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Breaking the Veil

Breaking the Veil:

Remembering those who have Crossed Over


“Universal Veil” by Tiffany Bozic

Try as we might to separate all beings, in the end we are all one; like the turning of the fallen leaves into the soil that feeds the trees from which those leaves once grew. Thank you to the fungi for these lessons within the everlasting cycle between decomposition and rebirth.

As we continue to learn from the fungi, following their interconnections within ancient and modern history, we are consistently reminded of how thin the veil is between life and death.  Today, through a mycological lens and in celebration with Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), we take the time to honor the fluidity between these two halves of existence, remembering the people and the beings who have passed on to the spirit world.

Talking with the Spirits


Maria Sabina, curandera from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Curanderas and curanderos (healers) in southern Mexico, like María Sabina (1894-1985), utilized sacred mushrooms in ceremony to help learn how to heal people of many different physical ailments. The little children, as María often called the psilocybe mushrooms, would help to dissolve the veil between the worlds of the spirits and the living. Through song and prayer the healers were able to communicate with the spirits and bring back their lessons to share with those seeking help.

The tradition of eating the sacred mushroom in human cultures dates back to earliest recorded history. The well known Tassili Cave Drawings from Northern Algeria which depict a bemushroomed humanoid are dated from 5,000 BC. Artifacts similar to the drawings in Tassili have been found around the world from many different cultures and eras.

The Aztecs , who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th-16th centuries, utilized for the same purpose of communicating with the spirits a variety of plants and mushrooms which can be found depicted on statues of their god, Xopichilli. By 1521 the Aztec Empire was officially conquered by Hernán Cortés and the Spanish Conquistadors. In addition to the brutalities of enslavement, torture and murder of local populations, the Spanish colonization of the America’s forced native religious practices underground, including the ritualistic use of sacred mushrooms and plants. In the place of native beliefs, the conquistadors and other settlers imposed on the people’s of the America’s Christian practices and beliefs. Today, Catholicism is the predominant religion of Latin America.


In Ethnomycology Today: Mycologist and artist, Peter McCoy, honors the memory of Maria Sabina with a screen-print design entitled, “Save the Children”. The design depicts sacred mushrooms growing from hands positioned in Catholic prayer. Shirts with this design, along with his t-shirt design depicting Xopichilli, can be purchased by emailing

Through the reemergence of certain religious practices, we can see just how deeply the influences of Christianity impacted these native traditions. For instance, modern curanderas and curanderos, like María Sabina, are devout Catholics and the mushroom ceremonies that they lead now mix traditional practices with Christian elements. This can be seen in the ceremonies led by curandera Natalia Martínez in the documentary Little Saints.

This adaptation of native rituals can even be found in the roots of Día de los Muertos. Originally an Aztec summer festival celebrating the goddess Mictecacihuatl (Lady of the Dead), the ritual was considered to be sacrilegious by the Spanish colonizers. The Spanish, who unlike the Aztec’s viewed death to be the end of life rather than its continuation, tried to eradicate the celebration. They were unsuccessful and instead tried to Christianize the ritual by moving it to the fall to coincide with the Catholic triduum festival of Allhollowtide (All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day). Similar to how death simply brings life into new form, the celebration now known as Día de los Muertos continued to thrive in its new time.

On these days dedicated to remembering those who have passed on to the spirit world, we are reminded by our dynamic histories to honor all of the people’s whose lives were lost at the hands of colonization, both in the America’s and elsewhere, and those that are continuing to fight for their freedoms. We are also reminded of the resilience of all of life and how it’s constant flux lends to evolution and rebirth, like the fungi that help to turn the fallen leaves into the soil that feeds the trees from which those leaves once grew.

As we come into the time of the fall harvest and celebrations for the dead, let us keep on the path, remembering and learning from those who came before us, while working together to build a future of wealth and prosperity for all beings.

“The Smiling Flowers”

This is a wonderful poem that expresses how death is not the end, but a continuation of life.
In celebration of Día de los Muertos, Chicago-based poet Reyes teams up with Detroit’s own Sacramento Knoxx to create a short film titled “The Smiling Flowers”. The poem is a narrative of Reyes’ own personal altar that quickly moves into the world of culture and global politics. The film is a visual combination of cultural imagery mixed with issues of social justice and history.”

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