Spirit Molecules

An abbreviated version of this article was first printed in Broccoli Magazine.

While studying a rare Ecuadorian lichen traditionally known as a source of evil death magic, scientists made an intriguing discovery. Not only is Dictyonema Huaorani the first non-mushroom found to contain psilocybin — the compound that puts the magic in “magic mushrooms” — but it also produces DMT, the psychedelic compound in ayahuasca.1 And it’s far from the only unusual plant consumed for its mind-altering properties.

There are tales and traditions of consuming psychedelic plants from every corner of human civilization. For centuries, native peoples in the American Southwest and South America have eaten morning glory seeds to experience divining visions.2 In 1676, soldiers responsible for repressing Bacon’s Rebellion in Jamestown ate boiled Jimsonweed greens and tripped for several days.3 And during the Middle Ages, women healers in Europe brewed herbal concoctions with vision-inducing belladonna, mandrake, and thorn apple.

Humans are innately attracted to plants and fungi that produce altered states. From magic mushrooms to ayahuasca vines to liverwort — in our brief history on this planet we’ve sought out ways to alter our perception. We should give thanks to our ancestors who figured out which mushrooms could expand


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