A recent Skeptics question, Was honey used preserve psychoactive mushrooms in the ancient past?, caught my attention and I came upon the Wikipedia article on the Aztec use of entheogens. The article is poorly sourced, and mostly points to the Florentine Codex, but it also hints towards other sources:

The ancient Aztecs employed a variety of entheogenic plants and animals within their society. The various species have been identified through their depiction on murals, vases, and other objects.

The Wikipedia article on Entheogenic drugs and the archaeological record isn't particularly helpful either, although it does point to Xochipilli and the interactive presentation of the figure in J. Paul Getty museum's website.

I can't seem to be able to find other sources that directly discuss archaeological evidence or contemporary literary evidence other than the Florentine Codex, perhaps because most sources are in Spanish and/or not available online.


  • 1
    Has your consideration of this question evolved since asking it? Jul 22, 2016 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


Though interpretation is always imperfect, many would use folios from the Florentine Codex as direct evidence for mushroom use among Aztecs, and probably Mesoamericans broadly. Here is the prime piece of evidence:

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  1. A mushroom is depicted, and given the name "Teonanacatl"
  2. An Aztec man sits on a mat that is known to be a ceremonial object.
  3. The man is eating.
  4. A 'demon' is placing its hand upon the man's head.

  • (1) the name 'teonanacatl' has the Nahuatl stem 'teo-', giving the word a Divine orientation; and 'nanacatl' having the meaning of 'flesh'. Divine Flesh

  • (3) The eating of flesh must be put in context to the culture; human sacrifice (as part of state ritual) included the consumption of flesh, and this consumption 'reformed' and elevated those from lower classes into priesthood and rulership. That fact is weakly-referenced here, and the information has scholastic basis.

There is a very deep relationship between this practice, Xipe Totec, the ixiptla of state ritual, and the governing of societal renewal, which I have written about in some detail. Though I won't provide references here, you can think of all this 'renewal' as part-and-parcel in the practice of Medicine - which for the Aztecs could often include (what we call) the 'shamanic' medicines. They were normal, if not strong, medicines for those peoples... a 'prescription drug', if you will.

  • (4) The 'demon' is depicted in a colonial style, influenced by the language and schema of missionary priests.

The imagery is prevalent in many arbitrary sources also because modern descendent of Mesoamerican people assert the authenticity of these practices.

  • A lot more on the topic, with early descriptions from the Spanish, is in the book Peyote Religion: A History. Jun 10, 2019 at 17:39

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