Mushroom cults in Mesoamerica date back to at least 1,000 BC, indicated by mushroom stone effigies found in the Guatemalan highlands. In addition, frescoes from central Mexico dated to 300 AD show signs of mushroom worship. ‘Sacred mushrooms’ feature in Aztec texts as well – the Codex Vindobonensis, for example, visually depicts the ceremonial use of psychedelic mushrooms.

The Aztecs called these mushrooms 'teonanactl' which literally means “flesh of the gods”.

In 1929 Walter Lehmann noted the objects portrayed in the hands of many of the characters depicted in this Codex resembled mushrooms. Alfonso Caso later confirmed, although reluctantly, that they were indeed mushrooms. 

(Wasson 1980, p. 214). In the second row from the top, the last figure on the right wearing a bird mask has been identified as the Wind God, Ehecatl - an avatar of Quetzalcoatl.  He is shown bestowing divine mushrooms to mankind.  

In 1949, Wasson would begin corresponding with British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist, Robert Graves,  their relationship, despite some later misunderstandings, was to prove mutually beneficial: Wasson's work had a considerable influence on Graves toward the end of the fifties, and Graves helped to build Wasson's reputation as an authority on the psychological effects of so - called "magic" mushrooms. Moreover, thanks in large part to Graves, Wasson would rediscover the cult of the psilocybe mushroom. Their relationship intensified considerably in September 1952 when Graves sent Wasson a cutting from a pharmaceutical paper which mentioned the 1938 discovery, by Dr. Richard Evans Schultes, of the survival of the use of intoxicating mushrooms among certain Indians in Mexico. Wasson telephoned Schultes at Harvard immediately and was encouraged to focus his attentions on Mexico. It was therefore Graves's cutting that was in large part responsible for sending the Wassons to the remote hill villages of southern Mexico to participate in the night - long rites of the cult of the sacred mushroom. Beginning in 1953, the Wassons would visit the Mazatec Indians of Mexico every summer to study, photograph, and record their rituals.

"Seeking the Magic Mushroom" is a 1957 photo essay by amateur mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson, describing his experience of taking psilocybin mushrooms in 1955 during a Mazatec ritual in Oaxaca, Mexico. Wasson (former vice-president of JP Morgan, who, along with his Russian wife, studied the uses of magic mushrooms in his spare time) was one of the first Westerners to participate in a Mazatec ceremony and to describe the psychoactive effects of the Psilocybe species.



Deep in the Saharan desert, on the plateaux known as Tassili-n-Ajjer, a 5,000 years old painting of a bee headed shaman adorns a cave wall. 

Lowered sea levels meant that the boot of Arabia was backed up against the African continent. Land bridges at both ends of the Red Sea were utilized by some of these African pastoralists to enter the Fertile Crescent and Asia Minor, where they intermingled with hunter-gatherer populations already present.

The pastoral mode had been well established across the ancient Near East by twelve thousand years ago. These pastoral people brought with them a cult of cattle and a cult of the Great Goddess.