Robert Gordon Wasson
Meet Robert Gordon Wasson, banker and author who introduced the Magic Mushroom to the world! Find out more in this article.
Banker turned Ethnomycologist
Wasson originally began a career in banking. He started at Guaranty Trust Company in 1928 and moved to J.P. Morgan & Co. in 1934, where he became vice president. All the while he was invested in the study of Magic Mushrooms after a romantic holiday redefined his life.
Wasson's interest in ethnomycology sparked in 1927 during his honeymoon trip to the Catskill Mountains. His wife, Valentina Pavlovna Guercken, collected some edible wild Mushrooms there.
Wasson was originally repulsed by any kind of fungi but also fascinated by the different cultural attitudes towards Mushrooms in Russia compared to the US. This fascination encouraged the couple to engage in Mushroom-related research. Their findings were later summarized in a publication called Mushrooms, Russia and History, published in 1957.
During their research the Wassons organized expeditions to Mexico to study the religious use of Mushrooms by the native population. As we know today, the Mazatec peoples from Mexico have been using Psilocybin Mushrooms for sacred rituals since Aztec times.
This expedition turned out to be a huge success because both Wasson and his wife went down in history for being the first Westeners to ever particpate in such a ceremonial ritual.
María Sabina, a Mazatec healer, was the one who allowed the Wassons to participate in the ritual and who taught them about the uses and effects of Psilocybin Mushrooms. She allowed Robert Wasson to take her picture but only on the condition that it remain private. Unfortunately, Wasson published the photograph anyway, along with her full name.
In the west, Sabina was hailed a hero but her community made her an outcast for sharing their sacred traditions with outsiders and therefore defiling them.
Seeking the Magic Mushroom
The Wassons’ profound experiences during the ritual were published in Life magazine in 1957 in a piece titled Seeking the Magic Mushroom. This allegedly inspired Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and countless others to seek out the Psilocybin Mushroom. It also started off the Psychedelic Movement, which defined the 1960s in the US.
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