Start your review of Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality Write a review Jan 16, Mark rated it liked it This academic scholarly text makes the case for one of the perhaps most popular mushroom fungi Amanita muscaria as being Soma, which was an important substance in Indian vedic religion, similar to the "Eleusinian Mysteries" from Ancient Greece, which is largely suspected to have been LSD, or an ergot fungus derivative that "acid" is synthesized out of. These inquiries practically make the case for inebriants being some form of God - either that or they put you into contact with some form of it. This academic scholarly text makes the case for one of the perhaps most popular mushroom fungi Amanita muscaria as being Soma, which was an important substance in Indian vedic religion, similar to the "Eleusinian Mysteries" from Ancient Greece, which is largely suspected to have been LSD, or an ergot fungus derivative that "acid" is synthesized out of. Maybe it is quite easy to imagine. What I find interesting is how the mushroom in question was used by Nintendo to be the "super mushroom" power up in the video game Super Mario Bros. It has been said it feels similar to the buzz gotten after a couple cans of beer.
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Soma of the Aryans: an Ancient Hallucinogen? This work is referred to in the following pages as " Soma". Some 3, years ago, in the middle of the second millennium before Christ, a people that called themselves Aryans swept down from the north through Afghanistan and occupied the valleys of the Indus. They spoke an Indo-European language. They were hard fighters driving horse-drawn chariots. They sowed grain and bred cattle, horses, and sheep. They arrived on the scene with a fully developed religion, elaborate rituals performed by a tightly organized priesthood, a well-rounded complement of gods and goddesses in their pantheon, and a rich mythology telling of the doings of these divinities.
They were closely related to the people who at or about the same time occupied what came to be known as the Iranian plateau, this name - Iran - being cognate with "Aryan ".
Together these peoples are called today the Indo-Iranians. One of their important gods, Soma or "Haoma" among the Iranians , was different from all the others: it was a plant as well as a god - the only plant that has been deified in human history, so far as we know-and the juice of that plant is also sometimes called Soma.
The plant was mixed with water, then beaten out with stones in the course of the liturgy, the liquor filtered off and mixed with more water as well as honey or barley, and drunk right away by the priests before the end of the liturgy. According to the poet-priests the drink was inebriating and sublime. All that we know about the Aryans at this stage of their history comes to us from a collection of 1, hymns that they composed after arriving in the Indus Valley and sang in the course of their worship.
These hymns are what is known as the RigVeda Words and music, they were passed down to succeeding generations by the human memory, the art of disciplining the memory for this purpose having reached a refinement never equalled by any other known human society. We have no reason to think that writing was known to the Aryans at that time, although to the West of the Indo-Iranians, in Mesopotamia and the Near East, we possess numerous elaborate cuneiform texts inscribed over the preceding thousand years and more.
The text is settled and has been available for study for the past years, but the meanings of the verses are often obscure, and, as is natural in hymns impregnated with religious terminology and beliefs strange to us, filled with allusions that evade and challenge the Vedic scholar. The language that these priests spoke is known as "Vedic", which a thousand years later developed into the Sanskrit tongue.
What was this plant that was called "Soma"? No one knows. Apparently its identity was lost some 3, years ago, when its use was abandoned by the priests. The Indians were a people singularly devoid of an interest in history and seem not to have been curious about the identity of Soma. The earliest liturgical compositions of the Indo-Aryans, called the Brahmanas and put together after the hymns had been assembled, discuss the surrogates to be used for Soma in the ritual but fail to describe the original plant.
The preferred surrogates were to be red, as Dr. Throughout the ages the surrogates have been chiefly leafless plants, species of the genera Ephedra, Periploca, and Sarcostemma. The inner circle of Brahmans have always known that these replaced the original Soma, but when Western scholars arrived on the scene these plants were among those actually considered in the quest for Soma, although they had no palatable juice.
Some inquirers felt that Soma, if not one of them, must have resembled them closely. Some students have even suggested a distilled potion, forgetting that the distillation process had not yet been invented. There have been many other suggestions - rhubarb, hemp, etc. Quel, the fly-agaric, the Fliegenpilz of the Germans, the fausse oronge or tue-mouche or crapaudin of the French, the mukhomor of the Russians.
This flaming red mushroom with white spots flecking its cap is familiar throughout northern Europe and Siberia. It is often put down in mushroom manuals as deadly poisonous but this is false, as I myself can testify. Its reputation as a lethal plant in the West is, I contend, a splendid example of a tabu long outliving the religion that gave rise to it.
Among the most conservative users of the fly-agaric in Siberia the belief prevailed until recent times that only the shaman and his apprentice could consume the fly-agaric with impunity: all others would surely die. This is, I am sure, the origin of the tabu that has survived among us down to our own day. In the English language there is now no name for Amanita muscaria, for "fly-agaric" is only a term of convenience having no circulation among country folk in Great Britain.
It is an artificial designation chiefly used by mycologists writing for laymen. Many of these names are associated with the fly, as in German Fliegenpilz. In my book I hope I have succeeded in demonstrating that this "fly" is not the domestic fly as almost everyone in modern times has believed.
Down through the Middle Ages and even later in some places the "fly" was the key to "possession", to insanity, to abnormal mental behaviour.
This "fly" of mental "possession" still permeates the vocabularies of many of the European languages. The second name currently used in Northern Eurasia is associated with the toad. In English the "toadstool" and in other languages around the North Sea its verbal congeners with the same or similar semantic content are used to designate mushrooms that the observer rejects and shrinks from.
The toad is associated with unwanted mushrooms also in Slovakia and the Ukraine, and the connexion survived in Old French: under the Christian regime le bot meant a toad, a mushroom, and Satan. To this day the fly-agaric is preeminently the "toadstool ": children are told not to touch it, adults commonly believe that they would die should they eat it.
I am convinced that all names of mushrooms in which the toad is one element originally were specific to the fly-agaric. It was tabu, and following the way of objects under the blight of a powerful but dying tabu, the specific designation lost its focus and spread vaguely over all of the mushroom tribe, making them all outcasts.
In pagan times the toad was a friendly chthonic divinity and up until recently it survived in that role in remote parts of Lithuania where Christianity was the last to triumph over paganism, as Maria Gimbutas, the distinguished pre-historian and herself a Lithuanian, has told us.
The evidence When I approached the Soma problem on going to the Far East in , I did so in a despairing frame of mind: where so many others had failed, who was I to succeed? I knew no Vedic nor Sanskrit. Fortunately Louis Renou, one of the leading humanists and scholars of his generation, had just translated three quarters of the RigVeda into French.
His rendering is intended for scholars and is as literal as he could make it. I read what he had translated, as well as all that he had written on the RigVeda in the previous 15 years, and all other available Vedic commentaries. I enlisted the co-operation of Dr. This was not only because of the time element in completing the fermentation process: the descriptions of the effects of Soma could never have been written after drinking alcohol.
Soma must be an hallucinogen. I was struck quickly by a singular fact: there is no mention of the roots, the leaves, the blossoms, or the seed of Soma in the hymns of the RigVeda. These hymns were written over generations, perhaps centuries, by poets in different cultural centres of the land.
Ergo: the plant had neither roots, nor leaves, nor blossoms, nor seed. What plant answers the need? The whole of the fungal world. Time and again the poets of the RigVeda speak of Soma as growing on the mountain heights. For me this meant a plant that in the northern forest belt would grow at or dose to sea level but that in the latitude of the Indus Valley would be found only high in the mountains, where climatic conditions would support the vegetation of the temperate zone.
Naturally I had not gone this far before my thoughts gravitated to the fly-agaric of northern Eurasia. The Aryans had come down from the North, no one knew from where.
Had they perhaps shared in the cult of the regal fly-agaric? The reader of the RigVeda must know that he is reading poetry and be prepared for figures of speech and flights of analogy that bespeak poetry.
If he grasps the imagery of the poet, he will perceive at once that the poet, in speaking of Soma, has the fly-agaric in mind. In the synopsis that follows I cannot do justice to this imagery. In my book I supply coloured photographs illustrating lines of the RigVeda; here I list a few of the turns of phrase that I there illustrate and expound. The reader must use his imagination and he then will grasp the idiom. To the unique natural beauty of the fly-agaric ignored in the West was added the awe that goes with a plant having hallucinogenic powers: the beauty and the awe enhance each other in the mind of the Vedic poet.
Soma in the RigVeda is dazzling, flaming, brilliant, resplendent, lustrous. Its juice is described as tawny yellow. The juice of the fly-agaric is also tawny yellow. The fly-agaric when it first appears is a fluffy egg-shaped ball, brilliantly white. It breaks its envelope and rises on its stem expanding its brilliant red umbrella-cap, flecked with the remains of the white envelope. Says the RigVeda: "He abandons his envelope, goes to the rendezvous with the Father. With what floats [ i.
The fly-agaric is constantly compared with the sky, the vault of heaven. I interpret this as the full-blown red pileus of the fly-agaric, which has the shape of an udder. The hymns must be read as poetry and as the poet would view the fly-agaric: "pillar" is an apt metaphor, when you consider the role of fly-agaric in the psyche of the priests.
This has baffled Vedic scholars, but my explanation makes it clear: the fly-agaric does not grow in pairs, and each fly-agaric is, cosmically speaking, a single eye contemplating the universe. We have already spoken of one filter, through which the juice of the crushed plant is passed.
This is the second filter. There is mention of a third filter, and this brings me to my suggestion that has aroused the most resistance. In the Northeast of Siberia the tribes take the fly-agaric straight, and they also drink the metabolite of the fly-agaric, the urine of the person who has eaten it. Some say the metabolite is superior to the original plant, perhaps because the human organism may filter out - i.
At any rate, the practice is well attested by numerous witnesses. Imagine then my surprise, when I read in the 4th verse of the 74th hymn in the 9th book that the officiating priests with full bladders urinate the on-coming Soma!
This verse comes precisely at a point of peculiar intensity in the hymns, where it might be expected that the Holy-Mystery, ordinarily not mentioned, would be spelled out in words for all to hear. Though both Renou and Geldner, who has also translated the RigVeda into German, agree with this rendering, the meaning has not been clear. My reading of the passage makes sense but arouses visceral resistance in Western scholars, as well it might.
Though there is only one overt passage in the RigVeda that refers to the Soma-urine, we find supporting evidence in the Avesta, the bible of the Zoroastrians, in a verse where Zoroaster excoriates the priests who evilly delude the people with the urine of drunkenness. The Manichaeans, who inherited the main tenets of their religion from the Zoroastrians, 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.
The god Krishna agreed. Some time later Uttanka was thirsty in the desert and he wanted water. Krishna appeared from nowhere in the disguise of a naked filthy outcaste, a hunter, surrounded by scavenger curs. This hunter urinated and offered Uttanka his urine to drink. Uttanka, aggrieved, naturally refused with indignation, only to be told a little later by Krishna in his own person that what he had been offered was Soma-urine!
Banking industry[ edit ] Wasson began his banking career at Guaranty Trust Company in , and moved to J. Wasson worked in public relations for J. Fascinated by the marked difference in cultural attitudes towards fungi in Russia compared to the United States, the couple began field research that led to the publication of Mushrooms, Russia and History in In the course of their investigations they mounted expeditions to Mexico to study the religious use of mushrooms by the native population, and claimed to have been the first Westerners to participate in a Mazatec mushroom ritual. Role in popularizing psilocybin mushrooms[ edit ] In May , Life magazine published an article titled " Seeking the Magic Mushroom ", which introduced psychoactive mushrooms to a wide audience for the first time. In his memoir, author Tom Robbins talks about the impact of this article on "turning on" Americans himself included.
Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality
Soma of the Aryans: an Ancient Hallucinogen? This work is referred to in the following pages as " Soma". Some 3, years ago, in the middle of the second millennium before Christ, a people that called themselves Aryans swept down from the north through Afghanistan and occupied the valleys of the Indus. They spoke an Indo-European language. They were hard fighters driving horse-drawn chariots. They sowed grain and bred cattle, horses, and sheep.
Soma by Wasson
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