc was the likely recipient of the many ceremonial offerings thrown into the lake. Unlike the cenote of Chichen Itza, there is no evidence in Lake Amatitlan of human sacrifice. However the presence of human skull features on many of the offerings would suggest that human sacrifice may have constituted part of the ancient lake-ceremonies at Amatitlan (Leo Deuel 1967 pp. 371-380). 

The Cotzumalhuapa sculptures have been thought to be of Late Classic date and possibly of non-Maya, Pipil manufacture. But according to Borhegyi all the material scuba divers discovered in one area of Lake Amatitlan called Lavaderos (Site 1 A) is of Early Classic date A.D. 300-600 (S.F. de Borhegyi 1960, Field Report Lake Amatitlan). This coincides with the Teotihuacan-Pipil migration into the Guatemala Highlands during the Early Classic period (A.D. 400-500). 

           Quoting Stephan de Borhegyi:

"It's quite possible that the Early Classic Teotihuacan influence from Mexico, felt almost everywhere in the Guatemala Highlands, was actually brought by migrating Tajin influenced Pipil groups to the Maya area" (S.F. de Borhegyi 1960, Field Report Lake Amatitlan). 

Borhegyi noted that ballplayers depicted on Monument 27 at El Baúl wear tight-fitting monkey head helmets, and hand-gloves that represents either the local survival of the Olmec influenced Preclassic handball game, or a late Classic revival of the game in the area (Borhegyi de, 1980: 16). He adds that: “These zones were once influenced by the Olmecs and later by ‘warlike’ Mexican Gulf Coast groups. One wonders if these grisly sacrificial activities are native to this area or are Pre-Classic survivals of a game once played with human heads with long, flowing hair in the Tajín and La Venta areas and in parts of Oaxaca”.

Thomas F. Babcock mentions in his book Utatlan (2012:40) "The Teotihuacan-Pipil argument advanced by Borhegyi (1965a:39) was problematic because there was no firm indication that Nahua was spoken at Teotihuacan, and linguistic evidence suggested placement of  Nahua on the fringes of Mesoamerica at the time (Fowler 1989: 38-39)(Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj By Thomas F. Babcock 2012 p.40).  

Nahua loan words in Quiche and other highland languages reflect the influence of Gulf Coast dialects, not Nahuatl, spoken in central Mexico by the Aztecs (Henderson 1997 p.252).  Linda Schildkraut, author of The Hero Twins in Veracruz,  looks at the close relationship between the Maya and the peoples of Veracruz during the Classic Period (300-900AD). Her examination of two particular vases show that the two cultures shared a common iconography and that the Hero Twins played an important role in their mythology and cosmology in Veracruz.  

Borhegyi postulated several waves of Pipil intrusions into the Maya area, and proposed that these migrations, were not migrating families but rather religious leaders or merchants under military protection. According to Borhegyi there is archaeological evidence to support the idea that woman were left behind and took no part in the foreign occupation (Borhegyi 1965b). The second Pipil intrusion into the highland Maya area in the Late Classic period after the destruction of Teotihuacan, A.D. 700-900 coincides with the abandonment of the valley sites and the beginnings of hilltop defensive sites (Muriel Porter Weaver 1972 p. 149-152). Borhegyi attributes this Tajin influenced Pipil group for the initial warlike conditions that pushed settlements to the hilltops (Borhegyi 1965a:30-41).  

According to Borhegyi, a completely new group of priest-rulers came into power in the Late Classic bringing with them a form of ancestor worship associated with the vision-serpent and the ritual ballgame (Borhegyi de, 1965: 31). These groups were all followers of the Toltec god-king Quetzalcoatl, and in their migration from the Mexican Gulf Coast, into the Guatemala Highlands and along the Pacific slope, they brought with them an earlier Olmec culture including ballgame rituals of human decapitation, and trophy head cult linked to a mushroom Venus cult. The Quiche rulers of Utatlan included pieces of "heirloom Gulf Coast pottery vessels" in a cache placed in a bench in one of the capital's council buildings (Henderson 1997 p. 252). 

Michael Coe, writes that the institution of priesthood must have been introduced to the Maya by the Toltec, that there is not the slightest evidence for the existence of priests in Classic times, that Classic Maya societies were organized as theocracies (The Maya fifth edition 1993, p.184). 

Borhegyi surmised that victims or captives for sacrifice were decapitated by priests or ballplayers dressed in were-jaguar attire, after which the decapitated heads of both ballplayers and jaguars were hung up by ropes over ballcourts or temples. Borhegyi proposed that the stone heads and later stone rings set in the walls of formal ballcourts were a symbolic replacement for the trophy heads of earlier times (Borhegyi de, S.F.,1980:20, 24). These trophy heads were venerated as sacrificial offerings, and may even have been used during certain ballgames in lieu of balls. 


Beyond the Ballgame: Tlaloc-Venus-Mushroom Warfare and the Classic Maya Collapse 

Maya inscriptions tell us that the movement of the planet Venus and its position in the sky was a determining factor for waging a special kind of warfare known as "Tlaloc warfare" or "Venus Star Wars." These wars or raids were timed to occur during aspects of the Venus astronomical cycle, primarily to capture prisoners from neighboring cities for ceremonial sacrifice (Schele & Freidel, 1990: 130-31, 194). These wars, waged against neighboring city-states for the express purpose of taking captives for sacrifice to the gods, thus constituted a form of divinely sanctioned "holy war".  According to Thompson this new form of warfare of not killing but instead to capture the enemy for sacrifice, this cult was brought to Yucatan from Tula (Thompson 1963 p.30). The ballgame it seems may have served as a substitute for direct military confrontation by these warlike tribes from the Gulf Coast of Mexico (Scarborough & Wilcox, 1991: 14-15).

Thompson believed that the Classic Maya collapse was caused by a peasant revolt and that the new lords were swept away by the revolutionary tide just like the old Classic Maya elite (Jeremy Sabloff: The Classic Maya Collapse 1973 p.128) (Thompson 1970: Chapter 1).

Photographs © Justin Kerr

Above are two Late Classic (600-900 A.D.) Maya figurines, both from Jaina Island representing warriors wearing what the author proposes is a headdress encoded with divine mushrooms. Jaina Island is a small island not far from the Laguna de Terminos region, that was controlled in Late Classic times by the Chontal speaking Putun Maya. It may be that the encoded mushrooms depicted in the warriors headdresses above are shown with their stems bifurcated at the base, which according to Guzman may be an anthropomorphic interpretation as legs (Gaston Guzman, 2013 Sacred Mushrooms and Man: p. 489). Above center is Post Classic gold figurine of an Aztec warrior wearing what appears to be a mushroom inspired nose plug. The figure holds a shield in his left hand encoded with a Venus symbol known to scholars as the quincunx. According to archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson, the idealized Venus cycle always ended on the day 1-Ahau, (Milbrath 1999 p.170). The synodic revolution of Venus, from Morning Star to Morning Star is 584 days, and that these revolutions were grouped in fives in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex, so that 5 x 584 equaled 2,920 days, or exactly eight solar years (Nicholson, 1967 pp. 45-46). 

Its almost certain that in Mesoamerica certain mushrooms were consumed prior to these raids and before the ballgame to induce superhuman strength ? The Psilocybe mushroom, called teonanacatl (God's Flesh) by the Aztecs, contains the substance psilocin and psilocybin, the active ingredient that causes the mushroom hallucination. The psilocybin mushroom is indigenous to the sub-tropical regions of the U.S, Mexico, and Central America. The Amanita muscaria mushroom contains the powerful hallucinogen muscimol, which is known to cause the feelings of increased strength and stamina. 

The connection between Amanita muscaria mushrooms and feats of strength was first proposed by Samuel Odman in 1784. He proposed that Amanita muscaria was the intoxicant of the Viking Berserkers (Kevin Feeney 2013, ch. 6, p.298), who worshiped their warrior god Odin (Woden of the Anglo-Saxons). The Berserkers believed death was merely a passage from this life to another, and were expected to welcome and embrace death in the service of  Oden.   

This Berserker-rage theory was later supported by F.C. Schuber, a Norwegian physician and botanist, who noted that the symptoms of Berserker rage are consistent throughout different accounts (Fabing 1956). Most importantly in 1930, Rolf Nordhagen uncovered an 1814 report from the Vinland regiment (Swedish Army) where an officer had taken note of troops that were raving and foaming at the mouth. Upon inquiry the officer was informed that the soldiers had taken Amanita muscaria in order to prepare for battle". "The symptoms of the Berserker rage appear to be compatible with ethnographic accounts of the mushroom's use in Siberia, including a report that the mushrooms are eaten among the Koryak when one is "resolved toward murder" (Kevin Feeney 2013, ch. 6, p.298)  (A. Morgan 1995 p.103). Wasson writes that in Northwest New Guinea intoxicating mushrooms were eaten by the warriors before going off on the warpath (Letter from Wasson to Borhegyi April 20, 1953). 

Robert Graves (Deyá, Majorca, Spain, 1960) author of the profound book, "The Greek Myths" 1958, writes that the followers of Dionysus consumed fly agaric (Amanita muscaria mushrooms) during the Dionysian festivals and mysteries. He writes that goat-totem and horse-totem tribesman (satyrs and centaurs) and their Maenad womanfolk, used brews to wash down mouthfuls of a stronger drug: namely raw mushrooms, Amanita muscaria, which induces hallucinations, senseless rioting, prophetic sight, erotic energy, and remarkable muscular strength. Graves mentions "that among the Masatec Indians of Oaxaca the priestess will invoke Tlaloc the Mushroom God to induce transcendental visions. Tlaloc was engendered by lightning; so was Dionysus; and in Greek folklore, as in Masatec, so are all mushrooms, proverbially called "food of the gods" in both languages. Tlaloc wore a serpent-crown; so did Dionysus. Tlaloc had an underwater retreat; so had Dionysus. It has been suggested that the woman worshipers who celebrated the Eleusinian, Orphic and other Mysteries associated with Dionysus, called Maenads or "madwomen",  ripped apart human beings and devoured them. The Maenad's savage custom of tearing victims' heads may refer allegorically to tearing off the sacred mushroom's head, since in Mexico its stalk is never eaten...Yet at what epoch were the European and Central American cultures in contact ? " (Edzard Klapp 2013 Ch. 8. "Entheogens and the Development of Culture" p. 339-341).

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushroom was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species was called teonanacatl, a term Frey Bernadino de Sahagun gives us, teo, or teotl, meaning god, that which is divine or sacred, "the flesh of god" (Wasson, letter to Borhegyi, June 23, 1953). Father Garibay's four volume set of Aztec poetry Poesia Nahuatl, specifically mentions the word nanacaoctli meaning mushroom liquor,  for the inebriating mushrooms (Wasson 1980 p.82). 

The figurine above, now in the National Museum in Mexico City, is from Central Mexico and depicts the Aztec god  Xochipilli, whose name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, means "Prince of Flowers."  

Xochipilli was most likely the patron deity of hallucinogenic plants and the "flowery dream", the God of Rapture, and of the "Tree-in-Flower" (Xochicuahuitl), that the Aztec poets frequently invoke, of the inebriating mushroom (las Flores que embriagan), the miraculous plants that transports one to a heavenly Paradise, called Tlalocan (Wasson 1980 p.59). Aztec poets used the word for flowers as a figure of speech for the entheogens and the entheogenic experience (Wasson 1980 p.79). Also known as Macuilxochitl, meaning "five flowers", this figurine holds what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom in each hand. According to ethno-archaeologist Irene Nicholson,] "flowers symbolize a state of the soul on its journey to full godhood."..."mushrooms were known as 'the flower that makes us drunk'" (Nicholson 1967, p.90).

The headdress of this figurine contains two adornments of five plumes each--a probable reference to what scholars call the "fiveness" of Venus, referring to the five synodic cycles of Venus identified in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex.  Xochipilli also represents one several Aztec gods related to the ritual ballgame (Whittington 2001 p.43).

Fray Diego Duran writes that war was called xochiyaoyotl, which means "Flowery War". Death to those who died in battle was called xochimiquiztli, meaning "Flowery Death" or "Blissful Death" or "Fortunate Death". Fray Alonso de Molina's big lexicon of the Nahuatl language (language of the Aztecs) published in 1571, Molina gives us another word for mushroom,  xochinanacatl, meaning flower mushroom, xochitl meaning flower and nanacatl meaning mushroom (Wasson 1980, p80).

The Chontal diaspora from their original homeland into the Guatemala Highlands was most likely contemporary with Quetzalcóatl’s or Kukulcán’s invasion into Yucatan during the Early Postclassic period A.D. 900-1000 and associated with the takeover of the city of Chichén Itzá. At the end of the Late Classic period warlike tribes from the Gulf Coast of Mexico reached the highlands of Guatemala via the Usumacinta River and the Pacific coast of Mexico, and established themselves on the coastal Piedmont of Guatemala (Borhegyi de, 1965: 31). 

It’s tempting to think that the Itzás, who claimed Toltec ancestry, and the Quiché and Cakchiquel who were also Nahuatl-influenced Chontal Mayas, who claimed Toltec ancestry, may have been responsible for the so-called "Collapse of Classic Maya civilization". The feathered serpent cult at Chichen Itza (A.D. 800-1250) is associated with images of warriors armed with weapons, and Venus glyphs in a non-Maya style that appear with images of the feathered serpent in a variety of contexts (Milbrath, 1999 p.181). Archaeoastronomer Susan Milbrath writes, "In light of Quetzalcoatl's direct link with Chichen Itza in the chronicles, it is not surprising that his images are very common at the site" (Milbrath, 1999 p.181). The Itzas, and the Quiché and Cakchiquels, were all devout followers of the feathered serpent cult, and thus Quetzalcoatl's mushroom Venus religion, emphasizing celestial worship, warfare and ballgame sacrifice.

To date, there are almost ninety different theories or variations of theories purporting to explain the Classic Maya Collapse which took place between A.D. 900 and A.D. 1000, when archaeologists see an abrupt halt of any new construction and that dated monuments with Long Count dates called stelae ceased to be erected. It is during this time period in the Central lowlands of Guatemala that archaeologists see a sudden decline in population or the abandonment of Maya cities. Maya archaeologist T. Patrick Culbert explained that “the evidence all indicated that the Classic Maya had disappeared somewhere in the time-shrouded past and had left no modern descendants with even a faint touch of their glory and accomplishments” (1974: 105). 

We are led to believe that some mysterious fate befell the Classic Maya, and that people just suddenly disappeared and that the once great Maya cities of the Classic Period were all abandoned. There was also the deliberate abandonment of most of the Guatemala highland valley sites shortly before the close of the period. Site after site was deserted, never to be reoccupied, in spite of the fact that many of the centers had been in use for more than two millennia. 

Spanish chronicler Fray Sahagun, who was the first to report mushroom rituals among the Aztecs, wrote that the Toltecs consumed hallucinogens before battle (mushroom Venus Tlaloc warfare) to enhance bravery and strength (Furst 1972, p.12). Borhegyi’s theory for the Classic Maya collapse was of a Toltec invasion  into the Maya region by Nahuatl-influenced Chontal Maya tribes from the Laguna de Terminos region. 

             On March 22, 1954, Borhegyi wrote to Wasson: 

"Dear Gordon,

This is a completely new theory that I have recently formulated. It is quite revolutionary, and I will try to publish it as soon as possible. When you carefully check the Annals of the Cakchiqueles and the Popol Vuh, you will read that, in spite of the fact that the Quiché and Cakchiquel tribes claim origin in the legendary city of Tollán, throughout their trip until they reach the Guatemalan Highlands (they) encounter only tribes speaking a language similar to their own. The country between the Laguna de Terminos and the Usumacinta region was and still is populated by Chol Mayas. Consequently, the Quiché and Cakchiqueles must have understood this language, and therefore were also Maya speakers. When they reached Guatemala, they met the Maya and, in the Annals, they referred to them as "stutterers", thus implying that they spoke a language somewhat similar to their own. J. Eric Thompson, a few years ago advanced the theory that the Itzás who came to Chichén Itzá about 1000 A.D. were Mexican-influenced Chontal Maya Indians from the Laguna de Terminos region. The Yucatecan Mayas called the Itzá invaders "stutterers", or "people who speak our language brokenly". I therefore suggest that the Quichés and Cakchiqueles were equally Nahuatl-influenced Chontal Mayas. I think that the story is as follows: the priest king Quetzalcóatl/Kukulcán/Gucumatz was expelled by his enemies from Tula (Tollán), sometime around 960 A.D. He left with a small group of his followers and went to Tlapallan, that is, the Laguna de Terminos region. Here he apparently settled down. It would seem that some of the Chontal tribes accepted the mushroom cult introduced by him and after a few years, the pressure of enemy tribes forced them to move on, led by descendants of Quetzalcóatl and his followers. Some went northeast to Chichén Itzá; others moved southward following the Usumacinta toward Guatemala. The archaeological picture of Northern Guatemala favors this theory. Linguistically, it is far more plausible than the other. The few leaders could still refer to their homeland as Tollán, and probably continued for a while to speak Nahuatl. The great mass of followers, however, did not speak this language and therefore probably spoke Chontal Maya. The Quiché and Cakchiquel Maya are, of course, linguistically related to the Chol and Chontal Maya. Please understand, this is a completely new theory. I am in the process of gathering archaeological data, which might support it." 

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, Tollan means "place of reeds" and is invoked in many early Colonial native language sources, ranging from Central Mexico to the Maya area, as a great foreign city from which elites claimed their origin because of its singular status in legitimating political power. Closely allied with the cult of the Feathered Serpent, Tollan may have originally been Teotihuacan but later became attributed to different cities, such as Cholula, Tula, and Chichen Itza, in the period after the fall of Teotihuacan (Andrea Stone & Mark Zender, Reading Maya Art, 2011 p.232). 


            Quoting Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson

" is reasonable to assume that Quetzalcoatl, on being driven from Tula, went to Chichen Itza, because he knew that fellow-countrymen or, more probably, coreligionists sympathetic to him were already established there. It is for that reason I suggested a date of about A.D. 950 for the start of the Mexican period" (J. Eric S. Thompson 1963  p.23).

What is commonly referred to as the "Mexican Period" or "Toltec Maya" period in Yucatan are the years from A.D. 900 to 1224, when Chichen Itza was dominated by the Toltecs (Muriel Porter Weaver 1972 p.222). Toltec influence on the Maya of Yucatan can easily be seen in the architectural design of temples, palace monuments and ballcourts at the ruins of Chichén Itzá. Toltec chacmools similar to ones from Tula, are found atop the temples of Chichen Itza. Toltec feathered serpents appear at Chichen Itza where we find the Toltec cult of Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan (feathered serpent) mingling with the Mayan long-nosed god Chaac. Again many authorities consider God B to represent Kukulcan, whose Toltec/Aztec equivalent is Quetzalcoatl (Herbert Spinden 1975 p.62). We find images of decapitated ballplayers carved on the walls of formal ballcourts at El Tajín and Chichén Itzá that supports the western origin of the ballgame carried by the Putún-descended peoples when they relocated north to Chichén Itzá and south to the Guatemala Highlands.

Borhegyi called into question the construction date of the Great Ballcourt at Chichén Itzá, one of seven ball courts known to exist. He and fellow archaeologist Lee A. Parsons believed that this Great Ballcourt was built much earlier than previously supposed, possibly Mid to Late Classic period (Borhegyi, de, 1980: 12, 25). Borhegyi believed that the stone ballcourt rings at the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza were an Early Post-Classic addition and indicated a later change of rules in the way the game was played. He further believed the gruesome human decapitation scenes and human "skull balls" were Late Classic and were influenced by the "Tajínized Nonoalca" (Pipils) or the Olmeca-Xicallanca who spread during that period from the Gulf Coast to Yucatan and through the Petén rainforest as far as the Pacific coast of Guatemala (Borhegyi de, 1980: 25). Ballgame reliefs from the Pacific Slope of Guatemala are contemporary with those of the Great Ball Court complex at Chichen Itza (Susan Milbrath 1999 p.82). 

One of the early Spanish chroniclers, Diego Muñoz Camargo, recorded that the grand city of Cholula, famous for the Great Pyramid dedicated to Quetzalcóatl, was the capital of the Olmeca Xicallanca who were from the important coastal trading center of Xicalango, located in southern Campeche. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, this was an important coastal trading center controlled by a seafaring people known as the Putún Maya who may have been related either culturally or linguistically to an earlier Olmec culture.  Archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson proposed that the Itzá who came into northern Yucatan were Chontal Mayan speakers (Thompson, 1970: 3-5). Thompson described the Itzá’s as the Putún Maya, a group of Mexicanized Chontal Mayan speakers from the Gulf coastal area, who were sea traders who controlled Chichén Itzá shortly after A.D. 900. Most historians believe now that the God-king Kukulcán and the Toltec priest-ruler Topiltzin Quetzacóatl, both meaning "Plumed Serpent," were one and the same man. This historic figure Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl was expelled by his enemies from Tula (Tollán), sometime around 960 A.D. where he then traveled to Cholula and then on to Yucatan and Chichen Itza where he was called Kukulcan. 


The great cities of Cholula, El Tajín, Xochicalco and Cacaxtla all contributed to the downfall of Teotihuacán, but Cholula may have benefited the most from the collapse of Teotihuacán where it served as a haven for its survivors after its destruction around A.D. 700 by barbaric invaders from the north. The city was burned and purposely destroyed and by A.D. 750, Teotihuacan was a ghost of its former self (Muriel Porter Weaver 1972  p.139).

Cholula's prosperity grew immediately, and it expanded its Great Pyramid honoring their god-king Quetzalcóatl to cover an area of over 500,000 sq. feet, making it the widest pyramid in the world. Cholula, El Tajín, Xochicalco and Cacaxtla all experienced a revival of ballgame rituals associated with Olmec influenced fertility rites that included human decapitation. It's interesting to note however that when Cholula did increase dramatically in size, ballcourts are not reported at smaller centers (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.19).

Cholula emerges as the cultural giant where the worship of Quetzalcóatl flourished. Spanish chronicler Friar Toribio de Benavente, affectionately called Motolinia by the Indians, wrote in his Memoriales that followers of Quetzalcóatl came to Cholula to give their lives in sacrifice, in return for immortality. He described the great ceremony to Quetzalcóatl which lasted eight days which, coincidentally, is the same number of days that, according to legend, Quetzalcóatl was in the underworld creating humanity by bloodletting on the bones of his father and the bones of past generations. He then emerged from the underworld resurrected as the Morning Star. 

Motolinia named a star Lucifer (most likely Venus) which the Indians adored “more than any other save the sun, and performed more ritual sacrifices for it than for any other creature, celestial or terrestrial” (LaFaye, 1987: 141). 

Bartolome de las Casas, a Bishop of Chiapas in the mid-1500s, reported that: "after the sun, which they held as their principal god, they honored and worshiped a certain star more than any other denizen of the heavens or earth, because they held it as certain that their god Quetzalcóatl, the highest god of the Cholulans, when he died transformed into this star" (Christenson, 2007: 205). Las Casas further noted that the Indians awaited the appearance of this star in the east each day, and that when it appeared their priests offered many sacrifices, including incense and their own blood (Christenson, 2007: 205).  

Spanish chronicles tell us that the Aztecs and Toltecs attributed their enlightenment to Quetzalcóatl. In the 16th century, Franciscan Friar Bernardino de Sahagún recorded in his Florentine Codex (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, 1547-1582) that: They (the Indians) were very devout. Only one was their God; they showed all attention to, they called upon, they prayed to one by the name of Quetzalcóatl … the one that was perfect in the performance of all the customs, exercises and learning (wisdom) observed by the ministers of the idols, was elected highest pontiff; he was elected by the king or chief and all the principals (foremost men), and they called him Quetzalcóatl. (Sahagún, 1950, vol. 10: 160). 

Friar Sahagún (in book 9 of 12) refers to mushrooms with a group of traveling priests merchants known as the pochtecas, meaning merchants who lead because they were followers of Quetzalcóatl, who they worshiped under the patron name Yiacatecuhtli or Yacateuctli, Lord of the Vanguard. He describes the mushroom’s effects and their use in several passages of his Florentine Codex (“Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España”). He records how the merchants celebrated the return from a successful business trip with a wild mushroom party. 

The pochteca (pochtecatl), who occupied a high status in Aztec society acquiring luxury goods for its ruler, journeyed under military protection, in all directions carrying merchandise as well as spreading the religion of their god-king Quetzalcóatl. The pochteca are the subject of Book 9 of the Florentine Codex, where it mentions: "The eating of mushrooms was sometimes also part of a longer ceremony performed by merchants returning from a trading expedition to the coast lands. The merchants, who arrived on a day of favorable aspect, organized a feast and ceremony of thanksgiving also on a day of favorable aspect. As a prelude to the ceremony of eating mushrooms, they sacrificed a quail, offered incense to the four directions, and made offerings to the gods of flowers and fragrant herbs. The eating of mushrooms took place in the earlier part of the evening. At midnight a feast followed, and toward dawn the various offerings to the gods, or the remains of them, were ceremonially buried" (Sahagún, Book 9 chapter viii; Florentine Codex, fol 3 Ir-3 Iv).

According to Borhegyi in a letter to Gordon Wasson,  "the Teotihuacan overlords in the Maya Highlands were repressing various native highland Maya cults or rituals during Early Classic times as the ones related to the three-pronged censer cult, figurine cult, and mushroom cult, etc...These cults were much in vogue during Pre-Classic times, then disappear during the Classic Period or forced underground, and reassert themselves again in the Late Classic after the fall of Teotihuacan. It's likely that mushroom stones persisted during these times but, there is no stratigraphic evidence for this. If the Teotihuacanos did indeed consume sacred mushrooms in their rituals, they did not like them represented and venerated in the form of stone images. The total absence of mushroom stones in the Valley of Mexico and other Teotihuacan dominated areas would substantiate my statement" (letter from Borhegyi to Wasson, February 12, 1968)  

The ancestors of the Quiché and Cakchiqueles people are supposed to have arrived in their present location as conquerors around the 12th century. The general belief has been that the Quiché and Cakchiqueles who both claimed Toltec ancestry, entered the Guatemalan highlands from the eastern lowlands after the abandonment of Chichén Itzá in Yucatan. According to Thompson Chichen Itza was sacked and its inhabitants driven out by about A.D. 1200, according to Colonial documents (Thompson 1963 p.34). The date in textbooks for the Quiché entry into the Guatemala Highlands has been set between A.D. 1250-1300  (Porter Weaver, 1981: 477). According to Wikipeda, the Quiche migration into the Guatemala highlands was in A.D. 1225. The Quiché Maya, whose traditions and history are recorded in the Popol Vuh, claim that their migration was led under the spiritual “guidance” of their patron god named Tohil who is now considered to be a variant of Quetzalcóatl and Kukulcan (Hugh Fox, 1987: 248). 

In a letter to Borhegyi from J. Eric Thompson, dated November 30, 1955:

"I wonder what is your archaeological evidence for placing the Pipil migration to Cotzumalhuapa at A.D. 900--1000?  Evidence at El Baul was that the latest phase, except for a little surface material, contained San Juan plumbate, which is fairly securely placed as Tepeu".

The Toltec influenced Pipils, (Mexican invaders) a term that applies loosely to the speech and culture of various Nahuat-speaking groups whose influence (deity cults and art styles) penetrated the Guatemala Highlands and Pacific coastal area from Central Mexico. The Pipils probably brought with them their ballgame paraphernalia, such as stone yokes, and thin stone ballgame hachas, as well as plumbate pottery, and tenoned stone heads. The sculptures at the Cotzumalhuapa sites along  the Pacific coastal area of Guatemala  and Mexico have been attributed to the Pipils (Herbert J. Spinden 1975 p.214). Ballgame reliefs from the Pacific Slope of Guatemala are contemporary with those of the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza.

According to S.W. Miles, the archaeologist Robert Wauchope, who worked at three main sites at Gumaarcah, Iximche, and Zacualpa during the late 1940s, could not find “archaeological coordination earlier than ca. A.D. 1300, between ceramics and genealogical reckoning” (Miles, 1965: 282-283). 

Borhegyi questioned this date in his letter to Wauchope dated April 8, 1954 (Milwaukee Public Museum Archives), explaining: I will try to put down in as concise form as possible, my questions concerning Quiche archaeology:  

            "Dear Bob,

 As you know, Dick Woodbury found cremations in Tohil effigy jars at Zaculeu. If cremations are to be connected with the Quiche expansion under Quicab this would mean that Zaculeu was occupied by them during the Early Post-Classic period. 2) You postulated Quicab's reign in the middle of the 15th century. These lately discovered cremations at Zaculeu would infer an earlier date for this reign, i.e., around 1300. If I remember correctly, you derive the date for Quicab's reign from a passage in the Annals of the Cakchiquels, which states that the daughter-in-law of Quicab died in 1507. Can it be that this passage refers to Quicab II, and not to Quicab I? In this case, Quicab I could have reigned in 1300. 3) I think the arrival of the Quiche-Cakchiquel's to Guatemala (probably following the Usumacinta River from the Laguna de Terminos) can be correlated with the first appearance of Fine Orange X wares, Mexican onyx vases, Tohil plumbate, and effigy support tripod bowls. ... On the other hand, the Quiche expansion under the reign of King Quicab falls together with the distribution of white-on-red ware, red on buff ware, red-and-black-on-white ware, and micaceous ware. This data also suggests a reign of around 1300 for Quicab. 4) I have long wondered about the quick "Mayanization" of the Quiche and Cakchiquel tribes, who supposedly came from Tulan. Using Morris Swadesh's lexicostatistical system, it is quite improbable that by the time of the conquest all these tribes could have spoken Maya with practically no retention of their original language. Could it be that the Quiche and Cakchiquels, like the Itzas and Xius of Yucatan were actually Chontal speaking Mayas from the Laguna de Terminos region, who wandered southward after being influenced by Nahuatl speaking groups? I wonder if Quetzalcoatl, after leaving Tula for Tlapallan, settled among these Chontal Mayas and introduced among them a new religious cult, based on the worship of idols. Could it be that only a few of Quetzalcoatl's followers (who actually could trace their origin to Tula) led these Chontal Mayas down into Guatemala? If so, they must have arrived to the borders of Guatemala around 1000 and not, as you once postulated, around 1300. Their arrival, around 1000 AD coincides with the appearance of Fine Orange X wares, Tohil plumbate etc. (we have lately found Tohil plumbate sherds at Altar de Sacrificios and at Santa Amelia). I would appreciate very much your comments on this hypothesis and questions mentioned above. If you'd like, I could even write it up for the Research Records, amplified with the latest distributional studies of the abovementioned wares. At any rate, I would be very much interested to know your opinion"

 As ever, Steve 

Thompson proposed that the Fine Orange ware pottery was manufactured by Putun Maya, presumably living in the Usumacinta Valley, and proposed that the Itzá who came into northern Yucatan were Chontal Mayan speakers from the Gulf coastal area, who invaded Chichén Itzá shortly after A.D. 900 (Thompson, 1970: 3-5). Some went northeast to Chichén Itzá; others moved southward following the Usumacinta toward Guatemala (Robert Rands 1973, The Classic Maya Collapse p.205). 

The archaeological picture of Northern Guatemala favors this theory. Borhegyi believed the Quiché and Cakchiquel Maya were also Nahuatl-influenced Chontal Mayas as both were linguistically related and shared a common Toltec-inspired genealogical origin (Borhegyi letter to Wasson, March 22, 1954). The loyalty of these groups to their hometown of Tula is evident in the native legends relating to various long journeys taken by the Quiche and Cakchiquel royal princes to receive the insignia of royalty and the picture writings of Tulan from the court of Nacxit the Lord King of the East (Kukulkan, Quetzalcoatl?) (S.F. de Borhegyi 1965a p.54). 

Quiche and Cakchiquel histories describe ceremonies in which Naxit the Lord King of the East invested highland Maya rulers with authority and sovereignty in his palace at Tollan (Henderson 1997 p.255). As they left Tulan the Popol Vuh has them saying, "This is not our home; let us go and see that we prosper" Mentioned earlier, some sources indicate that this Nacxit the Lord King of the East was none other than Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, who abandoned Tula, and founded Chichen Itza (Babcock 2012 p.32).  

It's known that cretain rulers took the name of Quetzalcoatl up until the fall of Tula in A.D. 1070, under the reign of Huemac-Quetzalcoatl. In bearing the title of Feathered Serpent (Quetzalcoatl Kukulcan) Nacxit also bore the god-powers of the feathered serpent. The cult of the feathered serpent that emerges from the Mexican Highlands begins to spread around the time when the priest king Quetzalcóatl/Kukulcán/Gucumatz was expelled by his enemies from Tula (Tollán), sometime around A.D. 960. Topiltson Quetzalcoatl and his mushroom-Venus cult spread as far south as Guatemala and El Salvador, and as far north as Yucatan, and Chichen Itza where he appeared as Lord Kukulcan. Yucatan chronicles link Nacxit with Chichen Itza and with Kukulcan (Henderson 1997 p.256).

According to Babcock, the ethnohistoric sources appear to have accurate description and place names for the journey east, and a reliable record of movement of Chontal-Nahua military bands from the Tabasco-Veracruz area to the highlands of Guatemala where they became the ruling elite of the Quiche Maya (Babcock 2012 p.32).   

Toltec influence can be seen throughout the Guatemala Highlands at a number of archaeological sites like Kaminaljuyú and Zacuala, and along the Pacific slope area known for its important cacao plantations, a region in which the sculptural style at sites like El Baúl, Bilbao and El Castillo is a mixture of both Maya and Mexican elements called Cotzumalhuapa. Sites like Kaminaljuyu had at least 11 ballcourts by the end of the Late Classic period (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991  p.201). 

More recent archaeological evidence suggests that Borhegyi’s original date of A.D. 1000 was right after all. One archaeological site along the Pacific slope that provides clear evidence of both Olmec and Maya development is the archaeological site of Tak’alik Ab’aj (formerly called Abaj Takalik), a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Guatemala. This area runs along the intercontinental mountain range which was heavily influenced in Preclassic times by the powerful Olmec culture. 

            Maya archaeologist Marion Popenoe de Hatch (2005: 1) noted that: 

"According to the stratigraphic evidence and the analysis of ceramics recovered in recent excavation, it would seem that Tak’alik Ab’aj was conquered by K’iche (Quiche) groups at the beginning of the Early Postclassic period (ca. 1000 AD). This date goes a long way back from the period comprised between 1400 and 1450 AD that many ethno-historians claimed for the K’iche expansion towards the South Coast of Guatemala"… "The problem is when, and the Tak’alik Ab’aj information suggests that the expansion had been initiated at the beginning of the Early Postclassic period and not at the beginning of the Late Postclassic, that is to say around 1000 AD, contemporary to the dispersion of the Tihil Plumbate pottery. The chronicle states that the conquest took place in 1300 AD, but archaeological evidence shows that this happened around three centuries prior to that date, that is, around 1000 AD." 


Rituals of Resurrection

The evidence for ballgame related sacrifice by decapitation is overwhelming (e.g. Borhegyi 1969:507, 509, 1980, Knauth 1961), and Borhegyi proposed that the ball players may have played with actual human or jaguar heads. Wasson believed that the origin of ritual decapitation may lay in the mushroom ritual itself and terminology used in reference to mushroom parts. In a letter to Borhegyi dated June 7, 1954, he writes of the Mixe (a linguistic group of northeast Oaxaca) continuing use of the psilocybin mushroom:  

"The cap of the mushroom in Mije (or Mixe) is called kobahk, the same word for head. In Kiche and Kakchiquel it is doubtless the same, and kolom ocox is not “mushroom heads”, but mushroom caps, or in scientific terminology, the pileus of the mushroom. The Mije in their mushroom cult always sever the stem or stipe (in Mije, tek is “leg”) from the cap, and the cap alone is eaten. Great insistence is laid on this separation of cap from stem. This is in accordance with the offering of “mushroom head” in the Annals of the Cakchiqueles and the Popol Vuh. The writers had in mind the removal of the stems. The top of the cap is yellow and the rest is the color of coffee, with the gills of a color between yellow and coffee. They call this mushroom, pitpa "thread-like", the smallest, perhaps 2 horizontal fingers high, with a cap small for the height, growing everywhere in clean earth, often along the mountain trails with many in a single place. In Mije the cap of the mushroom is called the "head" "kobahk in the dialect of Mazatlán. When the “heads” are consumed, they are not chewed, but swallowed fast one after the other, in pairs". 

In the Popol Vuh, a book on the mythology, astronomy, history, religion, and the legends of the Quiche and Cakchiquel people, there are numerous passages that reveal obscure connections between Maya creation myths, the ballgame, ritual decapitation, self decapitation (Borhegyi,1969: 501) and Maya astronomy, involving the movement of the sun, moon, and the planet Venus that are commonly depicted on  Maya vase paintings. 

Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock who translated the Popol Vuh into English in 1985, identified five episodes in the Popol Vuh involving underworld decapitation and self-decapitation. In one episode, the ball playing Hero Twins decapitate themselves in the underworld in order to come back to life. Tedlock writes that, based on evidence discovered by Borhegyi, he does not rule out the presence of an Amanita muscaria mushroom cult in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock, 1985: 250).  

Quoting Susan Gillespie's (1991:317) 

"The decapitation scenes that pervade the symbolism of the Mesoamerican game lead to an investigation of "Rolling Head" myths which are found in many New World societies and are intimately related to games. I argue that decapitation is a metonym for dismemberment, and that dismemberment, the separating of the body into its constituent parts, is metaphorically linked to the separation of time into agricultural seasons which are marked by the periodic movements of celestial bodies" (Susan Gillespie 1991, Chapter 13, p.317)     

Dennis Tedlock (1991:172-173) interprets the five episodes involving decapitated heads or balls representing heads, in the Popol Vuh as representing the five cycles in the Venus Almanac. Tedlock suggests that in a previous world age twin brothers known as Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu represented the Morning Star playing the ballgame on the eastern horizon. The Popol Vuh  tells us that these twin gods, were sacrificed by decapitation in the underworld after losing a ballgame against the Lords of the Death, and that their bodies were buried under the ballcourt at the Place of Ballgame Sacrifice. When Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu were killed the Morning Star disappeared. Tedlock suggests that Hun Hunahpu's decapitated head placed in a tree by order of the Lords of the Underworld, as a symbol of the first visibility of the Evening Star above the western horizon. The sons of Hun Hunahpu, another set of twin boys known as the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, follow their father and uncle into the Underworld to avenge their deaths. They also play a ballgame against the Lords of Xibalba (underworld), only to lose to the Death gods and be decapitated in the Underworld. Tedlock interprets that the Hero Twins took the role of the Morning Star replacing their father and uncle, when they journeyed into the Underworld. The Twins search for their father and go to the Place of Ballgame Sacrifice, where their father still lies. The Popol Vuh recounts that the Hero Twins never resurrect their father from the Underworld, instead they try to put him back together again, but fail because they can't remember all the names of his body parts, so they leave him at the Place of Ballgame Sacrifice, where they promises him he will be worshiped by future generations (Tedlock 1985) (Milbrath 1999 p.159). This suggests that the Hero Twins father Hun Hunahpu (1 Ahau) is the Morning Star who stays behind to rule the Underworld and that his sons Hunahpu and Xbalanque are transformed into the Sun and Moon. David Kelley identifies Hun Hunahpu as the Maize God and the embodiment of Venus noting that his name means 1  (Hun Ahau). 

In the Annals of the Cakchiqueles, the Quichés are called “thunderers” because they worship and venerate a Thunderbolt god, and were given the name Tohohils. Tedlock (1985: 251), specifically notes: The single most suggestive bit of evidence for the mushroom theory lies in the fact that a later Popol Vuh passage gives Newborn Thunderbolt and Raw Thunderbolt two further names: Newborn Nanahuac and Raw Nanahuac. …Nanahuac would appear to be the same as the Aztec deity Nanahuatl (or Nanahuatzin), who throws a thunderbolt to open the mountain containing the first corn. Nanahuatl means “warts” in Nahua, which suggests the appearance of the Amanita muscaria when the remnants of its veil still fleck the cap. The etymology of the name of the Thunderbolt god Hurican, or Juraqun means “one leg”, and there is plenty of evidence that the belief in a one-legged god was widespread throughout Mesoamerica (Christenson, 2007: 60). 

It may be that the one-legged gods of Mesoamerica, represent the divine mushroom and that the one-leg refers to the mushroom's stem or stipe, as well as to lightning.  Tedlock's analysis of the Popol Vuh reveals that "the three q'abawil were wooden and stone deities called Cacula Huracan, Lightning One-leg"; Chipa Cacula, "Youngest or Smallest Lightning"; and "Sudden or Violent Lightning" and suggests that spirit is manifested within material objects (Tedlock,1985, 249-251).  One-legged gods in Mesoamerica like the Maya god K'awil whose face is derived from a serpent, and his Aztec counterpart Tezcatlipoca may be an esoteric metaphor for the divine mushroom--a one-legged god manifested from the power of lightning. Since it was believed that stones were created from lightning, and the spirit K'awil entered this world through lightning into material objects. Certain stones may have been carved to look like mushrooms, in order to worship K'awil as a one-legged god of divine transformation. 

Mushroom stones, were most likely venerated with the blood of human and animal sacrifices. The ancient Mayan word for stone, cauac, comes from the word for lightning. It may be that mushroom stones were placed in sacred spots where mushrooms may have sprouted from the ground, suggesting that it was lightning that provided the conceptual link between the sky (heaven) and Earth.

Tedlock mentions that the principal gods among the Quiché Maya are listed “again and again” as Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz (Hacawitz) and called these three gods "the three Thunderbolts", their names being, Thunderbolt Hurican, Newborn Thunderbolt, and Raw Thunderbolt, alluding to a Trinity of Maya gods. 

In 1651 the physician to the King of Spain, Dr. Francisco Hernandez, wrote a guide for missionaries in the Spanish colonies, Historia de las Plantas de Nueva Espana. In it he stated that there were "three kinds" of narcotic mushrooms that were worshiped. After describing a lethal species of mushroom, he stated that other species of mushrooms when eaten caused madness, the symptom of which was uncontrolled laughter. Other mushrooms, he continued " without inducing laughter, bring before the eyes all kinds of things, such as wars and the likeness of demons" (Wasson, 1962: 36; see also Furst, 1990 rev. ed., 9).

Evidence of a trinity of gods among the ancient Maya was also supplied by Ethno-mycologist Bernard Lowy, who linked sacred mushrooms with lightning and a creation myth, and a trinity of creator gods associated with divine rulership. He reported that cakulha was not only the Quiché term for thunderbolt but is also the Quiché Maya name for the Amanita muscaria mushroom (Lowy, 1974: 189). The Quiche speakers do not know why Amanita muscaria (cakulha, spelled kakulja in Wasson  1980:229) is the word for lightning-bolt god and no longer think of the word's meaning when they use it, but cakulha is the god of the lightning-bolt and that this Quiche term is found in the Popol Vuh (Wasson  1980:229). 

Quoting Bernard Lowy:

"Kakulja is one of a trinity of gods referred to in the Popol Vuh as "Kakulja Huracan" which enigmatically refers to "a single leg" that is, the single shaft of the thunderbolt. Where this shaft struck the earth the miraculous mushroom Amanita muscaria arose. Relating this to Vedic myth, we have a further, unexpected verification of the meaning of Soma. Does not this "single leg" also reveal the meaning of the riddle cited by Wasson in the traditional verse sung by German children..."Sag' wer mag das Mannlein sein Das da steht auf einem Bein ?"  (Bernard Lowy, Ethnomycological Inferences from Mushroom stones, Maya Codices, and Tzutuhil Legend 1980 pp.94-103) 

It worth mentioning that in Hindu tradition recorded in the Rig Veda, it is stated that Parjanya the god of thunder was the father of Soma (Wasson 1969).

Lowy (1980: 99) wrote: During a visit to Guatemala in the summer of 1978, I stayed in the village of Santiago de Atitlan, a community where Tzutuhil [Mayan] is spoken and where ancient traditions and folkways are still maintained. There I learned that in Tzutuhil legend mushrooms are intimately associated with the creation myth.  That in the Quiché Maya pantheon the god Cakulja, he of the lightning bolt, one of a trilogy of supreme gods, is revered above all others, and in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book in which the traditions of the Quiché people are recorded, his position of ascendancy is made clear.  

Archaeological evidence of trinity of creator gods among the ancient Maya, also appear at the Maya sites of Cerros, Uaxactum, Caracol and at Tikal, during the Early Classic Period 250-400 C.E.  

            Quoting archaeologist David Freidel:

"as the most ancient and sacred of all Maya deities, these three gods played a crucial role in the earliest symbolism of kingship that we saw at Cerros, Tikal, and Uaxactun " (Maya Cosmos 1993).   

Nikolai Grube writes that the text on Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, at the Maya site of Yaxchilan refers to the decapitation of three gods in the mythical past, an event that took place on or in a ball court (Grube Nikolai, 2012 Divine Kings of the Rain forest, H.F. Ullmann).  

Evidence of a Trinity of gods can be seen in the carved head above of a three-in-one deity from Veracruz, Mexico, and below in the two tripod mushroom stones from Highland Guatemala, in the Dept. of Quiche.

Mushroom stones that have a circular groove around the base of the cap are classified as Type B, and according to Borhegyi without exception, are of Early and Late Pre-Classic date (1000 BCE.-A.D. 200)

According to a passage in Paso y Troncoso: Papeles de Nueva Espanana, 2nd Serie, Geografia y Estadistca, Vol IV: Relaciones Geograficas de la Diocesis de Oaxaca, (dated 15 April 1580, p. 109)

"They would worship the devil making in his likeness idols and faces of stone, very ugly to which they would sacrifice little dogs and Indian slaves and this was their worship and whom they took for gods; and after they had made some such sacrifice it was their custom to dance and get drunk on some mushrooms in such a manner that they would see many visions and fearful figures" (Wasson 1980 p. 218).

Tripod (Type D) mushroom stone bearing the goggled eyes of Tlaloc.

It should be noted that the Quiché tried to overthrow the Cakchiquel at their capital of Iximche, but the Quiché were badly defeated, and that Cakchiquel warriors stole from the Quiché the divine image of their god Tohil, and that this stolen idol deprived the Quiché of their divine power, and the Quiché did not dare attack the Cakchiquel again on their home ground (Sachse, 2001: 363). 

Above is a (Type A) effigy mushroom stone, the only one on display in the museum at the archaeological site of Iximché, the capital of the Cakchiquel Maya in the western highlands of Guatemala. Although this effigy mushroom stone bears the image of the Mexican goggle-eyed Rain god known as Tlaloc, it's tempting to think, is this the stolen idol depicting the Quiche god Tohil, that the Cakchiquel warriors stole from the Quiché people that deprived them of their divine power, and that the Quiché Maya did not dare attack the Cakchiquels again on their home ground ?(Sachse, 2001: 363).  (Photo by Carl de Borhegyi). 

According to Borhegyi the Mazatec name for the inebriating mushroom means "that which springs fourth" and that a word for mushrooms in Mije is tu;m 'uh, which has the same meaning. The god Tlaloc was located in the uplands, around the verdant mountains where the rain clouds gather. This according to Borhegyi is the elevation where we find the mushroom cult in the Mazatec and Mijr country. Dr. Edward Seler (Berlin & London, 1902-3, p.106) writes that Tlaloc means "he that makes thing sprout", being derived from tlaloa, a verb meaning to sprout. In a footnote Seler gives quotations from Sahagun where he thinks tlaloa can only mean sprout (Borhegyi to Wasson letter November 26, 1954; Wasson archives Harvard University).  

The idea that lightning produces mushrooms to sprout is almost universal because it is almost always connected with a heavy thunderstorm. Tlaloc as a Storm God is frequently represented holding a ray of lightning. In this respect, Tlaloc is also an earth god. When he throws lightning to the ground he has coitus with his female counterpart, the earth. Any object that suddenly grows up after a heavy rain storm could easily be associated as a child of this union. Few things pop up as quickly and as mysteriously as mushrooms after a rain. 

A tripod mushroom stone that was excavated by Henri Lehmann at the Post Classic ruins of Mixco Viejo, in the Department of Chimaltenango in Guatemala was found in front of a double pyramid B-3-b, at the foot of the altar structure associated with a stone ball 28 cm. in diameter. Since double pyramids are usually devoted to the Tlaloc cult, the tripod mushroom stone found in front of it may be interpreted as a relationship between the rain god cult of Tlaloc and mushroom stones (letter from Borhegyi to Wasson September 14, 1957,  Wasson Archives Harvard University ).

Above is the Mexican god Tlaloc, who is easily recognizable by his trademark goggled eyes (mushroom vision?), feline fangs, and handlebar mustache. Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl as both the Evening Star and Morning Star aspects of Venus were both patron deities of Teotihuacan connected with the ruling dynasty. Tlaloc was also clearly connected with a warrior cult associated with the planet Venus. This Tlaloc-Venus warfare cult spread from the great metropolis of Teotihuacan into the Maya area during the Early Classic period when Teotihuacan was at its apex. Those who died for Tlaloc went directly to his divine paradise called Tlalocan. 

The celestial paradise of Tlalocan may be metaphorically depicted below as Mushroom Mountain, a paradise of creation and the destination of the deified ruler after his death.

Above is close up image from a Mixtec pictogram, known as the Lienzo de Zacatepec  1540-1560 AD, also called the Códice Martínez Gracida, now in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, in Mexico City.  

It's the author's belief that the scene above in the Lienzo de Zacatepec, depicts the probable act of ritual self sacrifice, and that it portrays the Mexican god Tlaloc as a death god responsible for the act of underworld decapitation. Thus Tlaloc as the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus, represents the god of underworld resurrection. Those who died for Tlaloc, and in this case willingly by decapitation, were under his watchful eye, and went directly to his divine paradise of immortality called Tlalocan. The footprints in this scene represents a long journey by one of the royal figures above. I believe this journey is to the underworld, via sacred mushrooms, where the soon to be willing victim, or victims of ritual decapitation, resurrect from the underworld. Note the flint knife at the foot of the temple steps, that esoterically represents the ritual of decapitation. 

The encoded Fleur de lis symbol in the glyphs above next to the one of the figures, is I believe code for immortality and divine resurrection. Note that the victim's severed head below, is portrayed with mushrooms, on top of what is likely a sacred mountain or hill, that marks a sacred portal to the after life paradise of Tlaloc called Tlalocan. 

The Vedic-Hindu gods and goddesses of East Indian philosophy are in many ways very similar to the pantheon of gods of Mesoamerica, for they too derived much of their strength from the sacrifices of men. Vedic Hinduism and the religions of Mesoamerica both believed in a three-tiered cosmos, with celestial gods traveling back and forth from the heavens to the Underworld, and saw a triadic unity in their gods (Hindu triad, and Palenque Triad) that was essentially related to cosmic forces such as wind, rain-lightening, and fire, and the unity of creation, preservation, and destruction creating the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In Hindu mythology Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, make up the Hindu Trinity of gods. In Hinduism, Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation in the Hindu Trinity of Gods.

Parallel to Mesoamerican mythology, the early Vedics, Hindus, Buddhists, and Persian Zoroastrians, all had a similar belief in four great eras or world periods that ended in cataclysm prior to the present, fifth, and final world. 
Hindu scriptures, like Aztec legends, speak of four past ages, the fifth world age being that of the present age. That each of these ages was ended by a great cataclysms that nearly destroyed mankind. These world ages are terminated by three kinds of destruction, 

involving wind, fire, and water.

 (Above image is from

The Churning of the Milk Ocean, or The Churning of the Ocean's Milk, is a creation story told in several ancient Hindu texts. At the suggestion of Vishnu, the gods, and demons churn the primeval ocean in order to obtain Amrita, which will guarantee them immortality  (Kangra painting eighteenth century). The avatar of the Vedic-Hindu god Vishnu is the sea turtle depicted below as the pivot point for Mt. Mantara acting as the churning stick.

According to Vedic,Hindu, and Buddhist literature, the Gods got together at the beginning of time and churned the ocean to extract a substance which would offer them immortality. According to Richard J. Williams author of "Soma in Indian Religion" Etheogens as Religious Sacrament (2009 p.2 Introduction), The Gods agreed to share this mighty elixir, calling it  Amrita, or Amrit which is a Sanskrit word for "nectar", a sacred drink also in Buddhist mythology that grants their gods immortality.

The drawing above by Daniela Epstein is of a ball court relief panel from El Tajin in Veracruz, Mexico, associated with Building 4. Upon noticing the turtle in this creation scene I knew right away that this ballcourt scene was a version of the Hindu/Buddhist myth known as "The Churning of the Milk's Ocean", a creation story often depicted in Buddhist and Hindu art. 

Jeffery Wilkerson describes a much different version of this ballcourt panel scene in the book, The Mesoamerican Ballgame (1991, p. 54-55). He says the scene portrays the prerogatives of rulership within the ritual ballgame format of El Tajin. He proposes an altar that depicts two serpents intertwined to form a tlaxmalacatl  or ballgame marker, that has been "modified by a spear bundle, a symbol of warfare in late Mesoamerican times". He does mention a vat of ritual drink with a reptilian guardian. Soma the drink of immortality was described as a  "heavenly liquor"  that was guarded by a Serpent.  

Gordon Wasson postulated (1968) that the mysterious Soma plant in the Vedic literature, said to be a red fruit leading to spontaneous enlightenment for those who consumed it, was actually a mushroom known as the Amanita muscaria, also known as the Fly Agaric or toadstool mushroom. Soma was considered to be the most precious liquid in the universe, used in sacrificial rituals to the gods, but particularly by Indra, the warrior god. Wasson further proposed the idea that the pursuit of immortality by the ancients, revolved around the covert ingestion of the hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom.  

             Quoting R. Gordon Wasson:

" There is little doubt that the substance called Soma in the Rig Veda has been identified as the fungus Amanita Muscaria."

The discovery of Hindu-Buddhist mythology encoded in this ball court relief panel from El Tajin, leads the author to conclude that, in addition to pre-Columbian mushroom cult first proposed by Borhegyi and Wasson, other Vedic inspired traditions migrated to the Americas as early as 1000 B.C.E., and that the Indians of the New World modeled their religion on Vedic beliefs and ritual practices. 

In the drawing above of the Tajin ballcourt panel, a dual headed serpent lurks below at the bottom of the scene, emerging from the ocean's depth. In Hindu-Buddhist mythology the turtle represents the avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who acts as the central pivot point, below the churning mechanism which is composed intertwined serpents being pulled at both ends by sky deities (four cardinal directions) who create the new born Sun (Vishnu ?). In both Vedic (Hindu kalpas) and Mesoamerican cosmology there was the belief in cyclical creations, a multi-tiered heaven and underworld, and deities who reside at the four cardinal directions and its sacred center. Among the ancient Maya the Turtle has been identified with rebirth, and the shell with divinity. 

If this ballcourt scene from El Tajin does represent "The Churning of the Milk's Ocean" and I feel certain that it does, than the two deities behind the two central characters hold containers or ritual buckets in their hands filled with the elixir of immortality, known as Amrita (the Soma beverage ?). As it turns out I wasn't the first researcher to make this connection. Apparently, and not surprising, David Kelley noted the similarities years ago, but his research was suppressed and often criticized for his insistence to carry on his studies of cultural contacts via trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic voyages. Trans-oceanic contact between the hemispheres prior to the voyages of Columbus is still considered highly unlikely by most Mesoamerican archaeologists, despite the exception of the Viking outpost discovered in Newfoundland in the 1960's, and the recent awareness that early humans reached far distant Australia by boat, possibly as early as 50,000 years ago.  

Over the years the author has found an abundance of archaeological evidence supporting the proposition that Mesoamerica, the high cultures of South America, and Easter Island shared, along with many other New World cultures, elements of a world-wide mushroom based belief system, and like the Vedic god Soma of ancient Hinduism, was worshiped and venerated as a god in ancient Mesoamerica. The author's discovery of the Fleur de lis symbol encoded in Pre-Columbian art as a symbol of divinity, leads the author to conclude that, in addition to the ancient mushroom cult first proposed by Borhegyi and Wasson, other Vedic inspired traditions migrated to the Americas as early as 1000 B.C.E., and that the Indians of the New World modeled their religion on Vedic beliefs and ritual practices. It is therefore particularly interesting that my study of mushroom symbolism in  pre-Columbian art has led me to a number of striking parallels between the visual imagery of Central and Southeast Asia, and Mesoamerica, and South America, including Easter Island.  

In the course of my studies I have found mushroom-Venus related symbolism in the art of the Rapa Nui civilization of Easter Island.  Above on the left is a effigy mushroom stone from Guatemala, and on the right is a giant Moai statue from Easter Island. To my knowledge I am the first to note the interesting fact that many of the Moai statues on Easter Island appear to have a mushroom of sorts encoded into their head and noses, and that both the Maya mushroom stone and Moai statues share the "exact same" ear design.

The petroglyph drawing on the right is by Lorenzo Dominguez (1901-1963).  When asked what it meant, the Easter Islanders replied that it represented "Make Make," their creator god ( The Maya Venus glyph on the left is from Michael Coe's book Reading The Maya Glyphs 2001 p.163) 

The drawing of this petroglyph and others on Easter Island bear a striking resemblance to Venus symbols found in Pre-Columbian art among the ancient Maya depicting the ancient Mexican god Tlaloc. Scholars have noted very early images of Tlaloc in the archaeological record in Mesoamerica, including ancient rock art, going back to early Olmec times. Tlaloc whose attributes are his goggled eyes and feline fangs he was known as the “provider”, a creator god just like Easter Island’s “Make Make”, who is associated with life giving rain, deadly storms, and divine lightning. Tlaloc was known as “he who made things grow”. 

In 1886, William Thomson a U.S. Naval officer and Easter Island's first scientific researcher visited Easter Island. According to Heyerdahl, Thompson found many representations of catlike figures symbolizing their supreme god, a Sun God they called Make Make. He noted that this was remarkable because there were no members of the cat family on Easter Island or anywhere else in Polynesia.

The fact that sacred mushrooms had not been noted earlier is explained by the way these images were so cleverly encoded into the art that they became almost invisible. Invariably the mushroom imagery was associated with ritual sacrifice in the Underworld, with jaguar transformation and period endings, and with the decapitation and resurrection of the Underworld Sun God by a pair of deities associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. Mushrooms, in fact, are so closely associated with underworld jaguar transformation, and underworld jaguar resurrection, that they must have been believed to be the vehicle through which both were accomplished. They are also so closely associated with ritual decapitation, that their ingestion may have been considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically in the underworld. 

Claude Levi-Strauss, author of Structural Anthropology, Vol. 2:

"Several varieties of Amanita muscaria exist, their color ranging from brilliant red to yellow-gold. To describe the soma, the Rig-Veda constantly use the word hari, which takes in this range of colors; and when substitutes came to be used, those with red coloration were favored" (p.26)  

While at first glance the face of the "Weeping Gods" gives the illusion of a deity with dangling or disembodied eye-balls. However as "I discovered", if you look closely, you will see that the dangling eyeballs are actually encoded mushrooms "Hidden In Plain Sight." The photo of the "Weeping God" above left is from VanKirk, Jacques, and Parney Bassett-VanKirk,  Remarkable Remains of the Ancient Peoples of Guatemala,  Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1996.)  

According to Stephan F. de Borhegyi:

"...fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs, are commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God" ( S.F. de Borhegyi 1980:17). 

According to Wasson:       

"The disembodied eyes are the mushroom worshipper's eyes, whether open or shut, contemplating the scenes of another world, three dimensional, unearthly yet more real to the bemushroomed viewer than our world of everyday experience" (Wasson 1980 153).

Gordon Wasson author of Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (1968, 1971), postulated that the mysterious Soma in the Vedic literature, said to be a red fruit leading to spontaneous enlightenment for those who consumed it, was actually a mushroom known as the Amanita muscaria, the so-called Fly Agaric or toadstool mushroom. In the Rig Veda, the Soma beverage was considered to be the most precious liquid in the universe, and therefore was an indispensable aspect of all Vedic rituals, used in sacrifices to all gods. We do not actually know what plant the original Soma was, but it was the focal point of Vedic religion, and that drinking Soma produces immortality, and that the gods drank Soma to make them immortal.

             According to R. Gordon Wasson 1970:

"Here was the Secret of Secrets of the Ancients, of our own remote forebears, a Secret discovered perhaps sporadically in Eurasia and again later in Mesoamerica. The Secret was a powerful motive force in the religion of the earliest times (Wasson 1980, p. 53)

Moche portrait vessels from Peru, South America. Both figures wear what appear to be mushroom inspired headdress, encoded with the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The Moche culture reigned on the north coast of Peru during the years 100-800 A.D. 

In the Rig Veda, Soma, the mystery plant around which the Vedic sacrifices took place, is described as an intoxicating liquid that was pounded or pressed out of the plant (mushroom) using special pressing stones, called Soma stones (RV IX.11.5-6;IX.109.17-18). The Rig Veda describes Soma as a small red plant having no leaves, and lacking both roots and blossoms, but having a stem that is juicy and meaty (Furst, 1976 p.97).

In the highlands of Guatemala where the majority of mushroom stones have been found, and where the Amanita muscaria mushroom grows in abundance, archaeologists working at the Preclassic site of Kaminajuyu discovered nine miniature mushroom stones in a Maya tomb, along with nine mortars and pestles, stone tools which were likely used in the mushroom's preparatory rites (see S.F de Borhegyi,1961, 498-504).

While the actual identity of Soma has been lost through time, both its description and the details of its preparation seem to point not to a plant but to the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The flesh of the plant was crushed, using “Soma stones,” and the juices were filtered through wool into large jars. In a like manner, Maya mushroom stones, when they have been found in situ in the course of archaeological excavation, are often accompanied by stone grinding tools known as manos and metates. Accounts of mushroom ceremonies still in practice among the Zapotec Indians of Mexico confirm the use of these tools in the preparation of hallucinogenic mushrooms for human consumption. One must conclude that these manos and metates were used for the same purpose as the sacred stones described in the Rig Veda that were used to prepare Soma.

The association of mushroom stones with the metates and manos greatly strengthens the possibility that at least in some areas in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica metates were used to grind the sacred hallucinatory mushrooms to prepare them for ceremonial consumption." (de Borhegyi 1961: 498-504)

Above is a painting from the Codex Ríos, a Spanish colonial-era manuscript, now in the Vatican library (also called Codex Telleriano-Remensis), attributed to Pedro de los Ríos, a Dominican friar working in Oaxaca and Puebla between 1547 and 1562. The codex itself was likely written and drawn in Italy after 1566. I believe the bearded figure probably represents an aspect of Quetzalcoatl, as the God of ritual intoxication. This figure has been identified by scholars as the goddess Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey plant (Miller and Taube 1993 p111).  The goddess Mayahuel is usually depicted as a beautiful young woman.  Note that the figure above appears to have a beard and wears a headdress that I would argue has three encoded psilocybin mushrooms emerging from appears to be a trefoil, esoteric symbolism I would argue, that may allude to a Trinity of gods. I propose that this codex figure represents Quetzalcoatl as the god of ritual intoxication. Sahagun mentions that the intoxicating medicine that Quetzalcoatl took was made from maguey (agave) the kind (of agave) they call teumetl (The History of Ancient Mexico, 1932 p.181). Note that the figure in question holds a ritual beverage in his right hand, that may encode two psilocybin mushrooms emerging from a trefoil. 

Quetzalcoatl's essence in the world as a culture hero was to establish this communication by teaching his followers to eat sacred mushrooms and make blood sacrifices in order to achieve immortality. This was recorded in the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus (see page 24 Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus).

Above are scenes from the Florentine Codex (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España), by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, between A.D. 1547-1582. Both of the pages depict what looks like the eating of sacred mushrooms before their ritual decapitation. The codex page on the right depicts what appears to be the smiling faces of willing sacrificial victims, prior to their ritual decapitation. Note that the sacrificial victims have turned their capes around to be used as the bibs and bundles for their severed heads. 

Frey Sahagun describes the use of mushrooms at the coronation of Montezuma II, the High Priest of the Aztecs, as follows: 

“For four days there was feasting and celebration and then on the fourth day came the coronation of Montezuma II, followed by human sacrifices in numbers”. “At the very first, mushrooms had been served. They ate them at the time when the shell trumpets were blown. They ate no more food; they only drank chocolate during the night, and they ate the mushrooms with honey. But some, while still in command of their senses, entered and sat there by the house on their seats; they danced no more, but only sat there nodding. One saw in vision that already he would die, and then continued weeping, one saw that he would die in battle; one saw in vision that he would be eaten by wild beasts; one saw in vision that he would take captives in war; one saw in vision that he would be rich, wealthy; one saw in vision that he would buy slaves, he would be a slave owner; one saw in vision that he would commit adultery, he would be struck by stones, he would be stone; one saw in vision that he would steal, he would also be stone and saw in vision that his head would be crushed by stones-they would condemn him; one saw in vision that he would perish in the water; one saw in vision that he would live in peace, and tranquility, until he died; one saw in vision that he would fall from a roof top, and he would fall to his death; however many things were to befall one, he then saw all in vision: even that he would be drowned. And when the effects of the mushrooms had left them they consulted among themselves and told one another what they had seen in vision. And they saw in vision, what would befall those who had eaten no mushrooms, and what they went about doing. Some were perhaps thieves, some perhaps committed adultery. Howsoever many things there were all were told-that one would take captives, one would become a seasoned warrior, a leader of youths, one would die in battle, become rich, buy slaves, provide banquets, ceremonially bathe slaves, commit adultery, be strangled, perish in water, drown. Whatsoever was to befall one, they then saw all in vision. Perhaps he would go to his death in Anauac (Florentine Codex, Dibble & Anderson, Bk 9:38-39) " 


In 2009 I came across a sketch (original by Rubén Manzanilla López and Arturo Talavera González) of a petroglyph that was found on a hillside in Mexico near the city of Acapulco. The petroglyph depicts what appears to me to be a monkey jumping from a mushroom, holding a five pointed Venus star in his right hand, and with an apparent Long Count date located just above the monkey's left shoulder, that reads

Published research of this petroglyph and its probable Long Count date, conducted by Pedro de Eguiluz Selvas entitled, "Origins of the Long Count," suggests that the correlation of this Long Count  date with the Christian calendar fits the Spinden correlation perfectly, making it equivalent to the year 3 Monkey in the Unified Account of Anawak (CUAN). While this identification tends to reinforce the Spinden correlation, it calls into question the generally accepted, but still unproven (Wauchope, 1965, p. 605) GMT, or Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation, and its end date of December 21, 2012. Thus the Long Count date of would be an important key to locate the origin of the long count at October 14th  3373 BCE., (Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and Central America: Herbert J. Spinden p.136) and the famous end to the Mayan Calendar at 1752 rather than in December, 2012.

Manzanilla López, Rubén y Arturo Talavera González.
México : CONACULTA: INAH, (Colección Catálogos), 2008.
ISSUE 206  ISBN: 978-9680302949  

Mexican archaeologists Manzanilla López, Rubén, and  Arturo Talavera González, published two articles on the monkey petroglyph which bears a probable Long Count date of  The date is shown between the left shoulder and the tail of a monkey holding a five-pointed star and jumping off what looks like a sacred mushroom. Researcher Pedro de Eguiluz Selvas ("Origins of the Long Count,") reports that the date as calculated by the Spinden correlation, (ie: 2168 the Gregorian calendar) corresponds in the Unified Count of Anawak correlation (CRAN) to the  year 3 Monkey  in the Maya/Olmec Calendar. There is no corresponding association using the more often cited Goodman-Thompson-Martinez correlation or GMT correlation. Further study of this date 3 Monkey is needed and might explain the many painted Maya vessels, plates, and bowls which depict three monkeys. 

Today the GMT correlation and it's 2012 end date of the Mayan calendar is associated primarily with the late Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson, one of the most, influential archaeologists of his time. In recognition of Thompson's many achievements in Maya studies, he was knighted, Sir J. Eric S.Thompson in 1975 by Queen Elizabeth II, a few days after his 76th birthday.

The lack of agreement on the appropriate correlation of the Maya Calendar has been a long standing problem. Over the years numerous correlations have been proposed but, according to archaeologist Michael D. Coe, today's unofficial "Dean of Maya Studies",  of the various correlations developed to date, only the GMT 11.16, and the Spinden 12.9 correlation meet the requirements of both dirt archaeology and specific dates (The Maya, fifth edition, p.23). Since the two correlations differ by 260 years, the so-called "end date," of the Mayan Calendar according to the Spinden correlation occurred in December, 1752, compared to the GMT correlation and it's 2012 end date of the Mayan calendar.

          Quoting Archaeologist Michael D. Coe...

"any displacement in the dating of the Maya Classic Period would disrupt the entire field of Mesoamerican research, for ultimately all archaeological chronologies in this part of the world are cross-tied with the Maya Long Count" (The Maya, fifth edition 1993 p. 23)

Mesoamerican chronology is based on the correlation of the Gregorian calendar with the Maya Long Count calendar, providing historians with absolute dates. Unfortunately the Mayan calendar cannot be directly correlated with the European calendar because the long count system of dating was no longer in use by the time of the Spanish Conquest.

In order to understand the reason for all the controversy, a few words of explanation are needed to explain the problem of correlation. By the time that Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the New World, the Maya Long Count system of dating was no longer in use. It had been replaced by an abbreviated system called period-ending dating or the "Short Count", of tuns and katuns set to end on days named Ahau (also spelled Ajaw). Unlike the Long Count of the Classic period, the Short Count is not anchored to a base point. Unfortunately, no one living at the time knew how to integrate the Postclassic Short Count with the earlier Long Count system.

To give a simple example of the problem, imagine, if you will, that some time in the far past we had stopped writing out the full calendar date--say  July 12,  2010--and simply recorded all our dates as 7/12/10. While this date is clear to those of us living today, it would be very confusing for historians in the future who could be left wondering in which century the date  July 12 occurred--1710? 1910?, 2110? If no one could recall the full date for this event, historians would be left scratching their heads.

In order to understand the special nature of these associations, and why it may have been important to the ancient artist to record this date, we need to refer again to the image of the monkey in the petroglyph. First, the monkey appears to be jumping off an Amanita muscaria mushroom, an hallucinogenic variety considered to be highly sacred throughout Mesoamerica because of its mind-altering qualities. The identification of the mushroom as an Amanita derives from the characteristic"skirt" on the mushroom's stem. The monkey also holds in his right hand a 5-pointed star, an iconic symbol identified by Mesoamerican scholars as linked to the planet Venus and it's 5 synodic cycles in the Dresden Codex.  It should be noted that the number 5 was specifically associated with Quetzalcoatl and his quincunx symbol, and also with Venus. The synodic revolution of Venus is 584 days, and these revolutions were grouped by the in fives, so that 5 x 584 equaled 2,920 days, or exactly eight years" (Nicholson, 1967 pp. 45-46).

Eguiluz has, in addition to deciphering the long count date, called attention to the two concentric circles in front of the monkey's stomach. These he associates with the calendrical cycle of 13. He also notes that, counting counterclockwise from the fourth point, three parallel rows of dots probably allude to the Nine Lords of the Night.  Eguiluz sees the two larger dots on either side of the monkey as alluding to the tonalpohualli date of 2 Wind, and the shape of the monkey's tail as a symbol of the wind. 

According to the Five Suns cosmogonic accounts as interpreted by scholars Mary Miller and Karl Taube (1993; p.118), Quetzalcoatl in his guise as Ehecatl (the Wind God) presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler. Finally, Susan Milbrath writes in her book on Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy entitled, Star Gods of the Maya (1999,p. 256 ), that an analysis of the Dresden Codex identifies the monkey, itself,  as also related to Venus as the Morning Star. 

In summery, if Eguiluz's interpretations are correct, the petroglyph of the monkey jumping from an Amanita muscaria mushroom (first noted by the author) commemorating  the calendar year 3 Monkey, would be the earliest known date associated with both the mushroom cult and Venus cult,  with both cults linked with the god Quetzalcoatl. That fact alone is of great significance. However, since it lends heavy weight to Spinden's correlation of the Maya calendar, it not only establishes the date for the beginning of the First world cycle at October 14, 3373 B.C.E., it  places the "so-called" end of the Fifth world cycle at 1752  CE rather than 2012 (Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and Central America: Herbert J. Spinden p.136).  

In other words, contrary to much contemporary hype, the end of the "Fifth world" may  have already occurred.  If so, instead of Armageddon, the Mayan Calendar simply began another cycle.


Maya Vase Study

Archaeologist Michael D. Coe was one of the first to recognize that many of the scenes depicted in Maya vase paintings are images of the Maya underworld, known as Xibalba, and versions of the creation story as told by the Quiché Maya of highland Guatemala. This myth, written in Quiche Maya using Spanish orthography, is known today as the Popol Vuh,  It involves two sets of divine twins. 

In the religion of the ancient Maya, various twins or brothers represent the dualistic aspects of the planet Venus, as both a Morningstar and Evening star. This dualistic aspect of Venus is why Venus was venerated as both a God of Life and God of Death. In Aztec mythology the cosmos was intimately linked to the planet Venus in its form as the Evening Star, which guides the sun through the Underworld at night, as the skeletal god Xolotl, the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl. As the Morningstar, Quetzalcoatl's avatar was the harpy eagle. Among the Quiche Maya, Venus in its form as the  Morningstar, was called iqok'ij,  meaning the "sunbringer" or "carrier of the sun or day." (Tedlock, 1993:236).  It was said that they [the Quiche] gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day, the day-bringer, referring to Venus as the Morningstar (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p.184).   

Maya creation stories record that twins were responsible for placing the three stones of creation into the night sky at the beginning of this world age. These three stones, which represent the three original hearthstones of Maya creation, refer to a trinity of gods responsible for creating life from death. One of these gods, known as First Father, ruled as the Sun God in the previous world age. He was decapitated by the Lords of Death after being defeated in a ballgame. His twin sons, (Venus?) after finding his bones buried under the floor of the ballcourt, resurrected him from the underworld and placed him into the night sky as a deified ballplayer. I believe that the Maya could see this resurrected decapitated ballplayer, in the night sky, still wearing his ballgame belt, as the constellation of Orion. As the planet Venus, Quetzalcoatl in his impersonation of Tlaloc, rules the underworld, and is responsible for ritual decapitation, at the place of ballgame sacrifice. 

One of the first Maya vase paintings I found with encoded mushroom imagery was a Late Classic Maya vase painting (600-900 C.E.) K1490, illustrated below.  I immediately saw what I believe to be mushrooms encoded in the robes of the twin smokers on the right below.

I believe that the complex scene on Maya vase painting K1490 may illustrate one of the passages in the Popol Vuh in which the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, smoke cigars in the underworld. The two figures in front of them, appear to be wearing the same clothing as the first pair,  and may allude to the same set of twins. One of the twins, however, has  undergone sacrificial decapitation. Another interpretation could be that the two smokers, through their hallucinations, are seeing the fate of their own lives in front of them, or visions of their father and uncle in their underworld who also struggle against the Nine Lords of Death, the Xibalbans.

Photographs © Justin Kerr  K1490 

In the vase painting above, the Lord of the Underworld is depicted as the white skeletal god in the center of the scene. He holds a decapitated head in one hand and a  serpent-bird staff in the other. Known as Skeletal God A, his fleshless body represents death and decay,  but also the transformation at death from which life is regenerated.

Like many other Late Classic period carved and painted vessels, Maya Vase painting K1490 depicts the sacred (and improbable) ritual act of self-decapitation. Note that the third individual from the right has no head. He holds in his left hand the obsidian knife with which he has decapitated himself. In his right hand he holds the cloth in which he will wrap the head in a bundle. The fourth individual from the right is shown holding the decapitated head by the hair with his right hand, and a knife in his left hand.  After a close examination of this scene, it occurred to me that it might depict an early version of an episode related in the colonial period document known as the Popol Vuh.

The first set of twins, known as Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu, play a ballgame in Xibalba with the Lords of Death and are defeated. The Popol Vuh  tells us that these twin Maya gods, were sacrificed by decapitation in the underworld after losing a ballgame against the Lords of the Death. Their bodies were buried under the ballcourt at the place of ballgame sacrifice. The sons of Hun Hunahpu, another set of twin gods known as the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, follow their father and uncle into the Underworld to avenge their deaths. They also play a ballgame against the Lords of Xibalba. Hunahpu and Xbalanque, however,  were accomplished tricksters as well as ballplayers. They were  ready for any trap that might be set for them by the Lords of Death. (Coe,1973, 1975a). 

           Photographs © Justin Kerr

Maya vase K8936, shown above in roll out form, depicts several scenes associated with the Maya creation story.

According to the Popol Vuh, after the Xibalbans (the Lords of the Underworld) defeated Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu in a ballgame, they sacrificed them and hung the severed head of Hun Hunahpu in a calabash tree. The head of Hun Hunahpu impregnated a daughter of the Xibalbans, named Blood Woman, with the Hero Twins by spitting into her hand.

In the scene above, the jaguar god of the underworld, shown on the far left, holds a decapitated head (likely the head of Hun Hunahpu). Seated below the jaguar is the pregnant daughter of the Xibalbans known as Xquik "Blood Woman". She is painted blood red, and is shown stretching out her palm beneath the decapitated  head. The decapitated head of Hun Hunahpu spits semen onto her hands which fertilizes, giving birth to the legendary Hero Twins.  Her father, one of the Lords of death in the Maya underworld, is the skeletal god to the far right who also holds the bloody head of Hun Hunahpu. For the Classic period Maya, a skeletal god whose name is unknown was a god of the Evening Star (Miller & Taube 1993  p.180). 

In front of Blood Woman sits a character marked with cimi death signs (looks like a % sign) on his legs. He wears on his head what, I believe, is a mushroom-inspired headdress. In his hand he holds a drinking vessel which may contain a mushroom-based beverage which he will use to journey or portal into the underworld. The large jar or olla  that sits on his lap may contain the cultivated sacrament. The skeletal death god on the right  also carries a ceramic jar. It likely contains a hallucinogenic beverage to be taken at death for the ritual cross-over, or underworld journey. The large blood-stained  X-icon located on his skull cap represents the portal door to this journey of transformation.  

Directly behind Blood Woman, at the bottom of the scene, is a large transparent view of the inside of her womb. In it we see the unborn Hunahpu, the eldest of the Hero Twins. He is shown on his back with his knees pointed upwards. Hunahpu,  the first born of the Hero Twins,  personifies Venus. His day-sign is One Ahau or Hun Ahau, the sacred date of the heliacal rising of Venus as Morning Star in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex. To the left of the unborn Hunahpu is a coiled serpent in the shape of a ballcourt hoop. The hoop bears symbols of the four cardinal directions. The inner circle denotes the goal of the hoop as well as the central portal of resurrection. It is associated with the color green, which is the green quetzal-feathered serpent aspect of Quetzalcoatl as the planet Venus.

In Mesoamerican mythology Quetzalcoatl represents the Lord of the Ballgame and Lord of decapitation. It is likely his image that the Maya saw as a decapitated ballplayer in the constellation of Orion. Orion was believed to be the belt or ballgame yoke of Hun Ahau or Quetzalcoatl.  The three stars of his ballgame yoke may represent the three hearth stones of Maya creation. 

Behind the serpent is a rabbit, a symbol of the moon and fertility, holding a ball between its knees. The ball is encoded with the symbol of three, referring again to the three hearth stones that were placed at the time of creation by the pair of twins depicted directly above. These two figures are most likely a Classic period version of the Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh. The twin on the left with jaguar features can be identified as Xbalanke. He holds what appears to be the three hearth stones of creation (the three thunderbolts in the Popol Vuh?). Two of the three stones appear under the right arm and he is  placing the third stone in his left hand into the sky at the place of ballgame sacrifice.  

Xbalanke's trademark attributes are his jaguar spots, (note his spotted ear), symbolic of the Moon and underworld sun or Sun God.  He most likely represents the Evening Star aspect of the planet Venus. To the right of Xbalanke is his older twin brother Hunahpu. He can be identified by his blowgun, which he holds like a paddle, reminiscent of the Paddler Twins. He is likely an aspect of the planet Venus as Evening Star. Both twins wear the scarf of underworld  decapitation, and both are depicted above their unborn bodies. The womb of Hunahpu is directly behind Bloodwoman, while the womb of Xbalanke is in the shape of a curled up jaguar and is depicted directly behind the rabbit holding the ball.

The ritual use of intoxicating enemas for spiritual transformation has been described in the earliest Spanish accounts of native customs. The ritual use of enemas, although poorly understood, is commonly represented in Maya vase paintings. 

Photograph © Justin Kerr Kerr

Maya vase K5172, photographed in roll-out form by Justin Kerr,  depicts an enema ritual associated with the ballgame. On the left is a figure of ballplayer wearing a ballgame yoke and deer headdress. The ballplayer crouches down on one knee, and holds what may be an Amanita muscaria mushroom in his right hand and an enema apparatus in the other.   A mushroom infusion administered by means of an enema would have a much quicker and more powerful effect on the body than one ingested orally.

           Photograph  © Justin Kerr

Maya Vase painting K2797 in roll out form, represents a great example of mushroom-inspired art. The figure on the far left clearly holds a sacred mushroom in his hand. The Maya god just to the right has been identified as God K. David Stuart (1987) found a syllabic spelling for God K's name which reads K'awil, meaning "sustenance" in Yukatek Mayan, but also meaning "idol" or "embodiment" in the Poqom and Cakchiquel Mayan languages (Freidel, Schele, Parker: 1993 p.410 n). The Maya god K'awil is recognizable by the smoking tube, (and obsidian mirror, or axehead) that penetrates his forehead. These attributes are metaphors of the power to penetrate, or enter, into the Underworld. In Maya mythology K'awil who is often depicted as a one legged god, symbolized a bolt of lightning which, by penetrating the ground and entering the underworld, could create new life in a place of death and decay. In both scenes the figure who has summoned the god K'awil to the underworld wears a mushroom-inspired headdress.


Mesoamericans in general believed that Quetzalcoatl created both the universe and humankind. Along with mushrooms, maize and fire. Quetzalcoatl also gave to man the sciences, the calendar and writing, and the knowledge to fix certain days for feasts and blood sacrifice. Rulers bestowed with this divine knowledge were believed to be incarnates of this god.

In the Codex Chimalpopoca, the god-king Quetzalcoatl is referred to as a spirit of regeneration and as the Morning star. A passage from that Codex reads..."Truly with him it began...Truly from him it flowed out...From Quetzalcoatl all art and knowledge" (Neil Baldwin 1998 p.34).

The author believes the divine mushroom ritual shared by all Mesoamerican cultures was intended to establish direct communication between Earth and Heaven (Sky) in order to unite man with God. Rulers or priests bestowed with this sacred knowledge were believed to be Gods, incarnates of their creator god known among the Nahuas (ancient Mexicans) as Quetzalcóatl. Quetzalcóatl's essence in the world as a culture hero was to establish this communication by teaching his followers to eat sacred mushrooms and make blood sacrifices in order to achieve immortality. This was recorded in the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus housed in the National Library of Vienna, Austria, which is one of the few pre-Hispanic native manuscripts that escaped Spanish destruction. It was produced in the Postclassic period for the priesthood and ruling elite. A thousand years of history is covered in the Mixtec Codices, and Quetzalcóatl, known to the Mixtecs as 9-Wind, is cited as the great founder of all the royal dynasties. 

Page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis, above, shows the Wind God Ehecatl-Quetzalcóatl (circled) holding an axe in one hand and the decapitated head of the underworld Death God in the other. Here, Quetzalcóatl gives instructions to a young Xochipilli who is depicted with tears in his eyes as he holds a pair of divine mushrooms in his right hand (Photo from The British Museum) 

It has long been known that page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis concerns the ceremonial role of mushrooms among the Mixtecs.  In 1929 Walter Lehmann noted the resemblance to mushrooms of the objects portrayed in the hands of many of the characters depicted in this Codex. Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso later provisionally identified what he called "T-shaped" objects in the manuscript as mushrooms. Gordon Wasson concluded that it showed "the major place occupied by mushrooms in the culture of the Mixtecs" (Wasson 1980, p. 214).

In the middle of the page on the right side the god-king Quetzalcoatl is depicted gesturing to the god-king Tlaloc directly in front of him to open the portal to the underworld.  According to Peter Furst, who describes this  iconography, the scene depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms" (1981, p.151).  He identifies the triangular or V-shaped cleft in the basin of water on the left as a cosmic passage through which deities, people, animals and plants pass from one cosmic plane to another. 

On the bottom left,  two figures stand beside another V--shape portal of Underworld resurrection. The figure on the left who points to the sky, also has fangs. He appears to be a human transformed at death into the Underworld Sun god, or mythical "were jaguar". This gesture probably signifies resurrection from the Underworld. The two-faced deity in front of him holds what appear to be sacred psilocybin mushrooms similar in shape to the ones in the photograph below.

This two-faced deity is, in all likelihood, the dualistic planet Venus and the god of Underworld sacrifice and resurrection. Note that the two-faced deity is painted black (signifying the Underworld) and wears a double-beaked harpy eagle headdress (signifying the sun's resurrection). The five plumes in the harpy eagle's headdress refer to the five synodic cycles of Venus. The three mushrooms in his hand refer to the Mesoamerican trinity:  the three hearthstones of creation. ie., the sun, the morning star and the evening star.

The circle below the feet of the figure on the left is divided into four parts, two of them dark and two light, each with a footprint. The Fursts, Peter and Jill, have identified this symbol as representing the north-south axis or sacred center as the place of entry into the Underworld. (Furst, 1981: 155). This symbol also appears in the scene above in association with a figure plunging through the a V-shaped cleft into the Underworld.

Mushroom Murals of Tulum 

The murals below are from the Late Post Classic fortified city of Tulum, on a high cliff on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, Structure 16, the Temple of the Frescoes. The art at these ruins shows many of the Nahua features already noted at Chichen Itza. The Tulum murals blend central Mexican-style elements, similar to Mixteca-Puebla codices with Maya traits typical of the Late Classic period A.D. 700-1000. Mixteca-Puebla is an art style that emerges after the fall of Tula, that dominated Central Mexico, that is clearly Mixteca, with the creative center in Cholula, that blends the art styles of Teotihuacan, Xochicalco, and Veracruz. 

A closer look of the murals uncovers several encoded mushrooms in scenes with a deity identified as the aged Moon Goddess. Tulum was dedicated to a cult of the lunar goddesses, especially the aged aspects of the moon associated with the waning moon, and may have been part of a pilgrimage route associated with female cults especially connected with childbirth (Susan Milbrath 1999, p.148). Tulum was also an important center for the worship of the Diving sky God, a deity portrayed on the Temple of the Frescoes (Structure 16) and on the Temple of the Diving God (Structure 5). (Photographs of Tulum murals taken by Fadrique R. Diego).

Temple of the Frescoes 

Temple of the Frescoes 

Temple of the Frescoes

The Toltec /Maya polychrome vessels above are from Quintana Roo, Mexico, Postclassic Maya, 1200-1400 C.E.  The vessels both depict the image of a "diving god", with objects in their hands that may represent the severed caps of psilocybin mushrooms. The removal of the head of the mushroom or mushroom cap is a symbolic reference to ritual decapitation. Wasson writes that the stems of sacred mushrooms were removed and the mushroom caps consumed ritually in pairs prior to self-sacrifice. (Polychrome ceramic container with diving god wearing harpy eagle headdress. ht. 11.4 cm. U.S. Library of Congress, J. Kislak Collection). The Psilocybe mushroom contains the substance psilocin and psilocybin, the active ingredient that causes the mushroom hallucination. The psilocybin mushroom is indigenous to the sub-tropical regions of the U.S, Mexico, and Central America. The polychrome vessel on the left likely portrays Quetzalcoatl (Kukulcan in Yucatec Mayan) in the guise of the harpy eagle, attributes that link this diving deity to Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star. 

Ethno-mycologist Bernard Lowy, proposed that the "diving gods" depicted in the Dresden Codex, were portrayed as under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms (LOWY  BERNARD, 1981, Were Mushroom Stones Potter’s Molds?, Revista/Review Interamericana, vol. 11, pp. 231-237.)

Evidence suggest that the so-called "acrobat" figures and "contortionists" depicted on effigy vases of Preclassic and Classic times are actually ballplayers according to Borhegyi (The Pre-Columbian Ballgame 1980 p.18). Borhegyi describes this unusual "acrobat" or "Diving God" mushroom stone in a letter to Wasson, dated January 14, 1958. 

"Supposedly, it comes from near Tecpan and is presently in the private collection of Carlos Nottebohm. Carlos seems to think it represents an "acrobat" or "sacrificial victim". On the other hand, it may show the so-called "Diving Sun God". A clue to its date is even more difficult. The Tecpan-Iximche area was occupied in the Late Classic (500-900 A.D.) and the Post Classic (900-1500 A.D.) times. Stylistically, the specimen looks of a Late Pre-Classic type (500 B.C. - 200 A.D.) The "Diving Sun God" image, however, is characteristic of the Late Classic (500-900 A.D.) period and is shown mostly on Pipil sculpture. So, I am presently at a loss as to the proper placing of our new specimen. It seems that the "acrobatic" little fellow is balancing the mushroom top with his legs. A most unorthodox position" (letter Borhegyi to Wasson, January 14, 1958, Wasson Archives Harvard University). 

(Photographs copyright Borhegyi)

Pottery mushrooms dating to the middle or late Pre-Classic period 1000 BCE. - 200 A.D. have been found with figurines of ballplayers at the archaeological sites of Tlatilco in Burial 154 (Trench 6), and at Tlapacoya in the Valley of Mexico ( Borhegyi 1980). In the photo above, the pottery mushroom was found near the figurine of an acrobat suggesting that mushrooms were likely consumed to induce super-heroic athletic ability and agility.  It's worth noting that the pose of the so-called acrobat, might represent an East Indian or Hindu yoga posture or a version of the “Dhanur Asan” “Vrischika Asan” which is an advanced yoga posture for people doing “Sheersh Asan”.  

Quoting Stephan F. de Borhegyi:

"The game must have required individual prowess and vigorous play, if one can judge by the contorted "acrobat" positions of the players; and the game surely involved some form of competition. The fact that contorted "acrobat" ballplayer figurines and effigy vessels were known not only from Tlatilco, but also from Colima, Oaxaca and southern Veracruz in Mexico, and from Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala, would indicate that the game was already widespread during Pre-Classic times" (S.F. de Borhegyi 1980 p. 2-3). 

Archaeological evidence indicates that the ballgame was played in Mesoamerica as far back as Preclassic times (1000 B.C.E.-200 A.D.).  Ballplayers are depicted among the numerous ceramic figurines excavated from the Preclassic archaeological sites of Tlatilco and Tlapacoya in the Valley of Mexico. "The occurrence of representations of ballplayers at Formative village sites in the Basin of Mexico is significant because they date to a time period some 1500-2000 years before ballcourts became widespread" (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991 p.11).

The female ballplayer figurine below on the right, comes from the archaeological site of Xochipala, Mexico, Tlatilco culture in the western state of Guerrero, and dates to 1200-900 B.C.E  It is now in the  Princeton University Art Museum. Many of the clay figurines found at the Olmec influenced sites of Xochipala, Tlatilco, and Tlapacoya, in the Valley of Mexico depict ballplayers holding bats or paddles, or so-called "knuckle dusters" which are over sized hand gloves like the one depicted below on the female Xochipala ballplayer (de Borhegyi S.F. 1980, p.24) 

Above on the left is the famous bronze statue of a young women sporting a club-like hand. The female bronze statue is from Harappa, early Indus civilization and thought to be about 4,500 years old. The standing female hand-ballplayer figurine on the right is from the archaeological site of Xochipala in Guerrero, Mexico. The female ballplayer wears a protective club-like glove similar to the female bronze statue from Harappa. The Xochipala female ballplayer also wears what might be a mushroom inspired protective cup attached to her belt (photograph of Xochipala female ballplayer from Whittington, 2001).  (For more on "knuckle dusters" or  ballgame hand stones and ballgame gloves see de Borhegyi, 1961: 129-140).

Numerous Early-Middle Pre-Classic 1300-800 BCE. clay figurines of double-headed deities (duality of Venus ?) have been found at the site of Tlatilco, in the Valley of Mexico. 

In Hindu mythology the Makara is considered a guardian of gateways and portals, generally depicted as a half land creature, and half sea creature, the front half of its body resembling a crocodile or elephant, his rear end having an aquatic tail. The Makara is the vehicle (Sanskrit: ‘vāhana’) of the Hindu water god Varuṇa who in Vedic times was also the God of the Sea. Note the similarity above right, of the Maya Rain God Chaac, (God B of the codices) riding on the back of a long-nosed aquatic creature?

Evidence of pre-Columbian contact? The Makara (Sanskrit; Javanese: Makårå) often called "the water monster vehicle", or "sea dragon", is a Hindu-Buddhist mythological sea creature, often depicted with its trunk tilted up and its mouth spread wide open, and at times from which a deity emerges. The Makara is a common motif in Hindu and Buddhist iconography, generally portrayed guarding the entrance of many ancient temples in Indonesia. The drawing above the Makaras, is by the late Tatiana Proskouriakoff, taken from the palace at the ancient Maya ruins of Sayil, in Yucatan Mexico (1946: p.53).

On pages 4 and 5 of the Dresden Codex, a scaly green monster is represented with its mouth spread wide open mouth and the head of God D (Schellhas) emerging, similar to the sea creature in Hindu-Buddhist mythology known as the Makara, the so-called "the water monster vehicle". According to Paul Schellhas, who was the first to identify systematically the various gods and accompanying name glyphs in the Postclassic codices and provided a letter designation writes that God D appears as a benevolent sun god in the Postclassic codices often associated with Kin, the sun glyph (Spinden1975:71). "Kin" meaning both sun and time, that time is the sun's cycle itself. According to Miller and Taube (1993:146) God D is also closely identified with esoteric priestly knowledge, such as divination and writing.  

             Ethno-archaeologist Dr. Robert Heine Geldern...

"The influences of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of southeast Asia in Mexico and particularly, among the Maya, are incredibly strong, and they have already disturbed some Americanists who don't like to see them but cannot deny them....Ships that could cross the Indian Ocean were able to cross the Pacific too. Moreover, these ships were really larger and probably more sea-worthy than those of Columbus and Magellan" (from "Man across the Sea" Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, published in 1971).

Archaeologists have noted the almost exact similarity of an ancient board game played by the Aztecs called Patolli, and with an ancient board game from India, called Pachisi. Archaeologist Gordon Ekholm argued that because of the games layout and design, the game could never have been developed independently on opposite sides of the worlds (source, "Man across the Sea" Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts, published in 1971, Third Printing 1976). Its hard not to see the similarity in the ancient Indus Valley, Mohenjo-daro mushroom-shaped game pieces with the miniature mushroom stone from Highland Guatemala.

John L. Sorenson author of,  A Complex of Ritual and Ideology Shared by Mesoamerica and the Ancient Near East,  2009: 

"English anthropologist Edward Tylor (1878a; 1878b) pointed out numerous details in common in the setup and rules governing these games in Mexico and India. He concluded that since we do not know from historical sources how the similarities might have been transmitted from one area to the other, “all we can argue is that communication of some sort there was.” He found it impossible to accept that human minds had twice invented the same set of arbitrary notions. The only satisfying explanation for parallels of such specificity as pachisi and patolli display is that the two occurrences were indeed historically related through some contact that has not so far been identified. Anthropologist Robert Lowie observed about this case that “the concatenation of details puts the parallels far outside any probability [of their having originated independently]”. 

Below are all pages from the Madrid Codex, (also known as the Maya Tro-Cortesianus Codex), one of four surviving pre-Columbian Maya codices dating to the Postclassic period, painted between A.D 1350 and 1450 when the long Count was no longer in use, in other words it contains no astronomy no multiplication tables or prophecies associated with the Long count (Susan Milbrath 1999, p.6-7). The codex consists mainly of divinatory rituals that were probably passed down from priest to priest. 

           Quoting Bernard Lowy:

"Maya codices has revealed that the Maya and their contemporaries knew and utilized psychotropic mushrooms in the course of their magico-religious ceremonial observances" (Lowy:1981) .

A page from the Madrid Codex, that clearly depict mushroom glyphs.

Above is page 19, from the Madrid Codex, that depicts what appear to be elements of the same Hindu inspired myth, The Churning of the Milk Ocean. Note that the turtle in the scene acts as the pivot point for the churning stick. The rope represents the serpent's intertwined body that is the mechanism by which the gods churn the milk's ocean. In the scene the artist depicts the importance and creative forces of self sacrifice by substituting a rope for the serpents long body, in a blood letting ritual, in which the rope is being pulled through the penises of the deities above. Note that the kin glyph in the scene, a sign of the sun, runs along the serpent-rope, and that the X-shaped glyphs in the text above may refer to the Maya word jal, a verb meaning to create ( see M.D. Coe Reading the Maya Glyphs: 2001 p.163). 

Several pages in the Madrid Codex depicts the Maya Merchant God, Ek' Chu-Ah, (Ek-chuah) better known as God M (Schellhas) the black, long Pinocchio-like-nose god of traveling merchants (Herbert J. Spinden 1975 p.91). Known among the Nahua (Aztec) as Yacatecuhtli, Lord Nose this deity is intimately connected with cacao who merchants used as their chief currency. On several pages of the Madrid Codex, God M holds what Lowy has identified as a Amanita muscaria mushroom. The page on the lower right may pertain to what is known as the New Fire Ceremony and its time cycle of 52 years that was recognized by all Mesoamericans. 

According to Borhegyi, (New Fire Ceremony) it was believed that in order to avoid catastrophe at the end of each 52-year period which also ended on the day Ahau, man through his priestly intermediaries, was required to enter into a new covenant with the supernatural (Borhegyi de, 1980: 8). In the meantime, he atoned for his sins and kept the precarious balance of the universe by offering uninterrupted sacrifices to the gods. The Calendar Round was considered to be so important that the world would end at the completion of 18,980 days or 52 years if sacred termination ceremonies were not performed. Ritual sacrifice was a way for the ancients to nourish and sustain all the living beings of the cosmos which gave order and meaning to their world.  

The cult of this Maya Merchant God, Ek' Chu-Ah, (along with the salt and amber trade) still survives along the same ancient trade routes throughout Central America, Mexico, and even New Mexico in the United States. It is accompanied by salt and clay or earth-eating (geophagy) and the veneration of the miraculous image of the Black Christ (El Cristo Negro) of Esquipulas (Borhegyi 1965a. p.55 notes) (cf. Borhegyi, 1953, 1954b).


Although the hallucinogenic mushroom cult has survived to this day among certain tribes like the Zapotec, Chinantec, and Mazatec Indians of Mexico, there has been little to nothing reported among the present-day Maya, who obviously conceal there use from outsiders. Legendary archaeologist Sir J. Eric S. Thompson in a letter to Borhegyi...

           Quoting J. Eric S. Thompson:

"I had heard of the theory that these stones might represent a narcotic mushroom cult, but I would think it a difficult theory to prove or disprove... I know of no reference to their use among the Maya, ancient or modern" (Thompson to de Borhegyi, March 26,1953, MPM Archives). 


             In letters to Wasson, from Borhegyi writes:

" I spent several days in the region of Lake Atitlan in search for information on present day use of mushrooms but was unable to get anything of interest. The French ethnologist who has been studying the region for almost a year was unable to give me any information either, although I had him ask his informants" (letter Borhegyi to Wasson, August 1, 1953, Wasson Archives Harvard University).   

  "In the village of San Martin Jilotepeque (Dept. of Chimaltenango) Cakchiquel Indians, according to two informants, one Indian the other a ladino, there is a large, yellow mushroom called San Juan because it appears around San Juan's day (24th of June). It is eaten when cooked and quite frequently the people who eat it feel quite drunk and have nice dreams. There were some mushroom stones of the tripod variety in the village which the informants said were used as stools" (Borhegyi to Wasson May25, 1953, Wasson Archives Harvard University). 

The search in Guatemala for evidence of a present day mushroom cult has thus far been unsuccessful. However, on June 29, 1976, the first recorded Guatemalan collection of psilocybe mexicana Heim was made by Bernard Lowy, Ruben Mayorga and Miguel Torres in a meadow near Santa Elena Barillas, about 25 Km. south of Guatemala City. Previously this mushroom had been known only from Mexico. It was also discovered that a local trade in psilocybe mexicana was flourishing and that the children in that area were collecting the mushrooms, calling them pajaritos (little birds), in quantity and were offering them for sale to a clientele who traveled considerable distances to make their purchases. The identification of  psilocybe mexicana Heim in guatemala lends credence to the possibility that a still undiscovered mushroom cult may be eventually be found there (Lowy 1977 p.124).

          In a 1965 letter from Bernard Lowy to Borhegyi... 

            Dear Dr. Borhegyi:

"Concerning the hallucinogenic mushroom cult, I had a tantalizing experience in Guatemala I will tell you about briefly. Since no evidence has yet been found that would indicate the existence of such a cult in present-day Guatemala, it may be of special interest. While in Panajachel (13 July 1963), I met an old gentleman, Don Emilio Crespo..."In a long conversation with him, after getting around to the matter of mushroom stones (4 of which I saw along with other miscellaneous stone idols, all thrown together in an untidy heap) Don Emilio told me that he had seen in the possession of Indians in the Quiche, small carvings of mushrooms in jade. When I asked him whether he had ever acquired such pieces, he replied that he had tried to do so but found it impossible because the Indians told him that if they sold these objects they would die" (Bernard Lowy to Borhegyi and Wasson, February 2, 1965 Wasson Archives Harvard University) 

In conclusion...

On a visit to Guatemala in 2010, the author found that the Quiche Maya Indians of the Guatemala Highlands were selling tiny Amanita muscaria mushroom toys in the markets, which all have a quetzal bird sitting in a tree painted on the stem. Although the seller informed me that the Maya did eat this variety of mushroom, it is possible she may have been referring to the non-hallucinogenic Amanita caesarea, commonly sold in markets in Mexico and Guatemala and much appreciated for its delicate flavor. Although clearly a child's toy produced for the tourist trade, they bear symbolism of great antiquity. In Mesoamerican mythology, the World Tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens, represents the axis mundi or center of the world. The branches represent the four cardinal directions. Each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk, which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal to the underworld. The Quetzal, now the national bird of modern Guatemala, was considered sacred because of its green plumage. I believe that the Amanita muscaria mushroom cult may still survive in remote areas of Highland Guatemala, where the mushroom grows in abundance. I also believe there is now clear evidence that the Amanita muscaria mushroom is a symbol of equal antiquity. 

Acknowledgements: The author thanks his mother Dr. Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest and sister Ilona de Borhegyi for their contributions to this book and the books above. This book and Bibliography is still a work in progress.


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