Magic mushrooms are one of the oldest recreational drugs around. Depicted in cave paintings, constructs, and manuscripts just as readily as they appear in pop culture music, books, and movies, they're a psychedelic staple. And yes, they're here to stay.
Shrooms have an eclectic, colorful history that has contributed to their deeply ingrained roots in popular culture. In the following sections, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of this psychedelic's past so you can understand how they've become such a prevalent part of our society.
The Prehistoric Use of Shrooms
Yes, you read that correctly — magic mushrooms had a place in human history thousands upon thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, nobody can know for sure if these psychedelics were super popular back then, but stone paintings left by Saharan aboriginal tribes in North Africa show shroom usage from roughly 9,000 BC.
Likewise, rock paintings in Spain suggest psilocybin-containing mushrooms were used around 6,000 years ago during religious rituals at the Villar del Humo.
According to historians, mushroom use could have predated both accounts, and we just haven't found the evidence yet!
Shroom Use by the Aztecs, Mayas, and Others
Statues, paintings, and symbols left by Native American people, like the Aztecs and Mayas, suggest shrooms were used during religious rituals to communicate with higher powers.
Depending on who you speak to, the Aztecs' "flesh of the gods" was a particular type of magic mushroom.
On top of that, a 1,800-year-old statuette found in a chamber tomb in the state of Colima depicts a mushroom that looks spectacularly like the hallucinogenic shroom Psilocybe Mexicana.
Psychedelic Mushrooms Came to the Western World
As you now know, psychedelic mushrooms have been popular for literally thousands of years. However, it wasn't until the late 1950s that they found their way to the western world through a husband-and-wife team.
The couple had participated in an indigenous shroom ceremony in Mexico. Upon returning home, the Wassons spent time and effort publicizing their experience.
When 1957 rolled around, Life magazine published the pair's experience which put the rest of the world's attention on these psychedelic shrooms. In fact, the phrase "magic mushrooms" was coined in that very article!
The article was picked up by Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor of psychology, who traveled with a colleague to Oaxaca, Mexico, to experience the effects for themselves. They were so enthralled by the shrooms that they brought samples back to Harvard, eventually conducting experiments that proved psilocybin "changes lives for the better" in certain scenarios.
From there, shrooms attracted the attention of artists, musicians, and writers, escaping academia's walls and landing themselves smack-bang in the center of the hippie movement — which uninvolved parties deemed a threat to the establishment.
Magic Mushrooms in Modern Media
All that history has led to shrooms being so popular among (primarily) young people, that they've landed themselves in a variety of modern media.
In fact, 2021 saw 8.1% of young adults (i.e., 19 to 30 years old) use hallucinogens, boasting the highest record number since 1988! The most popular psychedelics were magic mushrooms, PCP, mescaline, MDMA, and LSD.
From TV series to Netflix documentaries to celebrities opening up about usage, mushies are everywhere these days. And frankly, we're exceptionally glad to see it.
Let's take a little peak at precisely where you can find these magic mushrooms talked about freely in modern media to further understand the popularity surge:
How to Change Your Mind
This Netflix docuseries brought the psychedelics conversation to the front of people's minds yet again.
Hosted by the esteemed author and psychedelic advocate Michael Pollan, it presented a wonderful exploration of the drugs' usage history.
The arguments brought to light throughout the series would have been enough to propel people already interested in the use of psilocybin (potentially you!) toward an assisted retreat to pursue mental health.
Nine Perfect Strangers
Nine Perfect Strangers is a fictional series available on Hulu based on the acclaimed Liane Moriarty book. It follows nine people who go to an off-the-beaten-path part of California for an oh-so-luxurious wellness retreat. The retreat is run by Masha, and the guests quickly learn they've been microdosing magic mushrooms.
Naturally, everything shown isn't factual. However, such retreats do exist for those seeking personal growth and mental healing.
The show highlighted these wellness practices, fanning the burning shroom embers and embedding psilocybin usage deeper into today's society.
It has been the year for celebrities like Chris Rock, Aaron Rodgers, Miley Cyrus, and plenty more to be very candid about their use of psychedelics, specifically magic mushrooms and ayahuasca. Of course, this has introduced newbies to the industry and solidified the role shrooms play in the lives of avid fans.
Interestingly, mushrooms aren't only in the media for their psychedelic effects. Stella McCartney is creating a luxury handbag constructed from mycelium.
The designer's website states mushrooms are a vegan alternative that is grown regeneratively, quickly, and renewably. It's a great material for replacing leather and other less sustainable fabrics.
Mushrooms appear to have a place in all kinds of industries!
Hopping Aboard the Trippy Bandwagon
Humans have experimented with psychedelics for thousands of years, and today is no different.