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Observations placeholder

Sahagun - Aztecs and Mexica - The visions of the little black fungus



Type of Spiritual Experience


Psilocybe mexicana is a psychedelic mushroom. It was first used by the early natives of Central America and North America over 2,000 years ago. It was known to the Aztecs as teonanácatl from Nahuatl: teotl "god" + nanácatl "mushroom."

A description of the experience

Father Bernadino de Sahagun quoted in The Daily Life of the Aztecs – Jacques Soustelle

Tobacco was widely used in medicine ………….[but] other far more efficacious narcotics or intoxicants were also in use; and the users of them sought either consolation or prophetic visions. The author [of Munoz Camargo by Sahagun] particularly mentions the peyotl, a little cactus which is a native of northern Mexico and which brings about coloured hallucinations.

'Those who eat it,' says Sahagun, 'have horrifying or comic visions, and this drunkenness lasts two or three days before going off. This plant is used as a food by the Chichimecs; it sustains them and gives them courage to fear neither battle nor thirst nor hunger; and they say that it preserves them from all danger.'

Peyotl still plays a great part in the religious life of the Indians of the north-west of Mexico and the south of the United States Other plants, whose effects have not yet been studied, appear to have been used as narcotics; among them were the vegetative parts of the tlapatl, one of the solanacea, and the seeds of the mixitl. But the one most often referred to in literature was a fungus, the teonanacatl ('sacred fungus'), which was served to the guests at the beginning of a banquet.

'The first thing that was eaten at this feast was a little black fungus which makes men drunk and gives them visions: it also inclines them to lechery. They ate it before sunrise ……  with honey; and when they began to grow warm, they started to dance. Some sang some wept, so drunk were they by reason of these funguses; and others did not sing, but sat quiet in the room, thinking.

Some saw they that were going to die, and wept; some saw themselves devoured by a wild beast; some saw themselves taking prisoners upon a battlefield, or else growing rich, or the masters of many slaves. Others saw that they would be convicted of adultery and that by reason of this crime their heads would be crushed; others saw that they would steal and be killed; and there were many other visions.

When the drunkenness caused by these funguses had died away, they talked to one another about the visions that they had.'

The source of the experience

Aztecs and the Mexica

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps