Mushroom Venus and Fleur de lis Iconography in Pre-Colombian Art



                    How the Symbol of the Fleur de Lis

   Changed the Course of New World History


        Carl de Borhegyi: copyright 2015     


The purpose of this publication is to present previously unrecognized aspects of pre-Columbian art and iconography that  shines a new light on a central riddle of  New World history: how it was  possible in 1519 for a small band of 450 Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernán Cortés to conquer the vast and powerful Aztec empire.
As I discovered, the answer to this riddle appears to lie in a surprising confluence of religious ideas recognized in both the Old and New World and symbolized by the trefoil design we know as the Fleur de lis. In both hemispheres the Fleur de lis symbol is associated with divine rulership, linked to mythological deities in the guise of a serpent, feline, and bird, associated with a Tree of Life, it's forbidden fruit, and a trinity of creator gods. In Mesoamerica, as in the Old World, the royal line of the king was considered to be of divine origin, linked to the Tree of Life. Descendants of the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl, and thus all Mesoamerican kings or rulers, were also identified with the trefoil, or Fleur de lis symbol.

Today trans-oceanic contact between the hemispheres prior to the voyages of Columbus   is still considered highly unlikely despite the exception of the Viking outpost discovered in Newfoundland in the 1960's, and the recent awareness that early humans reached far distant Australia by boat, possibly as early as 50,000 years ago.

After viewing the visual evidence below, readers of this study may wish to challenge this view of New World history with a more open-minded acknowledgement of the capability of ancient peoples to explore their environment and disperse their intellectual heritage to its far corners.



Chapter I

The Fleur de Lis: Symbol of Quetzalcoatl,

Lord of the Aztecs and Toltecs


Portrait of Hernando Cortés 1529, dressed in all black attire, and holding his shield emblazoned with three Fleur de lis symbols. (Weiditz Trachtenbuch)     


This much is generally accepted history. The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II believed in a prophecy. According to ancient legend, the Aztecs expected their god Quetzalcoatl, who had departed their land many years earlier, to return to his people on the anniversary of his birth date. Such an event had been foretold by the Aztec priests. According to their divinations the "Children of the Sun, would come from the east to cast down their god and to annihilate the Aztec nation" (Diego Duran 1964, The Aztecs: p.139). Their returning god would be white-skinned, would have a black beard and would be dressed in black (Alma Reed, 1966 p.140).  This date was known as Ce Acatl (1-Reed) in the Aztec calendar. When that date fell in  the year 1519 in the European calendar, the deeply religious Aztec emperor was primed for a special event. In one of history's amazing coincidences, that event turned out to be the arrival of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés and his army on the shores of Mexico.

Shortly after Cortés landed his ships in 1519 he laid claim to the new land in the name of the King of Spain. There to meet him were emissaries sent by the emperor Moctezuma to advise him whether these strange newcomers were in fact gods or ordinary mortals. Apparently Cortés passed the test because he was allowed to advance inland to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan proudly carrying his banner with an image of the Virgin Mary wearing a crown emblazoned with Fleur de Lis symbols. 


Above is the famous 16th century banner of the Virgin Mary that was carried by Cortés in his triumphant entry into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, wearing a crown emblazoned with the Fleur de Lis symbol. The banner of the Virgin Mary with Fleur de lis symbols now resides in the Natural History Museum, Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City.


Maybe the most important clue as to the identification of Cortés as the embodiment of Quetzalcoatl, comes to us from a foot soldier in Cortés army named Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Diaz has left us an account of the first fateful meeting of the two cultures. In it he writes that the Aztecs were understandably suspicious of the strange light-skinned and bearded newcomers. But after Moctezuma saw a certain symbol on the helmet of the Spanish soldiers, he believed beyond doubt that Cortés was the embodiment of their true lord Quetzalcoatl and  the fulfillment of the prophecy. 

Here is Diaz' first-hand account of that   fateful meeting of Cortés and the Aztec emperor Motecusuma :


"One of our men had on a casque, (a conquistador helmet) which was partly gilt.... Teuthlille, [general of the Mexican empire, also spelled Teudile]  who was much more enlightened than any of his companions, remarked, when his eye fell upon it, that it bore a great resemblance to a casque which belonged to their most ancient forefathers, and now adorned the head of their warrior-god Huitzilopochtli.  Motecusuma, he further added, would certainly be uncommonly pleased if he could likewise see this casque".

"Cortés, on hearing this, ordered the casque  to be presented to him, thereby expressing the wish, that he should like to satisfy himself that the gold of this country was similar to what we find in our rivers. If they would send him the casque full of gold dust, he would send it to our great emperor. Upon this Teuthlille took leave of Cortés and all of us, promising to return speedily, while Cortés, under the most tender of embraces, made him every profession of friendship".

"After this personage had taken his departure, we learnt that he was not merely a distinguished statesman, but also the most nimble pedestrian at Motecusuma's court. He did, indeed, use the utmost expedition to bring his monarch information, and hand over to him the paintings and presents. The great Motecusuma was vastly astonished at everything he heard and saw, and yet he was pleased. But, when at last he espied the casque, and compared it with that of the idol Huitzilopochtli, he no longer doubted for an instant that we belonged to that people, whom his forefathers had prophesied would, one time or other, come and subdue the country".

(source....The Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Vol 1 (of 2), CHAPTER XXXVIII. Written by Himself, (1568), Containing a True and Full Account of  the Discovery and Conquest of Mexico and New Spain.



Unfortunately for history Bernal Diaz never described the symbol displayed on the conquistador's helmet, but it is  highly likely that the symbol that so impressed Moctezuma, and the Tlaxcalteca lord, Xicotencatl, was the Fleur de lis. And the reason why it made such an impression on Moctezuma and his subjects is because it had precisely the same significance to the native Mesoamericans as it had to the peoples of Europe and the Middle East. 


15th-17th century Conquistador helmets, emblazoned with the Fleur de lis symbol. 


The Fleur de lis, a millennials-old  symbol in the Old World of power and divinity, was commonly emblazoned on the helmets, clothing, banners and shields of the conquistadors.



The Flag of the Spanish conquistadors, with the crown of Castile upon a red flag, as used by the conquistadors Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and others.

(source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_colonization_of_the_Americas)

I discovered that the Aztecs left us a number of clues as to their identification of Cortés as the embodiment of their returning god-king Quetzalcoatl. The first comes from depictions of Cortés in native books called codices that were produced before and after the conquest by contemporary Aztec artists. In the codices that illustrate Cortés's landing on the coast of Mexico and his triumphant  entry into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Cortés is shown wearing a helmet adorned with feathers arranged in the form of a Fleur de lis.


The painting above is from the Florentine Codex. Written by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun with the aid of Indian informants and artists between 1545  and 1575-1577, the Florentine Codex contains a wealth of priceless ethnographic information. The bottom painting is from Fray Diego Durán's  Histories of New Spain, written between 1537-1588   
Most, if not all, of this information comes from post-Conquest codices. These hand-drawn pictorial documents produced by local Indian artists on fan-folded pages of bark paper or parchment contained much valuable information pertaining to native history, mythology, and ritual.
The Florentine Codex, is a collection of well documented ethnographic information written by Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, on Aztec culture organized into twelve books consisting of over 2400 pages and over 2000 illustrations drawn by native artists, gives us more information about Aztec religious beliefs.  The 12 volumes are now located in the Laurentian Library in Florence where it may have been sent to be judged by the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic church most likely banned the book because of it's content of pagan rituals. It remained unknown until it's rediscovery in 1883 (Orellana,1987:p.11).
Fray Sahagun, writes that the emissaries of  Moctezuma II thought that Quetzalcoatl had returned, and describes Moctezuma as saying "He has appeared! He has come back! He will come here to the place of his throne and canopy, for that is what he pronounced when he departed". All the signs and news given by the Castilians [conquistadors] suggested without doubt that the great emperor Quetzalcoatl had come, "he who had for a long time gone away over the sea where the sun rose and who had allowed it to be said that in time he had to return". One of the sign of Quetzalcoatl's return was when Cortés landed his ships on the eastern shores of Mexico in 1519, he dressed in black because it was Good Friday, coincidentally one of the colors of Quetzalcoatl (Conquest, by Hugh Thomas 1993 p.185).  
Lienzo de Tlaxcala, fragment in the Benson Library, UT Austin, depicting Hernan Cortés dressed in black, with the Tlaxcalteca lord, Xicotencatl who is seated on a golden throne encoded with a Fleur de lis symbol (S. Wood photo, 5/30/2014).
I believe that the reason that this sign, above all, signaled the fulfillment of Moctezuma's prophecy of Quetzalcoatl's return is that the trefoil, or Fleur de lis, had for centuries been a Mesoamerican symbol for "Lord", with a history dating back as far as the ancient Olmecs 1200 BCE to 400 BCE. 
This fact, explains why, when Moctezuma's emissaries on the coast  and the Tlaxcalteca king, Xicotencatl, and finally Moctezuma himself, saw the symbol of the Fleur de lis, they accepted it as definitive proof, a sign from God, of the return of Quetzalcoatl. The powerful Moctezuma II, and the Tlaxcalteca ruler, Lord Xicotencatl, had no choice but to surrender their empires to Cortés, believing that Cortés was indeed Lord Quetzalcoatl, returning as prophesied in the year of his birth to reclaim his rightful throne.


Above is a 16th century cloth manuscript that depicts Hernan Cortés's meeting with the Tlaxcalteca lord, Xicotencatl. The painting of Cortés depicts him dressed entirely in black, seated on a golden throne encoded with a symbol that I propose is  a Fleur de lis.  The Tlaxcallans,  who were long-time enemies of the Aztecs, quickly allied themselves with Cortés once they were persuaded that Cortés, was in fact,  the incarnation of their god Quetzalcoatl. The painting of Cortés by an Indian artist, is from the 16th century Lienzo de Tlaxcala, University of Texas, Austin. 
It is clear from Diaz's  description that the Aztecs not only recognized the symbol that I propose was the Fleur de Lis, but that the symbol convinced them that Cortés embodied the power and divinity of their god-king Quetzalcoatl. Native painters used the symbol to mark  Cortés and those individuals in his retinue who shared Cortés power, just as they used it to mark all avatars of Quetzalcoatl.


16th century painting of Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, second in command to Cortés.


The conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, accompanied Cortés on his expedition to the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan in 1519. When Cortés left the Aztec capital, Alvarado remained in Tenochtitlan as commander. Later between the years 1523-1527 Alvarado commanded the army that  conquered the Quiche (also spelled Kiché) Maya capitol of Utatlán, making it the first capital of New Spain.


Above is a painting, from the post-Conquest manuscript known as the Codex Telleriano Remensis, also painted by an Indian artist, that portrays the bearded conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, second in command to Cortés, crowned with the Fleur de Lis symbol.  The codex page depicts what is likely the death and resurrection of Alvarado, and the glyph to the right of Alvarado's blond head represents his Nahuatl name, Tonatiuh meaning "Sun". By 1541, the year of Alvarado's death the Quiche and Cakchiquel kingdoms succumbed to Spanish rule.



In Mesoamerica the trefoil symbol signified nothing less than the divine symbol of the Toltec-Aztec god-king Quetzalcoatl, who is described in  post-Conquest literature as being of fair skin, with long hair and a black beard (Mexico, 1994, M.D. Coe p.123). 


Just as the people of Mexico had signs and prophecies of the coming of the conquistadors, so too did the people of Yucatan. Ancient Yucatan tradition hold that the Itza's of Chichen Itza had adopted Toltec culture and the cult of Quetzalcoatl. Quoting from a passage recorded in the Books of the Chilam Balam, a chronology of the history and customs of ancient Yucatan as told by the natives to sixteenth century Spanish friars:  


         Quoting the prophet Chilam Balam...

"Our lord comes, Itza! Our elder brother comes, oh men of Tantun! Receive your guests, the bearded men, the men of the east, the bearers of the sign of God, Lord!" (from Michael Coe's The Maya; Fifth edition 1993 p.164)



I found another example of very early Fleur de lis worship in the Americas that comes to us by way of a written account by  a French explorer named Rene de Laudonniere. In 1564 Laudonniere arrived at Fort Carolina near the mouth of the St John's River, near the present day city of Jacksonville, Florida. According to Laudonnierre,  he  found the Timucuan Indians worshiping a stone column. The stone column, he informs us, had been erected in 1562 by Jean Ribault, a French explorer who had attempted to settle a Protestant colony on the east coast of Florida. Ribault ordered the column carved with the French coat of arms  as proof of French possession. That column is known today as Ribault's column.


Laudonniere writes that the column was emblazoned with a shield containing three Fleur de lis symbols, and that the Indians had been worshiping the column, and had decorated it with wreaths of flowers and laid out at its base offerings of food and weapons. The Timucuans had already suffered the incursions of the white man: Ponce de Leon in 1513, Panfilo de Narvaez in 1529, and Hernando de Soto in 1539 (Alvin M. Josephy Jr. p. 145). It is hard to know without further research whether the native Timucuans 's obvious veneration for the column emblazoned with the Fleur de lis symbol was the result of the earlier, and very brief, French presence in their land, or as I propose they were familiar with the symbol associated with the God-king Quetzalcoatl by way of pre-contact cultural diffusion from Mesoamerica.    
                Timucuan Indians worshiping the Fleur de Lis symbol.   



The World Tree, or Tree of Life is a common motif, found in the Old World, in Sumerian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite, and Hebraic art, and mentioned in the Books of Genesis  and Revelations. In Mesoamerican mythology, the World Tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens,  represents the axis mundi  or center of the world, as it does in the Old World. The branches represent the four cardinal directions, and each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place, a divine portal of underworld resurrection. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk of the World Tree which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal of up and down linking the underworld with the upper world.
Above is a close up scene from the Codex Selden, a pre-Conquest Mixtec manuscript from Highland Mexico, painted sometime around A. D. 1500. I believe the Mixtec artist intentionally encoded the Fleur de lis symbol emerging from the four branches of the World Tree, or Tree of Life as a symbolic reference of the four cardinal directions, and it's sacred center.
In my examination of mushroom symbolism in pre-Columbian art I have discovered that the gods and kings that appear crowned or encoded with the Fleur de lis symbol are also linked to a World Tree, and a Trinity of creator gods.

In the mythology of ancient Mexico, there is a Nahua (Aztec) legend of a paradise of nine heavens that was dedicated to the Wind God Quetzalcoatl, called Tamoanchan where there was a sacred tree that marked the place where the gods were born and where sacred mushrooms and all life derived...  "In Tamoanchan...On the flowery carpet...There are perfect flowers...There are rootless flowers" (Hugh Thomas 1993, p.474).           



Above is a pre-Columbian drinking vessel that encodes the fruit from the legendary Tree of Life as stylized sacred mushrooms. (Source: Metropolitan Museum 1978.412.113)



Above is a ceramic piece of a miniature grouping of figurines from the Capacha culture in Western Mexico, in the State of Colima. The miniature grouping of figurines are of the Late Formative period (300 B.C. to A.D. 200 ) and depicts what appears to me to be the veneration of the Tree of Life encoded metaphorically as a sacred mushroom.     






Mesoamerica: A term used (Paul Kirchhoff, 1942) that defines those areas of Mexico and Central America that witnessed the development of advanced pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Teotihuacano, Toltec, Mixtec, and Aztec, all of which shared a number of interrelated cultural traits involving religious concepts, ritualism, architecture, arts, and crafts, hieroglyphic writing, and calendrics" (Charles Gallenkamp, 1959, revised 1985 p.3)

Symbolic writing is important, especially for pre-literate people for whom they carry much of the power of the written word. However, to make any sense of Aztec iconography and the multiplicity of gods that populated their pantheon,  one must be willing to put aside all western notions of a linear history and hierarchical universe. Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso explains:  (The Aztecs, 1958: p.23) :


"Aztec religion was in a period of synthesis, in which there were   being grouped together within the concept of a single god,  different capacities that were considered to be related. Quetzalcoatl, one of the greatest of the gods, provides an example of how different and seemingly unrelated aspects were being synthesized within a single god. He was Quetzalcoatl, the god of the wind, of life and of the morning, the planet Venus, the god of twins, and of monsters; and so on."


Disastrously, after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in 1521 the Catholic Church ordered the burning of all native manuscripts believing that, because the majority related to a pantheon of supernatural native gods, that they were works of the devil. As a result of this Spanish intolerance of indigenous religious beliefs, only eighteen pre-Conquest books attributed to the people of Highland Mexico have survived to the present day.



Above is page from the Codex Borgia, one of five codices, or divinatory manuals in the Borgia group (now in the Vatican), that predate the Spanish Conquest.  Above Page 62 portrays Lord Quetzalcoatl dressed in  black sitting on a throne, and he wears his trademark shell ear flairs, his wind-jewel breast-plate, and he is crowned with what I propose is a Fleur de lis symbol in his head.


The Tlaxcala Codex (Lienzo de Tlaxcala), is a mid Sixteenth Century Mexican manuscript history of the Tlaxcaltecas and the Spanish in their wars against the Aztecs and the evangelical battle for Christianity. Above is a scene of human sacrifice observed by Spaniards at a temple that is adorned with six Fleur de lis symbols (Lienzo de Tlaxcala Folio 239r).   
The drawing above is from the Manuscript of Glasgow, that depicts Spanish Friars destroying and burning down a temple inhabited by demons. Note that the temple the Spanish Friars are burning down is adorned with what I have identified as three New World versions of the Old World Fleur de lis symbols, evidence of pre-Columbian contact, that I will demonstrate represents a symbol of divinity and a Trinity of gods, and a symbol of Lord Quetzalcoatl's mushroom-Venus religion. Descripcion de la ciudad y provincia de Tlaxcala, Historia de Tlaxcala Mexico: 1585, Manuscript of Glasgow. Reprographics: Marco Antonio Pacheco / roots
After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in 1521 the Catholic Church ordered the burning of all native manuscripts. Called codices, these pictorial documents contained much valuable information pertaining to native history, mythology, and ritual, related to a pantheon of supernatural gods. Unhappily, due to Spanish intolerance of indigenous religious beliefs, only eighteen pre-Conquest books attributed to the people of Highland Mexico have survived to the present day.
Above is reproduced image from the Codex Azcatitlan, a mid 16th and 17th century manuscript, that depicts a scene in which there is a temple in the background adorned with a Fleur de lis symbol. The Codex Azcatitlan details the history of the Mexica people, better known as the Aztecs from their migration from Aztlan to the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Christianization.
The story of Moctezuma's belief that the god Quetzalcoatl had returned to reclaim his  throne was recorded by a number of Spanish chroniclers. However it is important to note  that in a letter from Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza to Fernandez de Oviedo, a historian collecting material for his history of the Indies in 1541, Mendoza denied ever having thought that the Aztecs, in their migration from their mythical homeland of Aztlan, had been led by their patron god Huitzilopochtli into the Valley of Mexico. In fact, Mendoza claims that the Aztecs had been led by a god and wise man called "Quetzalcoatl", and  that there was some confusion, and Quetzalcoatl had always been the intended leader.(Conquest, by Hugh Thomas 1993 p.185). 

Spanish chronicles document that when the Aztecs spoke of their history it was always said that they had been preceded by a marvelous people who called themselves Toltec, the people from Tollan, where political dynasties throughout Mesoamerica claimed decent from the rulers of a city called Tollan.


On the left is a Post-Conquest image of Lord Quetzalcoatl, from the Florentine Codex, a compilation of well documented ethnographic information recorded by Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, on Aztec culture organized into twelve books consisting of over 2400 pages and over 2000 illustrations drawn by native artists. Quetzalcoatl is portrayed holding a scepter almost identical to a 13th century Bishop's staff. Was Quetzalcoatl a foreigner ?
We know that Quetzalcoatl was a historical person who was the ruler of the Toltec empire, and that succeeding rulers or High Priests may have also used his name.
Fray Sahagun writes that the Aztecs, were a tribe which had only recently entered the Valley of Mexico in the middle of the thirteenth century and that they had moved into an area that had existed for over a thousand years inhabited by people the Aztecs called Toltec, meaning “artist or builder”. Sagahun mentions that the natives spoke of an earlier Toltec society, headed by Quetzalcoatl, which believed in only one god.
Spanish chronicler Fray Toribio de Benavente, affectionately called Motolinia by the Indians, recorded that the Indians of New Spain regarded Quetzalcoatl as one of their principal gods. They called him the God of air and wind, and built temples to him.

Motolinia recorded in chapter 24 of the Memoriales,  that the principal gods of Tlaxcala, known as Cholula and Huexotzinco, were known by three names and that Huexotzinco was also called Quetzalcoatl and Camaxtli.

Motolinia called into question the legends that described Quetzalcoatl as opposing human sacrifice, and writes that the Holy city of Cholula, was where human sacrifices were performed in honor of Quetzalcoatl. In his Memoriales, (chapter 29), Motolinia describes the great ceremony to Quetzalcoatl which lasted eight days. Coincidentally, this is the same number of days that, according to legend, Quetzalcoatl was in the underworld creating humanity by bloodletting on the bones of his father and the bones of past generations. He then emerged from the underworld resurrected as the Morning star.

Motolinía describes a star,  (Venus) he calls Lucifer, of which he writes:

Quoting Fray Motolina.....

"the Indians adored this star more than any other save the sun, and performed more ritual sacrifices for it than for any other creature, celestial or terrestrial....The final reason why their calendar was based on this star, which they greatly revered and honored with sacrifices, was because these misguided people believed that when one of their principal gods, called Topiltzin or Quetzalcoatl, died and left this world, he was metamorphosed into that radiant star." (LaFaye, 1987)

One of the most renowned Spanish chroniclers, Fray Diego Duran, wrote in his Histories of New Spain (1537—1588)  mentions that the word for sacrifice, nextlaoaliztli, in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, meant either "payment", or the act of payment. He writes that young children were taught that death by the obsidian knife was a most honorable way to die, as honorable as dying in battle or for a mother and child to die in childbirth. Those who were sacrificed by the obsidian knife were assured a place in Omeyocan, the paradise of the sun, the afterlife.
         Quoting Fray Diego Duran....
“All the ceremonies and rites, building temples and altars and placing idols in them, fasting, going nude and sleeping on the floor, climbing mountains, to preach the law there, kissing the earth, eating it with one's fingers and blowing trumpets and conch shells and flutes on the great feast days-- all these emulated the ways of the holy man, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl”.  (Duran, 1971: 59).

Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún Florentine Codex (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España), 1547-1582. 

 “They [the Indians] were very devout. Only one was their god; they showed all attention to, they called upon, they prayed to one by the name of Quetzalcoatl. The name of one who was their minister, their priest [was] also Quetzalcoatl.  "There is only one god" [he is] Quetzalcoatl.”( Sahagún, 1950-75,10:160).
Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún Florentine Codex (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España), 1547-1582.

 “Although this Quetzalcoatl was a man  they [the Indians] held him to be a god....This Quetzalcoatl who was a mortal and perishable man they called a god. Although he had some appearances of virtue, judging by what they say he was nevertheless a great sorcerer, a friend of demons…and deserves to be assigned to the flames of Hell… When your ancestors said that this Quetzalcoatl went to Tlapallan and would return, that you must await his return, they lied, for we know that he is dead, that his body was reduced to dust and that Our Lord God hurled his soul into Hell where he suffers eternal torment.” ( Sahagun, 1969, book 1, chapter 5)

Fray Diego Durán who was one of the first Spanish chronicler to report about mushroom ceremonies, believed the Aztecs were the decedents of the lost tribes of Israel, writing that the Indian traditions with which he was familiar with, were similar with the ancient Jewish customs and beliefs that were described in the Old Testament (J.H. Parry 1976, p.318). Duran called these demonic mushroom ceremonies "Feast of the Revelations", and admits that the principal purpose of his work was to destroy ancient idolatry and false religion (The Aztecs 1964, Intro. XXXI).  
         Spanish chronicler Fray Diego Duran ...

“The Indians made sacrifices in the mountains, and under shaded trees, in the caves and caverns of the dark and gloomy earth. They burned incense, killed their sons and daughters and sacrificed them and offered them as victims to their gods; they sacrificed children, ate human flesh, killed prisoners and captives of war....One thing in all this history: no mention is made of their drinking wine of any type, or of drunkenness. Only wild mushrooms are spoken of and they were eaten raw.”

...“It was common to sacrifice men on feast days as it is for us to kill lambs or cattle in the slaughterhouses.... I am not exaggerating; there were days in which two thousand, three thousand or eight thousand men were sacrificed...Their flesh was eaten and a banquet was prepared with it after the hearts had been offered to the devil.... to make the feasts more solemn   all ate wild mushrooms which make a man lose his senses... the people became excited, filled with pleasure, and lost their senses to some extent."  



Duran writes that mushrooms were eaten at the ceremony commemorating the accession of the Aztec King Moctezuma in 1502. After Moctezuma took his Divine Seat, captives were brought before him and sacrificed in his honor. He and his attendants then ate a stew made from their flesh.

“When the sacrifice was finished and the steps and courtyard were bathed with human blood, everyone went to eat raw mushrooms”.

"And all the Lords and grandees of the province…all ate of some woodland mushrooms, which they say make you lose your senses, and thus they sallied forth all primed for the danceWith this food they went out of their minds and were in worse state than if they had drunk a great quantity of wine".

"They became so inebriated and witless that many of them took their lives in their hands. With the strength of these mushrooms they saw visions and had revelations about the future, since the devil spoke to them in their madness".



Sahagun also describes the use of mushrooms at the coronation of Montezuma II,  the High Priest of the Aztecs, as follows: 

“For four days there was feasting and celebration and then on the fourth day came the coronation of Montezuma II, followed by human sacrifices in numbers”.

“At the very first, mushrooms had been served.  They ate them at the time when the shell trumpets were blown.  They ate no more food; they only drank chocolate during the night, and they ate the mushrooms with honey.  But some, while still in command of their senses, entered and sat there by the house on their seats; they danced no more, but only sat there nodding.  One saw in vision that already he would die, and then continued weeping, one saw that he would die in battle; one saw in vision that he would be eaten by wild beasts; one saw in vision that he would take captives in war; one saw in vision that he would be rich, wealthy; one saw in vision that he would buy slaves, he would be a slave owner; one saw in vision that he would commit adultery, he would be struck by stones, he would be stone; one saw in vision that he would steal, he would also be stone and saw in vision that his head would be crushed by stones-they would condemn him; one saw in vision that he would perish in the water; one saw in vision that he would live in peace, and tranquility, until he died; one saw in vision that he would fall from a roof top, and he would fall to his death; however many things were to befall one, he then saw all in vision: even that he would be drowned. And when the effects of the mushrooms had left them they consulted among themselves and told one another what they had seen in vision. And they saw in vision, what would befall those who had eaten no mushrooms, and what they went about doing.  Some were perhaps thieves, some perhaps committed adultery. Howsoever many things there were all were told-that one would take captives, one would become a seasoned warrior, a leader of youths, one would die in battle, become rich, buy slaves, provide banquets, ceremonially bathe slaves, commit adultery, be strangled, perish in water, drown.  Whatsoever was to befall one, they then saw all in vision.  Perhaps he would go to his death in Anauac  (Florentine Codex, Dibble & Anderson, Bk 9:38-39) "


Fray Duran tells us that the Catholic Church, in its zeal to obliterate all aspects of native culture which could threaten Christian religious belief, ordered the destruction of  all native documents pertaining to history, myth, and legend. The Church also banished all aspects of native religion in favor of Christianity, and made no attempt to study or further record mushroom rituals. 
Duran mentions that his writings would most likely go unpublished claiming, “some persons (and they are not a few) say that my work will revive ancient customs and rites among the Indians”, and “that the Indians were quite good at secretly preserving their customs”. 
Duran writes that the Christianization of the Aztecs would remain arduous, and that the "heathen" religion of the Aztecs, and "the whole of their culture is impregnated with the old values (Legends of the Plumed Serpent 1998, p.119).

Duran’s writings were locked away and was more or less unknown to scholars until the 19th century, when it was discovered in the Madrid Library by José Fernando Ramírez. In 1848 Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg an ordained priest, came to the Americas in search of rare manuscripts and religious artifacts and while visiting Mexico City, Bourbourg obtained permission to have the Church archives opened to him, where he discovered a copy of Fray Diego Duran’s, Histories of New Spain.

At the time of the conquest, Spanish historians concluded that the Indians of the New World must have been the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who sailed (as related in the Old Testament) to the New World after their expulsion from Samaria by the Assyrians around 721 B.C. (Charles Gallenkamp 1959 p.40). 
Fray Diego Duran wrote in his Histories of New Spain (1537—1588) that  he believed the Aztecs were the decedents of the Lost Tribes of Israel, writing that the Indian traditions with which he was familiar with, were similar with the ancient Jewish customs and beliefs that were described in the Old Testament (J.H. Parry 1976, p.318). Duran writes...

" Because of their nature we could almost affirm that they [the Aztecs] are Jews and Hebrew people, and I believe that I would not be committing a great error if I were to state this fact, considering their way of life, their ceremonies, their rites and superstitions, their omens, and false dealings, so related to and characteristic of those of the Jews" (Duran 1964 The Aztecs: p.3). 


Duran writes that the Indians were ignorant of their origins and beginnings, but they  have traditions regarding a long and tedious journey, and that they were led by a great man who gathered a multitude of his followers and persuaded them to flee from persecution to a land where they could live in peace. This great leader was said to have gone to the seashore with his followers, and fleeing his enemies, he parted the sea with a rod that he carried in his hand, and that his followers went through the opening of water, and that the pursuing enemies seeing this opening of water followed them in only to have the waters return to their place, and never being heard from again (Duran The Aztecs, 1964, p.149).  Duran writes...

"I am convinced, and wish to convince others, that those who tell this account heard it from their ancestors; and these natives belong, in my opinion, to the lineage of the chosen people of God for whom He worked great marvels. And so the knowledge and the paintings of the things of the Bible and its mysteries have passed from father to son. The people attribute them to this land and say that they took place here, for they are ignorant of their own beginnings"  (Duran The Aztecs, 1964, p.5).


Bishop Bartolome de Las Casas also believed that the Aztecs were descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel. Trying to prove de Las Casas's theory, Lord Kingsborough, spent years and a fortune on his nine volume publication of Aztec and Maya codices, (Antiquities of Mexico, 1831-48).


Above is a Crown with stylized Fleur de lis symbols from a cache of Jewish religious artifacts seized by officials in Damietta, Egypt, April 18, 2014 – Photo: AP.... The Fleur de lis was one of the sacred symbols of the true Hebrew bloodlines.  http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.586252



Above is a drawing of the Star of David, a Hebrew symbol above a Mayan symbol called the "feathered tail", a symbol found on a wall at the ruins of Uxmal, an ancient Maya city in Yucatan Mexico. (drawing from, The Ancient Past of Mexico, by Alma Reed 1966 p. 12)


"In 1971 Dr. Alexander von Wuthenau, an art historian at the University of the Americas, Puebla, Mexico, reported a Maya sculpture recently discovered in the State of Campeche. This carving included what he took to be a depiction of the Star of David of ancient Jewish religious art. It was argued that the symbol in question represented the year‑bearer or imbricated‑ray sign of Mesoamerican religious art, not the Star of David of Jewish antiquity. Von Wuthenau considered this discovery clear evidence of transoceanic crossings made centuries before 1492."  (excerpt from MORE ON THE PRE‑COLUMBIAN "STAR OF DAVID" IN MESOAMERICAby Ross T. Christensen)



I found a similar looking Star symbol, (Star of David?) on this Classic Period Teotihuacan inspired Maya plate, that depicts at it's center, the Mexican god  Tlaloc. Tlaloc is surrounded by what appears to me to be four Fleur de lis symbols and he wears what could be said are mushroom inspired  ear flairs. The Mexican god Tlaloc, (the Evening Star aspect of Venus), shared the same temple as Quetzalcoatl, (the Morning Star aspect of Venus) at the great city of Teotihuacan.


The late Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson identified this configuration of five as the quincunx, a variant of the Central Mexican Venus sign. The design of this symbol symbolize the four cardinal directions and a central entrance to the underworld where the World Tree is located. The symbol of the quincunx is of great antiquity, having been found at the Olmec site of San Lorenzo on Monument 43 dated at 900 B.C. The quincunx design also appears on Maya Venus Platforms. The Olmec and Maya believed that It was through this portal that souls passed on their journey to deification, rebirth and resurrection. According to Maya archaeologist David Freidel, the Maya called this sacred center, mixik' balamil,  meaning "the navel of the world" (Thompson,1960:170-172, fig. 31 nos.33-40; Freidel & Schele, 1993:124)                

According to Thompson the idealized Venus cycle always ended on the day 1-Ahau, (Milbrath p.170). The synodic revolution of Venus, from Morning Star to Morning Star is 584 days, and that these revolutions were grouped by the Nahuas and Maya in fives, (see Maya  Dresden Codex) so that 5 x 584 equaled 2,920 days, or exactly eight solar years (Nicholson, 1967 pp. 45-46).

If one is to believe the accounts of the early chroniclers, Mesoamericans believed in an almighty dualistic force that ruled the cosmos. That force took tangible form in the god-king Quetzalcoatl. To overly simplify a very complex set of ideas,  we can say that all other gods were simply manifestations of that force and represented different expressions of  Quetzalcoatl.  This fact once again explains why, when Moctezuma emissaries on the coast  and the Tlaxcalteca ruler, Lord Xicotencatl, and finally Moctezuma himself, saw the  symbol that "adorned the head of their warrior-god Huitzilopochtli", they accepted it as definitive proof  of the return of Quetzalcoatl.
Above is Questzalcoatl as the Wind God, from page 19 of the Codex Borgia one of five codices, or divinatory manuals in the Borgia group (now in the Vatican), that predate the Spanish Conquest. Here, the Aztec Toltec god-king, and culture hero Quetzalcoatl, is portrayed wearing his trademark wind-jewel and the bearded-fanged mask of the Wind God Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. A closer look at the attributes of Quetzalcoatl's headdress, depicts a harpy eagle, one of the many avatars of Quetzalcoatl, a trefoil or Fleur de lis symbol, and the "single eye" motif, a universal symbol of the resurrected Sun God. Encoded in Quetzalcoatl's headdress is also a five pointed Venus half star. The "fiveness" of Venus, 5 synodic cycles, comes from the fact that five Venus cycles of 584 days each equal eight solar years to the day, and that 584 days is the time it takes for Earth and Venus to line up with respect to the Sun.  This day was a period ending day in the sacred 260 day calendar (almanac) and always ended on the day Ahau (also spelled  Ajaw). Ahau in the Mayan language means Lord.
Identified as the Wind God and Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, took on many additional guises and attributes over the years, and became known by a great variety of names throughout the New World. I have elected to refer to him, as did the Toltecs and Aztecs, as Quetzalcoatl-Tlaloc.
Quetzalcoatl, in his guise as Ehecatl the Wind God, presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler. (Miller and Taube, 1993:118)



Above, a closeup from a carved Late Classic Period 600-900 C.E., Maya drinking vessel K5420, that portrays a bearded deity with serpent hands crowned with the trefoil in his head, a New World version of the Fleur de lis, symbolizing divinity and lordship.

The monkey imagery in the Maya vase scene above may allude to the Five Suns cosmogonic accounts (Mary Miller and Karl Taube 1993; p.118), in which the god Quetzalcoatl, as Ehecatl the Wind God presided over the second sun, ehecatonatiuh, the sun of wind, until it was destroyed by great winds. The survivors of that era were turned into monkeys and Quetzalcoatl was their ruler. According to the Anales de Cuauhtitlan, in the fourth age of the earth, "many people were drowned and others hurled into the mountains and were changed into monkeys". In both Nahua and Maya mythology the dwarf (depicted above) often accompanies the deceased into the Underworld. 

In Maya religion the monkey represents the first of the Nine Lords of the Night or Underworld. Called the Bolon Ti Ku, these gods were responsible for guiding the Sun (identified as an underworld jaguar), into the underworld to be sacrificed by underworld decapitation and reborn and deified as the new Sun.  The first god associated with re-birth was the Monkey (GI) and Quetzalcoatl (G9) was the last,  associated with death and ritual decapitation and time's completion. The word K'uh in Classic Maya glyphs was assigned to the monkey god and in glyphs his monkey profile was used to describe "holy" or "sacred," referring to "divinity" or "god" (M.D. Coe 2001, p.109). Archaeo-astronomer Susan Milbrath writes that an analysis of the Dresden Codex identifies the monkey as also related to Venus as the Morning Star (Star Gods of the Maya, 1999, p. 256 ).

Avatars of Quetzalcoatl took the form of various dualities signifying the concept of life and death: i.e. the eagle and the jaguar symbolized the rulers of the underworld and the upper world.  In art this twin god is clearly connected with serpents, jaguars, and birds.  Mushrooms being the medium, are also associated with the ritual of decapitation and the the ballgame, and with a trophy head cult.

         Maya Archaeologist Dr. Stephan de Borhegyi...
"One of the iconographically better known gods of the pre-Columbian  pantheons (Aztec and earlier) was Quetzalcoatl, the god of wind, of life, and of the morning; the god of the planet Venus, of twins, of monsters, etc. As the god of life, Quetzalcoatl appears as the constant benefactor of mankind. He discovered corn, and gave the grain to man. He taught him how to arrange the calendar and devised ceremonies and fixed certain days for prayers and sacrifices. In short, Quetzalcoatl was the very essences of saintliness. His life of fasting and penitence, his priestly character, and his benevolence toward his children-mankind-are evident in the material that has been preserved for us in the sixteenth century Spanish chronicles and in the picture writings of the indigenous manuscripts". (S.F. de Borhegyi 1966, The Wind God's Breastplate;  p.13)
We know from early chronicles that in the Postclassic, Quetzalcoatl was revered both as a god and as a Toltec ruler. We are told by the Aztecs that the human culture hero Quetzalcoatl died in the year 1-Reed, one 52 year cycle from his birth. It is further recorded in 1570 in the Nahua manuscript known as the Annals of Cuauhtitllan, that he was apotheosized as Venus and transformed into the Morning star in the “land of writing,” which has been interpreted by scholars as being the Maya area  (Milbrath 1999:177).


The Mexican god-king Quetzalcoatl, and his Maya counterparts known as Kukulcan, and Gukumatz, were all known as the "Feathered Serpent", and were all reputed to be the inventors of the science of measuring time, and that serpents represent the bondage of time, and its cyclical nature. According to legend the supreme god who set the creation wheel in motion was Sovereign Plumed Serpent (Tedlock, 1985 p.72-73).
The fear that the gods had destroyed previous creations and that their own world might meet a similar fate, led Maya calendar priests to make calendric and astronomical calculations as precise as those that are made today by modern astronomers.
The ritual calendar was synchronized to the orbital cycles of Venus because of the planet's interaction and synchronization with Earth’s orbital period of 365-days. Venus’s orbit around the sun takes only 225 days, but when Venus is viewed from Earth, from Morning Star to Morning Star, its full synodic cycle takes 584 days. When the calendar priests noted that Venus rose from the same spot on earth every eight years,  they  calculated that five of the cycles from Morningstar to Morningstar equalled eight solar years to the day. This knowledge, in turn,  enabled them to predict Morning Star appearances for centuries to come and gave them the appearance of being able to resurrect Venus from its underground grave and restore it to life in the sky. Because of these and other astronomical observations calendar priests were able to predict exact dates for solstices and eclipses.and  were revered for having supernatural powers and a divine ability to  measure time.
The Aztecs, "knew on what day it [Venus] would appear in the east after it had lost itself or disappeared in the west; they counted the days by this and yielded reverence and offered sacrifices to it". (from A. Aveni, "Venus and the Maya," American Scientist 67, p. 274.)     

In Aztec (Mexica) mythology the cosmos was intimately linked to the Evening Star and Morning Star aspects of the planet Venus. Among the Quiche Maya,Venus in its form as the  Morning Star, was called iqok'ij,  meaning the "sunbringer" or "carrier of the sun or day." (Tedlock, 1993:236).


As the Morning Star the Nahua or Mexican god Quetzalcoatl's avatar was the harpy eagle. In Aztec (Nahua) legends the sun, descends each night into the underworld to battle the forces of death in order to return, triumphant, each morning to the sky on the wings of an eagle. Note that the sacred beverage depicted above in the Codex Vaticanus, encodes two Fleur de lis symbols representing divinity and resurrection. 

In Mesoamerican mythology the harpy eagle is associated with the World Tree, as well as with both the resurrected sun, and the planet Venus as a resurrection star. In both the Old World and the New World the Fleur de lis carries the same metaphoric meaning of divine resurrection. The manifestation of this star in Mesoamerica being the winged god-king Quetzalcoatl. It is said that when Quetzalcoatl died he was changed into that star that appears at dawn.    

              (top photo © Robin Heyworth – Photo taken 10th December 2001)

Above are mural scenes from the Temple of Feathered Conches at the ancient city of Teotihuacan, (150 B.C.E.-750 C.E.). The Fleur de lis symbol appears in both  murals, the mural above depicting a harpy eagle, and the mural below depicting a green quetzal-macaw. The green quetzal bird is another avatars of Quetzalcoatl, alluding to the color green associated with the axis mundi, the central portal or world pillar, that connects the lower world with the upper world, and the green quetzal bird that sits atop the World Tree. The ancient metropolis of Teotihuacan is located on the outskirts of Mexico City and thught to have been established sometime around 100 B.C.E. The pyramid dedicated to Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc known simply as the pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, was built sometime between 150-200 CE.  


 Above is a page from the Codex Borgia, one of the few remaining pre-Conquest codices that depicts the World Tree", or "Tree of Life" emerging from the body of a death god in the underworld (life from death), the spectacular tree encoded with Fleur de lis symbols and surmounted by a harpy eagle  (http://americaindigena.com/sacred16.htm).


Above is a closeup scene taken from the pre-Conquest manuscript known as the Codex Laud. The scene, I believe, portrays the serpent deity Quetzalcoatl the Feathered Serpent as the World Tree, encoded with three Fleur de lis symbols, alluding to a trinity of creator gods in Mesoamerica.


In the Mayan languages the word chan or kan means both sky and snake, and is code for the vision-serpent-sky portal and alludes to the path the gods and ancestral dead travel in their journey in and out of the Underworld during bloodletting ceremonies, and at death and resurrection. In both hemispheres serpents are associated with the Tree of Life and immortality by virtue of renewing themselves, through the shedding of their skin. 

The Feathered Serpent, is one of the oldest and the most important deities of Mesoamerica. In Aztec accounts, the Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, turns himself into a serpent and then back again into a god with human attributes and form. Quetzalcoatl’s name represents a blending of serpent and bird; the quetzal, a blue-green bird that inhabits the cloud forests of Mesoamerica, and coatl, the Nahua word describing both sky and serpent. Among the Mixtecs of Oaxaca, Quetzalcoatl was known by his calendrical name "9 Wind."  The Maya of Yucatan called him Kukulcan.

According to the late Dr. Herbert J. Spinden, one of the great scholars of Mesoamerican art and archaeology, and author of,  A Study of Maya Art,  writes...

" It seems quite likely that Quetzalcoatl was a Mexican adaptation of one of the principal Maya deities, probably the Long-nosed God".
"Many authorities consider God B to represent Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent, whose Aztec equivalent is Quetzalcoatl "(A Study of Maya Art 1975 p.62).


The Underworld Jaguar God of ancient Mexico is depicted above in a pre-Columbian Mixtec manuscript called the Codex Zouche-Nuttall or Codex Tonindeye. The painting depicts the Underworld Jaguar God sitting on a thrown encoded with the Fleur de lis symbol above his head, and three upside down or inverted Fleur de lis symbols that may be symbolic code for a Trinity.

Mushroom intoxication, according to Spanish reports gave sorcerers (priests or shamans), the power to seemingly change themselves into animals, and that the powerful visions and voices the mushrooms produced were believed to be from God.

There is plenty of evidence in Mesoamerican mythology linking the many avatars of Quetzalcoatl, Jaguar-Bird-Serpent, to the duality of the planet Venus.  Eduard Seler was the first to link feathered serpent imagery to the planet Venus and Quetzalcoatl and Seler believed that the jaguar-bird-serpent image was associated with war and the Morning Star ( Milbrath ).  In Aztec mythology the cosmos was intimately linked to the planet Venus in its form as the Evening Star, which guides the sun through the Underworld at night, as the skeletal god Xolotl, the twin of Quetzalcoatl.  As the Morning Star, Quetzalcoatl's avatar was the harpy eagle.  Among the Quiche Maya,  Venus in its form as the  Morning Star, was called iqok'ij,  meaning the "sunbringer" or "carrier of the sun or day." (Tedlock, 1993:236). 

  According to Edward Seler; In a passage from the Anales de Quauhtitlán...

"At the time when the planet was visible in the sky (as evening star) Quetzalcoatl died. And when Quetzalcoatl was dead he was not seen for 4 days; they say that he dwelt in the underworld, and for 4 more days he was bone (that is, he was emaciated, he was weak); not until 8 days had passed did the great star appear; that is, as the morning star. They said that then Quetzalcoatl ascended the throne as god".

The Mexican god-king Quetzalcoatl the so-called "Feathered Serpent", and his Maya god-king, culture hero counterparts known as Kukulcan, and Gukumatz, were all reputed to be the inventors of the science of measuring time, and that feathered serpents represent the bondage of time, and its cyclical nature. The fear that the gods had destroyed previous creations and that their own world might meet a similar fate, led Maya calendar priests to make calendric and astronomical calculations as precise as those that are made today by modern astronomers. If life sustaining rituals were not performed at appropriate times tied to their sacred calendars, the trans formative cycle of birth, maturity, death, and rebirth would be broken and life itself would end.

 The Aztecs, "knew on what day it [Venus] would appear in the east after it had lost itself or disappeared in the west; they counted the days by this and yielded reverence and offered sacrifices to it". (from A. Aveni, "Venus and the Maya," American Scientist 67, p. 274.)     

Many scholars and laymen have endeavored over the years to sort out and interpret the many intricate and elaborate images portrayed in Mesoamerican art. The images painted on Maya cylindrical funerary vases and painted books called codices are especially intriguing, suggesting, as they do, an entire panoply of gods, religious ceremonies, and legends.

In the course of my research I have experienced more than one heart-stopping "Ahah!" moment. These moments, however, have usually come only after much time-consuming "digging"  followed by extensive analysis and checking of references in related scholarly research. In order to make them accessible to readers who are not scholars in Mesoamerican cultural history and iconography, I will endeavor to introduce them to the divine actors they will encounter in the images. I will also attempt to interpret, according to my understanding, the relationships they shared within the framework of Mesoamerican religious belief. Most of my interpretations are based on material that is already well known and generally accepted. Other aspects are original with me and come from my studies. I hope to make this distinction clear to the reader. I do not pretend, or even hope, to have gotten it all "right," and will welcome knowledgeable critiquing of my conclusions.


After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, the Catholic Church ordered the burning of all native manuscripts. Called codices, these pictorial documents contained much valuable information pertaining to native history, mythology, and ritual, related to a pantheon of supernatural gods. Unhappily, due to Spanish intolerance of indigenous religious beliefs, only eighteen pre-Conquest books attributed to the people of Highland Mexico have survived to the present day.

The ancient cultures of the Nahua and Maya developed similar ideologies and mythologies from the same Olmec roots. The sacred mushroom ritual shared by these cultures (the mushroom as the medium) was intended,  I believe, to establish direct communication between Earth and Heaven (sky) in order to unite man with god. As told in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Quiche Maya, the sun-god of the Maya, Kinich Ajaw, and his Aztec equivalent, Huitzilopochtli, would be extinguished in the underworld if not nourished with the blood of human hearts. Quetzalcoatl's essence in the world as a culture hero was to establish this communication. Quetzalcoatl taught that mankind must eat the sacred mushroom and make blood sacrifices in order to achieve immortality.
Mesoamericans in general believed that Quetzalcoatl created both the universe and humankind. Along with mushrooms, maize and fire, Quetzalcoatl also gave to man the sciences, the calendar and writing, and the knowledge to fix certain days for feasts and blood sacrifice. Rulers bestowed with this divine knowledge were believed to be incarnates of this god.
We know from ancient manuscripts called codices that in Mesoamerica, Quetzalcoatl was the most important god who created his children, mankind in the underworld by sprinkling his blood onto the bones of his father and past generations.
The ancient myth of Quetzalcoatl’s creation was preserved for us by a Franciscan friar named Jeronimo de Mendieta in 1596. In his manuscript, Historia Eclesiastica Indiana, Mendieta writes that it was “Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican Prometheus, the beneficent god of all mankind, descended to the world of the dead to gather up the bones of past generations, and, sprinkling them with his own blood, created a new humanity”. (Alfonso Caso, 1958; THE AZTECS, PEOPLE OF THE SUN)
The Codex Borbonicus, written by Aztec priests in the early years after the Spanish Conquest, depicts Quetzalcoatl on the left wearing his trademark bird mask, and wind-jewel, and holding a serpent  with a stylistic Fleur de lis symbol.
Much of our understanding of Mesoamerican religion has been pieced together from Spanish chronicles and pre-Hispanic and Colonial period manuscripts called codices. Unfortunately, for our understanding of the role of mushrooms in this religion, the Spanish missionaries who reported these mushroom rituals were repulsed by what they perceived to be similarities to holy Christian communion.  As a result, they made no attempt to record the rituals in detail and banished all forms of mushroom use. 

The Annals of the Cakchiquels,  (1953:82-83), records: “they began to worship the devil [Quetzalcoatl].  Each seven days, each 13 days, they offered him sacrifices, placing before him fresh resin, green branches, and fresh bark of the trees, and burning before him a small cat, image of the night. They took him also the mushrooms, which grow at the foot of the trees, and they drew blood from their ears.”


Although a few culturally curious friars defied the ban to write detailed accounts of native history and religion throughout the16th century, their manuscripts remained hidden from public view in the archives of the holy Inquisition. So it was that the religious use of sacred mushrooms remained unnoticed for centuries.  Fortunately for history and anthropology, a number of these early chronicles have since been discovered and translated.

The use of mushrooms and peyote by 16th century Aztecs, although well documented by Spanish chroniclers and in Aztec codices, has not, by and large, been acknowledged by the archaeological community. These products may have played an important role in both commerce and religion in pre-Columbian times.

In a guide for missionaries written before 1577 by Dr. Francisco Hernandez, physician to the king of Spain (Wasson, 1962: 36; see also Furst, 1990 ed., 9) He notes that the Aztecs, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, revered three different kinds of mushrooms. Spanish chronicler Jacinto de la Serna, 1892 (The Manuscript of Serna) described the mushroom and its use for divination:

"These mushrooms were small and yellowish and to collect them the priest and all men appointed as ministers went to the hills and remained almost the whole night in sermonizing and praying" (from..."Quest for the Sacred Mushroom", Stephan F. de Borhegyi 1957).


Serna (1892) also writes that the people of Mexico "adored and made more sacrifices to the sun and Venus than any other celestial or terrestrial creatures", and that it was believed that twins were associated with the sun and Venus (The Manuscript of Serna).

The name Quetzalcoatl has been interpreted to mean "Precious twin," indicating that the Morning Star and Evening Star are one and the same (Caso, 1958:.24; Duran:325).   

Astronomical knowledge of the movement of Venus as both a Morning star and Evening star was recorded in the Venus Almanac of the Dresden Codex.  These Venus Tables were recorded with the first date in the first row corresponding to the superior conjunction of Venus. The second date is 90 days later, corresponding to Venus's rise as an evening star. The third date is 250 days later,  when Venus disappears at inferior conjunction. The fourth date, 8 days later, corresponds to the rising of Venus as a morning star on the day Ahau,  an event by which time was measured. The next cycle always began with another superior conjunction. Five of these synodic cycles of 584 days (the modern value is 583.920 days) equals eight 365 day solar years to the day.

Mesoamerican mythology and religion was based on these Venus events--an "inferior conjunction" when Venus comes between the Sun and Earth, and a "superior conjunction" when the Sun comes between Venus and Earth. Because Venus is invisible during both conjunctions, it was believed that Venus was in the underworld performing self-sacrifice in order to appear reborn as the Morning Star or the Evening Star. 


The ancient city of Cholula, near Puebla, Mexico has a pyramid honoring Quetzalcoatl covering an area of over 500,000 sq. feet, making it the largest pyramid in the world (Hugh Thomas 1993 p.258).

A mural at Cholula that was discovered in 1969 by archaeologist Ponciano Salazar Ortegon while excavating Building 3-1-A, known as "The Drinkers", depicts several individuals in the act of consuming a very intoxicating, if not mind controlling hallucinogenic, beverage. Followers of Quetzalcoatl came to the holy city of Cholula to give their lives in sacrifice, in return for immortality as a blood offering to the gods and  Quetzalcoatl.



Above is a close up from page 35 in the Codex Vaticanus that depicts a ritual beverage encoded with the Fleur de lis symbol, and a victim on the left in the act of self decapitation.


Above is a page from Post-Conquest Codex Hall- An Ancient Mexican Hieroglyphic Picture Manuscript With A Silk Screen Facsimile, Reproduction of the Codex, 1947 by Louie H. Ewing Dibble. Note that the offering bowls above are tagged with a symbol similar in shape to  the Fleur de lis, and similar in meaning representing divinity, resurrection, and immortality. 



Above is a close up images from page 89, in the Codex Vaticanus that depicts a ritual drink encoded or tagged with a Fleur de lis emblem as a symbol of God and divine immortality.

Above is a page from the Post-Conquest Codex Fernandez, that I propose are two rows of willing sacrificial victims. Note that all the so called victims are unbound, awaiting ritual decapitation, and note that at the top of the ladder to heaven, there is a trefoil, or New World Fleur de lis emblem, esoterically representing a symbol of Lord and divine resurrection, linked with the Tree of Life at the center of the world symbolized by the four cardinal directions. The footprints are symbolic of the sacred journey one takes to divine immortality .
The sacrifice of one's own life was believed to be the greatest gift one could offer the gods, because it emulated the ways of their god-king Quetzalcoatl, who in legend sacrificed himself (at Teotihuacan) so as to become the new fifth sun, and bring light back to the world: (M. D. Coe 1994:91)


Above is a painting from the Codex Ríos, a Spanish colonial-era manuscript, now in the Vatican library (also called Codex Telleriano-Remensis), attributed to Pedro de los Ríos, a Dominican friar working in Oaxaca and Puebla between 1547 and 1562. The codex itself was likely written and drawn in Italy after 1566.  I believe the bearded figure probably represents an aspect of Quetzalcoatl, as the God of ritual intoxication. This figure has been identified as the goddess Mayahuel, goddess of the maguey plant, who is usually depicted as a beautiful young woman (Miller and Taube 1993 p111)  Note that the figure above appears to have a beard and wears a headdress that I believe has three encoded psilocybin mushrooms emerging from a trefoil, esoteric symbolism I believe that may allude to a Trinity of gods. I would argue that Quetzalcoatl in this painting is the god of ritual intoxication, therefore it makes sense that he is also the god of self sacrifice and human sacrifice. Note that the figure in question holds a ritual beverage in his right hand, that may encode two psilocybin mushrooms emerging from a trefoil. It was Quetzalcoatl who brought the mind controlling mushrooms to his children,  promising resurrection and immortality to mankind  (see below page 24 Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus)
The followers of Lord Quetzalcoatl, I believe, came to the conviction very early on that, under the influence of the sacred mushroom, a divine force actually entered into their body--a state described as "god within".  Because mushrooms appeared to spring magically over night  from the underworld, apparently sparked by the powers of lightning, wind and rain,  it would have been easy for these ancients  to conclude that they were divine gifts  brought to them by the wind god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, and the rain god Tlaloc, both of them avatars of the planet Venus.
The mushroom-Venus religion, as I see it, was spawned by early man's fear of death and his hopes for resurrection, if not in this life, then in another reality. Through shamanic rituals, very possibly springing from the discovery of the mind-altering effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms, he hoped to transcend the former and assure himself of the latter. (Wasson,1980). The shamans, in turn, looked to the most powerful forces in the natural world—the sun, the moon, and the stars, wind, lightning and rain, and such fearsome creatures in their environment as the jaguar, eagle, serpent, and shark—as a means of understanding the place and fate of human beings within this divine framework. In time the shamans unraveled the mysterious but ultimately knowable and predictable movements of the stars and planets, and interpreted these movements as an avenue for understanding man’s relation to time, space, and immortality.
These beliefs, over time, spawned a great variety of gods bearing different names in different culture areas but with numerous identifiable similarities linked to divine rulership associated with lineage and descent. Westernized efforts by archaeologists and art historians to sort out and catalog the many overlapping names and identities have been frustrated by the fact that ordered and demarcated categories run counter to the fluidity that characterizes native American belief systems. A multiplicity of identities is a basic feature of the Mesoamerican supernatural realm.


Spanish chronicles tell us that the Aztecs and Toltecs attributed their enlightenment to Quetzalcoatl. In the 16th century Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun recorded in his Florentine Codex, a multi-volume compilation of priceless Mexica ethnographic information, that the Toltecs were, above all:

"thinkers for they originated the year count, the day count; they established the way in which the night, the day, would work; which sign was good, favorable; and which was evil, the day sign of wild beasts. All their discoveries formed the book for interpreting dreams."

"They [the Toltecs] could do practically anything, nothing seemed to difficult for them; they cut the greenstone, they melted gold, and all this came from Quetzalcoatl - arts and knowledge." - Fray Bernandino Sahagun.

In the Codex Chimalpopoca, Quetzalcoatl is referred to as a spirit of regeneration and as the Morning star. A passage translated from that Codex reads...
"It is said that life had been created four times".  "People had existed four times....and they said that the one they called their god made them, created them, out of ashes. this they attributed to Quetzalcoatl" (Bierhorst, 1998 p.25) 
"Truly with him it began...Truly from him it flowed out...From Quetzalcoatl all art and knowledge" (Neil Baldwin 1998 p.34).

There is a Mayan expression known as Cuxolalob, which refers to one who possesses the knowledge of that which is both rational and supernatural. Quetzalcoatl was the father of these teachings, from whom all knowledge flowed. The ancient scribes who created the Mesoamerican calendar were Cuxolalob thinkers. They originated the year count, which they called the count of days (260 days), and created esoteric signs for good or favorable days. The lives of all Mesoamerican people were personally tied to and guided by this calendar. An individual's future could be foretold based on the day in the calendar year on which that individual was born.


Bernal Diaz del Castillo tells us that Moctezuma sacrificed "many boys" each day for a sign from the gods as what to do about the return of the white strangers. Spanish chronicler, Fray Diego Durán,writes about the event in his Histories of New Spain (1537-1588)

        Quoting Fray Duran...

Moctezuma II, speaking......

"I want you to find out who their chieftain is, since he is the one to whom you must give all these presents. You must discover with absolute certainty if he is the one that our ancestors called Topiltzin or Quetzalcoatl. Our histories say that he abandoned this land but left word that he or his sons would return to reign over this country, to recover the gold, silver and jewels which they left hidden in the mountains. According to the legends, they are to acquire all the wealth that we now possess. If it is really Quetzalcoatl, greet him on my behalf and give him these gifts. You must also order the governor of Cuetlaxtla to provide him with all kinds of food, cooked birds and game. Let him also be given all the types of bread that are baked, together with fruit and gourds of chocolate. Let all of this be placed at the edge of the sea, and from there you and your companion, Cuiltalpitoc, will take it to the ship or house where they are lodged. Give these things to him so that he, his children and companions may eat of them. Notice very carefully whether he eats or not. If he eats and drinks he is surely Quetzalcoatl as this will show that he is familiar with the foods of this land, that he ate them once and has come back to savor them again" (The Aztecs, by Fray Diego Duran 1964 p.264) 

As for the warrior god Huitzilopochtli, he seems to have occupied a place of importance only among the Aztecs (Caso, 1958 p.33-34). Sources identify him as the Blue Quetzalcoatl (see Below) painted blue the color of the blue sky, or sky of the day, and the color of human sacrifice. Huitzilopochtli like Quetzalcoatl represents the incarnation of the sun who defeats the Lord of the Night or Lord of the Underworld each day by sacrificing himself in the underworld in order to keep mankind alive and prevent the gods of darkness or the underworld from destroying the sun (Alfonso Caso, 1958, p.33).


Above, is a close up image from the Borgia Codex. The image portrays the god-king Quetzalcoatl, or ruler or High Priest, in the guise of Quetzalcoatl, crowned with a Fleur de lis symbol. He is painted the color blue, being the color associated with human sacrifice, and self sacrifice and the color associated with the Aztec War God Huitzilopochtli. Quetzalcoatl can be identified in this codex by his trademark conical hat, that in most cases is adorned with bloodletting instruments and a Fleur de lis symbol. The act of bloodletting was so sacred in fact that according to archaeologist Michael D. Coe, today's unofficial  "Dean of Maya studies", that the perforator itself was worshiped as a god (from Olmec Bloodletting: An Iconographic Study 1991). Quetzalcoatl also can be identified by his wind-jewel breast-plate, called ehecailacacozcatl, or "breastplate of the wind" a trademark symbol of Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God.


To my knowledge no sculptures exist of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, but he shared the same temple at Tenochtitlan with the older Mexican war god Tlaloc, much in the same way that Tlaloc shared the same temple as Quetzalcoatl at the great city of Teotihuacan.


Sources indicate that Huitzilopochtli's face and body often bear yellow and blue striped paint (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.93). The name glyph above (Five Flower?) to the right of the figure, is known as Macuilxochitl, meaning "five flowers", and the name glyph above bears the symbol of the Fleur-de-lis. The number 5 was specifically associated with the god Quetzalcoatl and his quincunx symbol, associated with Venus. This configuration of five, identified as the quincunx, is a reference to a central portal of Venus resurrection.

The Aztecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest referred to mushrooms as flowers (R.G. Wasson, 1980 p.79). "Three Aztec deities have particular connection with them: Xochipilli, Macuilxochitl, and Xochiquetzal, all of whom serve as patrons of beauty, pleasure, and the arts" (Mary Miller and Karl Taube, 1993 p.88).    



The Precolumbian figurine above, now in the National Museum in Mexico City, is from Central Mexico and depicts the young god  Xochipilli, whose name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, means "Prince of Flowers", also known as Macuilxochitl, meaning "five flowers", this figurine holds what appears to be an Amanita muscaria mushroom in each hand. According to ethno-archaeologist Irene Nicholson, "flowers symbolize a state of the soul on its journey to full godhood."..."mushrooms were known as 'the flower that makes us drunk'" (Irene Nicholson 1967, p.90).


The widespread popularity of Quetzalcoatl's name alone demonstrates his popularity in the New World. The Itza Maya of Yucatan called him Kukulcan, and it is believed he rebuilt the great city of Chichen Itza, and later founded the Maya capital city of Mayapan. In the Mayan language the word k'ul, means "holy spirit" or "god",  and the word chan or kan means both serpent and sky (Freidel, Schele, Parker, 1993 p. 177).
The rulers of these powerful cities under the leadership of Kukulcan claimed decent from the Toltecs of Tula, Hidalgo, the legendary home of Quetzalcoatl. The Maya of Chiapas, called him  Cuchulchan, and the Quiche and Cakchiquel Maya of the Guatemala highlands called him Gucumatz, or Cucumatz meaning "Feathered Serpent", in their tongue.
Quetzalcoatl also has an identical counterpart in South America, from an Inca legend named Viracoccha. The Venus-mushroom religion connected with Quetzalcoatl goes back as far as Olmec times 1200-400 BCE. and Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst has suggested that the Olmecs may have carried elements of their religion, including a shamanistic supernatural jaguar cult, as well as a mushroom cult, throughout Mesoamerica and even into South America.  

My studies have also led me conclude that all variants of the Toltec/Aztec gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, and their Classic Maya counterparts, Kukulcan, Gucumatz, K´awil and Chaac, though they may have different names and be associated with somewhat different attributes in different culture areas, are linked to the planet Venus through divine rulership, lineage and descent.  In Mesoamerica they are also linked with warfare. Maya inscriptions tell us that the movement of the planet Venus and its position in the sky was a determining factor for waging a special kind of warfare known as Tlaloc warfare or Venus "Star Wars." These wars, waged against neighboring city-states for the express purpose of taking captives for sacrifice to the gods, thus constituted a form of divinely-sanctioned "holy" war.    

Spanish chronicler Fray Sahagun, who was the first to report mushroom rituals among the Aztecs, also suggested that the Chichimecs and Toltecs consumed hallucinogens before battle to enhance bravery and strength (Furst 1972, p.12)Hallucinogens taken before battle likely eliminated all sense of fear, hunger, and thirst, and gave the combatant a sense of invincibility and courage to fight at the wildest levels. "This drunkenness lasted two or three days, then vanished"  (Thomas, 1993, p.508). 



Above is a Post Classic gold figurine of an Aztec warrior wearing a mushroom inspired nose plug. 


The Tlaloc-Venus warfare cult spread from the city of Teotihuacan in Highland Mexico, into the Maya area during the Early Classic period around 400-500 C.E, when Teotihuacan was at its apex. The god Tlaloc shared  a temple with Huitzilopochtli in the great Aztec metropolis of Tenochtitlan, alluding to the dualistic concept of one and the same deity, in much the same way as Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl shared the same temple at Teotihuacan. Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl, both of them aspects of Venus as  the Evening Star and Morning Star, suggests that they were both patron deities of Teotihuacan and its ruling dynasty. As mentioned earlier, the name Quetzalcoatl has been interpreted to mean "Precious twin," indicating that the Morning Star and Evening Star are  one and the same (Caso, 1958:.24; Duran:325).  

The legend of Quetzalcoatl's epic flight from his beloved city of Tula, claims that when he and his followers reached Tlapallan, on the shores where the morning star announces the rebirth of the sun, he ordered a raft to be made of snakes, and he entered it and sat down as in a canoe, and thus he left  navigating on the sea, promising he would return in the calendar year named Ce Acatl, One -Reed, coincidentally the same year when Cortés landed his ships on the eastern shores of Mexico in 1519, dressed in black because it was Good Friday. 

Fray Diego Duran, (The Aztecs, 1964, p.149) mentions that it was written that before Quetzalcoatl departed his beloved city of Tula, he left orders that his figure be carved in wood and in stone, to be adored by the common people. “They will remain as a perpetual memorial to our greatness in the way that we remember Quetzalcoatl”.

According to Fray Sahagun, the god-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, "escaped" from his beloved city of Tula, and legend claims that when he looked back he began to cry, and that his tears perforated the stone on which he thus sat resting and weeping (A History of Ancient Mexico, 1932 p.187).
Above on the left is a stone carving of Quetzalcoatl, and as I discovered, a great example of the clever way in which the pre-Columbian artist encoded the sacred mushrooms of Quetzalcoatl's religion, "HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT" from the eyes of the uninitiated. I believe that mushrooms were considered so sacred that the artist deliberately obscured mushroom imagery from the beholder. At first glance the face of the "Weeping God"   gives the illusion of a deity with dangling eye-balls. In this case the sculptor encoded the mushroom behind the tears of the "Weeping God",  known in legend as Quetzalcoatl Ce Acatl, the bearded god-king of the Toltecs. According to the late Maya archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi, "snouted and fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs are a feature commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God". (de Borhegyi 1980:17)
 (photo of a "Weeping God" above is from VanKirk, Jacques, and Parney Bassett-VanKirk,  Remarkable Remains of the Ancient Peoples of Guatemala,  Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1996.)
The events of this period, which bridges the gap between prehistory and history, as well as the gap between disputed dates in the Maya calendar and dates recorded in the European calendar, are far from clear. In order to distinguish the semi-historical Quetzalcoatl from Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Serpent or Wind God deity,  the Toltecs prefixed his birth date to his name, Ce Acatl,  meaning "One Reed."

One could argue that the so called collapse of Classic Maya Civilization, was a Toltec invasion into the Maya region by Chontal Maya tribes, also known as the Putun Maya. These Chontal speaking tribes were devout followers of the god king Quetzalcoatl. The Classic Maya Collapse is a time period that takes place between A.D. 900 and A.D. 1000, when archaeologists see an abrupt halt of any new construction and that dated monuments with Long Count dates called stelae ceased to be erected. Its during this time period in the Central lowlands of Guatemala that archaeologist see a sudden decline in population or the abandonment of Maya cities.  

         Maya archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi explains:         
" I think that the story is as follows: the priest king Quetzalcoatl /Kukulcan, (Gucumatz) was expelled by his enemies from Tula (Tollan), sometime around 960 A.D (Quetzalcoatl was accused with sodomy and incest.).  He left with a small group of his followers and went to Tlapallan, that is, the Laguna de Terminos region.  Here he apparently settled down.  It would seem that some of the Chontal tribes accepted the mushroom cult introduced by him and after a few years, the pressure of enemy tribes forced them to move on, led by descendants of Quetzalcoatl and his followers.  Some went northeast to Chichen Itza; others moved southward following the Usamacinta toward Guatemala" (Letter, de  Borhegyi to R. Gordon Wasson, April 1954 Harvard Archives ).

The Toltecs were known as expert builders, their expertise was the enlargement of interior space in buildings, through the use of pillars and columns. The Toltec capital of Tollan or Tula, became the highest exponent of culture in Central Mexico, and under their patron god Quetzalcoatl, the Toltecs created an empire whose frontiers were only surpassed by those of the Aztecs who followed (Alma M. Reed 1966,  p.48).
Above is a sculpture from an Aztec Temple that depicts the image of  Quetzalcoatl as the Feathered Serpent, encoded with what looks to me to be encoded sacred mushrooms of the Aztecs called teonanacatl, "Gods Flesh".   In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushrooms was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species, the Psilocybe mushroom, was called teonanacatl  (Wasson, letter to de Borhegyi, June 23, 1953).



Like the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, the older Mexican  god Tlaloc was connected with  human sacrifice and warfare and, as the Evening star, Tlaloc  was  associated with the  planet Venus. Hallucinogenic mushrooms appear to be linked with what scholars have called "Tlaloc warfare" or "Venus star-wars". These wars or raids were timed to occur during aspects of the Venus astronomical cycle, primarily to capture prisoners from neighboring cities for ceremonial sacrifice (Schele & Freidel, 1990:130-31, 194). Those who died in battle went directly to Tlaloc's paradise called Tlalocan, and were blessed with immortality.   



The pre-Columbian incense burner above depicts a fanged deity or ruler wearing the headdress of the Mexican god Tlaloc. The headdress is crowned with three Fleur de lis symbols and two encoded mushrooms. The god Tlaloc has been identified as the Nahua (Mexican) counterpart to the Maya Rain God Chaac. Both deities are associated with human sacrifice and ritual decapitation that I propose are also linked to mushrooms and the planet Venus as the Evening Star. The incense burner is from the Tarascan culture 1350 - 1521 C.E., and now resides in the Snite Museum of Art. The Tarascans knew and utilized, this form of warfare describing it as flowery war  (Helen Perlstein Pollard 1993, p.106).

Spanish chronicler Fray Toribio de Paredes, "Motolinía," describes the sacrifice of four children and their disposition in caves as offerings to the Rain God Tlaloc (Motolinia 1941, p.50). The cult of Tlaloc was so popular that it may well have influenced all the cultures of Mesoamerica.

           Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun...of the origin of Aztec Gods:

"According to what the old natives told about the birth and beginning of Satan, whom they called Huitzilopochtli, to whom the Mexicans paid great honor and homage". "There exists no clear nor genuine (truthful) account about the origin of the gods, in truth, nothing is known about them. What they say (about it) is, that there is a place called Teutioacan, and there, since time immemorial, all the gods gathered and conversed, saying, "Who is going to govern and rule the world ? Who is going to be the sun?" (this was told elsewhere.) And that when the sun was born and came forth, all the gods died and not one of them remained".



Above, on the right is a page from the Codex Mendoza, an Aztec codex created just after the Spanish Conquest, that shows tribute collected by Aztec civil servants from the province of Tochtepec. Above on the left is a closeup of that tribute in a two-handled vase, that may in fact be psilocybin mushrooms. The enlarged image shows the probable psilocybin mushrooms emerging from a stylized Fleur-de-lis emblem, symbolic of divinity.   
In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the general word for mushrooms was nanacatl and that the intoxicating species, the Psilocybe mushroom, was called teonanacatl, a term Sahagun gives us, teo-, or teotl, meaning god, that which is divine or sacred, "the flesh of god" (Wasson, letter to Borhegyi, June 23, 1953).  The Psilocybe mushroom contains the substance psilocin and psilocybin, the active ingredient in LSD, that causes the mushroom hallucination that was described as "consciousness-expanding" during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The psilocybin mushroom is indigenous to the sub-tropical regions of the U.S, Mexico, and Central America.
Quoting R. Gordon Wasson...
"The Nahua (Aztecs) did not know they were dealing with a mere drug, as we say, a chemical compound with a known molecular structure and a known impact on the human mind. They were dealing with a miraculous, a divine gift" (Wasson, The Wondrous Mushroom; 1980  p.80-81)
Above is a scene from another Mixtec manuscript also from Highland Mexico, called the Codex Bodley, it was also painted sometime around A. D. 1500.  I propose that the artist intentionally encoded a Fleur de lis symbol on top of what I believe is a sacred mushroom, as a metaphor of a divine gift, and that the three dots below the Fleur de lis is code for a trinity of creator gods.


Above are symbols and names for the 20 day signs in the Aztec calendar, note that the symbol on the bottom right referred to as a flower and representing the number 20, is identical in shape to the Old World Fleur de lis symbol. I propose that this Aztec symbol referred to as a flower and representing the number 20 is really a symbol for divinity, or "Lord" and represents an esoteric symbol of a divine Trinity of gods associated with a Tree of Life and a mushroom of immortality. The word, xochinanacatl, meaning "flower mushroom " xochitl meaning flower and nanacatl meaning mushroom, is recorded in Fray Alonzo de Molina's lexicon of the Nahuatl language, the language of the Aztecs, published in 1571.


                  The Fleur de lis as a symbol of Lord


Above is the list of the 20 Zapotec day signs from Javier Urcid (2000). The Zapotec glyph on the bottom right, encodes a symbol into the headdress which I will demonstrate is a pre-Conquest version of the Old World Fleur de lis symbol of ruler or lord.


Above is a Olmec influenced Zapotec urn from (Tomb 7) Monte Alban, in Oaxaca Mexico. The urn portrays a ruler or deity with facial features that appear remarkably similar to those found in the cultures of Asia. Note the familiar "Olmec snarl" symbolism of a snarling underworld jaguar. The ruler or deity portrayed is crowned with a symbol of rulership that I believe represents a New World version of  the Old World Fleur de Lis symbol. (photograph of Zapotec urn from http://roadslesstraveled.us/monte-alban/) 

The metropolis of Teotihuacan in the valley of Mexico  exercised a great deal of influence over all of Mesoamerica between 300-700 C.E.. as shown archaeologically by the widespread distribution of Teotihuacan ceramics depicting the city's patron gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc. 
Above is a Classic period (200-650 CE.), Teotihuacan drinking vessel that portrays the Mexican war-god Tlaloc,  or ruler impersonating Tlaloc, wearing his trademark goggle eyes, and an elaborate headdress  crowned with a Fleur-de-Lis symbol.

The Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, like Quetzalcoatl and  Tlaloc,  are often depicted in pre-Columbian art holding a serpent staff representing lightening bolts. Tlaloc was also known as "The Master" and "the Provider", because he bestowed immortality on all those willing to take their own lives. (Bierhorst, John, 1998 p.206). Tlaloc, I believe, with his were-jaguar underworld attributes, was the god of ritual decapitation, and as the Evening star aspect of the planet Venus, he was the  god of Underworld resurrection.

The Mexican god Tlaloc was clearly connected with a warrior cult associated with the planet Venus as Star of the Evening and the ritual of decapitation. This Tlaloc-Venus warfare cult spread from the great metropolis of Teotihuacan into the Maya area during the Early Classic period when Teotihuacan was at its apex. The Mexican god Tlaloc, who is easily recognizable by his trademark goggled eyes, shared the same temple in the great metropolis of Teotihuacan with the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl. Their duality as the Evening Star and Morning Star aspects of Venus suggests that they were both the patron deities of Teotihuacan connected with the ruling dynasty. 


The god Tlaloc, portrayed above in the pre-Conquest Codex Borgia, one of the few remaining pre-Conquest codices, is recognizable by his trademark goggled eyes, and feline fangs. Although the Spanish sources never refer to Tlaloc as a mushroom god, I propose that his  goggled eyes reflect a mushroom vision of paradise called Tlalocan, the fourth level of heaven and a place of endless spring. Those who died and went to Tlalocan were blessed with immortality. 


In my examination of pre-Columbian art I have discovered that the gods that appear to be linked to mushroom imagery are clearly linked to the planet Venus as both a Morning Star and Evening Star.  

It must have been a natural step for the ancients to associate this dualistic Venus God, Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc, with both life in the upper world and death in the underworld. In his guise as the Evening Star, Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc presided over the nightly death of the Sun God  as he sank beneath the horizon into the underworld. (Sharer, 1994:120)  Judging by an abundance of images painted on Maya funerary vases, I believe they thought he was then ritually decapitated and transformed into a baby jaguar or "were-jaguar."  According to Aztec legend, he was resurrected each morning by Quetzalcoatl/Tlaloc as the Morning Star, and ascended into the heavens on the wings of a harpy eagle. The harpy eagle was thought of as the jaguar of the day sky being the greatest avian predator of Mesoamerica. The harpy eagle was most likely the personified form of the katun period (a period of almost 20 years) among the Classic Maya becoming a symbol of the morning sky associated with human sacrifice and divine resurrection in nourishing the new born sun (Miller and Taube, 1993:82-83).  


The drawing above is of a Classic period Teotihuacan III fresco from Teopanzalco, Mexico entitled "el altar del sol."  I believe it depicts mushrooms in the frieze on both the right and left, to symbolize the sacred journey of Venus into the underworld as the sacrificial were-jaguar. The two priests in this scene represent the twin aspects of the planet Venus as Morning Star and Evening Star. They appear to be offering their blood in sacrifice at an altar that symbolizes the underworld Sun God of the present world (note twisted olin symbol in center of sun) . The two priestly characters in feline headdresses with loop-shaped speech scrolls (esoteric symbol of Quetzalcoatl's religion) are dressed in the guise of were-jaguars. Their outfits are decorated with numerous five-pointed stars which have been identified as Nahuat Venus symbols from highland Mexico. It is my guess that the two figures represent Venus as both the morning and the evening star. Teotihuacan's influence over all of Mesoamerica  between A.D. 300-700, can be identified archaeologically by the widespread distribution of Teotihuacan ceramics, which depict Teotihuacan's patron gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc.


Venus, the brightest star (actually a planet) in the sky, was visible to early sky watchers even, at times, during the day. What must have seemed truly fascinating about Venus is that it appears as both a Morning Star and an Evening Star. As the Morning Star, rising before dawn, it may have seemed to "resurrect" the Sun from its nightly sojourn through the Underworld. At night, as the Evening Star, it appears after the Sun's daily "death" and descent into the underworld. For this reason it became closely associated with death and resurrection in the Underworld.

Venus also appears to die and rise again from the underworld with great regularity. Every eight years it can be predicted that Venus will return to the "same position in the sky, at the same time of year in the same phase every eight years" (Milbrath 1999:51).  The "fiveness" of Venus, 5 synodic cycles, comes from the fact that five Venus cycles of 584 days each equal eight solar years to the day, and that 584 days is the time it takes for Earth and Venus to line up with respect to the Sun.  This day was a period ending day in the sacred 260 day calendar (almanac) and always ended on the day Ahau or Ajaw. Ahau means Lord. Ballplayers wore knee pads with the symbol of Ahau, theorizing I guess that the game was played at the completion of a time period in the sacred calendar, like a katun ending (20 yr. period) for example which ended on the day Ahau.


Most of Mesoamerica shared the same calendar. Above is the Mayan Tzolkin calendar which has the same cycle of 20 day names. Each day has a glyph to represent it, and the glyph at the bottom right, Ajaw also spelled Ahau: means ruler, king or "Lord", and is the counterpart for the central Mexican day sign "flower" (Xochitl).  The idealized Venus cycle always ended on the day 1-Ahau, (Milbrath, 1999 p.170).



Above is a pre-Columbian figurine (note god-eyes) now in the Denver Museum, holding what I would argue is an Amanita muscaria mushroom. Note the figurine's large god eyes, and three Ahau icons (also spelled Ajaw), one on each knee, and one on his ballgame belt (yoke). There is plenty of evidence that ballplayers from the Gulf Coast area wore kneepads with the Ahau glyph design, a symbol of Maya kingship (S.F. de Borhegyi 1980, p.8).

The ritual ball game can only be explained as a cross cultural phenomenon, for it transcended all linguistic barriers in Mesoamerica. The earliest known archaeological site from which actual ball game paraphernalia has been recovered is El Manati on the on the Mexican Gulf Coast. Excavations (Scott JF, 1976, no.46 pp.25-48) have uncovered a stone yoke and a serpent-shaped scepter (early Preclassic 900 B.C.) indicating an early relationship between the ball game and serpents. Serpents were consider vehicles of transformation and rebirth. The words for serpent and sky (heaven?) being homonyms in the Mayan language (Miller and Taube, 1993 p. 150, 154).

Gerard Van Bussel (Van Bussel 1991 Ibid pp. 256-57) analyzed the relationship between the Maya words for blood and semen, and concluded that the ball game may be an allegory of life through dynastic succession, and that the serpent-shaped scepter found at El Manati may be an insignia of power and kingship.

In the creation story of the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh, we are told that there was a previous world that was created, destroyed, and re-created before the present creation. In the previous world age, twin brothers known as Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu represented the Morning Star playing a ballgame on the eastern horizon. The new world was created on the day when the first word was uttered. According to Maya inscriptions at the archaeological sites of Coba and Quirigua, that day was 4 Ahau 8 Kumk'u, the day in the Mayan calendar when Venus rises from the underworld as the Morning Star. Considered the completion day or starting point in the Maya Long Count, it set all the cycles of the calendars in motion.

There is a repeating cycle of 20 named days in the 260 day calendar each day represented by a unique symbol or glyph, the 20th day named Ahau, which means Lord, or Ruler. The 20th day name in Quiche is Hunahpu, a name we find in the Popol Vuh which means "the One Master of Magic Breath" (Gates, 1978 p.53).

Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock who translated the Popol Vuh into English has identified five episodes involving underworld decapitation and self decapitation in the Popol Vuh. He notes that, based on evidence discovered by Maya archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi, he does not rule out the presence of an Amanita muscaria mushroom cult in the Popol Vuh (Tedlock,1985: 250). In one episode the ball playing Hero Twins decapitate themselves in the underworld in order to come back to life.




Beyond the Ballgame

Nahua manuscripts (Annals of Cuauhtitlan) record that it was Lord Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl who invented the ballgame (Irene Nicholson, 1967 p.117). Throughout Mesoamerica wherever a temple stood dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, there existed a ball court. 
One Aztec myth claims it was the Toltic king Quetzalcoatl who was defeated in a ballgame and that event is what causes him to abandon and flee his beloved city of Tula, marking the end of the Toltec empire (Mendieta 1945, p.88) (The Mesoamerican Ballgame 1991, p.340).
In pre-Columbian art, ballplayers are often depicted wearing curious stone objects that archaeologists have called "palmate stones" or palmas and stone hachas, the Spanish word for axe.  According to ancient murals and relief sculptures, the palmas  were part of the protective gear worn by players in the Mesoamerican ballgame. While those worn in actual play were likely carved in wood, stone palmas, hachas, like the ones shown below, were probably used for ceremonial purposes.


The photograph is from the 1963 publication "The Rubber Ball Game of Ancient America",  written by the author's father and mother, archaeologists  Stephan F. de Borhegyi and Suzanne de Borhegyi-Forrest. The ballgame palma, is from Veracruz, Mexico, dating to the Late Classic Period, 600-900 C.E. and depicts a stylized trefoil that I propose is a pre-Columbian version of the Old World Fleur de lis emblem. The palmate stone is now in the collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum.



Above is a miniature stone hacha,  from Veracruz, Mexico (Late Classic Period, 600-900 C.E.) ( photograph from Whittington, 2001)


Hachas, like the one depicted above, fit into the belt or yoke worn by ballplayers in the Mesoamerican ballgame. This miniature hacha was probably used in ceremonies associated with the ballgame. The stone hacha represents a decapitated trophy head of a wrinkled faced and toothless old man wearing a cone-shaped hat. The wrinkled face and toothless mouth suggest the Old Fire God (Xiuhtecutli), while a closer look reveals the image of a sacred psilocybin mushroom encoded in the cheek and hat. The conical or cone-shaped hat, in this case mushroom-inspired, is a trademark attribute of the Mexican god-king Quetzalcoatl and of his priesthood.




TEONANACATL,  "God's Flesh" 



Not long after the fall of the Aztec capital it was reported to Hernando Cortes that the Indians were using certain mushrooms in their religious ceremonies, consuming them as Spanish friars put it, in a demonic religious communion and calling these sacred mushrooms teonanacatl, meaning " Gods flesh"  "Teo" meaning god in the language of the Aztecs. The Spanish friars and Conquistadores who reported on the religious use of mushrooms, shortly after the conquest were repulsed by the apparent similarities of the mushroom ceremony to the holy Christian communion. The Spanish clergy was understandably horrified at what they interpreted as a devil-inspired misinterpretation of the Holy Eucharist.

One of the first twelve Franciscans to arrive shortly after the conquest of Mexico was Toribio de Paredes who the Indians affectionately called Motolinía "poor man". Motolinia ends his disquisition with the observation that the Indians served the mushrooms in Holy Communion (source, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, by R. Gordon Wasson and Stephan F. de Borhegyi, Harvard University, 1962).

         Motolinía recorded...

“They had another way of drunkenness, that made them more cruel and it was with some fungi or small mushrooms, which exist in this land as in Castilla; but those of this land are of such a kind that eaten raw and being bitter they....eat with them a little bees honey; and a while later they would see a thousand visions, especially serpents, and as they would be out of their senses, it would seem to them that their legs and bodies were full of worms eating them alive, and thus half rabid, they would sally forth from the house, wanting someone to kill them; and with this bestial drunkenness and travail that they were feeling, it happened sometimes that they hanged themselves, and also against others they were crueler. These mushrooms, they called in their language teonanacatl, which means 'flesh of God' or the devil, whom they worshiped.”  (Wasson and de Borhegyi 1962, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin)


Another Spanish chronicler Jacinto De La Serna, also drew the analogy between the Christian Eucharist and the eating of the mushroom; Serna suggests that the Indians regard  the flesh of the mushroom as divine, or as he considers it diabolic (source, The Hallucinogenic Mushrooms of Mexico and Psilocybin: A Bibliography, by R. Gordon Wasson and Stephan F. de Borhegyi, Harvard University, 1962).





Above is a sixteenth-century drawing from the Florentine Codex, Book 11, by Frey Bernadino de Sahagun. The image depicts the sacred mushroom of the Aztecs, called teonanacatl  meaning "Gods Flesh". The seated figure wearing a white robe, and drinking from a goblet is depicted in front of two severed mushroom caps. 


Above is a sixteenth-century drawing from the Florentine Codex, Book 11, by Frey Bernadino de Sahagun. The image was described by Sahagun as the sacred mushroom of Mexico, called teonanacatl  by the Aztecs, which means "Gods Flesh". The image of a bird perched on top of the mushrooms is a metaphor that alludes to the bird deity (Quetzalcoatl) that sits atop the world tree in Mesoamerican mythology. In Mesoamerican mythology the World tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens,  represents the axis mundi  or center of the world. The branches represent the four cardinal directions. Each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk of the World Tree which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal to the underworld.





The sixteenth century Florentine Codex, is a collection of well documented ethnographic information written by Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, organized into twelve books consisting of over 2400 pages and over 2000 illustrations drawn by native artists.  The illustration above is from Sahagun's Florentine Codex of teononacatl, the hallucinogenic mushroom of the Aztecs.  ( Sahagun,1950 p. 517).


Above is another 16th-century illustration from the Florentine Codex of teononacatl, the hallucinogenic mushroom of the Aztecs. ( Sahagun,1950 p. 517).

Spanish chronicler, Fray Bernardino de Sahagun who lived in Mexico from 1529 to 1590, was more sympathetic to the Indians and their culture than most of his colleagues.  He was probably the first to record the use of mushrooms in his famous Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, written between 1547 and 1582. He wrote that the Indians gathered mushrooms in grassy fields and pastures and used them in religious ceremonies because they believed them to be the flesh of their gods (Teonanacatl), and that the mushrooms produced powerful visions and voices that were from God.

 In the Florentine Codex, Sahagun describes a lady of the night on mushrooms...

"she parades, she moves lasciviously...she appears like a flower, looks gaudy...views herself in a mirror... she bathes... she goes about with her head high, [she is] rude, drunk, shameless, eating mushrooms.  She paints her face , variously paints her face, her face is covered with rouge, her cheeks are coloured...rubbed with cochineal...she arranges her hair like horns [a fashionable style of hair arrangement]"...finds pleasure in her body...;and, "she waves at one...beckons with her head..." (H. Thomas 1993, p.291).



Above is a page from the Florentine Codex. Despite the fact that the objects falling from the basket into the jar appear to be both the size and shape of mushrooms, they have been identified in the past as being kernels of maize.



The image above, from the Magliabecchiano Codex, that shows the eating of wild mushrooms to summon the God of the Underworld. (jpg - www.erowid.org/.../golden_guide/images/g062.jpg) Jimenez Moreno, identified this Nahua god as Mictlantecuhtli, God of the Underworld. The codex which was painted on European paper  has been dated sometime shortly after 1528 (Wasson, 1980 p.114). Ethno-mycologist Gordon  Wasson writes that the fact that the mushrooms depicted above are painted green was  iconographic code, in that the color green, being the color of jade meant that the object depicted was of great worth and considered divine or holy.   


I believe that its possible that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have been cultivated for purposes of trade, in the Maya area. Hundreds of bottle-shaped pits have been excavated in the Highlands of Guatemala around the archaeological site of Kaminaljuyu.  Dug into the ground like man made caves, they are similar to the chultuns found at other sites in the Central and Northern Maya areas. Although commonly thought to have been used for food storage, they would have absorbed water during the rainy season and become too damp for this purpose. According to archaeologist Michael D. Coe, (1993:44), "Chultunobs (chultuns) were ubiquitous, but are often so damp that stored food may have rotted."  Were these man-made caves the perfect habitat for growing mind altering (mind controlling?) mushrooms for trade?  Ancient merchants could have cultivated mushrooms from billions of spores and traded them throughout Mesoamerica and even into South America. If this was indeed the case, it would have been an important source of power and wealth.



Both of the pages illustrated above are  from Sahagun's Florentine Codex. They depict what I believe is the eating of sacred mushrooms before decapitation. The speech scrolls maybe  representing the word for god esoterically depicts the symbol of the religion. The scepter of sorts depicted on both pages above may represent in code the Amanita mushroom and the "fiveness of Venus" in the depiction of five tiny mushrooms which emerge from the scepter.   The codex page on the right depicts what appears to be the smiling faces of sacrificial victims, looking very mush like willing participants, about to consume sacred mushrooms prior to their decapitation. Note that their capes have been turned around as bibs, maybe to be used after decapitation as a ritual bundle. The seated figure on the lower right is being offering an axe, suggestive of self sacrifice, but not necessarily indicating the ritual or act of self-decapitation.

All Mesoamericans believed that the greatest gift one could offer the gods was one's own life; in return for immortality, a concept of eternal life from death. It is likely that in Mesoamerica the notion of divine immortality via Underworld decapitation was inspired by the mushroom ritual itself.


Quoting Fray Sahagun...

“It was said that they did not die, {the Indians} but wakened out of a dream they had lived; this is the reason why the ancient said that when men died  they did not perish, but began to live again, walking almost out of a dream, and that they turned into spirits of gods… and so they said to the dead: “Lord or Lady, wake, for it begins to dawn, now comes the daylight for the yellow feathered birds begin to sing, and the many colored butterflies go flying”; and when anyone died, they used to say of him that he was now teotl, meaning to say he had died in order to become spirit or god.”


There are numerous historical reports as well as visual images that link mushroom consumption to the ritual of  self sacrifice and ritual decapitation. These include blood letting, penis perforation, and even the improbable act of self-decapitation. Scenes of Underworld Jaguar transformation not only contain mushroom imagery, but are often preceded by scenes of decapitation. I believe that mushrooms were so closely associated with death and jaguar transformation, and Venus resurrection, that I conclude that they must have been believed to be the vehicle through which both occurred. With so much visual evidence suggesting that hallucinogenic mushrooms were consumed prior to ritual decapitation, it seems reasonable to propose that they were considered essential to the ritual itself, whether in real life or symbolically (self decapitation) in the underworld or in the ritual ballgame.   
Above is an early pre-Conquest codex painting, that depicts a blue sacrificial victim, holding an axe in one hand encoded with the Fleur de lis, and three sacred mushrooms in the other hand symbolizing the trinity. Its possible that the use of the color blue to denote sacrifice comes from the fact that the stem or stipe of the psilocybin mushroom turns blue when picked or bruised. That characteristic blue color is, in fact, the best and safest way to identify a psilocybin mushroom. ( Guzman, 2009:261)

In Mesoamerica, rituals of self-sacrifice and decapitation, whether in real life or in the Underworld, are a metaphor that allude to the sun's nightly death and subsequent resurrection from the Underworld by a pair of deities (twins) associated with the planet Venus as both the Morning Star and Evening star. This dualistic aspect of Venus is why Venus was venerated as both a God of Life and God of Death. It was said that, they [the Quiche Maya] gave thanks to the sun and moon and stars, but particularly to the star that proclaims the day, the day-bringer, referring to Venus as the Morning star (The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, 1953 third printing 1974, p. 184).

The religion in Mesoamerica starting with the Olmecs up to the Aztecs, was grounded in sacrifice, and the need to offer the lives of men, women, and children to the gods. The ritual of decapitation was based on what I believe was an esoteric cult of the human head associated with a mushroom cult, linked to a trophy head cult.


Above are images from Spanish chronicles and pre-Hispanic and Colonial period manuscripts called codices, that I would argue esotericlly encode the Fleur de lis in depictions of decapitation.

The late ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson theorized  that the origin of ritual decapitation may lay in the mushroom ritual itself, In a letter to Borhegyi in 1954 he writes:

"The cap of the mushroom in Mije (or Mixe) is called kobahk, the same word for head. In Kiche and Kakchiquel it is doubtless the same, and kolom ocox is not “mushroom heads”, but mushroom caps, or in scientific terminology, the pileus of the mushroom. The Mije in their mushroom cult always sever the stem or stipe (in Mije tek is “leg”) from the cap, and the cap alone is eaten. Great insistence is laid on this separation of cap from stem. This is in accordance with the offering of “mushroom head” in the Annals and  the Popol Vuh.  The writers had in mind the removal of the stems, When the "heads are consumed, they are not chewed, but swallowed fast one after the other,  in pairs." ( June 7, 1954, MPM archives)  


Sahagun states in Book 9 of 12 that traveling merchant groups known as the pochteca, which translates to " priests who lead," were devout followers of Quetzalcoatl spreading his religion under his patron name of Yiacatecuhtli or Yacateuctil, Lord of the Vanguard.  Maya archaeologist Eric Thompson named the god Ikal Ahau or "Black Lord", as the god of death among the Tzotzil Maya (Orellana,1987:.163). This same god is also known to scholars as God M, designated by Paul Schellhas in his list of Maya gods published in 1904 (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.147-48).


The pochteca journeyed in all directions from Central Mexico, carrying merchandise as well as spreading the mushroom religion of Quetzalcoatl. The Amanita muscaria and psilocybin mushroom when consumed generates an altered state of consciousness that is deemed spiritually divine. The  mushroom, being the medium through which one achieved ecstasy and thus communion with the gods. 

A passage from book 9 reads: 

"the eating of mushrooms was sometimes also part of a longer ceremony performed by merchants returning from a trading expedition to the coast lands. The merchants, who arrived on a day of favorable aspect, organized a feast and ceremony of thanksgiving, also on a day of favorable aspect. As a prelude to the ceremony of eating mushrooms, they sacrificed a quail, offered incense to the four directions, and made offerings to the gods of flowers and fragrant herbs. The eating of mushrooms took place in the earlier part of the evening. At midnight a feast followed, and toward dawn the various offerings to the gods, or the remains of them, were ceremonially buried."


               Quetzalcoatl delivers mushrooms to his children, mankind

In the Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus  [below], believed to be a 14th century Mixtec document, the original of which is now held in the National Library of Vienna, Austria, page 24 shows the ceremonial use of mushrooms held in the hands of gods. Attention was first called to these figures by Alfonso Caso, who provisionally identified what he called "T-shaped" objects in the manuscript as mushrooms. Heim later published this page in color and accepted without hesitation its mushroomic interpretation. More recently, Peter Furst has concurred in this opinion in his minute examination and analysis of the codex. Also summarizing the significance of this page, Wasson concludes that it shows "the major place occupied by mushrooms in the culture of the Mixtecs." 



Above is page 24 of the Mixtec Codex Vindobonensis, also known as the Codex Vienna. The codex is one of the few prehispanic native manuscripts which escaped Spanish destruction. It was produced in the Postclassic period for the priesthood and ruling elite.  A thousand years of history is recorded In the Mixtec Codices, and Quetzalcoatl (9-Wind), who is cited as the great founder of all the royal dynasties, is the pervasive character. 

In 1929 Walter Lehmann noted the resemblance to mushrooms of the objects portrayed in the hands of many of the characters depicted in this Codex.  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.  

According to Aztec legend,  Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl created mankind from the bones he stole from the Underworld Death God, whose decapitated head Quetzalcoatl holds in his hand.  Note the tears of gratitude on the individual sitting immediately opposite Quetzalcoatl.  This individual, and those who sit behind Quetzalcoatl on the left also hold sacred mushrooms and all appear to have fangs.  Fangs suggest that, under the magical influence of the mushroom, they have been transformed in the Underworld into the underworld jaguar. 

In the middle of the page on the right side Quetzalcoatl is depicted  gesturing to the god Tlaloc directly in front of him to open the portal to the underworld.  According to Peter Furst, who describes this  iconography, the scene depicts the divine establishment of the ritual consumption of sacred mushrooms" (1981, p.151).  He identifies the triangular or V-shaped cleft in the basin of water on the left as a cosmic passage through which deities, people, animals and plants pass from one cosmic plane to another. 

On the bottom left,  two figures stand beside another V--shape portal of Underworld resurrection. The figure on the left who points to the sky, also has fangs. He appears to be a human transformed at death into the Underworld Sun god, or mythical "were jaguar".  This gesture probably signifies resurrection from the Underworld. The two-faced deity wearing a harpy eagle headdress in front of him holds what appear to be sacred psilocybin mushrooms.

This two-faced deity is,  in all likelihood,  the dualistic planet Venus and the god of Underworld sacrifice and resurrection. Note that the two-faced deity is painted black (signifying the Underworld) and wears a double-beaked harpy eagle headdress (signifying the sun's resurrection). The harpy eagle represents one of the attributes of Quetzalcoatl and the new born Sun God. The five plumes in the harpy eagle's headdress refer to the five synodic cycles of Venus. The three mushrooms in his hand refer to the Mesoamerican trinity:  the three hearthstones of creation. ie., the sun, the morning star and the evening star. Two-headed birds and two headed feline-looking serpents commonly represent Quetzalcoatl as both the Morning Star and Evening Star.

The circle below the feet of the figure on the left is divided into four parts, two of them dark and two light, each with a footprint.  The Fursts, Peter and Jill, have identified this symbol as representing the north-south axis or sacred center as the place of entry into the Underworld. (Furst, 1981: 155).

Metaphorically, then, the  mushrooms bestowed to mankind represent the soul and flesh of Quetzalcoatl. If human beings partake of him they acquire some of his divine essence. In the scene below from the Codex Vindobonensis, Quetzalcoatl holds in his left hand the head of the underworld god of death. I interpret this as symbolizing their belief that a ritual decapitation in the underworld would result in the deceased's resurrection and rebirth. I believe that this interpretation is strengthened by the two depictions of the V-shaped cleft symbolizing the portal to the underworld in the left panel of this scene. The upper scene depicts the deceased in the act of plunging through the portal into the underworld. In the lower scene, the portal is shown being opened by the outstretched arms of Quetzalcoatl.  It would not have been difficult for them to conclude that  mushrooms were indeed a gift to mankind from the gods.


We know from the early chronicles that Quetzalcoatl (known in the Maya area as Kukulcan and Gucumatz) was a Toltec ruler, and was apotheosized as the planet Venus.  Quetzalcoatl's mushroom ritual of underworld jaguar transformation and Tlaloc Venus resurrection (depicted above) was so sacred that, if one gave one's own life in sacrifice the act emulated Quetzalcoatl, himself.  (Wauchope, Ekholm and Bernal, p.323)    


Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, tells us that...

 "the one that was perfect in the performance of all the customs, exercises and learning (wisdom) observed by the ministers of the idols, was elected highest pontiff; he was elected by the king or chief and all the principals (foremost men), and they called him Quetzalcoatl"... " In the election no attention was paid to lineage, but rather to the customs, exercises, learning and good (clean) living; (meaning) whether they led this life unalterably (steadfastly); kept all the rules, observed by the priests of the idols"  (Sahagun, The History of Ancient Mexico,  1932  p.202).  



Above left is a close-up from page 24 of the Codex Vindobonensis shown earlier, of one of the eight figures who receive mushrooms from Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God.  Note that the individual on the right with tears (or dangling eyeballs if he represents a constellation?) is said to be Pilsintecuhtli.


In Aztec mythology Pilsintecuhtli is "the Young Prince" and Lord of the rising Sun, (note harpy eagle headdress) and may have been another name for the Aztec Sun God named Tonatiuh.  A close-up of this weeping figure reveals that he wears a harpy eagle headdress which is also associated with the cult of Quetzalcoatl as the Morning Star. The fanged figure on the left holding the sacred mushrooms, may represent Venus as an Evening Star as he and the others next to him (above left, and note fangs) will transform into a jaguar when they enter the underworld and that these fanged characters may represent eight of the Nine Lords of the Underworld (or Night) or nine if you count Pilsintecuhtli. 

Above on the right is the close-up of the figure who receives mushrooms from the Wind God Quetzalcoatl . He has been identified as Pilsintecuhtli, a manifestation of the Aztec god Xochipilli, a child god who was the prince or lord of psychedelic flowers (Manuel Aguilar, Ethnomedicine In Mesoamerica, p. 80). Note that this individual not only has mushrooms in his hand, but also is shown with fangs denoting underworld jaguar transformation. According to archaeologist Stephan de Borhegyi, "snouted and fanged anthropomorphic individuals with dangling eyeballs are a feature commonly associated with the god Quetzalcoatl in his form of Ehecatl the Wind God" (S.F de Borhegyi 1980:17).


                         The Birth of Quetzalcoatl ?


Various scholars, primary among them Mexican art historian Miguel Covarrubias, have interpreted the above image as depicting the birth of the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl. Beautifully carved on a jaguar bone, it was found in Tomb 7 at the site of Monte Alban near Oaxaca,Mexico. Here Quetzalcoatl, the central figure, wears what looks like the goggles of Tlaloc. He is still attached by his umbilical cord to what I believe is a mushroom-inspired World Tree. The head on the left wearing goggles and depicted as emerging from the jaws of a serpent, represents Quetzalcoatl’s rebirth and resurrection from the underworld. The tree, which bears mushroom-like blossoms is, in essence, a divine portal and metaphor for the spiritual journey of deified resurrection. This Mesoamerican metaphor links the place of creation at the center of the universe (place of ballgame sacrifice)  with the resurrection star that is the planet Venus. I believe the artist has encoded the mushroom-inspired World Tree as it would have been seen through the goggled eyes of the Mexican god Tlaloc, a god associated with the Evening Star, underworld jaguar transformation, and decapitation. According to Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso, a sculpture in the Berlin Museum of Ethnography depicts Tlaloc’s goggled eyes as being made up of two serpents intertwined to form a circle around his eyes. The serpent imagery, and its connection with the vision serpent or bearded dragon,  identifies Tlaloc’s link to Quetzalcoatl and K’awil, his Maya counterpart. (Drawing of the birth of Quetzalcoatl taken from Covarrubias, 1957:.266)



In South America, Quetzalcoatl has an almost identical counterpart from an ancient Inca legend named Viracoccha. Spanish explorer, and historian Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (1532–1592) wrote in his "History of the Incas", that Viracocha, "Creator of all things" was described as "a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe, and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands" (from "History of the Incas" by Pedro Sarmiento De Gamboa, translated by Clements Markham, Cambridge: The Hakluyt Society 1907, pp. 28-58).
We known that the Toltec ruler named Quetzalcoatl who died in the year 1 Reed was apotheosized as the planet Venus. In the New Testament, Jesus also claimed to be the Morning Star... “I am the root and offspring of David, The Bright And Shining Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16).“To him that overcometh I shall give the Morning Star” (Rev. 2:28)     
Both Quetzalcoatl and Jesus are said to have sacrificed themselves to end all sacrifice,  both were born of virgins, both prophesied future events, and both promised they would return a second time.
Christian missionary and anthropologist Eunice V. Pike writes  (1960),  that Christian missionaries had difficulty in converting the Mazatec Indians of Mexico, because they equated hallucinogenic mushrooms with Jesus Christ.  In a letter written to my father and Gordon Wasson in 1953, Pike elaborates on the subject of the mushroom and Jesus Christ: (March 9, 1953, de  Borhegyi archives, MPM)

"I’m glad to tell you whatever I can about the Mazatec mushroom.  Someday I may write up my observations for publication, but in the meantime you may make what use of it you can.

The Mazatecs seldom talk about the mushroom to outsiders, but belief in it is widespread.  A twenty-year old boy told me, “I know that outsiders don’t use the mushroom, but Jesus gave it to us because we are poor people and can’t afford a doctor and expensive medicine.”

Sometimes they refer to it as “the blood of Christ,” because supposedly it grows only where a drop of Christ‘s blood has fallen. They say that the land in this region is “living” because it will produce the mushroom whereas; the hot dry country where the mushroom will not grow is called “dead.”

They say that it helps “good people” but if someone who is bad eats it “it kills him or makes him crazy.” When they speak of “badness”   they mean “ceremonially unclean.” (A murderer if he is ceremonially clean can eat the mushroom with no ill effects.) A person is considered safe if he refrains from intercourse five days before and after eating the mushroom.  A shoemaker in our part of town went crazy about five years ago. The neighbors say it was because he ate the mushroom and then had intercourse with his wife.

When a family decides to make use of the mushroom they tell their friends to bring them any they see, but they ask only those who they can trust to refrain from intercourse at that time, for if the person who gathers the mushroom has had intercourse, it will make the person who eats it crazy."

The Book of Mormon tells of an Ancient Hebrew People who came to America, leaving Jerusalem around 650 BCE.

Like the Hebrews, the Aztecs considered themselves to be a "chosen people", and like the Aztecs, suffered plagues and wondered in the desert for many years before reaching their so called promised land. John Taylor who was the third president of the Mormon church from 1880 through 1887, wrote the following statement...
"The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being" (from Jerry Stokes, Did Jesus Christ walk the Americas in Precolumbian Times ?)


Most Book of Mormon scholars argue that the Olmec culture relates to the Jaredite culture, referring to customs and traditions of those in and about Jerusalem and Egypt (Diane Wirth 2007) The Book of Ether (1:33) tells us that the Jaredites, Jared and his people, left the Middle East when the languages were confused at the tower of Babel, sometime around 2500 B.C., and that they voyaged across the ocean to the Promised land.  

Quoting Diane E. Wirth author of Why “Three” is Important in Mesoamerica and in the Book of Mormon © 2012)    
 "The Popol Vuh of the Quiché Maya speaks of three creator gods, and many Mesoamerican sites had a triad of gods. Each polity had a different set of names for their three deities. Some speculate that is why Christianity was accepted so readily by the natives. After the Spanish Conquest, a Spanish priest by the name of Francisco Hernandez studied the natives and concluded the Indians already believed in the Trinity. He sent a letter to Bartolome de las Casas, a Bishop of Chiapas in the mid 1500’s, and las Casas reported what Hernandez wrote":
"They knew and believed in God who was in heaven; that that God was the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. That the Father is called by them Icona [Içona in the Spanish text] and that he had created man and all things. The Son’s name was Bakab who was born from a maiden who had ever remained a virgin, whose name was Chibirias, and who is in heaven with God. The Holy Ghost they called Echuac ".                                        



Archaeological evidence of a trinity of creator gods among the ancient Maya, appear at numerous archaeological sites including Palenque, Cerros, Uaxactum, Caracol and at Tikal, during the Early Classic Period 250-400 C.E. (Proskouriakoff 1978:116) (Milbrath 1999:102).

         Maya archaeologist David Freidel...

"as the most ancient and sacred of all Maya deities, these three gods played a crucial role in the earliest symbolism of kingship that we saw at Cerros, Tikal, and Uaxactun. " (Maya Cosmos 1993)



Evidence of a trinity of gods among the ancient Maya was also provided by the late Ethno-mycologist Bernard Lowy, linking sacred mushrooms with lightening and a creation myth, and a triad or trinity of creator gods, associated with divine rulership.


          Quoting Ethno-mycologist Bernard Lowy.....  

"During a visit to Guatemala in the summer of 1978, I stayed in the village of Santiago de Atitlan, a community where Tzutuhil [Mayan] is spoken and where ancient traditions and folkways are still maintained. There I learned that in Tzutuhil legend mushrooms are intimately associated with the creation myth.  In the Quiche pantheon the god Kakulja, he of the lightning bolt, one of a trilogy of supreme gods, is revered above all others, and in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book in which the traditions of the Quiche people are recorded (Edmunson, 7), his position of ascendency is made clear".    (from Lowy, Revista/Review Interamericana, vol. 11(1), pp. 94-103, 1980) 


The Quiche Maya of the Guatemala Highlands describe the Amanita muscaria mushroom as supernatural, and call it lightening mushroom or in Quiche Mayan  cakulja ikox, ikox meaning mushroom, and relate this supernatural mushroom with the Lord of Lightening, Rajaw Cakulja (Furst, 1976 p.82).  


           Ethnologist  Bernard Lowy...

"Maya codices has revealed that the Maya and their contemporaries knew and utilized psychotropic mushrooms in the course of their magico-religious ceremonial observances" (Lowy:1981) .


Lowy reported in 1974, "Amanita mucaria and the Thunderbolt Legend in Guatemala and Mexico" page 189, that cakulha was not only the Quiche term for thunderbolt but is also the Quiche name for Amanita mucaria mushroom. In the Popol Vuh, the mushroom gods of the Quiche Maya were named Thunderbolt Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, and Raw Thunderbolt, alluding to a Trinity of gods also named in the Popol Vuh as Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz. 

The Popol Vuh is the sacred book of the Quiche Maya, written sometime around 1550, it has a reference to the Old World as a point of departure, and of coming from "the other side of the sea" (Alma Reed, 1966, p.9).
The Popol Vuh tells us that the Quiche people received their gods at Tulan, the mountain of the Seven Caves. Jaguar Quitze received Tohil, Jaguar Night received Avilix, and Mahucutah received Hacauitz.

Anthropologist Dennis Tedlock who translated the Popol Vuh in 1985, mentions that the principal gods among the Quiche Maya are listed “again and again” as Tohil, Auilix, and Hacauitz (beginning on p. 171 and ending on p.222) and calls these three gods, "the three Thunderbolts". 

The patron god Tohil, has been identified as a Quiché variant of the god Quetzalcoatl. The Quiche god Avilix, or Auilix (P.V. Tedlock, p.326 1985) was the patron god of the Greathouse lineage given to Jaguar Night at Tulan Zuyua. According to Dennis Tedlock Lord Auilix was the title of the priest of the god Auilix; who was seventh in rank among the lords of the Greathouses and headed one of the nine great houses into which their lineage was divided after the founding of Rotten Cane.

According to the Popol Vuh, the migration of the Quiché Maya tribes was led under the spiritual “guidance” of Tohil, their patron deity. Like the Itzas, the Quiche people also believed that they were led by Lord Plumed Serpent from Tollan /Tula. He led his people eastward to the “land of writing” (the Maya area?) to a sacred mountain top citadel called Bearded Place, and it was there that the Quiche people settled down to live. This brave leader was described as a bearded white man “whose face was not forgotten by his grandsons and sons” as described on page 205 by Dennis Tedlock (Tedlock: 1985: 205. 213).

In a manuscript written in Quiche in 1554 by several Maya Indians, its Spanish translator, Padre Dionisio-Jose Chonay, had this to say:

"It is supposed in the manuscript that the three great Quiche nations mentioned in particular are descendants of the Ten Tribes of the Kingdom of Israel, whom Shalmaneser reduced to perpetual captivity, and who, finding themselves in the confines of Assyria, decided to emigrate ." 


The Popol Vuh tells us that the god Tohil, who has been identified as a Quiché variant of the god Quetzalcoatl, was actually loaded in the backpack of Lord Jaguar Quitze and that Auilix was the god that Lord Jaguar Night carried on his back, when they received their gods at Tulan Zuyua, known as Seven Caves, and according to Dennis Tedlock also the name of the mountain where the Quiche people went to receive their gods (P.V. Tedlock, 1985 p.171).


Above is a closeup view of a 14th century Mixtec document, known as the Codex Vindobonensis, or Codex Vienna, one of the few Prehispanic native manuscripts which escaped Spanish destruction. The codex depicts Lord Quetzalcoatl as the Wind God, delivering mushrooms to his children, mankind.  Note that Quetzalcoatl is depicted with a bearded mushroom god strapped to his back. 


Dennis Tedlock notes (P.V. 1985 p.326) that the patron god Auilix (mushroom god ?), was given to Lord Jaguar Night, at the mountain of the Seven Caves and taken to "the great canyon in the forest" (P.V. Tedlock p.178) to a location that came to be named Pauilix, literally "At Auilix".  Could these be the legendary caves called Chicomoztoc, the name given for the place of mythical origin of the ancient Mayas, Toltec and Aztecs, called the "place of  emergence"?

Dennis Tedlock writes that he does not rule out the possible presence of an Amanita muscaria mushroom cult in the Popol Vuh, as well as among some present-day highland Guatemalan shamans (Tedlock, 1985, P.V. p.250). 




Above is a Preclassic stela from the archaeological site of Izapa, located on the Pacific coast, near the border of Guatemala, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Archaeologists have theorized that Izapa may have been settled as early as 1500 B.C. making Izapa as old as the Olmec sites of La Venta and San Lorenzo.

Maya researcher Vincent Malmstrom proposes that the origin of Mesoamerica's Ritual 260 day calendar is from Izapa, and that he places the calendar's origin at 1359 B.C. (Susan Milbrath 1999 p.64).          

The Izapa stela, reproduced below, depicts a bearded man in a boat, maybe even a foreigner from the Old World, who voyaged to the New World bringing with him a mushroom cult, and the symbol of the Fleur de lis and a trinity of gods (see drawing below). Note that the boat is shaped or encoded like the Maya Ik glyph, (a capital T) a symbol of the Wind God in Mesoamerica, and similar in shape to the Old World tau cross.


Referring back to the Izapa stela, see drawing above, we see a long-lipped, or long-nosed deity depicted in the sea below,  crowned with an emblem similar in shape and meaning to the Fleur de lis, along with an X-symbol encoded in his head, a common attribute of the Maya god Chaac, known to scholars as God B, designated by Paul Schellhas is one of the most continuously worshiped rain and lightning gods of ancient Mesoamerica portrayed on Stela 1 at the ancient ruins of Izapa (Miller and Taube, 1993 p.146).
Chaac, or God B, is a Maya deity derived from a serpent, and is the most frequently represented god in the four pre-Hispanic Maya codices, and in the Colonial texts Chaac is referred to as the god of cornfields, as a manifestation of water, in the form of rain, lakes, rivers, and the sea. In Mesoamerica, this X-symbol is clearly linked to the dualistic nature of the planet Venus as a death and resurrection star. Many of the monuments at Izapa portray winged deities and a religious theme of a World Tree or Tree of Life.


The Mayan Ik glyph, is shaped like a capital T, however it's shape is similar to a mushroom in profile,  and the Indo-Aryan Tau cross.


I found the T-shaped Ik glyph in Mesoamerica to be intimately connected with the Fleur-de-lis symbol, and tied to the births of the Maya god GI, (Chaac) of the Palenque Triad, and the Mesoamerican god-king Quetzalcoatl as 9-Wind.   


The three-sided figurine above from Veracruz Mexico, is evidence of a Three-in-one deity, or Trinity of Gods in Mesoamerica.



Above is a close up of a Late Classic Period (600-900 C.E) ceramic incense burner from the ancient Maya city of Palenque, in Chiapas Mexico. The ancient city of Palenque is home to a trinity of Maya gods known as the Palenque Triad. The god-king that's portrayed on the incense burner, with feline attributes is crowned with two X-symbols, and two Fleur de lis symbols, one on ether side of a deity known as G-I of the Palenque Triad, Mesoamerica's version of the Holy Trinity. The inscriptions at Palenque tell us that the king was considered the incarnation of GI, of the Palenque Triad, and that GI was the first of the triad to be born (Editors, Archaeology Magazine, Secrets of the Maya, 2004:109).  Art historian Linda Schele and archaeologist David Freidel propose that GI ( designated God B by Schellhas) is the planet Venus and that GIII is the sun (Milbrath 1999:102) This so-called triad of gods among the ancient Maya, also appear during the Early Classic and Late Classic periods at the sites of Caracol and at Tikal. (Proskouriakoff 1978:116) (Milbrath 1999:102). GI of the Palenque Triad, was born on 9 Ik, meaning "9 Wind," which is the same birthday as the Wind God Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, also born on 9 Wind. In the Dresden and Madrid codices the T-shaped Ik glyph is used to portray God B or Chaac's eye. Both GI (God B) and Quetzalcoatl are associated with the planet Venus and the ritual of Underworld decapitation (Schele and Freidel, A Forest of Kings, 1990 p.245). G I, of the Palenque Triad has been identified as a shark-toothed anthropomorphic god whose attributes include a Spondylus shell ear-flare and shell diadem in his headdress encoded with an X-symbol. 

Around the end of the Late Preclassic period (900 B.C. to A.D. 250) writing begins to appear sporadically in Mesoamerica, celebrating time honoring events, and the great deeds of Mesoamerican god-kings. In Mesoamerica we  find carved stela of Maya kings dressed in elaborate costumes (deity impersonation) that reinforce the king's status as divine, and his power over life and death.

By the Classic period (200-650 CE.) the Maya's powerful gods had taken on the multiple aspects so basic to their concept of the supernatural, and yet so confusing to the Western mind. K'awil, and Chaac (to whom Schellhas assigned the letters God K and God B), had become sources of dynastic rule. K'awil's image, depicted as a serpent-footed figurine called the manikin scepter,was held by rulers as a symbol of divine power. Additionally, the Maya god K’awil has been identified by scholars as the Quiche Maya counterpart of the god Tohil, who has been identified as a Quiché variant of the god Quetzalcoatl (P.V. Tedlock, p.326 1985)



Above is a reproduced image of Stela 20 from the archaeological site of Coba, in Yucatan Mexico, that portrays a Maya ruler, who wears an elaborate long nosed feathered headdress, crowned with what appears to be a Fleur de lis symbol. The Maya king, known only as Ruler C from Coba, holds a "Double-headed-serpent-bar," also known as the Bicephalic ceremonial bar, a royal symbol that has been identified as a symbolic representation of the "World Tree", known among the ancient Maya as the Wakah Chan, meaning "Raised-Up-Sky", a gateway or portal to the spirit world. In Maya mythology when First Father raised the World Tree he "entered" and he became the Tree, and that this act of entering, or perching in the Tree's topmost branches as the new Principal Bird Deity was an event that magically organized all space and time in the three levels of the universe, the Underworld, earth plane, and the Upper world (Douglas Gillette 1997, p.37).
Legendary archaeologist Sylvanus G. Morley believed the Maya ceremonial bar symbolized the highest religious rank during the Classic period (A.D. 250-900). The Maya god K'awil also known as God K (designated by Schellhas), is the god most frequently depicted emerging from the  Double-headed-Serpent Bar during the Classic period. It was believed to summon the deities associated with immortality linked to bloodletting rituals and sacred mushrooms. The ceremonial bar likely represents a cosmological icon of the "World Tree", the axis mundi, which was an up and down portal linked to the dualistic nature of the planet Venus as a Morning Star and Evening Star.
The inscriptions on Stela 20 reveal that the ruler's name may have been given the title kaloomte’ (see E1 of stela text, Gronemeyer 2004), a title  comparable to the supreme rank of “emperor” (Harrison, 1999 p. 92). The ruler is portrayed wearing the elaborate headdress of the Maya god Chac-Xib-Chac, designated God B by Schellhas, also known simply as Chaac from the later Maya codices. Archaeologists propose that Ruler C is portrayed impersonating Chaac on Stela 20 at his accession, or resurrection from the underworld. This suggests that Ruler C entered the afterlife impersonating this deity. Chac-Xib-Chac  is a long-lipped deity with both reptilian and fish-like features. He wields an axe and is commonly depicted in Maya art associated with the ritual of underworld decapitation. Because of Chaac's reptilian attributes he is commonly mistaken for the serpent-footed Maya deity known as K'awil (also spelled K'awiil, or Kauil) the other so-called long-lipped Maya deity. K'awil known as the Lord of Lineages, is believed by many scholars to be a version of G II of the Palenque Triad. Chaac, or Chac-Xib-Chac, has more fish-like features, and is and is frequently depicted wearing a shell earflare and a shell diadem in his headdress depicting an X-shaped symbol that I identify as a portal to underworld, linked to mushrooms and underworld decapitation.               

Maya kings may have believed they were actually communicating with the god K'awil when they performed sacred bloodletting rituals after consuming the intoxicating beverage, that opened the door to the spirit world. 

Because the glyphs on Stela 20 are too eroded to be read, the ruler portrayed on Stela 20 is known only as Ruler C. However its known that Maya rulers who impersonated the deity Chac-Xib-Chac at their death, resurrected from the Underworld not as Chac-Xib-Chac, but as the reincarnation of the Sun God, Kinich Ahau in the likeness of the god K'awil. Maya researchers inform us that, when we see K'awil's burning torch piercing the king's forehead or cranium, the king is being reborn at the precise moment of his resurrection and apotheosis, and is reborn as the deity Unen K'awiil or Baby K'awiil" (Stone and Zender 2011, p. 31) . An excellent example of the king's underworld transformation can be found in the inscriptions at Tikal in which the name given to this king is Sihyaj Chan K'awiil, which means "heavenly K'awiil is born" (Stone and Zender, Reading Maya Art,  2011, p. 149).

Archaeologist Michael Coe mentions in his book, "Reading the Maya glyphs" (page 112), that K'awil's glyph is almost always a logogram but that a smoking mirror or forehead devise are also commonly used. Coe also mentions that the bar-and-dot notation of the number "nine" is associated with K'awil, possibly indicating an alternate name for K'awil, a name found in Bishop Landa's Relacion, as Bolon Ts'akab. I have noted that directly in front of Ruler C, there is a bar glyph with four dots indicating the number nine, and that there are glyphs that mention the seating of Lord Kinich Ahau, or that of the Ruler of Coba portrayed on Stela 20, as "Kinich Ahau u ba K'awiil"  

Ruler C may have had the distinguished title of Kaloomte, as a "living king", but at his death, and his accession from the underworld, he resurrected as a reincarnation of the Sun God known as Kinich Ahau (also spelled Ajaw, and likely GIII of the Palenque Triad?). I believe that the open hand glyph meaning "to raise up", directly in front of Ruler C, tells us that "he was raised" or that the "World Tree was raised", an opening of a divine portal, and that the glyph directly below the open hand glyph  may mean "he arrived", and that just below that glyph is the glyph already identified as a title that reads, "Kinich Ahau" or "Great Sun Lord". So rather than use the title Kaloomte which is a bit sketchy anyways because the upper glyphs are so eroded and unreadable, we can conclude that Ruler C resurrected from the underworld reborn as baby jaguar but in the likeness of K'awil.

This would imply that Maya rulers who impersonated the god Chac-Xib-Chac at death, resurrected from the Underworld not as Chac-Xib-Chac but in the likeness of the god K'awil. Maya researchers inform us that when we see K'awil's burning torch piercing the king's forehead or cranium that the king at the precise moment of his resurrection and apotheosis, is reborn as the deity "Unen K'awiil or Baby K'awiil" (Stone and Zender 2011, p. 31). The ruler also wears clothing encoded with a 3-dot motif, that I believe is code for a trinity of gods, know as the three hearth stones of creation.




The arrival of Europeans to the New World caused what could easily be argued as the greatest disaster in human history. This disaster was no less than the tragic depopulation of Native Americans. According to Berkeley researchers Woodrow Cook and Sherburne Borah, when Cortés landed in Mexico in 1519 there were an estimated 25.2 million people living in central Mexico.  After Cortés, the population dropped to around 700,000 people.  By 1623,  just over a century after  Cortés arrival in the New World,  the area had experienced a 97 percent drop in the aboriginal population. A Spanish traveler in post-Conquest Peru named Pedro Cieza de Leon is quoted by Bartolome de Las Casas as saying...


"We Christians, have destroyed so many kingdoms....For wherever the Spaniards have passed , conquering and discovering, it is as though a fire had gone destroying everything in its path."  (Mann, 2005:143-145).

The hallucinogenic mushroom cult, which has survived to this day among certain tribes like the Zapotec, Chinantec, and Mazatec Indians of Mexico, has not, to my knowledge, been reported among the present day Maya. Ethno-archaeologist Peter Furst did report as recently as 1972 that Quiche Pokomam Maya shamans consumed mushrooms during  their religious ceremonies  (Furst, 1990: 28).

That it may well have been in use in Pre-Hispanic times, however, is suggested by early dictionary sources which describe a mushroom the ancient Maya called xibalbaj okox meaning “underworld mushrooms”, and k’aizalab okox, meaning “lost-judgment mushrooms." The Mayan word for mushroom in Keqchi  is ocox (Spenard 2006:72). 

It is quite possible that the mushroom cult of Quetzalcoatl may still survive in remote areas of the Guatemala highlands.  I was surprised to find on a visit to Guatemala in 2009,  that the Maya Indians of the Guatemala Highlands were selling these tiny Amanita muscaria mushroom toys in the markets like the ones depicted below.  Although the seller informed me that the Maya did eat this variety of mushroom,  it is possible she may have been referring to the non-hallucinogenic Amanita caesarea mushroom, a non-poisonous mushroom commonly sold in markets in Mexico and Guatemala and much appreciated for its delicate flavor (Guzmán, 2002:3).

                          (Photo by Connor de Borhegyi)



                                         (Photo by Cole de Borhegyi)

I bought several of these toy Amanita muscaria mushrooms as gifts. They all have a quetzal bird sitting in a tree painted on the stem. Although clearly a child's toy produced for the tourist trade, they bear symbolism of great antiquity. In Mesoamerican mythology the World tree, with its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens,  represents the axis mundi  or center of the world. The branches represent the four cardinal directions. Each of the directions was associated with a different color while the color green represented the central place. A bird, known as the celestial bird or Principal Bird Deity, usually sits atop the tree. The trunk, which connects the two planes, was seen as a portal to the underworld. The Quetzal bird, now the national bird of modern Guatemala, was considered sacred because of its green plumage. I believe there is now clear evidence that the Amanita muscaria mushroom is a symbol of equal antiquity.

While indigenous traditions are being lost at a rapid rate everywhere in the world, in Mesoamerica they have thus far  proved to be highly resistant to change. Though weakened and almost seamlessly incorporated into Christian beliefs, the use  of hallucinogenic substances in native religion has apparently persisted in the more remote areas where they are used in native curing and divination ceremonies. It is precisely the Maya's and Nahua's strong sense of cultural identity that has enabled their communities in Guatemala and Mexico to survive years of discrimination and brutal persecution. In this sense, it can be said that their old Mesoamerican gods are still helping to protect them from evil.  


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                                    About Carl de Borhegyi                







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Painting above from the Florentine Codex written by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun with the aid of Indian informants and artists between 1545  and 1575, 1577. The Florentine Codex contains a wealth of priceless ethnographic information.  Bottom painting from Fray Diego Durán's  Histories of New Spain, (No 4 endnote written between 1537-1588 )   [i]



The Florentine Codex, a monumental twelve volume collection of well documented ethnographic information, gives us more information about Aztec religious beliefs. Recorded by Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, it was organized into twelve books consisting of over 2400 pages and over 2000 illustrations drawn by native artists.    The 12 volumes are now located in the Laurentian Library in Florence where it may have been sent to be judged by the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic Church most likely banned the book because of its descriptions of pagan rituals. It remained unknown until it's rediscovery in 1883 [ii]

[i] Durán's  Histories of New Spain, 1537-1588)   


[ii] (Bernardino de Sahagún