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The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica

Overview

"From now on any comprehensive study of Ancient Mexican civilization must start from (and with) your discoveries."—Octavio Paz

"The late Mr. Wasson is the Abraham of the reborn awareness in Western civilization of the presence of the shamanically empowering mushroom."—Terence McKenna

In 1957 Life magazine created a sensation by publishing an article about the experiences of a JP Morgan executive who took mind-altering mushrooms with a shaman woman in Mexico. The story captured the imagination of a generation, ...

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Overview

"From now on any comprehensive study of Ancient Mexican civilization must start from (and with) your discoveries."—Octavio Paz

"The late Mr. Wasson is the Abraham of the reborn awareness in Western civilization of the presence of the shamanically empowering mushroom."—Terence McKenna

In 1957 Life magazine created a sensation by publishing an article about the experiences of a JP Morgan executive who took mind-altering mushrooms with a shaman woman in Mexico. The story captured the imagination of a generation, inspiring waves of intellectuals, artists, and seekers to travel in search of the mushrooms and the indigenous healer, Maria Sabina. Today, Gordon Wasson is credited with having triggered the psychedelic revolution and his influence lives on through the growing community of people who study indigenous spirituality, sacred plants, and their role in personal transformation. In celebration of Wasson's pioneering work, we present a reprint of his classic The Wondrous Mushroom, an in-depth study of shamanic realities, mushrooms, and traditions connecting contemporary practices to pre-Conquest art, architecture, and culture. The book begins with Wasson's first experiences taking mushrooms, going into a wealth of details about sacred indigenous ceremonies, culture, and practices. The Wondrous Mushroom reflects a lifetime of studies, personal experiences, and reflections on shamanism, culture, community well-being, healing, and spiritual strength. Long out of print, this new edition is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of psychedelics.

Gordon R. Wasson (1898–1986) founded the field of "enthnomycology" and was considered the preeminent authority on the use of psychoactive mushrooms.

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Editorial Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"His discoveries, certainly in Mesoamerica, are prescient and grounded and the republication of this book is necessary for a number of reasons. . . . it is a great book to have back on the scene and no doubt a vital starting place for anyone interested in magic mushrooms, Mesoamerican history, and the entheogenic analysis itself." — Psychedelic Press

From the Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872865921
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 2/10/2015
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 1,155,806
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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

Contributor Bio:
Daniel Pinchbeck is author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. He is an advocate for the conscious use of sacred plants and their role in well being. He is the editorial director of the Reality Sandwich web site and social network.

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