Were Early Christians Tripping On Psilocybin Mushrooms?

Episode 24

Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown, PhD, author of Psychedelic Gospels, joins us to talk about psychedelic mushrooms in early Christian society. We hear about the evidence for psychedelic use that exists in Christian art, and how the Inquisition could have resulted in the destruction of these psychedelic traditions. Jerry also shares his vision of a future with freedom to practice psychedelic use as part of our basic religious rights.

The full episode transcript is available here.

Podcast Highlights

  • The Amanita muscaria mushroom was used by Siberian nomads and its use spread to early Christianity
  • Use of psychedelic mushrooms was probably targeted by the Inquisition
  • Amanita muscaria is the most likely identity of the ‘soma’ mentioned in many ancient texts.

Jerry was professor of anthropology at Florida International University for the past 39 years, and ran a course entitled “Hallucinogens and Culture.” Unsurprisingly, his classes were always popular.

Jerry’s course covered the indigenous use of psychedelic plants, including Amanita muscaria; the famous fly agaric mushroom. This red and white-spotted mushroom was used mostly by Siberian nomads, who noticed their reindeer acting strangely after eating the mushrooms.

It was on a visit to Scotland that Jerry and his wife Julie became interested in how psychedelic mushrooms might have been used in Christian tradition. Upon seeing the famous Amanita muscaria mushroom engraved upon fertility symbols in Rosslyn Chapel, Jerry and Julie set out across the world to discover how deeply psychedelic mushrooms were set in Christian art.

They found symbols of psychedelic mushrooms spread throughout Europe and India, as far back as 300AD and throughout the Middle Ages. There’s evidence to suggest that both Amanita muscaria and Psilocybin mushrooms were used in secret rituals throughout Christianity.

During the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, herbal medicines and midwifery were clamped down on, and treated as witchcraft. It’s believed that the Inquisition was a large factor in the gradual decline of psychedelic symbols from Christian art.

Jerry hopes that we won’t see another Inquisition-style crackdown on psychedelic ritual. He envisions modern psychedelic centers, where anyone can go to explore psychedelics in the presence of trained guides. He thinks that this time, a psychedelic renaissance is unstoppable.

Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarVince says

    I have seen the images and they do make a compelling argument.However this really has not gone far enough back to the origins of Christianity,it may have evolved at a much later date.1st century Christians were a whole different breed to the Middle Ages.Christiniaty started as an offshoot to Judaism,very devout followers of Jesus,more likely to be filled with spiritual awakening and meditation than drugs.See Gospel of Thomas as an flavour of what they believed in before the Catholic Church came along,Elaine Pagels desribes their spiritual beliefs very well in this book.

    Divinity is within us,we just need to see it,you don’t need hallucinogenic drugs to get it.

  2. AvatarPhotios says

    This “scholarship” is so full of holes it is ridiculous. As soon as I heard him say that the Roman Catholic Church was the early Christian Church, his arguments all fell apart. The catholic (papal) church began between the 9-11th centuries. The ancient Christian Church is the “Orthodox Church”, which still exists today. The Church had zero to do with the Spanish Inquisition and only one of the examples of churches he mentioned could possibly be an ancient Christian Church. The rest are products of Christian “churches” that have very little to do with authentic Orthodox Christianity. Dr. Brown also insinuates that midwifery and herbal medicine is considered witchcraft. This couldn’t be more false. The Church of St. Constantine has zero to do with the Roman Catholic Church. Bad scholarship.

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