Published On: Fri, Feb 15th, 2013

Was Soma the Forbidden Fruit of Genesis?

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                     Amanita Muscaria Mushrooms encoded in Christian Art

                                      Carl de Borhegyi; copyright 2013

     According to Genesis, God told Adam that he was forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge and that if he ate of this fruit he would die.  Later, Eve was deceived by a serpent. It told her that if she and Adam ate the fruit they would never die, but would be immortal like the gods. Eve ate the forbidden fruit and then took it to Adam, who also ate it, knowing full well he had disobeyed God. For this act God expelled them both from the garden, and through this act sin entered the world. We don’t know what kind of fruit this tree bore that would cause Adam and Eve to die, but the idea that the deadly fruit was an apple was first introduced by John Milton in his epic poem Paradise Lost.

The late ethno-mycologist Robert Gordon Wasson proposed that the mythological apple in Genesis was a symbolic substitution for the bright red Amanita muscaria, a hallucinogenic mushroom commonly referred to as the Fly-agaric mushroom. Wasson further proposed, and presented substantial supporting evidence, that the mystery plant Soma from the Rig Veda was the same Amanita muscaria mushroom Although the identity of Soma stillremains one of the great mysteries in the field of religious history, there is no question but that the Amanita muscaria mushroom held a very special meaning to the artists of antiquity.

Quoting  R.  Gordon Wasson….

 “What was this plant that was called “Soma”? No one knows. Apparently its identity was lost some 3,000 years ago, when its use was abandoned by the priests”.

” I believe that Soma was a mushroom, Amanita muscaria (Fries ex L.) Quel, the fly-agaric, the Fliegenpilz of the Germans, the fausse oronge or tue-mouche or crapaudin of the French, the mukhomor of the Russians. This flaming red mushroom with white spots flecking its cap is familiar throughout northern Europe and Siberia. It is often put down in mushroom manuals as deadly poisonous but this is false, as I myself can testify. Until lately it has been a central feature of the worship of numerous tribes in northern Siberia, where it has been consumed in the course of their shamanic sessions. Its reputation as a lethal plant in the West is, I contend, a splendid example of a tabu long outliving the religion that gave rise to it. Among the most conservative users of the fly-agaric in Siberia the belief prevailed until recent times that only the shaman and his apprentice could consume the fly-agaric with impunity: all others would surely die. This is, I am sure, the origin of the tabu that has survived among us down to our own day.”

(From Wasson’s, Soma of the Aryans: ttp://www.iamshaman.com/amanita/soma-aryans.htm)

                 (Photograph on right of Amanita muscaria mushrooms by Adrian Davies)      (Photograph on left of Amanita muscaria from http://www.warrenphotographic.co.uk/01770-fly-agaric)

(Photograph on right of Amanita muscaria mushrooms by Adrian Davies)
(Photograph on left of Amanita muscaria from http://www.warrenphotographic.co.uk/01770-fly-agaric)

While the hymns about Soma have come down to us through time, the botanical identity of Soma remains a mystery. Theories abound as to Soma’s forgotten identity but we are told that drinking Soma produces immortality, and that the gods drank Soma to make them immortal. In the Rig Veda, Soma was described as a god, and as a “heavenly liquor” that was guarded by a Serpent.

Quoting R. Gordon Wasson…

“the Soma of the Rig-Veda becomes incorporated into the religious history and prehistory of Eurasia, its parentage well established, its siblings numerous. Its role in human culture may go back far, to the time when our ancestors first lived with the birch and the fly-agaric, back perhaps through the Mesolithic and into the Paleolithic.”…. “In brief, I submit that the legends of the Tree of Life and of the Marvelous Herb had their genesis in the Forest Belt of Eurasia….The Tree of Life, is it not the legendary Birch Tree, and the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Life, what else is it but the Soma, the fly-agaric, [the Amanita muscaria] the pongo of the Ugrian tribesmen?….In Genesis, is not the serpent the self-same chthonic spirit that we know from Siberia?”  (from Furst,1972, p.212; 1976 p. 103).  

Mural of Adam and Eve and the serpent at the Tree of Knowledge, superimposed over an encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom cap. Mural from St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim Germany 1192 AD.  (Image from Allegro, 1970)

Mural of Adam and Eve and the serpent at the Tree of Knowledge, superimposed over an encoded Amanita muscaria mushroom cap. Mural from St. Michael’s Church, Hildesheim Germany 1192 AD. (Image from Allegro, 1970)

Mural painting of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”. Mural from the apse of Sant Sadurní in Osormort Spain, 12th century  (Image from April Deconick   http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2012/04/sabbatical-post-3-why-mushrooms.html)

Mural painting of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”. Mural from the apse of Sant Sadurní in Osormort Spain, 12th century (Image from April Deconick http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2012/04/sabbatical-post-3-why-mushrooms.html)

The Canturbury Psalter, 1147 AD, depicting Adam and Eve and theTree of Knowledge, encoded with sacred mushrooms. (Image from April Deconick   http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2012/04/sabbatical-post-3-why-mushrooms.html)

The Canturbury Psalter, 1147 AD, depicting Adam and Eve and theTree of Knowledge, encoded with sacred mushrooms. (Image from April Deconick http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/2012/04/sabbatical-post-3-why-mushrooms.html)

Dead Sea Scroll scholar, John Marco Allegro, has written a controversial but thought-provoking study of psychotropic rituals in early Judeo-Christianity (1971).

Quoting John Marco Allegro….

 “Thousands of years before Christianity, secret cults arose which worshiped the sacred mushroom — the Amanita Muscaria — which, for various reasons (including its shape and power as a drug) came to be regarded as a symbol of God on earth. When the secrets of the cult had to be written down, it was done in the form of codes hidden in folktales. This is the basic origin of the stories in the New Testament.”  

 Christ and the Twelve Apostles, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 12th century.  I found what appears to me and the Twelve Apostles (eyes are focused on mushrooms) to be cleverly encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms “Hidden In Plain Sight" in the robe of Christ.  (Image from http://christchurchmontrealmusic.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html)

Christ and the Twelve Apostles, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 12th century. I found what appears to me and the Twelve Apostles (eyes are focused on mushrooms) to be cleverly encoded Amanita muscaria mushrooms “Hidden In Plain Sight” in the robe of Christ. (Image from http://christchurchmontrealmusic.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html)

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Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem (fresco), French School, (12th century) / Church of St. Martin, Vic, Berry, France. Note the mushrooms sprouting from what looks like a Fleur de lis symbol in the upper right hand corner of the fresco. (http://bridgemanart.com/asset/95749/French-School-12th-century/Christ’s-Entry-into-Jerusalem-fresco

The hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushroom, identified by R. Gordon Wasson as the plant and god Soma from the Rig Veda is, I believe, the inspiration of many religious ideas throughout the world. As can be seen from the images presented above, it appears not only to have played a role in the early history of Judaism and Christianity, but also may be the metaphorical key to decoding the esoteric religions of the Americas, including Easter Island.

My study of pre-Columbian art began in 1996, inspired by a theory first proposed over sixty years ago by my father, the late Maya archaeologist Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi, that hallucinogenic mushroom rituals were a central aspect of Maya religion. He based this theory on his identification of a mushroom stone cult that came into existence in the Guatemala Highlands and Pacific coastal area of Guatemala around 1000 B.C. Mushrooms were also associated with a trophy head cult, human sacrifice, and a ritual ballgame (Stephan F. de Borhegyi  1957, 1961, 1965a).  (http://www.mushroomstone.com/somaintheamericas.htm) (http://www.mushroomstone.com/fleurdelis.htm) (http://www.mushroomstone.com/)

Photograph of Maya mushroom stones by Dr. Richard Rose

Photograph of Maya mushroom stones by Dr. Richard Rose

A study of visual imagery from Mesoamerica has led me to the conviction that around 800 B.C a very early hallucinogenic mushroom cult began to take on the characteristics of a sophisticated and complicated religion. Many striking similarities between the images from the New World and Old World Asia further led me to believe that this hallucinogenic mushroom-inspired religion did not develop independently in the Americas. Rather, it was brought to the New World before Columbus by way of transpacific contact with India, China or Southeast Asia.  The great religions of Asia, in essence, are derived from Vedism, the Vedas being the sacred texts that were introduced into the subcontinent around 1500 B.C. by the Aryans (Sanskrit for noble) that postdated the Harappa/Indus civilization. In Zoroastrian religion, the same sacred plant was known as Haoma. Like Soma, it played a major role in Persian culture and mythology.

Visual evidence I have presented elsewhere of an Amanita muscaria mushroom religion in the New World appears to point directly to the Vedic-inspired cult of Soma, the divine mushroom worshiped and venerated in the Vedas, despite the fact that it pre-dates the generally accepted dates of Old World contact by more than one thousand years.  How, when, and if, Old World cultural ideas could have been brought to the Americas during Pre-Columbian times has long been a subject of intense debate among both Old World and New World scholars. This visual evidence, I believe, adds new fuel to a continuing controversy.

For more on this enlightening subject read chapter 11;

The Genesis of a Mushroom/Venus Religion In Mesoamerica, by Carl de Borhegyi and Suzanne de Borhegyi, in the upcoming book inspired by the pioneering works of ethno-mycologist R. Gordon Wasson, Mesoamerican archaeologist Stephan F. de Borhegyi, and Dead Sea Scroll scholar John Marco Allegro, titled….

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ENTHEOGENS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF CULTURE

The Anthropology and Neurobiology of Ecstatic Experience, edited by Dr. John Rush;

Available June 2013.

SUGGESTED FURTHER READING

Allegro, John M. 1970, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, Doubleday and Co. N.Y.

Furst, Peter T., 1976, Hallucinogens and Culture, Chandler and Sharp, Inc., Novato, Ca.

Irvin, J. R.  2008, The Holy Mushroom, Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity, Gnostic    Media Research & Publishing,  http://www.gnosticmedia.com/

Rush, John A.  2010, The Mushroom in Christian Art, North Atlantic Books, Frog Ltd. http://www.clinicalanthropology.com/

Wasson, R. G.,1967,   Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality

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