The Psychedelic Origin of Christianity

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) is a book by the British archaeologist John Marco Allegro. His early career focused on studying the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls. With this book, however, many say that it ruined his career, although others say it gave him the fame that he deserved.

The basic idea behind the book is that primitive religions were based on fertility rites (rituals that recreate the reproductive processes of nature either symbolically or through sex). Allegro believed that fertility cults like this used the hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria (or fly agaric – the red mushroom with white spots). He also said that these mushrooms are at the root of many religions, including early Christianity. Christianity was essentially the product of a sex-and-mushroom cult, and the mushroom was seen as the gateway to understanding God. Through this understanding, it was believed that fertility would also be promoted.

Allegro argued that the mushroom and its powers were a secret, so they had to be written down in the form of codes hidden in mythical stories. In his own words: “This is the basic origin of the stories of the New Testament. They were a literary device to spread the rites of mushroom worship to the faithful.” Jesus in the Gospels was code for the Amanita mushroom, according to Allegro. All major scholars rejected Allegro’s ideas, including his academic mentor. Even his publisher regretted publishing the book.

Allegro draws on some interesting evidence to support his hypothesis. He argues that the fresco in the 13th century chapel of Plaincourault in France clearly shows Adam and Eve next to a tree made of large Amanita muscaria mushrooms. The serpent can be seen coiling around the tree. It seems strange that this mushroom would be depicted in arguably the most famous story in the Bible.

Terence McKenna in Food of the Gods also claims that the fruit which Adam and Eve ate from was a symbol for a psychedelic mushroom since it gave them “knowledge” (e.g. that they were naked) which they didn’t previously have.

In October 2008, Jan Irvin published The Holy Mushroom: Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity which was the first book to present texts which supported Allegro’s theory. For example, a 16th century Christian text called The Epistle to the Renegade Bishops explicitly mentions and discusses “the holy mushroom”. Irvin provides dozens of Christian images to support Allegro’s ideas – images that weren’t available when The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross was originally published in 1970. The front cover of Irvin’s book includes one of these images – some mushrooms can be seen. Some say that in these kinds of images, it is not the Amanita mushroom that is shown, but the more common types of psychedelic mushrooms, such as the ones shown next to it.

More examples of mushrooms in Christian art:

Allegro asserts that it’s not such a controversial idea that religions could be based on the use of psychedelic plants. It’s been said that other ancient cultures might have used psychedelic plants as well in their religious rituals. In Book 9 of the classic Hindu text, the Rig Veda, a “pressed juice” called Soma is mentioned as something drunk by priests. Some sort of visionary state is reported: “Make me immortal in that realm where happiness and transports, where joys and felicities combine, and longing wishes are fulfilled.”

Some say that Soma could have been a psychedelic mushroom, maybe the Amanita mushroom – R. Gordon Wasson held this opinion. Terence Mckenna in Food of the Gods says that a more likely candidate for Soma, due to its better efficacy at inducing psychedelic states, is the Psilocybe cubensis mushroom. This mushroom can grow in cow dung in certain climates, which may explain why the cow has gained such a sacred status in the Hindu tradition. However, other academics claim that Soma was cannabis. In addition, the blue lotus flower was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and it is now known to have some psychoactive properties.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone in ancient Greece. A drink called kykeon was consumed which the Illiad says was made up of barley, water, herbs and goats cheese. In the Odyssey, however, the character Circe adds a magic potion to it. Some speculate that the barley used in this drink was parasitized by ergot (a fungus) and that the psychoactive properties of the fungus were responsible for the intense experiences that people reported at Eleusis. Ergot contains ergotamine, a precursor to LSD – this is why Albert Hoffman used ergot to synthesise LSD.

‘Mushroom cults’ in Mesoamerica date back to at least 1,000 BC, indicated by mushroom stone effigies found in the Guatemalan highlands. In addition, frescoes from central Mexico dated to 300 AD show signs of mushroom worship. ‘Sacred mushrooms’ feature in Aztec texts as well – the Codex Vindobonensis, for example, visually depicts the ceremonial use of psychedelic mushrooms. The Aztecs called these mushrooms teonanactl which literally means “flesh of the gods”. (Here’s further information on ancient mushroom use). Allegro argues that Christianity is just one more example of a religion which at its core involves the use of psychedelic plants as a way to access the ‘divine’.

Mushroom statues indicate the presence of ‘mushroom cults’ in ancient Mesoamerica.Professor of anthropology John A. Rush, in his book The Mushroom in Christian Art, attempts to bolster Allegro’s position that Jesus was not a historical figure, but a psychedelic mushroom. He draws on these examples of art as pieces of evidence. Rush also elaborates the argument for a hallucinogenic basis of Christianity, by highlighting – in a Da Vinci Code-esque manner – the secretive nature of this knowledge. But as Psychedelic Press UK state in its review of the book:

As with any art interpretation, it can be extremely difficult to take symbology out of its cultural context and this is perhaps the most challenging point of this project.  Has Rush succeeded? Typically, yes and no. Yes, because Rush has demonstrated that the mushroom does play a particular role in Christian art, something hitherto ignored by religious scholars in the main. But no, because the groundwork for the reinterpretation of the symbology is based on an, as yet, still scantily evidenced theory, and the idea that knowledge of the mushroom has remained in secret with an elite priest class within the Church all this time, really needs more evidence than the art itself.

Just because mushrooms have been depicted in Christian art, it does not follow that Christianity is based on the use of magic mushrooms. Allegro might be guilty of creating a sensationalised hypothesis about the origins of Christianity. It may also be a leap to say that these examples of mushrooms depicted in Christian art necessarily mean that the religion is based on the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms. In the case of the Aztecs, on the other hand, the evidence of magic mushroom consumption is far more clear. It is possible that magic mushrooms were a key factor in the birth and development of Christianity (maybe even a driving force), but this idea is still within the realm of speculation.


  1. May 28, 2014 / 2:21 pm

    Having read Allegro's book in the 70's and doing some follow up on mushrooms over the years. it is almost a foregone conclusion that the mushroom played a pivotal part of early Christianity

  2. Anonymous
    September 23, 2014 / 12:13 pm

    Sad another Antichrist

  3. Anonymous
    September 28, 2014 / 4:50 am

    You can thank me for the Canterbury Psalter image……I have a few thousand other ones too.

    • August 27, 2016 / 4:58 pm

      Brian Akers comment below is created by a ghost writer…Please watch the TEDx Talk ASTROTURFING. It explains how paid writers discredit topics to confuse people searching for truth on the internet.

      The documentary tells you what to look for to recognize an astroturf comment, blog or post.

      Brian Akers comment is full of red astroturf flags….

      watch the ASTROTURF Ted Talk here:

    • August 27, 2016 / 5:36 pm

      Brian Akers comment below is created by a ghost writer…Please watch the TEDx Talk ASTROTURFING. It explains how paid writers discredit topics to confuse people searching for truth on the internet.

      The documentary tells you what to look for to recognize an astroturf comment, blog or post.

      Brian Akers comment is full of red astroturf flags….

      watch the ASTROTURF Ted Talk here:

  4. April 19, 2015 / 6:03 pm

    I tentatively conclude Allegro's theory (SACRED MUSHROOM AND THE CROSS), as he crafted it to appear – isn't really anything of the sort.

    In working on the scrolls with religious colleagues, Allegro came into sharp disagreement and strong conflict with them over dissemination of study findings and results.

    As their differences deepened, Allegro came to resent and despise their tradition and belief system (Christianity) – on which opposition to his views stood.

    It seems he thus realized a 'stealth motive," revenge – to smear Christian belief, damage it by equating it with – dirtbag druggie, the 'hippie' movement he (like many) held in contempt.

    Too bad he isn't still around, to comment on what he hath wrought – considering his purpose backfired, he ends up adopted by the 'poor doggies' of psychedelia. It'd be something else just to see the look on his face – much less get his remark on what a tangled web some weave, from first practice to deceive.

    "Allegro's views don't necessarily reflect my own" – well taken; with one caveat – his views, vs his claims of view. I'm sure he had views – but not necessarily as advertised. More likely he kept them 'down low' – and only reflect in his "theorizing" story about the unsavory, drug-infested True Origins of Christianity (its "Secret History" as he scandalized it).

    I'm sure Allegro meant his 'theory' to be taken at face value in its own terms – but its not plausible for one of his education – and there's ulterior motive galore, in light of 'Dead Sea scroll circumstances. His book and "theory' resemble a Modus Operandi.

    As a specialist in Semitic languages (Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic) – NOT Sumerian – an honest scholar would rely on a specialist in Sumerian, to collaborate with. Allegro didn't bother – suspicious avoidance.

    Instead he ends up 'theorizing' beyond his competence of his expertise. So his SACRED MUSHROOM ends up in a category of 'scholarship' along with – 'studies' of prehistoric rock art by ufology 'experts' (who've never even taken a single class in Archeology).

    Allegro ends up helplessly adopted as a hero by – the very subculture he rhetorically maneuvered to exploit, as a bad reflection on Christianity. It almost seems ironic – his very purpose (of using dirtbag hippies to tarnish churchies) backfired.

    Poetic justice? Is it any wonder, looking around, to see – Allegro's "theory" inherits the wind?

    The foundation on which he built it was a moonbeam in a jar – his supposed 'discovery' (as he heralds it) of hitherto unknown 'relationship' (he 'discovered') – between Semitic languages he'd studied, and – the Unsolved Mystery language Sumerian, in which he was no expert – but thought he'd try "playing one on TV."

    Why else would his "theory" end up facing oblivion – or worse? Now championed and chummed over by uneducated attention-seekers of the fringe …. vainglory-seekers after panhandled pennies.

    SACRED MUSHROOM AND THE CROSS has found its place, its utility: fodder for chump change grubbing fly agaric crusaders, pretending to be 'scholars' or whatever.

    Quite a mise en scene … Be cool Sam

    • Anonymous
      June 29, 2015 / 7:51 pm

      So let me get this straight, the church picks a team of four experts to study the dead sea scrolls, and Allegro was one of them. From *the entire world*. Yet here you are Joe Blow on the internet claiming he was out of his league. You're the one who's out of his league fool. Nothing you wrote is congruent with the historical facts of Allegro's life. It's *You* who don't want to be associated with hippies. Allegro never said anything about Christians being hippies or being dirty. He said nothing at all on the topic.

      • Brian Akers
        January 8, 2019 / 8:47 am

        That “Allegro never said anything about Christians being hippies or being dirty. He said nothing at all on the topic” isn’t quite accurate; nor even true. But it’s only wrong by a long shot. You’re off by only about, oh – a mere 180 degrees or so. No more.

        Sounds like ‘someone’ who shall remain nameless, hasn’t read much of their Allegro – as a qualification to enact themselves as if some sort of ‘know-what’ expert, by all the customary and familiar rhetorical ‘ways and means’ of Fight-or-Flight reaction.

        All anger and/or fear – trying to act as if it’s something else, anything other than classic animal behavior, primate style. You know the routine, as you show and tell. Good old make-believe but without the fun – staged with grim determination as if it has some “point” for making, like “something to say.” And – there it is, verbatim,

        Not to disrespect anyone’s overblown bubble of pretense – even as burst with all the outrush of hot air. That a ‘permanent’ subscriber to Allegro’s audacious narrative propaganda – such a s yourself – is triggered by the fact I cited, of his ‘dirtbag druggies’ rhetoric, into a theatrical display of angry somersaults – defiant ‘expert refutation’ – is frankly intriguing from my standpoint. Quite a show, as staged – and seeing the meltdown with all that radioactive hissing – lemme give you a friendly warning, to help you keep yourself in that comfy cozy dark, lest a ray of light penetrate.

        Considering how fragile the threads by which your composure hangs are – danger Will Robinson – warning warning: Beware Allegro’s END OF A ROAD (1970) his infamous sequel to SACRED MUSHROOM AND THE CROSS. You best be careful to steer the hell clear of that thing if you value your ‘blissful ignorance’ – so riled by the informed perspective I speak from.

        A ‘close encounter’ of truthfully informed kind might be the last thing your poor rattled pretensions can endure apparently. In fact why don’t you stop reading here for the sake of your easily shattered composure while I shed a little light on your carefully darkened landscape – avert your gaze from here on for the sake of your eyes, accustomed as they are to the darkness, unable to bear light.

        In EAOR Allegro goes further in his cockamamie SACRED MUSHROOM schmeorzing by rhetorically exalting it to the status of ‘Proven Fact’ – the ‘true and shocking’ ones about Christianity’s origins, like a ‘discovery’ of ‘proven fact’ – the better to now explore all the ‘ramifications’ i.e. lay it all on thicker, pound his podium even harder.

        EAOR is where Allegro’s exploitation of the bad reputation earned and ‘enjoyed’ by psychedelics and leaders of the movement from our distinguished Learies to our illustrious Mansons (“and a nice lot too”) – reaches its zenith. So if there’s anything left of your poor shattered delusion, any least shreds to lovingly protect against any further damage –

        So you best be sure you don’t EVER read END OF A ROAD. Because that’s the one where Allegro pulls out all stops deploying ‘dirt bag druggies’ rhetoric to invoke the bad reputation of trippers in the contemporaneous public eye of his era (not their own, duh) – as a brush to tar the new testament and foundations of early Christianity with.

        As put by one amazon dot com reviewer a bit more informed than ‘some people’ – without even fake names (not even Joe Blows):

        – July 12, 2006, reviewer Gregory Lewis (who’s read Allegro – unlike ‘some people’ who shall remain nameless … )

    • December 16, 2015 / 10:52 am

      The evidence is there to behold. Mushrooms abound in alot of early christian artwork. John Allegro knew his stuff back to front and also knew that his findings were controversial. However, he could have taken the evidence to court and he would have been found proven. Christianity adopted so many pagan fertility traditions and rites even going so far as to say that the Christ figure was born on 25th December, the day of the winter solstice that was always the feast day of Mithras, the Sun god. All religions were created by men for the purpose of having power over other men. The Bishops got together back in 325AD, banged some heads together and came up with the dogma we have today, more or less. The universal church of Rome went to war with anyone who tried to disprove their ideologies. Telling the people that the Earth was the center of the universe even when Galileo said it wasn't and look what they did to him.

      • Crasxhed
        March 31, 2018 / 2:23 pm

        Funnily enough Santa Claus looks like an Amanita Muscaria, which oddly enough is passed through a reindeer before consuming it. Coincidence?

  5. December 13, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    This is all amazing stuff for me, and at 87, I am buffaloed that I have been blissfully unaware of what mushrooms have done for humankind, specifically in configuring theological doctrines such as Christianity. Was Mohammed also strung out on mushrooms when the archangel dictated the Koran to him? In Zimbabwe where I worked for ten years my students would say, "Mufundisi, the devil attempted me"; and now I am tempted to try a hit of Psilocybin. I confess I have never had a single spiritual experience. At 87 I am asking, "What am I missing"? Try me. Cliff Ratzlaff Ph.D.

    • March 26, 2016 / 4:15 am

      If you take a "heroic dose", as Terrence Mckenna said; you will certainly have a spirutsl experience, if your ready to process it all. TM also speaks of an increase in visual acuity, on lower doses. The world becomes magnified around you, but also conceptually. The higher the dose, the more input to process, and the chances of being overwhelmed increase. With some practice, you achieve "enlightened states", where you just let it all flow through you, "good" or "bad". I find most to all experiences in life, pale in comparison to the psychedelic xp. Lol I would go for it. Start small.

  6. Anonymous
    June 20, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    No question Allegro was right that Mushrooms were at the center of Christianity. He wasn't right about every single detail, but got a lot right. For the people who want to think the deep, otherworld message of Christ came from eating the modern day wheat wafer. …Sadly mistaken.

  7. July 2, 2016 / 11:54 am

    Man can become and is at his core one with the Father, one with God. Jesus realised this within himself and so can we. Whether he used sacred mushrooms or saw it has his Eucharist is secondary and should not supplant the human beings divine potential but bring it out, help him make it manifest, not substitute his soul for a temporary state.

    • Anonymous
      July 15, 2016 / 12:59 pm

      Actually Jesus says we can only know the Father by knowing the Son.

  8. September 13, 2016 / 11:01 pm

    The point for me is to just SEE and get that not only the Judean and Christian myths personified psychedelic mushrooms as gods, and other characters in their stories, but also did myths from the East. So we have 'Indra' 'Krishna', 'Siva' and so on, all sharing attributes cryptically referring to psychedelic mushrooms! Same is so for other myths, and also including the 'New World' myths of Quetzalcoatl.

    This is surely no surprise, because then as now, the psychedelic experience is one of THE most powerful experiences we are ever going to have, and thus this has inevitably inspired creative imagination for millennia. As well as this there happened the corresponding cosmological myths too.

    So once this is understood we can then LOOK at these myths, and interpretations, and understand that we need to look even deeper. IE more ancient than the solar myths were the lunar myths of the Great Mother/Goddess. And we realize that the solar myth-makers suppressed the Goddess and imposed their own dualistic interpretations on the universe, and the fungi and myths surrounding them.

    A quick clue. As Allegro points out, the ancients did not have microscopic technology and thus assumed the mushrooms miraculously appeared from above. From this came the idea of 'spirit' descending into 'matter'. Human spirits became trapped, but the fungi were saviour gods come to liberate and release us.

    But the lunar myth of the Goddess did not separate spirit from nature. So even though not seeing spores, it would not matter, they were the fruits, the son/lovers of the Goddess, and the eating of them was not to 'channel' some sky god, nor to seek escape from nature, but to CELEBRATE in ecstasy the mysteries of nature~~~

    • Wendo
      September 16, 2019 / 2:23 pm

      Great comment!

  9. J. Lacuna
    November 29, 2017 / 10:30 am

    It seems as though the author of the article finds it hard to swallow that Christianity could be based on mushroom worship, but apparently has no such gag reflex when it comes to so-called pagan religions.

  10. December 24, 2017 / 2:04 am

    From an anonymous commenter: "So let me get this straight, the church picks a team of four experts to study the dead sea scrolls, and Allegro was one of them. From *the entire world*. Yet here you are Joe Blow on the internet claiming he was out of his league." Listen to yourself… The CHURCH chose the team that would support their propaganda.

  11. December 24, 2017 / 2:07 am

    The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity
    by Jerry B. Brown Ph.D. et al. Link:

  12. Keith Holcomb
    February 7, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    Having just recently been exposed to this mushroom “theory”, I don’t doubt at all that drugs have played a part any religion, including Judaism and Christianity. Is the mushroom the “truth”? Not at all; Jesus, the historical man and Son of God is the Truth. The book of Isaiah is a so very important part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially chapter 53, which prophecies about Christ. Dig into the importance of this book.

    Also, Solomon gave us very wise advice, even if he partook of those shrooms, in Ecclesiastes, it’s all a waste of time without God, our Creator and Savior.

    The Bible is Truth, from ” In the beginning”, to Amen.

    • Jim Link
      January 11, 2019 / 3:27 pm

      Unfortunately the Bible was written by man, who is known to deceive. If you want truth, you should try deep meditation. Psychedelics can also help. Don’t be closed minded to nature’s greatest gifts.

  13. Maku Vivian Nkonglah
    February 27, 2018 / 6:22 am

    I live in Africa. I’m a practicing Christian. Never heard about this book nor the psychedelic properties of some mushrooms. I have had transcendental experiences not induced by any substance whatsoever. I’m quite open minded , ready to learn and capable of accepting people with different beliefs. What was the point of Allegro ‘s book? Was it to prove that Christianity is all hallucination? Well everyone is entitled to their beliefs. Don’t try to push your atheism on me while I should not shove my Christianity down your throat either. In essence I’m saying live and let live.!!!

    • Jim
      January 11, 2019 / 3:25 pm

      “Was it to prove that Christianity is all hallucination?”

      No, it was to prove that mushrooms are a gatekeeper to a wealth of silent knowledge which may or may not have brought about Christianity. I don’t think he’s pushing atheism, as it could be interpreted that these psychedelics are ways to get in touch with spiritual entities.

  14. M
    September 11, 2019 / 7:36 pm

    The New Testament is composed of letters whose autographa were all written in the First Century A.D., with The Revelation of Jesus Christ being written the latest at around 90-95 A.D. Anyone who tries to assert any origin story to Christianity that is not based on First Century writings and and writings that followed very closely to those centuries by the early church fathers holds more weight than some nonsensical art speculation from works from 13th Century or later. Some people are so stupid.

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