Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors
Church of Our Earth – Sermon
People have used psychedelics to commune with the divine and create bonds among the living and the dead, the spiritual and the natural worlds for millennia. When we use psychedelics today for spiritual purposes, we follow the ancient practices of our ancestors.
Ceremonial use of psychedelic mushrooms reaches back into pre-Columbian times. Religious practices with sacred mushrooms extend from the Valley of Mexico to the rest of Central America. The discovery of so-called mushroom stones in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico hint at the possibility of a mushroom cult in the Mayan and Aztec cultures.
Psychedelic mushrooms were used in numerous rituals and ceremonies, either pure, mixed with mescal – a fermented agave beverage – or with chocolate. When Christian missionaries witnessed people undergoing these inebriating rituals, they deemed it to be the Devil’s work and went to great lengths to suppress the practice. These Europeans only succeeded in partially as Indians continued utilizing sacred mushroom for numerous purposes in secret.
Peyote is a mescaline-containing psychedelic cactus. The term comes from the Nahuatl word peyotl, which means divine messenger. Nahuatl is the language of the Aztecs.
After discovering that consuming the tops of the peyote cactus can induce seemingly supernatural visions, Indigenous groups in Mexico began using it in night-long ceremonies and healing rituals – with North-American archaeological evidence indicating that the usage goes back over 5000 years.
Unfortunately, peyotism has a long history of being persecuted. After it was banned in the U.S. in the 1880s, peyote groups spent numerous decades fighting its prohibition. In the 1990s, the Native American Church – which blends traditional Native American philosophy with Christian teachings – won an exemption to use peyote for ceremonial purposes through The American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Its members continue to use it as a sacred medicine to this day.
The Bwiti tradition has been practiced among many indigenous West African tribes for thousands of years. While each of these tribes has its own particular set of customs, one thing is always present: the ceremonial use of Iboga – a powerful psychedelic stimulant derived from the root of the iboga tree.
Referred to as the sacred wood, or the Bwiti consider Iboga to be a divine medicine and teacher that serves as a bridge to the ancestors.
While small quantities are consumed during healing ceremonies and for hunting purposes – keeping hunters awake and alert for long periods – initiation rites involve huge, visionary doses which are large enough to induce a deep state of coma. It is believed that the novice’s soul makes a trip into the other world during this time to communicate with the ancestors.
The mystical-type experiences induced by psychedelics make them a popular choice for those who wish to deepen their spiritual and religious beliefs. But what about those who don’t believe in a god or something more beyond the natural world?
Naturalism is the belief that only the laws and rules of nature operate in the universe, something many agnostics and atheists around the world believe.
Some naturalists consider the key elements of psychedelic spirituality to be compatible with such a worldview, such as feelings of connectedness to the natural world and the disidentification of the self. These experiences may include emotions typical of a mystical-like experience, such as awe, wonder, and mystery, but a naturalist may not necessarily tie them to supernatural beliefs.
Several thousand years ago, the book called Rig Veda was compiled in northern India. It contains a collection of 1028 hymns, of which 120 are dedicated to praising a strange plant named soma. The verses describe soma as a plant from which a potion could be made. This potion was believed to grant the gods their powers. Indeed, in art, Hindu gods are often shown holding a cup of it. And mortals believed they could use the drink to become immortal and communicate with the gods.
One verse reads: “We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered,” Verses like these indicate that soma possessed psychedelic qualities. Over the years, various substances have been suggested, including psychedelic mushrooms and marijuana. As many psychedelic mushrooms grow in cow poop, some even theorize that this could explain why cows are seen as holy in Hindu culture.
The Eleusinian Mysteries
The small town of Eleusis, fourteen miles from Athens, once housed the Temple of Eleusis, an ancient temple to Demeter, the Greek Goddess of Nature and Agriculture. Seen as the most important ritual site in ancient Athens, today, it is better known as the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Held annually for over 2000 years, the Eleusinian Mysteries were 10-day-long sacred rituals that influenced many ancient thinkers, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius.
After days of fasting and ritual dancing, initiates would drink kykeon, a thick drink with mind-altering and vision-inducing capabilities.
As speaking about these events with the uninitiated was punishable by death, many details of the Mysteries remain unclear. Nonetheless, kykeon has been greatly debated among historians, with circumstantial evidence pointing to it being a psychedelic substance.
The psychedelic beverage ayahuasca is seen as one of the most important plant medicines in the Amazon basin. While it contains DMT, a Schedule 1 drug, the brew is legal in most of Northern Latin America, where it is used in numerous shamanic rituals.
Ayahuasca is a Quechua word – the language of the Inca Empire. Roughly translated, it means ‘vine of the dead’ or ‘vine of souls’. Ayahuasca practitioners consider the brew to be a sacred plant medicine – its psychedelic visions promote healing.
Brazilian syncretic Christian churches, such as União de Vegetal, or Union of the Plants, and Santo Daime – which blend Christianity and traditional healing – are sometimes also called ayahuasca churches as ayahuasca ceremonies make up a large part of their religious traditions.
These churches are also active in the U.S., where the religious use of ayahuasca was legalized in a 2006 ruling by the Supreme Court based on the churches’ religious freedom.
While spiritual and religious beliefs certainly play a role in shaping an individual’s psychedelic experience, there is clearly space for all types of belief systems in accessing psychedelic substances’ transformational effects.
When congregates at Church of Our Earth partake in the use of sacramental mushrooms, we follow the ancient practices of all of our ancestors.
DONNA GAREIS J.D., FOUNDER
Donna works to bridge the gap in mental, physical, and spiritual practices with ancient wisdom. Our ancestors used psychedelic plants to communicate with higher powers, live in harmony with the “more than human world”, and nourish healthy communities. By intentionally and reverently microdosing, we honor the spiritual traditions of those who have tread on dirt before us and all that is supporting our existence here on Earth.
Church of our Earth
Church of Our Earth is a small faith-based religious organization in southern Maine. Our members range in age from their 20s to 70s and believe that microdosing with psilocybin-containing mushrooms is a Communion that brings us closer to what is commonly called God. Our goal is to create a supportive nationwide community of microdosers, interwoven like mycelium. We provide free and subsidized microdosing support to Mainers who qualify. Please consider supporting our mission. Church of Our Earth is grounded, nature-centered and non-dogmatic.