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Observations placeholder

Valentina Wasson - I Ate the Sacred Mushrooms



Type of Spiritual Experience


Valentina was the wife of Gordon Wasson

A description of the experience

Valentina Wasson  - I Ate the Sacred Mushrooms

I was lying in my sleeping bag on the damp earthen floor of an adobe hut, my face turned to a crumbling plaster wall. A few minutes before, I had eaten five pairs of the supposedly sacred mushrooms. (They are always spoken of in pairs.) I was struggling to keep control of myself but I knew full well that with every minute I was being pulled deeper into another completely unknown world. I was going to experience a self-induced bout of schizophrenia.

Although my husband had piled every available cover on top of me, I still felt cold. Dreamily I asked myself how they had managed, from one moment to another, to hang that beautiful wallpaper right under my nose. I admired the shimmering silvery green colour of its geometric designs. Then it faded away and I was looking at the dirty plaster wall again. Suddenly I was frightened. But it was too late to turn back.

In the past few days my husband and Allan Richardson, our photographer, had participated in the sacred mushroom ceremony under the guidance of a local shaman, who is a combination priest-medicine man. in this case a woman, practising the ancient cult of the Mixeteco people.

After taking part in the rites and eating the mushrooms, both of them had seen staggering visions, all in 3-D and in fantastic technicolour.  They enjoyed the feelings of supreme happiness and well-being that explain the age old power these "sacred mushrooms" exercise over this remote and primitive people……………..

Our hostess, a school teacher, is one of the few educated villagers. She disapproves of the mushroom rites and is frightened of them. We did not tell her what we were going to do. After lunch, my husband obtained nine pairs of the sacred mushrooms, put them into a bowl and served them to us. I took five pair and Masha took four.

It was a revolting dish. They were moist, greenish and very dirty. I bit into one and gagged. It tasted like rancid fat. Masha and I chewed the rest slowly and swallowed with difficulty. My husband got out his notebook and prepared to record whatever we were about to say or do.  For some queer, obstinate reason I had made up my mind not to give in easily to this seductive alien drug. I strode back and forth vigorously, breathing hard. The early symptoms were mild but not unpleasant. Masha complained of a headache.

I felt a little unsteady on my feet and muttered that it felt like a champagne hangover. I was seized by a great fit of yawning.  Masha suddenly declared that she saw a nest of bright blue boxes piled up in the corner of the room. There were none. I looked at her scornfully. After half an hour I took my pulse. It was a slow but regular 65. I lay down on the floor. Masha said she saw hens and chickens. It was true there were several stray fowl running about underfoot in the house, but none were visible at the moment.

I noticed that my husband's red plaid sports shirt was glowing with a peculiar intensity. I stared at the crude wooden furniture. The cracks and knotholes were changing shape.  Masha cried suddenly "I feel like a chicken!"

We both burst into peals of laughter. I thought it was a very funny remark. I half closed my eyes. I turned my face to the wall. I had a brief sensation of looking at beautiful wallpaper. Then the walls suddenly receded and I was carried out-out and away-on undulating waves of translucent turquoise green.

I don't know how long I travelled. I arrived in the Caves of Lascaux in the Dordogne, in France.  We had visited France before and I immediately recognized the vast vault of stone above me, the early cave dwellers' beautiful primitive paintings of horses. bison and deer on the walls. The paintings were even more beautiful than in real life.

They seemed suffused with a crystal light. But I was disappointed. I was born in Russia and I have not seen my native land since 1918. I had hoped to be carried there in my visions.

I now lay limp and warm in my sleeping bag.  My mind was floating blissfully. It was as if my very soul had been scooped out and moved to a point in heavenly space,  leaving my empty physical husk behind in the mud hut. Yet I was perfectly conscious. I knew now what the shamans meant when they said, "The mushroom takes you there into the place where God is."

I abandoned my visions to sit up and smoke a cigarette while I told Gordon and Allan what I had I experienced. Then I returned impatiently to the land of the sacred mushrooms.

I was now in eighteenth-century Versailles, the fabled French court of Louis XV. A grand ball was in progress. Hundreds of beautifully gowned couples danced the minuet in train and powdered periwig to the music of Mozart. Overhead glittered a magnificent crystal chandelier. Fiery flashes of green and blue light spattered from its hundreds of prisms.  I was struck again by the magnificence and intensity of the colours. Everything was resplendently rich. I had never imagined such beauty. On a shelf near the door to the ballrooms stood a tiny pair of elegant miniature china figures dressed in eighteenth-century ball gowns. Looking closely I saw they were my sister and myself. We were dancing the minuet, too.

From a distance I heard my daughter Masha say impatiently. "Oh, Father, I'm having too good a time to bother talking to you!"

………At a quarter to five - 90 minutes after swallowing the mushrooms-my pulse was 56 but still steady. My temperature was 99.8. I had no feeling of sadness, yet tears rolled from my eyes. My husband recorded that my pupils were extremely dilated and failed to respond to the beam of his flashlight.

Masha and I both heard the call to supper but said impatiently that we didn’t wish to be bothered. I was now sitting in a showy box at the Metropolitan Opera House, watching a performance of the ballet, "Les Sylphides”.  At the end of the program I took off into the skies with several of the dancers. Then I was bending over a huge, deep blue Chinese vase, inspecting several handsome gold dragons crawling around at the bottom.  I was not afraid. It was much, much too remote. I sat up and told Gordon about it………………

The hours had passed imperceptibly. It was 1 o'clock in the evening when the hallucinations ended. Masha and I both felt hungry. We accepted our hostess' offer of a cup of aromatic hot chocolate and some sweet rolls.

Masha and I exchanged notes. She told me that her dreams had consisted of all the happy memories of her life, beginning from birth and carrying through in rosy succession to her present freshman year in college. She said she was constantly in the company of relatives and friends and in the places she loved most. "The world was little and beautiful, and I was on top of it”  she said.  We also agreed on being completely awake during, our incredible dreams.

Soon I was overcome by the same fit of strong yawning that had preceded my submission to the powers of the potent sacred mushroom. I fell asleep. It was the deepest, soundest, most refreshing sleep of my life.  I awoke clear-headed, alert and happy with no trace of after effects. It was raining and bitterly cold.  The village was still wrapped in a thick, grey blanket of fog. The Indian children, tightly wrapped in their thin cotton shawls, crowded in at the door, staring at us in wonder. I set about writing down the notes of that weird and wonderful experience.

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