Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Thinning Out Your Physical Library?
If you have books or periodicals about drugs, contribute them to Erowid!
Your old books will find a good home in our library or for a supporter. [details]
Mushroom Pioneers
by John W. Allen

I first became interested in hallucinogenic mushrooms during the early fall of 1972. At that time, the literature on the subject was scant and mostly unavailable to the general public. Those who were aware of the sacred mushrooms did not share their knowledge and even that knowledge was confined to those mushroom species which grew in Mexico and the southeastern gulf states. Only a few knew of their existence outside of Mesoamerica. There was a driving force within me. I could hear the mushrooms calling out my name, and in my own way I called out to them. I needed something new in my life so eventually, out of desperation, I went to the University of Washington's library and inquired about these fungi.

Image 2. King Sphinx
Design by John W. Allen
Reference clerks at the Suzallo library were ignorant of the matter. Simply put, they did not know anything whatsoever about the sacred fungi of Mexico. What was I to do? I next met with Dr. Daniel Stuntz, head of the University of Washington's mycology department. Dr. Stuntz steered me in the right direction by referring me to an article by R. Gordon Wasson which had appeared in the 13 May 1957 issue of Life magazine. This article described Dr. Wasson's research and rediscovery of how the Mazatec Indians in Oaxaca, México, used certain mushrooms in shamanic ceremonies. He also gave me references to Rolf Singer and Alexander H. Smith's pair of articles in Mycologia vol. 50, which told of the traditional Mesoamérican use of the sacred mushrooms and also provided a key to several species of entheogenic mushrooms which were common in the Pacific Northwestern United States. These articles in turn led me to a pioneering ethnobotanical paper written by Richard Evans Schultes in the late 1930s.

This piqued my interest inordinately, hence I proceeded to look up several of these rare articles. However, when I began my research I found that several of the articles to which I had been referred by the late Dr. Stuntz were either missing from the bound library copies of the journals or had at least had the photographs of the mushrooms excised. Even the 1957 Life magazine article by R. Gordon Wasson was missing pictures from the copy which I found on the shelves at the University of Washington's library. Eventually I was able to purchase a copy from a used bookstore, which led me in time to find other publications about the mushrooms. Thus began my quest and life-long-study of the sacred fungi.

In the fall of 1977, I was most fortunate to attend the 2nd International Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms at Ft. Worden near Port Townsend, Washington. It was at this conference that began my symbiotic relationship with these mushrooms. This new field of endeavor opened up many new avenues of research into subjects in which I had henceforth not shown the slightest interest.

As my knowledge began to grow, my studies came to encompass various and sundry fields spaced shelves apart or interspersed at intervals between shelves, in separate buildings, and even in numerous libraries. I digested every thing I could read related to the various fields tangential to the study of sacred fungi.

This also was the beginning of my relationship with the many scholars who had brought to the world's attention the existence of the mushrooms. Eventually, I would come to call some of these intrepid psilophores my friends. Among this first wave I include: Richard Evans Schultes (the greatest ethnobotanist of this century), R. Gordon Wasson (the founder of ethnomycology), Albert Hofmann (the discoverer of LSD), Andrew Weil (who first reported on the ludible use of psychoactive mushrooms), mycologists Gastón Guzmán (the Mexican authority on the taxonomy of these hallucinogenic mushrooms), Rolf Singer, Alexander H. Smith, Roy Watling, and others. This first wave might include the late Timothy Leary, György Miklos-Ola'h, and the late French mycologist Roger Heim.

The second wave consisted of a younger generation which emerged from the psychedelic sixties and included ethnopharmacognost Jonathan Ott, mushroom-cultivator Paul Stamets, mycophiles such as Gary Lincoff, Steven H. Pollock, Gary Menser, Bob Harris, Peter Stafford and publisher David Tatelman of Homestead Book Company (distributor of mushroom books and growing kits).

The third wave consists of the same generation who somewhat later embarked on this path, and includes such prominent researches as Jochen Gartz, Giorgio Samorini, Antonio Bianchi, Francesco Festi, Tjakko Stijve, Mark D. Merlin, Christian Rätsch, Roger Liggenstorfer, Dennis and Terence McKenna, Arno Adelaars, Karl L. R. Jansen, Hans van den Hurk, and others too numerous to mention (the many chemists, psychologists, shamanic healers, philosophers and poets). Last but not least, in the fullness of time, I now include myself in this third wave.