CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Ethnomycological Journals: Sacred Mushroom Studies

Edited byJohn W. Allen and Prakitsin Sihanonth
2020, ISBN: 158-214-395-1
Available online at:

Volume 10 of Ethnomycological Journals by John W. Allen and Prakitsin Sihanonth is a bounty of treasures, essential reading for anyone who has a serious interest in “sacred mushrooms,” and delightful reading for those who simply want to learn more about the topic. It is especially relevant in this era of the corona virus pandemic, since it opens with a survey of the massive outbreaks of ergot poisoning in Europe – plagues that were not linked to the grains infected by toxic fungi until the 18th century. Before that time, “St. Anthony’s Fire” was often attributed to witchcraft, and readers will learn that today there are covens of witches who make disciplined use of selected mushrooms to practice their craft.

This volume is encyclopedic in its scope, covering its subject’s botanical history, chemical history, and therapeutic history. Its international bevy of authors draws from folk tales, Vedic hymns, Pliny and Galen, historical documents, shamanism, pharmacology, Alice in Wonderland, and neuroscience – which presents data indicating that the active ingredient of these mushrooms silences the default mode mechanism (DMM) allowing access to usually disconnected portions of the brain – a remarkable discovery.

All “the usual suspects” make their appearances in these pages: R. Gordon Wasson, his wife Valentina Pavlovna, Weston LaBarre, Richard Evans Schultes, María Sabina, Wade Davis, Andrew Weil, Albert Hofmann, Timothy Leary, Giorgio Samorini, the McKenna brothers, and more. Settings cover the globe: Siberia, Finland, Thailand, Mexico, Meso-America, Colombia, Japan, and North America – which boasts two American Indian tribes who used the fungi for sacred purposes.

Readers may be surprised at the great variety of mushrooms that fall into the “entheogenic” category, including one species named after Allen himself. This volume includes papers on Psilocybe, Panaeolus, Copelandia, Gymnopilus and Amanita species. There is an art gallery that is a highlight of the book, and the photographs from Bogota’s Museum of Gold depict the apparent incorporation of the mushrooms into many of its figures, suggesting that the Muisca and other indigenous peoples of Colombia may have once used entheogenic fungi prior to the conquest of the New World. The bibliographies are meticulously presented; one book purports to tell how mushrooms shaped the planet’s history. After reading this book, many readers might well entertain that possibility! All readers will rejoice to know that Volume 11 of this incredible journal is now in preparation.

— Review by Stanley Krippner, Ph.D.
Distinguished Faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies
— Originally published in Fungi