Mushroom Ceremony Of The Mazatec Indians
Original release: Folkways Records 8975, 1957
Recording by Gordon & Valentina Wasson in Oaxaca, Mexico
Participants: native Mexican curandera (witch-doctor) Maria Sabina, a male Mazatec indian, the Wassons and some research friends of theirs.
Comments: This field recording is of substantial historical interest, both as the earliest known vinyl document of people under the influence of hallucinogens, and as part of the Wasson couples legendary forays into remote Mexican mountains on the trail of an obscure mushroom cult. Wasson's exploits became the subject of a Life magazine article which is a watershed event in the history of psychedelics, and the psilocybin shrooms would attract interest from the whole academic/literary/ethno-botanic hallucinogen set in the late 1950s. Although the Mazatec mushroom culture has been well documented over the years, this particular LP has drawn less attention than Wasson's works and the many subsequent essays and books published, but is obviously worth attention.
The actual contents feature curandera Maria Sabina (who would later become famous, as part of the Wasson effect) eating the shrooms and setting out on a transcental journey to invoke the mushroom spirit, reporting with a steady flow of words her experiences. The reports are spoken in her native Mazatec dialect, but an ambitious translation/transcription attempt by a linguistic expert can be found on the accompanying booklet. The mushroom cult is eclectic, combining elements of Catholicism with a pantheistic strain, in a way typical for many surviving plant cults around the world. Her voice is an old woman's, often tired, sometimes venturing into sing-songy nursery rhyme structures, and during the beginning of side 2 (where she's peaking, bro) moving into a very rapid, unbroken flow of words. Rather remarkable, and according to those who have tripped with it, an efficient guide despite not being a successful invocation of the mushroom spirit (see booklet scans below for explanation). Sounds of nature, nightbirds, barking dogs, and frequent mutterings from Sabina's fellow Mazatec traveller are also audible.
The insert booklet is essential, and contains one of the relatively few photos of the Wasson couple, looking quite the explorers and a long way from Gordon Wasson's NYC banking background. See scans below for more background information and a partial translation of Sabina's rap.
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