Psychedelic Culture Meets Tribal Spirituality
This chapter looks at the relationship between shamanism and psychedelic culture, focusing on the experience of investment banker R. Gordon Wasson and his Russian-born wife, Valentina, with mushrooms. Valentina and Gordon eventually embarked on their lifelong quest to explore the role of mushrooms in the histories and folklore of different cultures. When Valentina died of cancer in 1958, Gordon continued this quest alone. Eventually, his explorations evolved into research on possible links between hallucinogenic mushrooms and early religion. What came out of this research was a small community of scholarship that brought together people who believed that plant hallucinogens gave rise to human spirituality in archaic times; essentially, Wasson and his colleagues added a new hallucinogenic dimension to shamanism studies. That “psychedelic scholarship,” which was closely linked to the counterculture of the 1960s, not only informed the debates about shamanism among academics but also aroused and fed public interest in shamanism.
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