Amanita muscaria Ancient History

Patrick Duvivier

The Entheogen Review, vol. 7(2), pp. 34-35, 1998

In southern France stands a beautiful mountainous massif named the Maritimes Alps, the last one of the Alps chain just before it meets with the Mediterranean sea.

In the highest and most remote part of this area stands an ancient sacred mountain named Bego. This mountain is surrounded with thousands of prehistoric engravings. The core of these engravings have been dated from 2500 BC to 14 BC. It is one of the oldest and most important cultural sites of this type in Europe.

There are three impressive wild valleys conducting toward this mountain, which have been considered as being three different sacred paths. The valley that surrounds Mount Bego is named the "Valley of Wonders." The higher part of this valley opens to the most important sites of engravings. At the top of it, just at the feet of the sacred mount, there is the most central and significant site—the "Altar Rock."

It is a big red-purple rough rock standing on a large plaque of a different smooth rock covered with thousands of engravings. From a tiny hole in that plaque springs a small source of living waters. This rock stands like an altar right at the core of a gigantic natural cathedral.

Just before this magic spot, at the place where the valley narrows for a last time, stands a large plaque of a particular rock that has been carried, erected, and engraved there—which is a unique case in this context. This engraving is in many regards noteworthy. It is a very central one, and it stands on the sacred path of this valley exactly like the front on a medieval church. This site might then represent and summarize the central element of a very ancient cult.

Roccia dell'Altare, Monte Bego - foto G. Samorini This carving also has one of the fairly rare anthropomorphic figures of the site, and it has been named the "Chief of the Tribe." Now look at the reproduction of it, and it is even more obvious in a photograph or in life. This supposed "Chief of the Tribe" might rather be the representation of a shaman whose plant ally or plant of vision was the mythic mushroom Amanita muscaria.
particolare della Roccia dell'Altare - foto G. Samorini
Exactly like with the Siberian or the Ojibway shamans for whom the power of the sacred A. muscaria was also closely linked with lightning (STAFFORD 1992, Psychedelic Encyclopedia); our "Chief of the Tribe" is enlightened (symbolized by the lightning bolt) with the power of the mushroom.

The other striking thing about this story is that there is, among scholars devoted to the study of this very important site, a school among which noted personalities for over a century and a half, have developed the thesis of an Indo-European origin and influence on this site, going back to the very beginning of the Vedas. Incredibly, none of them—as far as I know—has identified the small motif over the head of the lightening-striked "Chief" as being a mushroom of the species A. muscaria. (It is worth noting that A. muscaria grow all over the foothills of these mountains.) Instead these scholars have developed all kinds of sophisticated interpretations about this so-called "abstract design."

There was a very ancient cult, 4500-years-old, in the Maritimes Alps of southeast France. Its origins go back to the end of the Neolithic, 2500 BC, and it lasted all through the Bronze and Iron ages, up to the coming of the Romans in 14 BC. This cult of shamanic practices was linked with some kind of Vedic or pre-Vedic religious influence.

Now, if we accept that the motif is a representation of an A. muscaria, and also R. GORDON WASSON’S proposition that this mushroom was the principal original component of the Vedic Soma, then we have to conclude that both had in common the ritual use of the sacred Siberian mushroom for religious and shamanic purpose. Hey people, this is quite a finding!

In turn, if the scholars who suggest a Vedic influence on this neolithic European cult are right and the motif is an A. muscaria, this might then be the first archeological discovery able to prove R. GORDON WASSON’S proposition about identity of the Vedic Soma.