The Sacred Mushroom: John Allegro and the Fertility Cults

“[This book] demands the serious consideration of theologians, mythologists, and students of religion. No account of the history of the Church, both West and East, can afford to leave the poor despicable fungus unconsidered, nor the role that entheogens in general have played in the evolution of European civilization.” — Professor Carl A. P. Ruck, Boston University

Our friends at Palehorse Design recently created a piece entitled, “Mushroom Cult” (pictured above) as part of a gallery exhibition here in St. Petersburg, and as usual, we can’t stop thinking about it.

The work is inspired by John Marco Allegro‘s controversial book, The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East — a book that when first published in 1970, was thought “dangerous” to Christianity. Many scholars of the time even thought that Allegro’s theories and discoveries had the potential to change Christianity forever.

However, Allegro came under serious criticism for claiming to aim this book at the lay reader, but at the same time reaching above the average student’s head with a take on ancient (or dead) languages that very few could actually verify (Allegro was one of a handful of individuals allowed into the tombs of Judea to study the original Dead Sea Scrolls). He was also accused of confusing and combining Sumerian words, but as recent as 2006, new evidence was shown to support his theories and there is a call to reconsider his most polarizing work.

The idea is this:

By studying the development of language in relation to the development of myths, religions, and cultic practices in world cultures, Allegro believed he could prove, through etymology, that the roots of Christianity, as of many other religions, lay in fertility cults. And that cult practices, such as ingesting visionary plants (or “psychedelics”) to perceive the mind of God, persisted into the early Christian era, and to some unspecified extent into the 13th century with reoccurrences in the 18th century and mid-20th century. He interprets the Plaincourault chapel’s fresco to be an accurate depiction of the ritual ingestion of Amanita muscaria as the Eucharist (note: this is hard to deny when you see it in context, and the tradition of the red and white garment continues even today). Allegro argued that Jesus never existed and was a mythological creation of early Christians under the influence of psychoactive mushroom extracts such as psylocibin.

In Allegro’s words:

“The main factor that has made these new discoveries possible has been the realization that many of the most secret names of the mushroom go back to ancient Sumerian . . . For the first time it becomes possible to decipher the names of gods, mythological characters, classical and biblical, and plant names.”

What did Allegro find in the caves of Jerusalem and why did the Catholic Church make him out to be a heretic?

Is this a hoax on Allegro’s part or a cover-up by the church?

Or should Allegro simply have separated his claims about Jewish nature cults and the claims about the lack of evidence for a historical Jesus?

BONUS: After the jump, watch the entire film The Pharmacratic Inquisition, below. Thanks to Gnostic Media.

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About Joran Slane Oppelt

Author, Musician, Interfaith Minister, Chaplain, Public Speaker, Event Producer, Marketing Professional, Husband, Father - Not necessarily in that order. Follow me on Twitter @joranslane. View all posts by Joran Slane Oppelt

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