Who was Maria Sabina?
Maria Sabina is a Mazatec shaman who became the link between the tradition of psilocybin mushroom use and the world of American and later European culture. Thanks to her, the world heard about magic mushrooms. Born in 1894, she lived in the small village of Huautla de Jiménez in Mexico and grew up in a shamanic family. Maria is a healer who has exposed the health benefits of natural medicine. The priestess was respected and called the mother of sacred mushrooms. She practiced the ritual of veladas, or keeping vigil next to a person under the influence of large amounts of psilocybin. She led her participants through song, dance and herbs. Her breakthrough came in 1955, when she was contacted by the researcher, ethnomycologist Robert Gordon Wasson. Through this acquaintance, Maria Sabina was rejected by the city’s indigenous community, she was found guilty of revealing the secret of magic mushrooms, which involved disrespecting tradition and cultural appropriation.
The beginning of a magical road.
Maria Sabina Magdalena García was born into a family where shamanic knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. From an early age, Maria was exposed to regional ceremonies that bring people closer to the god. At the age of eight, she tried hallucinogenic mushrooms for the first time during a trip to the forest with her sister. It was an intuitive tasting-Maria knew that these mushrooms were used by a local curandero Juan Manuel to treat the sick. Before eating, she was said to have said, “If I eat you, you and you, I know you will make me sing beautifully.” Maria felt a special bond with nature and had a dialogue with the invisible world. From that moment on, she knew her way.
Ritual velada-a healing ceremony.
Velada is another way of saying vigil. The ceremony has been known since pre-colonial times and involves a healing vigil at the side of a sick person. It is a rite reminiscent of the Eucharistic agape. The shaman’s method of treatment uses Psilocybe mushrooms, which contain psilocybin. They grow in a specific mountain range. This purification ritual is done at night, in silence, in peace and quiet, usually in a hut away from people. Noise and light may interfere with driving. Velada can be initiated for one or more people. During the séance, the shaman rhythmically utters, chants and sings verses and claps. Mushrooms were taken on an empty stomach and chewed very slowly. At the climax, the patient experiences auditory and visual hallucinations, words and visions come to him while maintaining his identity.
Velada Maria Sabina.
Maria Sabina’s Veladas were extremely poetic. During the ceremony, the priestess sang carried away by mushrooms, touching the ends of the universe. In doing so, she used powerful words and beautiful melodies floating through consciousness. Maria Sabina was the patient’s guide on the journey into himself, sending and receiving him from the spirit realm. It combined other dimensions with reality. Her long recited songs are a reminder of how sensitivity is written into our original state. Maria Sabina was illiterate, did not know Spanish, and sang or spoke verses. It expressed the voice of the “holy mushroom”, whose voice no one knew. Thanks to recorded records, her words were translated from indigenous Mazateco into English and later into other world languages. These translations do not come from her, which is important, but from the messages. She did not write her story. People have carried away her legend. There is not even such a word as “book” in the Mazatec language.
Songs originally performed by Maria Sabina:
Sabina indulged in rituals by starlight, sang traditional songs of her ancestors and created her own poetry. In ceremonies she used tobacco, herbs, ointments made from plants with medicinal properties, mezcal (known in the West as tequila) and hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are called Niños Santos, or “Holy Children,” by Mexicans. The shaman believed that illnesses are brought to a person by a god, and that by cleaning the soul and mind, the body can be healed.
She herself talked about herself like this:
“The holy mushroom takes me by the hand and leads me to a world where everything is known. There are holy mushrooms, they speak in a certain way and I understand them. I ask them questions and they answer me. When I come back from a trip I take with me, I repeat back to people what they told me and what they showed me.”
“My wisdom cannot be learned; my language no one taught me, for it is the language that the ninos santos speak when they find themselves in my body.”
I am a woman who looks inward
I am a woman of the daylight
I am a woman of the moon
I am a morning woman
star I am a female god-star
I am a woman in the Guarache constellation
I am a woman in the constellation of reeds
Because we can go to heaven
Because I Am Pure Woman
I am a good woman,
Because I can go in and out of the realm of death.
I am a woman who cries
I am a woman who spits
I am a woman who no longer gives milk
I am a woman who says
I am a woman who screams
I am a woman who gives life
I am a woman who does not stop
I am a woman who floats
I am a woman who flies in the air.
I am a woman who sees in the dark
I am a woman who feels a drop of dew on the grass
I am a woman made of dust and diluted wine.
I am a woman who dreams of being hit by a man
I am a woman who is always hitched
I am a woman who does not have the strength to lift the needle
I am a woman doomed to die.
I am a woman of simple inclinations
I am a woman who breeds vipers and sparrows in her cleavage
I am a woman who grows salamanders and underarm ferns
I am a woman who grows moss in her chest and abdomen
I am a woman that no one has ever kissed enthusiastically
I am a woman who hides pistols and rifles in the wrinkles of her neck.
I am a woman who makes thunder
I am a woman who makes me dream
I am a woman spider, a woman sucking
I am an eagle woman, an eagle owner
I am a woman who spins because I am a woman with a whirlpool
I am a woman from Enchanted, a sacred place
Because I am a meteorite woman.¹
Considered one of Mexico’s greatest poets, she was an extremely modest person herself. She claimed to have spoken the words of a higher being with whom she connected through sacred mushrooms.
The Life of the Holy Priestess of Mushroom.
Her path on Earth was not easy from the very beginning. When she was just three years old, she was orphaned by her father. The situation forced her mother to go to work and put little Maria and her sister in the care of her grandparents. The family lived in poverty, with the children helping with farm work, silkworm farming and household chores from an early age. As a young girl of 14, she was given in marriage. Her first husband was Serapio Martínez, with whom she had three children, Catarino, Viviana and Apolonia. Unfortunately, she was widowed after six years; her husband died after returning from fighting in the Mexican Revolution. Maria Sabina experienced this very much, and became ill (from the description of her condition, it can be inferred that it was deep depression). With help came natural medicine, which she turned to. During a ritual using Ninos Santos she received revelations, her destiny was to heal those in need. The girl grew up and gained more and more experience working with mushrooms. The villagers began to recognize the extraordinary potential and gift of sensitivity with which she was endowed. She gained respect and esteem among the local population, and her name speaks for itself-Sabia-“Wise.” Interestingly, Maria never abandoned her Catholic faith; she even once called mushrooms the blood of Christ.
In her later years, life did not spoil her, she worked hard to support her family. The ceremonies have moved on. After ten years, a mysterious man appeared in her life – Marcial Carrera, who allegedly engaged in black magic. He was jealous of Maria’s skills and power, and was said to have used physical violence against her. This toxic relationship resulted in six children, but none survived. Marcial was also said to have cheated on Sabina. When the affair came to light, his lover’s children were said to have fatally beaten him and laid his body in front of the family home. (Wikipedia footnotes often incorrectly state that it was Maria Sabina’s children from her first marriage who carried out the murder of her stepfather.) Maria once again became a widow. During this time, her sister María Ana fell ill. Doctors spread their hands, giving the woman no chance of survival. Maria decided to return to velada practice, helped her sister, and the latter recovered. The séance she organized was special to her, that’s when she heard her father’s voice and got a Holy Book from beings from another dimension, a book with all the knowledge she needs to heal people. Maria was deeply moved by the message, but reasserted her purpose. News of Mary’s return to practice with sacred mushrooms spread quickly. During her marriage to Marcial, she abandoned ceremonies because she had to live a life of sexual abstinence in order to be in the role of healer. After the death of her spouse, Maria Sabina completely devoted herself to natural medicine. Even the local church appreciated her devotion and respected the healings she performed. The woman has become a respected healer in the Huautla area.
Meeting of two worlds-Robert Gordon Wasson visits Mary Sabina.
The story of the miracle healer carried over the mountains, reaching further and further away. Maria Sabina’s fame has finally reached the Western world. The first researcher who was intrigued by the legend of Maria Sabina was Robert Gordon Wasson. American economist and ethnobotanist who, with his wife Valentina Pavlovna Guercken, made many trips to the Mazatec Sierra. The subject of his research was the use of hallucinogenic plants in ritual ceremonies by indigenous peoples from different parts of the world.
In 1955, Wasson, Valentina Pavlovna Guercken, photographer Allan Richardson and a translator get permission from Maria Sabina to attend the velada ceremony. They arrive at the home of the Holy Priestess by prior arrangement. Convincing Maria Sabina to open the floodgates of perception by the “white man” was not easy. However, Robert Wasson eventually convinced the shamaness and at the same time became the first Western culture man to have a ritual with “Niños Santos.” Read more about the ceremony here.
Curse of Eva Mendez, or Life magazine article.
After returning to the states, Wasson published his experiences in Life magazine. The article caused quite a stir and excitement on both the scientific and social levels. To protect Maria’s privacy, the scientist changed her name to Eva Mendez. It didn’t help much. Soon after the release of the article in the widely read Life, more books are being written, and the legend of the famous healer has become popular among the pulsating hippie movement. In the States and Europe, interest in LSD and psilocybin has peaked. Initially, it was knowledge reserved for researchers and intellectuals, but soon embraced the masses. Maria’s living legend has attracted many celebrities to her. Among her guests were Bob Dylan, Aldous Huxley, Albert Hofmann (creator of LSD 😉, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Walt Disney (now you know where he got his inspiration from). Maria Sabina was no longer just the Holy Priestess of Mushrooms, she became a pop culture icon.
Unfortunately, with all the wisdom of mushrooms passed on to Western culture, it has given away a piece of indigenous tradition. Crowds of hippies seeking spiritual experiences flocked to the area around the mountain of all Huautla de Jiménez. Foreigners were eager for transcendent experiences, but also most simply just wanted to get high. They overlooked the history of the ancient heritage and did not respect Mazatec culture and religion. Hippies set up encampments near the town, vandalizing and making life miserable for the locals. A police patrol was set up in front of the entrance to Huautla and did not let through anyone who looked like a “flower child.” Arrests and haircuts for those braver ones trying to get through were the order of the day. Maria Sabina’s community rejected her way of life; they did not want their indigenous rituals to penetrate the masses. More incidents with newcomers were reported in the city, and Maria Sabina was accused of drug use and arrested. International scholars have stood up for her release. Maria Sabina was given much and much was taken away from her. Local opponents burned down her house, she was born in poverty and died in poverty, high in the mountains. Under the pseudonym Eva Mendez, she brought misfortune upon herself. Paradoxically, she opened the door to healing for so many people around the world, and at the same time closed the door to natives out of fear.
For this time, residents of the northern Oaxaca region sentimentally recall the days when hippies besieged the town, recalling how their children or grandchildren played with John Lennon, or slept on the bed where the musician once spent the night. Today the gate to Huautla is decorated with a crest with mushrooms, and behind it stands a statue of a mushroom crowned with the figure of Maria Sabina. But time cannot be turned back….
Maria Sabina’s legacy.
For a certain point in her life, Maria Sabina led the life of a celebrity, she did not wallow in riches, but she was financially stable, her ceremonies were paid for by voluntary donations, or she did not even expect anything in return. She died in 1985, and worked until her last days to have money for tobacco and alcohol. She left behind an invaluable legacy. At the same time, she discovered to the world the methods of healing with natural medicine, showed that it is possible to connect the real world with the world of the soul, and thus her story shows how much the modern world has seized the traditions of the ancestors, without respecting the culture of the Mazatecs. The medical practices of Mexico’s indigenous peoples have been adopted as a fad, becoming a mere product, geared toward consumerism.
The figure of the shaman has special significance among indigenous peoples. Shaman, healer, sorcerer-is a social function that is a link between the world of gods and humans. The shaman’s job is to heal the soul and body, predict the future and many tasks unimaginable to Westerners. Maria Sabina was a bridge between mysticism and her local community. She was the key to the door of transcendent spaces, her figure definitely turned the tide of the history of sacred practices, contributed to the healing of many people from outside the region, but was also the ignition for the emergence of narcotourism, or in a more sympathetic and mystical version – shamanic tourism.
Robert Gordon Wasson and many others visited Marie Sabina out of curiosity. The real reason and purpose of the purification was missing here. The shaman later admitted that by taking in more “curious” people rather than sick people, she noticed that her power was waning. And although the scientist always claimed that he had no bad intentions in conducting research and bringing the mushrooms to Europe, and gave them due respect, he felt that he had contributed to the devastation of the cult of the Sacred Mushrooms. Research into the psychedelic properties of “Niños Santos” and the development of related substances unfortunately involves extractivism, the appropriation of the heritage of Mexican Indians, and science is carrying out an epistemicide. When participating in the psychedelic renaissance, it is worthwhile to be mindful of respect for the traditions of the sacred medicine of the Mazatecs. More on the topic can be found here. Sabina said more than once that she regretted introducing the “white man” into the world of the mystery of natural medicine, but she realized that this was her destiny.
The content on psychodelicroom.co.uk is educational, research, and is an expression of many opinions, to which one should reserve. We do not encourage or even discourage the use of any means of influencing consciousness, all of which can both cure and do great harm. In particular, we advise against growing mushrooms from growkits in countries where it is illegal – min. in Poland – because it involves criminal liability. We recommend that growkits purchased from us be disposed of 72 hours after receipt.
¹Transcription of song taken from: María Sabina, I am a whirling woman