Terry Atkinson

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Sacred Mushroom/ Holy Grail

The Long-lost Origin of Our Most Intriguing Legend

Terry Atkinson’s study presents a fresh and startling theory about the true origin of one of our most enduring legends – the quest for the Holy Grail. Many authorities agree that the core theme of this seductive story, through all its metaphoric mutations over the centuries, is humanity’s unrelenting desire for spiritual transcendence – for a state of heightened consciousness.

Our modern concept of the Grail dates from the 15th Century story of the chalice from Christ’s Last Supper, brought to the British Isles and then buried or somehow lost, and the subsequent holy mission of King Arthur’s knights to retrieve the icon. But in traditional cultures of past millennia, where the legend originates, the goal of this sacred quest was a religious encounter of a different order. Our ancestors sought to reveal the presence of the divine being within through a mind-expanding experience rooted in nature.

Every version of the Grail legend features near-impenetrable coded references to its entheogenic origins – the ritual use of naturally occurring psychedelics to reach transcendence. Approaching the subject like a detective solving an ancient mystery, the author employs textual forensics to explain for the first time the meaning behind several aspects of the story that have puzzled scholars for centuries.

Unlike such works as Holy Blood, Holy Grail (whose theory was used as the basis of The Da Vinci Code), Atkinson’s book delves deeply into Grail literature from the 12th Century, particularly the very earliest written work, Chrétien de Troyes’ Parsifal. Launching a detailed investigation of the legend’s intriguing fish symbolism and examining the key role of shamanism in Celtic and other ancient cultures, the author also uses clues drawn from Grail scholar Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance, the classic study that inspired T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

The Grail is more real than most recent explicators and fabricators imagine, but in a very different way from that assumed by the old-school searchers. The author’s astonishing conclusion is that the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria is the long-lost secret origin of the legend.

Terry Atkinson

Terry Atkinson has had a long career as a journalist, columnist and editor. For the Los Angeles Times he created and edited the “Home Tech” section and wrote several columns including “L.A. Beat” and “Sound and Vision.” For the L.A. Times Syndicate he wrote the weekly feature “Sound Advice.” His work has also appeared in other publications, including Rolling Stone and American Film. Atkinson’s wide range of interests led to the discoveries revealed in Sacred Mushroom/Holy Grail: The Long-lost Origin of Our Most Intriguing Legend. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Comitatus review

“… As an artifact of modern medievalism, Sacred Mushroom/Holy Grail may actually tell us a great deal about how that legend has been modified and imported into modern cultural imagination.”


Taking the Piss: Did Shamans Really Drink Reindeer Urine?

Anyone who has studied shamanism in any detail will have heard statements to the effect that shamans imbibed the potent Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) in a rather odd, idiosyncratic manner: they would collect the urine of reindeer that had eaten the mushroom and become intoxicated as a result, and drink this urine in order to enter altered states of consciousness.

But is it true?

TitleSacred Mushroom/Holy Grail: The Long-lost Origin of Our Most Intriguing Legend.
SizeTrade paperback, 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
List Prices$15.95; UK £10.95; EU €15.95
PublishedNovember 4, 2013
FeaturesBlack & White; 28 illustrations
BISACSocial Sciences, Folklore & Mythology Studies