Eric Osborne

Happy Birthday Maria Sabina

A message from our founding minister, Eric Osborne

Happy Birthday Maria Sabina

Since 1971 when the United Nations at the behest of the US government introduced a global ban on psychoactive compounds the world has all but forgotten about the use of psilocybin as a sacrament. Fear of incarceration prevented all but the most courageous or reckless from accessing and exploring these compounds. As research around the benefits of psilocybin and other psychedelics has resumed it has sparked an interest in their use but unfortunately not so much an interest as to their origin. We continue to look to modern science for validation to use these plants when we have a rich anthropological history documenting the safe, spiritual use of psilocybin and other psychedelic plants. 

In this documented history that spans from the oldest cave paintings in Africa to the present moment, one figure stands out as a symbol of sacred use, equal access and personal freedom: Maria Sabina. Few fans of psychedelic therapy are aware of the legacy this saint of a woman left behind for us. Considered a gifted Curandera from the time when she used sacred mushrooms to divine her uncle’s lifesaving treatment at the age of thirteen when all other healers in the area had failed him, Maria Sabina is more than an icon. She is the portal through the modern world becoming aware of this ‘hidden manna’. Gordon Wasson is often credited with bringing psilocybin to the world, yet it was only through his dishonesty that he even gained access to Maria Sabina and her healing ceremonies. Falsely claiming that his son was missing, he used this as a premise to gain access to the curandera and her visionary sacrament. 

Upon working with Wasson and developing a relationship with him, she eventually stated that the mushrooms (aka the little saints to Sabina and her Mazatec community) told her it was time for the sacred mushrooms to be revealed to the wider world. Only then did she allow Wasson to take samples of the mushrooms back to the US for scientific examination. In the twenty-something years that followed, as the public became aware of these visionary mushrooms, Sabina’s village was inundated with hippies and thrill seekers. True to her commitment to the work, Maria Sabina never turned down anyone needing a ceremony and never required payment for her services. Despite her commitment to this sacrament, Sabina was ostracized and faced an enormous amount of retribution from her fellow villagers as she was personally blamed for the influx of Westerners who showed little respect for the Mazatec ways and their Little Saints. 

The entire motivation behind the founding of Psanctuary is to focus on the sacred side of psilocybin and in many ways, this specifically honors the legacy and life of Maria Sabina. While we never seek to appropriate or even emulate the practices of the Mazatec, much can be learned from how indigenous populations such as this one engage with and understand these teacher plants. Our practice may look different, yet embedded in it is a respect for and cherishing of Maria Sabina as well as the other curanderas and curanderos that came before and after her. It is for this reason that we are hosting our next Minister’s Psilobration to be in honor of Maria Sabina whose birthday is on July 22nd. Born in 1894 and passing in 1985, 2024 marks the 130th anniversary of her birth. It is with great reverence and light-heartedness that we invoke the spirit of joy and healing as we recall her work and celebrate her life. 

Other psiloloquies

Coming soon...