Who is María Sabina?
Mexican poet María Sabina (María Sabina Magdalena García) was born in 1894 in Huautla de Jiménez, a small town in a mountainous region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Like her grandfather and great-grandfather, María was a shamanic healer within her community of the Mazatec people. She played a pivotal role in spreading the indigenous people’s use and knowledge of sacred mushrooms and medicinal plants. These tools were used to heal both physical and mental ailments amongst the members of Huautla, and later on, the Western world.
While María could neither read or write, she created poetry and song in her native language Mazatec “I am wise even from within the womb of my mother. I am the woman of the winds, of the water, of the paths, because I am known in heaven, because I am a doctor woman.”
The Holy Children
Renowned for her use of Psilocybe or magic mushrooms, María referred to them as “niños santos” or “holy children.” Collecting several types of these mushrooms growing in the surrounding mountainside to utilize in her ceremonies. Containing psilocybin, a psychoactive compound that can create mind-altering effects when ingested, María would utilise them for both enlightenment and healing. Combining these mushrooms with Mazatec chants mezcal, tobacco smoke, and ointments made from plants in her healing ceremonies.
Believing that the mushrooms are the window to the soul and that they have a profound connection with the divine. María would use them in 100’s of ceremonies in her lifetime to enhance sensory experiences and connect with spirit guides.
The healer believed that the mushrooms spoke through her when she created her poetry and that she was simply the interpreter of their words. She is now hailed as one of Mexico’s greatest poets;
Because I can swim in the immense
Because I can swim in all forms
Because I am the launch woman
Because I am the sacred opossum
Because I am the Lord opossum
I am the woman Book that is beneath the water, says
I am the woman of the populous town, says
I am the shepherdess who is beneath the water, says
I am the woman who shepherds the immense, says
I am a shepherdess and I come with my shepherd, says
Because everything has its origin
And I come going from place to place from the origin…
– María Sabina
An Indigenous Healer
When María’s younger sister fell gravely ill it appeared that the local healers were unable to assist her after multiple healing attempts. Eventually she decided to take matters into her own hands utilizing mushrooms to assist in the healing. Rather than giving them to her ill sister, María consumed the mushrooms herself. While tripping on the psychedelic fungi she went into the forest and let the mushrooms guide her in a trance, to select healing herbs to give to her sister. When her sister recovered completely the local healers that had attempted to heal her acknowledged María’s abilities as a local priestess, giving her the title of “La Señora” or the “Wise Woman.”
María Sabina & an Early Documentation of Psychedelics
The Mazatec use of hallucinogenic mushrooms drew the attention of Westerners. Famous artists, scientists and writers including Terence McKenna, Timothy Leary, William S. Burroughs, and Aldous Huxley. American Ethnomycologist and amateur mushroom enthusiast R. Gordon Wasson was one of the first outsiders that made contact with María and the Mazatec Shamans. Wasson partook in her healing practices and collected spores from her mushrooms identified as Psilocybe mexicana which were later taken to a lab in Paris, cultivated and replicated by Swiss Chemist Albert Hofmann. These key figures in the psychedelic revolution visited María Sabina in the 1950s and wrote about their experiences in books and news articles, Wasson wrote a piece about María that was featured in Life Magazine. Written accounts popularized the use of psychedelics in the West during the peak of the hippie movement. Consequently sparking an interest in the scientific world to study hallucinogens.
The Western Impact on Culture
Known as priestess of mushrooms, María was one of the first Mexican’s to allow Westerners to participate in the ritual called the Velada (often used to assist in locating missing people). A sacred healing sacrament whereby the participants consume psilocybin mushrooms in attempt to communicate with God and open the mind. Westerners flocked to Huautla to chase the transcendental experiences they had read about. It was rumoured celebrities such as Walt Disney, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Keith Richards, congregated although there is no substantiated proof. The growing fascination with María drew attention from the Mexican police, which ultimately resulted in the medicine woman’s arrest.
The local Mazatec people were vexed by the attention from outsiders of the indigenous knowledge and shamanic practices. María was ostracized from her community as a result. Her home was burnt down, her son was murdered, and the social dynamics of the Mazatec community was forever altered.
An increased use of psychedelics in the West also led to concerns about their safety and legal status. In 1971, psilocybin was made illegal in the United States, along with other drugs like LSD and marijuana. This restricted access to these substances for research purposes, leading to a decline in scientific exploration of their therapeutic potential.
Shaping the Future of Psychedelics
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in use of hallucinogenic plants in the modern world. Current studies are focused on the potential of psychedelic mushrooms to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. Some researchers believe that psychedelics could revolutionize mental health treatment, and clinical trials are underway to explore their safety and efficacy.
Overwhelmingly Maria Sabina’s influence can still be felt in the use of psychedelics today. Her pioneering work helped promote the idea that these substances could be used responsibly for therapeutic purposes. Although there are still cultural and legal barriers, increasing scientific evidence of their potential benefits has raised hopes of a more open and responsible approach to psychedelics in the future.
“Get smarter every day by listening to your intuition, looking at the world with the eye on your forehead”
Undeniably María Sabina played a significant role in spreading the use of sacred mushrooms throughout Mexico and America, and is known today as arguably the most famous Mexican healer. Her belief that these substances had the power to heal physical and mental ailments assisted in sparking an interest in their psychedelic properties and therapeutic potential among Westerners, leading to a resurgence of research and also decriminalization in recent years. While there are still many challenges to overcome, María Sabina’s legacy lives on as a pioneer in the healing properties of psychedelics. She is now considered a sacred figure in the town of Huautla, and an iconic indigenous Mexican poet.
“Stand strong with your bare feet on the ground and with everything that comes from it. Be smarter every day by listening to your intuition, looking at the world with your forehead. Jump, dance, sing, so that you live happier. Heal yourself, with beautiful love, and always remember, you are the medicine.”
An informative video on Maria’s life Nicolás Echeverría: Maria Sabina, Spirit Woman / 1979 (English+Hungarian subtitles) – YouTube
Mush Love x