The (Re)colonization of Psychedelic Medicine

Emily Pothast
Form and Resonance
Published in
4 min readOct 1, 2021

--

Capitalists want to own the psychedelic movement. We can’t let them.

Spread in May 13, 1957 issue of Life Magazine. (Collection of the author, all rights reserved.)

In the May 13, 1957 issue of Life Magazine, nestled between a pastel ad for the Ford Fairlight and a feature about the actor who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, lies an infamous piece of psychedelic history. It is an article penned by J.P. Morgan vice president and amateur ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson, chronicling his experiences ingesting psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico with the Mazatec curandera María Sabina. At the time of publication, Wasson believed himself to be one of “the first white men in recorded history” to participate in a sacred ritual which had been practiced by the Mazatec people for centuries.

The consequences of Wasson’s article were far reaching. Although he had concealed María Sabina’s identity with a pseudonym, the interest generated by the press sent hundreds of would-be psychonauts to Mexico to seek out the curandera and her magic mushrooms. The influx of psychedelic tourists, many of whom were not respectful of the ritual or its guardians, created strife between María Sabina and her community—culminating in her being surveilled by police and her house being burned down. Later, it was revealed that portions of Wasson’s research were being financed by the CIA under the MK-Ultra mind-control initiative (though he claimed not to know…

--

--

Emily Pothast
Form and Resonance

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. emilypothast.com