Soma, Divine Mushroom of Immortality Introduction Amanita muscaria or the Fly Agaric is not a well-known mushroom based on its scientific name or common name. Yet, the picture on the left, of this mushroom, will probably be familiar to the reader. There has even been a great deal made of its connections with Christmas , but probably too much has been made of this connection and different interpretations of this theory is available. Wasson also believed the hallucinogenic properties of the A. In order to appreciate the story behind the legend of Soma, and the reasoning that Wasson used in selecting it as the Soma of the Rig Veda, I will first describe the mushroom and its development.
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Soma, Divine Mushroom of Immortality Introduction Amanita muscaria or the Fly Agaric is not a well-known mushroom based on its scientific name or common name.
Yet, the picture on the left, of this mushroom, will probably be familiar to the reader. There has even been a great deal made of its connections with Christmas , but probably too much has been made of this connection and different interpretations of this theory is available.
Wasson also believed the hallucinogenic properties of the A. In order to appreciate the story behind the legend of Soma, and the reasoning that Wasson used in selecting it as the Soma of the Rig Veda, I will first describe the mushroom and its development. However, this stage is one of the defining characteristics of the genus Amanita. As the cap of the mushroom expand, the top of the universal veil will rupture, leaving behind the characteristic white speckled warts on the cap.
The remainder of the universal veil will remain attached to the base of the stalk, forming a cup at its base. When mature, the cap ranges from cm across and is typically bright red in color and shiny and viscous when moist. Although the characteristic white warts are usually present, they may be washed away after a heavy rain. The stalk is white, cylindrical and is easily separated from the cap, with a bulbous base and a volva that is typically fragmented into warts arranged in a concentric circle.
After drying the flesh darkens, becoming dark cream to pale brown, with an acrid, nauseating taste. Amanita muscaria is typically a temperate species, but may occur in warmer latitudes, usually in the mountain areas.
It is frequently associated with Pine and Birch trees, and less frequently with Firs and Larches. Specifically, it is a mycorrhiza literally fungus-root relation where the A. The relationship is also an obligate one such that if the host trees are absent, the A. The Aryan The Aryans were a warrior and grain-growing people. They had a tribal religion with a hereditary priesthood, with a full compliment of gods, including Soma.
Their homeland was somewhere in Central Asia. Approximately years ago, they split into three distinct groups. Two of these were the Indic and Iranian.
The Indics settled into what is now Afghanistan and the Valley of the Indus. The other group settled in what is now Iran and became the Iranian People.
Both groups, orally, passed on their religious knowledge, which was later written down and has been preserved to the present. In both religions there is reference to a plant, which is believed to have hallucinogenic properties and was used in religious ceremonies.
It has been assumed that the adoption of a new sacred plant occurred because the original was no longer available, after leaving their original homeland. Although western scholars generally agreed that Soma and Haoma are the same plant, there is strong disagreement as to the actual identity of this plant.
These included, Ephedra, rhubarb, opium, chicory and hashish. Before Wasson put forward the concept that the sacred plant was A. It was here that Wasson would put forward, what would be at that time, a unique suggestion that Soma was a mushroom rather than a plant. Some of the clues that led Wasson to believe that Soma was a mushroom rather than a plant was that the Rig Veda described Soma as a small, leafless plant with a fleshy stalk.
No reference was ever made about roots, flowers and seeds. Nor was there a description on propagating this plant. If Soma was indeed a plant, why would the Aryans not have bought it with them, when they migrated and began cultivation once they had settled?
The Aryans were, after all, known for their prowess as farmers and would have been able to grow Soma had it been a plant.
The Rig Veda also specifically states that Soma can only be found growing in the mountains, which is where A. However, these mountains were not accessible to the Aryans. Although they had conquered the valley, the mountains would continue to be held by their enemies, probably the Dasyus. Thus, necessitating the need for a Soma substitute. Finally, a clue that was crucial in the determination of the identity of Soma was one of its the unique properties.
That Soma could be consumed in two forms: 1 Consumed directly, by either eating the raw mushroom or drinking its juices or 2. Taken in the urine of the person who has ingested A. Consumption of the latter was first rediscovered by a Swedish army officer, Filip Johann von Strahlenberg, while a captive of the Russians in Siberia. His observation of this event was published in Wasson also believed that there is an apparent function in the urine drinking ceremony.
In modern experience the A. It is possible that passing Soma through the digestive tract eliminates the nausea causing metabolite.
Usage of A. There are a number of plants and mushrooms, other than Soma, that have been utilized in religious ceremonies. What sets Soma apart was that it was also considered a god. This is the only plant known to have been deified by man. Although not a main god, Soma was a tangible, visible entity, with a singular role. When ingested during the course of the religious ritual, a god comes down and manifesting himself to the Aryans.
Only the priest apparently consumed Soma. The dried Soma was freshened with water and macerated with a stone pestle that brought forth a tawny yellow juice. Although Wasson interpreted the affects of Soma as producing a feeling of ecstasy, In the several times that he had consumed A.
He had tried eating the mushrooms raw, drank the juice and mixed it with milk, always on an empty stomach. After awaking from his sleep, he described his experience as "beyond all comparison" and that "this was nothing like the alcoholic state; it was infinitely better".
Wasson never tried cooking A. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of inconsistencies in the experiences of the people in the United States who have tried A. In the past, those who sampled A. Few experienced the ecstasy described by Wasson. There are now many reports of "ecstasy" when A. Other Opinions Although Wasson has presented good evidence that A. Peganum harmala is a weed that occurs locally and is well known for its hallucinogenic effects and usage, even today. While their research on the identity of Haoma was very scholarly, well received and took ethnobotanical research to a higher level, there were critics that questioned that P.
The main criticism of their theory was based on the well known affects of this plant since it is still presently utilized for "recreational" purposes. The experiences described by their users apparently do not live up to the expectations of ecstatic feelings described in either the Rig Veda or Avesta. A further theory was advanced recently that was based on new archeological finds in Russian excavations in the Kara Kum desert of Turkmenistan.
A number of sites were uncovered, dating to B. Among them, Gonur South, which is bordered by Iran to the south, Kazakhstan to the north and the Caspian Sea to the west, included a large shrine that was divided into two parts: one was used for public worship and other was hidden from public view and used by the priesthood.
In one of the rooms of the latter were ceramic bowls containing plant material. Analysis of the remnants were determined to be a mixture of Ephedra and Cannabis and was apparently used in concocting a hallucinogenic drink. In an adjoining room was found utensils designed to separate the juices from the plant material for the making of the hallucinogenic beverages. At a later site, another shrine, at Togoluk, was found to have similar utensils and again Ephedra was identified, but this time in association with the pollen of poppies.
In both sites, the hallucinogenic drinks were believed to be for the worshippers. The artifacts that were discovered allow archeologists to reach certain conclusion concerning these sites in this eastern Iranian cultural regions. One of these conclusions, and the one that is germane to our discussion is that between and B.
Among those that believed that A. She and Brian Smith offered what was another unique suggestion concerning Soma. Their work suggests that Soma never really existed, except in the minds of the priest, and that the plants used during the religious ceremonies have always been substitutes for this mythical Soma. The Ling Chih is an herb that has been known in China for two thousands years. It is a symbol of good fortune, good health, and longevity, even life with the immortals.
It has always been regarded as indigenous to China. However, it was not until his reign that the concept of a supernatural mushroom with miraculous powers came about. Suddenly, there was talk about a wonder fungus, and people began searching for it, especially in the mountains, but were unable to find it. Prior to his reign no mention of such a fungus had been recorded.
The emperor in his effort to find the mushroom ordered his magicians to find this mushroom. While they may have believed in this supernatural mushroom, and its supernatural properties, they were ignorant of its whereabouts and appearance. Finally, a sailing vessel was sent by the First Emperor to the Eastern Sea to find the mysterious fungus on islands off the coast and far away.
Although there were many accounts of the voyage, the mushroom was not brought back. Wasson believed that the report of this fungus sought by Shih-Hung was Soma and that it had reached the Emperor by sea route from India. Thus, the ideas of sending sailing vessels to the source of the information and the search for the mushroom in the mountains. It would be another century, after the time of the First Emperor, in B.
This would take place during the Han Dynasty B. Under the Emperor Wu taxes were high and he was not popular. The Emperor Wu designated this fungus as the chih that was sought by Shi-huang and his magicians, but never found.
He utilized the new found fungus as a public relation ploy to turn the people in his favor. With the discovery of the Ling Chih, he proclaimed amnesty of preservers, served beef and wine to a hundred families and composed an ode for the occasion, the earliest poem about a mushroom.
Soma Divine Mushroom Of Immortality
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.
Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality
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.
R. Gordon Wasson