Created August 11, 2008. Revised May 28, 2013.
Copyright 1998-2013 by John W. Allen [2008] and Head Magazine (February 1978).

Presented in October-November of 1977 by
Jonathan Ott
2 Pages - Page 1 of 2


Head Magazine February 1978

In the past few months Head has been taking trips around the world to explore only the best of highs. This month, we bring all heads together for the World Mushroom Conference recently held in the state of Washington.

Head science editor Jonathan Ott

Jonathan Ott

and Contributing Editor Jeremy Bigwood.

Jeremy Bigwood

were instrumental in organizing the Washington Conference, the faculty of which reads like a Who's Who of hallucinogens: R. Gordon Wasson,

R. Gordon Wasson

the first outsider to ever ingest the psilocybin mushrooms of Mexico; Albert Hofmann, another who created history by creating LSD; from Harvard, psychiatry Professor Norman Zinsberg; and Richard Evans Schultes and Andrew Weil who spoke on the botanical and medical aspects of hallucinogens.

At the Washington Conference, Wasson and Hofmann revealed for the very first time that lysergic acid was for over 2000 years used ritualistically by the ancient Greeks---our own cultural ancestors. Wasson and his colleagues have evidence to prove that ancient man in Greece drank hallucinogenic beverages prepared from the ergot fungus. In Jonathan Ott's report, "World Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms," you'll find historical facts you unfortunately didn't learn in school.

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World Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms
Jonathan Ott

The Patriarchs of the Psychedelic Age gather to hear R. Gordon Wasson and LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann give evidence that the religious ingestions of lysergic acid was an important influence in classical Greek culture for over 2000 years. Head Science Editor Jonathan Ott sponsored the conference and gives an insider's perspective on this most astounding revelation.

Conference Auditorium

Conference Parking Lot with Rainbow.
Photo by John W. Allen, Fall 1977.

Wasson, Mushrooms and History

Charlotte Faye Greenberg.
Editor and Publisher of Head.

This past October, I had the rare opportunity of meeting the world's leading drug authorities at the Second Annual Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms, sponsored by Head Science Editor Jonathan Ott and Head Contributing Editor Jeremy Bigwood.

It was with particular pleasure that I had the chance to meet with the featured speaker of the conference and one of the true fathers of our Psychedelic Age, R. Gordon Wasson. A former journalist and a retired banker, Mr. Wasson is acknowledged as the world's leading expert on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Mr. Wasson will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the great scholars and thinkers of this century. For over 50 years, he has pursued a quest for truth about the relationship between psychoactive plants and early man's concept of deity and the supernatural.

In his pioneering work, Mushrooms, Russia and History, Wasson along with his wife Valentina Pavlovna, documented the existence of Siberian tribes that from the dawn of history ingested the hallucinogenic mushroom, Amanita muscaria. In another book, SOMA, Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Wasson solved a puzzle that had intrigued scholars for centuries and indicated that "soma," the sacred drug praised in the Rig-Veda, India's oldest religious document, was in fact also Amanita muscaria.

In the 1950s, Wasson traveled to Mexico in search of a modern-day mushroom cult. On June 29, 1955, in the small mountain village of Huautla de Jimenéz in the state of Oaxaca, R. Gordon Wasson joined the Mexican holy woman, María Sabina, in an ancient mushroom ritual and became the first outsider in modern times to ingest the "sacred mushroom" of the Aztecs, Psilocybe cubensis. [Note from John W. Allen, the ingested mushrooms were actually Psilocybe caerulescens Heim].

Now 79, [note from JWA, that was in 1977], Mr. Wasson, has recently announced the most important discovery of his career. Working in collaboration with Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, and Carl Ruck, a professor of Greek at Boston University, a new book is being published, entitled The Road To Eleusis, in which these three scholars show that our own cultural ancestors, the ancient Greeks, ate---and even worshiped---hallucinogenic plants, just as Siberian tribesmen and Aztec priests did.

Thanks to R. Gordon Wasson, the modern world is again aware of the historic importance of psychedelic plants. In the face of the ignorance, prejudice and fear of psychedelics such as Wasson have shown that the psychedelic experience of early man was an important part, if not the foundation, of not only his religious experience but also of the elements of human consciousness.

Signed by Charlotte Faye Greenberg,
Editor and Publisher.

World Conference on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms
Jonathan Ott

Hallucinogenic Hall of Famer's - Hear Evidence that Ancient Greeks
Consumed LYSERGIC ACID Plant Potions.

The 2nd International Conference on Hallucinogenic mushrooms was held from October 27-30, 1977 at Fort Wordon, overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca on the Olympic Peninsula of the State of Washington.

In this majestic location, between white capped bays amid stormy weather, the world's foremost authorities on hallucinogenic mushrooms convened the most important drug plant conference in the past ten years.

The conference was accredited by the Washington State Medical Association and was attended by more than 60 physicians and related professionals (including chemists from the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Royal Canadian Mounted police, university professors and graduate students). Some 250 attended in all, representing 20 states and three Canadian provinces.

Interested drug scene devotees were very much in evidence, most of whom had first learned of the conference by reading Head. Head's Editor and Publisher, Charlotte Greenberg, covered the conference personally.

[Note from John W. Allen.] I heard of this conference on a local Seattle rock radio station after reading an article by Ott in a Seattle newspaper's Sunday edition: Ott, Jonathan. 1977. (News Item). The Magic Mushrooms. The Weekly Metropolitan of Seattle vol. 2(26):10-13, 28. September 21-27.

Dick Schultes, Albert Hofmann and Charlotte Faye Greenberg

The affair was organized by Preston Wheaton, Tim Girvin, Jeremy Bigwood and myself [Jonathan Ott], and we began our publicity with an item in Head's May/June 1977 "Science" column, written in my capacity as this magazine's Science Editor.

Dick Schultes on stage presenting a lecture.

The featured speaker at this unique conference was R. Gordon Wasson, retired banker and modern discoverer of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Active and dynamic at age 79, Gordon Wasson enthralled the audience with the depth of his knowledge and the sincerity of his convictions. Wasson, after all, had been the first outsider to ingest the "sacred mushrooms" of Mexico, in 1955.

The quintessential scholar, Wasson is the author of five books, distinguished by their superb writing, lavish production, rarity, and consequent high price. His pioneering work, Mushrooms, Russia and History, written in collaboration with his late wife, Valentina Pavlovna. A limited edition of 512 copies, had sold for $1750 at auction.
[Note from John W. Allen. This set now sells at auction for more than $3500 dollars].

Dr. Albert Hofmann, world-renowned discoverer of LSD, joined Wasson on the conference faculty. It was Hofmann's superb chemical work that resulted in the identification and synthesis of psilocybin and psilocin, the active principles of Wasson's Mexican mushrooms. Hofmann, best known for his 1943 discovery of LSD (which he first synthesized in 1938) has accomplished a lifetime of valuable chemical research, and his knowledge of alkaloid chemistry is encyclopedic.

Harvard's Hallucinogen Authorities

Hofmann and Wasson were accompanied by their longtime colleague, Richard Evans Schultes, director of the Harvard Botanical Museum and a leading authority on the botany of hallucinogenic plants. It was Schultes' pioneering work in Mexico in the late 1930s that first subjected the hallucinogenic mushrooms to botanical scrutiny, and his 1939 paper that eventually put Wasson on the trail of the sacred mushrooms in 1952.

Schultes has devoted most of his long career to the study of the flora of the Amazon, with particular attention to psychotropic plants, his specialty. Schultes and Hofmann are the authors of The Botany and Chemistry of the Hallucinogens, the most authorative text on the subject, a revised edition which is now in press.

Norman Zinsberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Andrew Weil of the Harvard Botanical Museum presented the medical aspects of hallucinogenic use.

Andrew Weil captivates the audience with his humanistic approach in teaching the value of medicinal plants in todays modern world
Photograph by John W. Allen.

Zinberg and Weil rose to prominence in the mid-sixties by publishing results of the first modern experiment with marijuana in human beings. After much bureaucratic red tape, Weil and Zinsberg gained approval to administer marijuana to volunteers in a double-blind setting. Their important physiological data on cannabis dispelled many myths originally promulgated by anti-narcotic zealots.

Harvard Professor, Norman Zinberg, connoisseur of Cannabis and Dimethyltryptamine speaking on their positve effects.

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