1. For the history of the search for soma/haoma and for additional bibliography see: R. G. Wasson, Soma Divine Mushroom of Immortality (New York, 1968) hereafter SOMA and his articles "The Divine Mushroom of Immortality" in Flesh of the Gods, Peter T. Furst, ed. (Prospect Heights, Illinois, 1990; repr. of 1972) pp. 185-200, and "What Was the Soma of the Aryans?" pp. 201-213 in the same book; Haoma and Harmaline, The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" and its Legacy in Religion, Language, and Middle Eastern Folklore, by David S. Flattery and Martin Schwartz, Near Eastern Studies (volume 21)(Los Angeles, 1989), hereafter HAOMA; R. E. Schultes and Siri von Reis, ed., Ethnobotany, Evolution of a Discipline (Portland, 1997).

2. HAOMA p. 3. On spand, see Alishan, Haybusak [Armenian Botany] (Venice, 1895) (#2815, p. 578) hereafter Alishan; Karapet Gabikian, Hay Busashxar (1912; published Jerusalem, 1968) (#1311, p. 176) hereafter Gabikian under shanp'in. Joseph Karst, Mythologie armeno-caucasienne et hetito-asianique (Strasbourg, 1948), pp. 172-174 hereafter Karst, saw haoma in Armenian hmay ("augur") usually plural hmayk' and connected it with "l'arien Soma". One of the uses of spand among the Armenians was as an amulet or talisman to ward off evil (Gabikian, p. 176). Hmayeak ("talisman, amulet, phylactery"), which was also a popular name among 5th century Armenian lords, has the same root.

3. On the various candidates, see HAOMA pp. 117-140; SOMA pp.100-147; William Emboden, Narcotic Plants (New York, 1979) pp. 54, 58-59. In 1931 Sir Auriel Stein provided some unintended humor by suggesting that the divine entheogen was wild rhubarb, which contains no known psychoactive substances. The proposal had been made earlier by Albert Regel in 1884. According to Stein, it was from a fermented wine made from the stalks of rhubarb and perhaps mixed with milk "which alone could endow a juice like that obtained from the rhubarb with the exhilarating and exciting effect so clearly indicated in the Vedic hyms", SOMA pp. 132-133.

4. The Sanskritist Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty describes what soma brings in the Rig Veda: "a sense of immense personal power (10.119, particularly valuable in the god Indra), intimations of immortality (9.113), the assurance of immortality (8.48), and the hallucinations of trance (10.136)" The Rig Veda an Anthology translated and annotated by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (New York, 1981) p. 119.

As regards haoma, as David Flattery himself noted: "The effects actually experienced from a preparation of harmel were well known in Middle Eastern lore: as reported in early Islamic materia medica they are chiefly vomiting, sleep, intoxication, and an inclination toward coitus", HAOMA, p. 59. The following extracts from Flattery's study further support the view that haoma intoxication involved sleeping, and demonstrate the importance of pharmacologically induced visions in early Iranian religion:

The most explicit and detailed Iranian account of intoxication for religious purposes is the Arda Wiraz Namag [RB: The extant text is 9th century A.D., but is believed to have originated in the 3rd century]. The prologue (Chapters 1-3) of this Pahlavi text says that in order to dispel doubts about the claims of the Iranian priests to religious knowledge, Wiraz, having been selected as the most righteous of men, is given a drug before a public assembly, whereupon, lying tranquilly before the people, he has a vision of the fate of souls after death, which he afterwards dictates to a scribe. This prologue demonstrates the belief that pharmacologically induced visions were the means to religious knowledge and that they were at the basis of the religion that the Magi claimed to have received from Zoroaster. It has previously been supposed that the event described in this text was outside the tradition of the sauma ceremonies; its possible relevance to the question of sauma has therefore never been explored HAOMA, p.14.

...In this account the drink causes Wishtasp to see into menog existence and to become stard (or stird). The parallel account in Pahlavi Rivayat 140.6-10 relates: "When [Wishtasp] drank, he became stard immediately, and they led his soul to paradise and showed him the value of accepting the Religion. When he emerged from stard-ness he called for Zoroaster... Etymologically stard or stird means "spread out, sprawled" HAOMA, p. 19.

Fundamental to ancient Iranian religion was a belief in two existences, the material, tangible, visible existence...and the intangible, invisible, spirit existence..Middle Persian menog, as was glimped by Wiraz and Wishtasp by means of sauma...All material things and creatures exist simultaneously in spirit form. These spirit forms include the double or frawahr(Avestan fravasi-) of each person, living, dead and unborn. The overall appearance of this intangible, menog, world may in many respects resemble the material world but in addition to the forms of all past present and future creatures of Ohrmazd, it encompases the pandemonium generated by the Evil Spirit. HAOMA p. 19.

The consumption of sauma may have been the only means recognized in Iranian religion of seeing into menog existence before death...and is the means used by Ohrmazd when he wishes to make the menog existence visible to living persons. In ancient Iranian religion there is little evidence of concern with meditative practices which might foster development of alternative, nonpharmacological means to such vision. In Iran, vision into the spirit world was not thought to come about simply by divine grace nor as a reward for saintliness. From the apparent role of sauma in initiation rites, experience of the effects of sauma, which is to say vision of menog existence, must have at one time been required of all priests (or the shamans antecedent to them). Since sauma was the means by which Ohrmazd brought such vision to Zoroaster's champion, Wishtasp, there is no reason to doubt that sauma would also have been the means whereby Zoroaster (who as a zaotar consumed sauma in Yasna rites) also saw into menog existence and drew from it his knowledge of Ohrmazd and his revelation. HAOMA, p.20.

To summarize, the three Pahlavi accounts are consistent in showing that sauma brought about a condition outwardly resembling sleep (i.e. stard) in which targeted visions of what is believed to be a spirit existence were seen. Essentially consistent with these accounts is a passage found in two stone inscriptions written in Fars about 300 A.D. by Kirdir, the founder of the Sasanian Zoroastrian ecclesiastical establishment...Kirdir's inscription asserts in this passage, as a basis of his claim to religious authority, that his spirit double visited the other world and was shown heaven and hell. The account thus parallels the Arda Wiraz Namag in reaffirming the reliance placed on a vision of menog existence as the means to religious truth. HAOMA p. 23


5. SOMA, pp. 18-21.

6. SOMA, pp. 35-60.

7. SOMA, pp. 172-203.

8. SOMA, pp. 25-34, 52-58, 73-76, 160-162, 249-250. It is noteworthy that the classical Armenian mzem "to urinate" also means: "to press, to extract by pressing or squeezing, to squeeze out, to express, to filter, to distill", M. Bedrossian, Nor barhgirk' hay-angliaren, (Venice, 1879; repr. Beirut, 1973) p. 470.

9. C. Ratsch, Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants (London, 1992) p. 83; Amanita eating by ravens is also mentioned in Alishan's Haybusak #3216, p. 648 under K'ujulay/K'uch'ula). On reindeer and Amanita, see SOMA 75-76, 161-162.

10. Wendy Doniger, "'Somatic' Memories of R. Gordon Wasson" in The Sacred Mushroom Seeker, Tributes to R. Gordon Wasson, T. J. Reidlinger, ed. (Rochester, Vermont, 1990) p.58.

11. HAOMA, p. 3.

12. See note 4 above.

13. SOMA pp. 214-215, 218-220. Wasson suggested that the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, was not an apple, but the red Amanita cap, SOMA pp. 178-180, 220-222.

14. Abet' is a general Armenian term for tinder, and was found on aging oak, juniper and willow, Gabikian, p. 11. See also Sir James Frazer, The New Golden Bough (New York, 1961) pp. 42-49, 347-349.

15. In The Road to Eleusis it was argued that the sacramental drink used in the Eleusinian mysteries contained ergotized rye. W. S. Shelley, in The Elixir: an Alchemical Study of the Ergot Mushrooms (Notre Dame, Indiana, 1995), advanced ergot (claviceps purpurea, Arm. karmruk) (a hard-bodied fungus that commonly infects grains) as a candiate for soma. Ergot contains lysergic acid amide, precursor to the synthetic hallucinogen LSD (D-lysergic acid diethelamide-25).

Persephone's Quest contains important chapters by Carl A. P. Ruck on soma in the ancient Greek world. Also see his chapter, "Gods and Plants in the Classical World", pp. 131-143 in Ethnobotany, Evolution of a Discipline.

T. McKenna, in Food of the Gods (New York, 1992) pp. 108-120, suggested that soma was another psychoactive mushroom, Stropharia cubensis, which contains the hallucinogen psilocybin. This mushroom is known from many parts of the world, including eastern Asia Minor, the Caucasus, northern Iran and southern India (see map in P. Stamets, Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World (Berkeley, 1996) p. 64). Unlike Amanita muscaria, which is wood-loving, Stropharia cubensis is dung-loving. McKenna suggested that this mushroom's association with cow dung may have led to the sanctity of cattle in Indian tradition.

16. On the sacred plants, see M. Ananikian, "Armenian Mythology" in Mythology of All Races vol. 7 (1964, repr of 1925 ed.), pp. 62-63, hereafter Ananikian [The full text of Ananikian's work is available on this website at Armenian Mythology]; James Russell, Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Cambridge, MA., 1987), hereafter Russell, pp. 375-390; Ghevond Alishan, Hin hawatk' kam het'anosakan kronk' Hayots' [The Ancient Faith or Pagan Religion of the Armenians] (Venice, 1910) pp. 70-79; Joseph Karst Mythologie armeno-caucasienne et hetito-asianique (Strassbourg, 1948) pp. 157-67; Manuk Abeghyan, Erker[Works], vol. 7 (Erevan, 1975) pp. 51-58; Aram Ghanalanyan, Avandapatum (Erevan, 1969), pp. 112-120.

Among the sacred plants were: bryonia alba (loshtak), a pain-killer, nigella sativa L., a stimulant and excitant, and betonica officinalis, a powerful tranquilizer. Campion and gentian are also mentioned in such lists. Vardanyan suggests that the reverence shown to these plants was due to their curative properties, and indeed, all of them were used in medicinal remedies. S. Vardanyan, "Medicine in Armenia" p. 186 in The Diffusion of Greco-Roman Medicine into the Middle East and the Caucasus, J. A. C. Greppin et al.ed. (Delmar, N.Y., 1999).

There has been some debate about whether loshtak also referred to mandrake (Arm. mardatak, manragor), one of the ancient world's most powerful hallucinogens, used in witchcraft and magic from Europe to India. Gabikian claims that mandrake and bryonia alba were confused in the popular mind because of their similar human-like roots and effects. (Gabikian, p. 77) (Alishan, #950, #1979).

In addition to the "official" sacred plants, it seems clear from the anecdotal evidence in Alishan, that Armenians were well aware of the numerous ethnobotanicals growing in their midst, and made use of them. Among them are: Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) Arm. rhzian, rhazian (Alishan, #273, #2668, #2693); Artemisia (Mugwort; Absinthium) Arm. hambardzum, bardzmaneak, (Alishan, #321, #501, #1615); Lactuca quercina L. (Wild Lettuce), Arm. hazar vayri (Alishan, #1576); Cannabis (Hemp), Arm. kanep' (Alishan, #1296); Veratrum album L. (Hellebore), Arm. jok', koch vrats'i, (Alishan #133, #901, #1462, #2638); Nymphaea caerulea Sav. (Sacred Lily of the Nile), Arm. harsnamatn (Alishan #285, #940, #1456, #1655, #1785, #2205, #2214); Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy), Arm. xashxash, mekon (Alishan, #1000, #1001, #1003, #1656); Solanum nigrum L. (Black Nightshade), Arm. aghuesu-dzuk', kotruk, ktruk (Alishan #62, #1443, #2117, #2328, #2520, #2519); Atropa (Belladonna), Arm. sngoyratak, (Alishan, #2782); Hyoscyamus niger L. (Henbane), Arm. aghuashbank, aghueshbank (Alishan, #59); Valeriana officinalis L. (Valerian) Arm. katui degh, katui xot (Alishan #52, #476, #1350, #3083); Datura Stramonium (Thornapple), Arm. archengoyz, archu engoyz (Alishan #230). This is a partial list only.

There are also a few which have not been fully identified such as horot-morot which may be one or two plants (tuberous hyacinth) and/or poppy (See Russell, pp. 380-383); and the mysterious hamaspiwr.

In addition to plant hallucinogens, we believe that the populations of the Caucasus were also familiar with the psychoactive properties of toad-skin, an element found in almost all European witches' brews. As a protection against insects, the common European toad Bufo exudes the chemical bufotenine, a very potent hallucinogen. Some Caucasian folktales describe a magical being, (a frog) whose power is in his skin. To force this creature into human form permanently, the frog skin must be taken and burned. (M. Wardrop, Georgian Folktales (London, 1894) pp. 15-21.

17. See, for example Stella Vardanian, "Medicine in Armenia" pp. 185-198 in The Diffusion of Greco-Roman Medicine into the Middle East and the Caucasus, J. A. C. Greppin et al. ed. (Delmar, N.Y., 1999).

18. On the etymology of Arm. sunk, see HAOMA, pp. 121 ff. Sunk, the generic Armenian term for "mushroom" originally may have designated Amanita muscaria specifically.

19. Eznik, Book I. 68.

20. Eznik, Book III.16

21. According to C. Hobbs, Medicinal Mushrooms (Loveland, CO, 1996) pp. 10-15, the agaricum of Pliny is to be identified with Fomitopsis officinalis.

22. Alishan, pp. 576-577, under #2804-5 sunk/sungn.

23. The Lawcode [Datastanagirk'] of Mxit'ar Gosh, R. W. Thomson, trans. (Atlanta, 2000) chapter 31, p. 146. Gosh (d.1213) also authored a book of fables, several of which deal with plants and trees. See in particular numbers 15, 16, 19, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, 45, 47, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 64, 61. The Fables of Mkhitar Gosh, R. Bedrosian, trans. (New York, 1987). A more literal translation is available on another page of this site, Mkhitar Gosh's Fables.

24. Russell, pp. 32-33, 52, 375, 387-388. Whether poplar is a host to Amanita muscaria is unclear, though it belongs to the willow family, Salicaceae, as does the aspen, a known host. Karst, p. 46-47 connects the poplar cult with the Eleusinian mysteries. The illustration of mushrooms in Haykakan sovetakan hanragitaran [Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia], vol. 10 (Erevan, 1984) before p. 417 shows one (#3) called kaghamaxasunk ("poplar/aspen" mushroom) which is clearly not Amanita, though it does resemble the hallucinogen Stropharia cubensis, as do entries #4 mamrhasunk and #5 yughasunk. See note 15 above on the psilocybin-containing mushrooms. In any case, the poplar was also prized for its polyphores, mentioned by Pliny (Natural History, XVI.85; XXIV. 47) for their healing qualities.

The identification of the saws/sos tree is disputed. According to the classical Armenian dictionary of M. Bedrossian, Nor barhgirk' hay-angliaren, (Venice, 1879; repr. Beirut, 1973) p. 660, sos is the "plane tree" or "white poplar", two trees which are quite different. Since divination was done by the rustling of leaves, the logical choice from a botanical standpoint would be the poplar. The poplar's leaves are alternate, ovate or heart-shaped in outline. Because of their laterally compressed petioles, the leaves tremble in the slightest breeze. The same dictionary does not have an entry under bardi, another term used for "poplar", while kaghamaxi p. 320 is also called "poplar". In modern Armenian, kaghamaxi is usually translated "aspen".

25. Prayer-trees: Ananikian, p.62. On the Arewordik' see Russell, chapter 16, pp. 515-528. Paulician/T'ondrakets'i/Arewordik' reverence for known Amanita muscaria hosts, may indicate the mushroom's ritual usage among these groups. The 12th century Nerses' indictment of them included:

[The demon of passion]...also taught them to make noise before trees on earth, (saying) "You are my father," and to rock (saying) "You gave birth to us," and he commanded them to sacrifice on mountain and hills, beneath oaks and poplars/aspens (i nerk'oy kaghneac' ew kaghamaxeac') and leafy trees. Russell, p. 538.
Earlier in the same letter he accused them of drug use:
In a fitting way, then, command also the women to be far from witchcraft, administering of potions and all manner of demonic cult, for whosoever practices witchcraft, he is one who worships and bows down to demons. Russell, p. 536.

Nerses' words strongly suggest that more was involved here than simple reverence for wood:
...Nor must they revere the aspen, any more than the willow, the poplar or other trees, nor should they think the wood of Christ's cross was aspen-wood; this is a lie and Satanic deceit, that has led them into confusion and has turned them from God. For this tree called the aspen was for them an object of worship in the times of idolaltry, and demons used to settle in it and accept the obeisance of men. And although this confusion was by the grace of God rooted out from amongst other peoples living on the earth, amongst you Satan hid and cherished it as a leaven of evil, and if you wish to come to the truth of Christ, then pull out the wicked custom from amongst you. Russell, p. 535.

26. On archaeology as a tool for ethnobotanical studies, see William A. Emboden, Jr., "Art and Artifact as Ethnobotanical Tools in the Ancient Near East with Emphasis on Psychoactive Plants", pp. 93-107, in Ethnobotany, Evolution of a Discipline. An earlier, somewhat shorter, version of the same paper is available online, entitled Ethnobotanical Tools in the Ancient Near East.

Greek mythology provides some information on eastern Asia Minor and the Caucasus in the 8th century B.C. The myths concerning Aia are early reflections of the enduring image of the area as a place of magic/medicine/drugs:

... the strong and independent royal women of Aia are shown as practitioners of magic/medicine. Both Medea and her aunt Circe have extensive knowledge of the local pharmacopoeia, which is accurately reflected in these myths (29). Thus, it is due to a magic ointment which Medea gives to Jason that he is able to yoke the bulls, plow the field and defeat the men sown from dragon's teeth (30). After this battle, it is due to another of Medea's drugs that the sleepless dragon guarding the Golden Fleece is lulled to sleep and Jason is able to take the fleece (31). Medea, during her subsequent adventures in Greece, continued to concoct poisons and medicines (32). [10] Circe, Medea's aunt, is the sorceress par excellence in Greek mythology. She transformed half of Odysseus' men into pigs by putting a drug into their wine, and later restored the crew to human forms using a different drug. Still another Aiakid, Pasiphae, sister of Aeetes and Circe, exhibited similar talents (33). R. Bedrosian, "Eastern Asia Minor and the Caucasus in Ancient Mythologies", (1993) pages 9-10.
This reputation was based on the rich flora and fauna of the area. The naturalist V. Hehn, Cultivated Plants and Domesticated Animals in their Migration from Asia to Europe (Amsterdam, 1976; originally published in 1885), suggested that both the vine and cannabis, among a number of other plants, may have originated in or close to the area of our interest. The vine: "south of the Caspian sea or in Colchis on the Phasis, in the countries lying between the Caucasus, Ararat, and Taurus (p. 73). Cannabis: "...originally came from Bactria and Sogdiana, the regions of the Aral and Caspian Seas, where it is said to grow luxuriantly in a wild state to this day...From the Pontus and Thrace this excellent material for rope was exported to the Greeks" (p. 151). Hehn calls Pontus "the fatherland of poisons and antidotes" (p.311).

Several early historical accounts provide additional, fascinating information on entheogens native to the area. In 401 B.C. the Greek general Xenophon's soldiers had an unexpected (and probably unwanted) experience with a narcotic honey, in the area south of Trapezus (Trebizond):

After accomplishing the ascent the Greeks took up quarters in numerous villages, which contained provisions in abundance. Now for the most part there was nothing here which they really found strange; but the swarms of bees in the neighbourhood were numerous, and the soldiers who ate of the honey all went off their heads, and suffered from vomiting and diarrhoea, and not one of them could stand up, but those who had eaten a little were like people exceedingly drunk, while those who had eaten a great deal seemed like crazy, or even, in some cases, dying men. So they lay there in great numbers as though the army had suffered a defeat, and great despondency prevailed. On the next day, however, no one had died, and at approximately the same hour as they had eaten the honey they began to come to their senses; and on the third or fourth day they got up, as if from a drugging. Xenophon, Anabasis, Carleton L. Brownson, trans., (London, 1922/1968) IV. viii.20-21, [LCL, p. 340/341]. [Xenophon's Anabasis is available on another page of this website.]

In the view of Hehn (p. 311), this honey was produced from the blossoms of the oleander/rhododendron bush (Arm. dap'nevard, nzruvard, chp'ni). Speaking about the same area, the geographer Strabo (B.C. 64- A.D. 24), himself from Pontus, noted that resident tribes used the honey as a weapon against Roman troops, Strabo, Geography, 12.3. 18-19 [H. L. Jones, trans., (London, 1928; 1988) LCL v. p. 400/401].

Plutarch, in Isis and Osiris, 46 described another entheogen found in Cappadocia and Armenia, the famous moly plant:

They pound up in a mortar a certain plant called omomi, at the same time invoking Hades and Darkess; then they mix it with the blood of a wolf that has been sacrificed, and carry it out and cast it in a place where the sun never shines. Plutarch Moralia, volume V, F. C. Babbitt, trans., (London, 1936; 1999) LCL v. p. 113.

Flattery, in HAOMA, p. 36, considers this Peganum harmala, and relates it to the magical plant moly given by Hermes to Odysseus (Odyssey I. 304-306) as an antidote to Circe's pottage. Schwartz, ibid, p. 146 relates the word to Armenian mol, molor, moli, "raving, mad, insane". However, these are not the properties of haoma intoxication. Furthermore, the concoction is said to have been "thrown away", like spawn, rather than ingested.

Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) has preserved remarkable information about the ethnobotanical interests of the famous king Mithradates VI (reigned B.C. 120-63), who was from Sinope and was the father-in-law of Armenia's king Tigran the Great (reigned B.C. 96-56/55):

5. Mithridates, the greatest king of his time, defeated by Pompey the Great, was, as we know from direct evidence and by report, a more attentive researcher of life than any man born before him.

6. Alone and unaided, he devised a plan to drink poison every day after first taking remedies, in order that by accustoming himself to the poison he might become immune to it. He was the first to discover the different antidotes, one of which bears his name. Mithridates also mixed the blood of Pontic ducks with these antidotes because they lived on poison. Still extant are treatises addressed to him, written by the famous doctor Asclepiades, who when invited to come from Rome sent written instructions instead. It is well attested that Mithridates was the only person to speak twenty-two languages, and that he never addressed any of his subject peoples through an interpreter during all fifty-six years of his reign.

7. Mithridates, with his breadth of intellect, was especially interested in medicine and amassed detailed knowledge from all his subjects, who covered a substantial part of the world. He left among his private possessions a bookcase of these treatises, together with specimens and descriptions of their individual properties. Pompey the Great, when all the royal booty had fallen into his hands, ordered his freedman Lenaeus, a man of learning, to translate these works into Latin. As a result, this great victory was of no less benefit to everyday life than to the state. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, a Selection, J. F. Healy trans. (New York, 1991) XXV. 5-7. p. 240.


27. Carl A. P. Ruck, "Prometheus as Shade-Foot and the Theft of Fire", pp. 169 ff. in Persephone's Quest.

Prometheus himself, in some traditions, was apparently the magical plant. A miraculous herb, parasitic on a tree and in color like the crocus, was said to grow from the blood of Prometheus in his torment. Medea picked it to annoit Jason (or Iason, in Greek, apparently so named for this anointing with the drug that will protect him from the fire-breathing bulls guarding the tree with the golden fleece); when the plant was thus harvested, Prometheus himself groaned, according to the way that Apollonius Rhodius told the story, for the plant is said to grow from a double stem. In picking the Promethean herb, Medea is also in contact with the suffering Titan bound to his mountain, for which reason the root of the plant when it is plucked was said to resemble the flesh of a corpse that has just been cut (Argonautica 3.845 ff.).ibid p. 172.
28. Ananikian, p. 46.

29. This ancient legend appears in the relatively late (8th century ?) political novel of Movses Xorenats'i, I.31 History of the Armenians. The classical Armenian is a gem of onomatopoeia:

Erkner erkin, erkner erkir,
Erkner ew dzovn dzirani.
Erkn i dzovun uner ew zkarmrikn eghegnik.
End eghegan p'ogh dzux elaner,
End eghegan p'ogh bots' elaner,
Ew i bots'oyn vazer xarteash patanekik.
Na hur her uner.
Apa t'e bots' uner morus,
Ew ach'kunk'n ein aregakunk'.

30. Russell p. 205 ff.

31. ibid.

32. ibid, pp. 209-210.

33. Ananikian, p. 81.

34. Among them: the Hurrian myth of Ullikummi, the pillar who grows up through a lake and is then decapitated by the god Ea; the myth of Marsyas, who is flayed on a tree; and the myth of Attis who castrates himself and throws his testicles under a pine tree, a common Amanita muscaria host.

35. A. J. Carnoy, "Iranian Mythology" in Mythology of All Races vol. VI p. 289 [The full text of Carnoy's work is available on this website at Iranian Mythology].

36. Plutarch, De fluviis, 23 par. 4.

37. W. S. Shelley, The Elixir: an Alchemical Study of the Ergot Mushrooms, pp. 83-103.

38. On the numerous storm gods of Armenia, see M. Abeghyan, Erker vol. 7 (Erevan, 1975) pp. 65-78.

39. The Geography of Strabo, H. L. Jones, trans. (London, 1928;1988) (LCL, vol. V, p. 331) 11. 14. 9.

40. Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists, C. B. Gulick, trans. (LCL, vol. IV, p. 469) x, 434. Ananikian, p. 34 suggests that it was haoma-intoxication. HAOMA, p. 98:

Among the situations where sauma seems most likely to have been used was at the inauguration of pre-Islamic Iranian rulers. This is indicated by King Wishtasp's consumption of "hom and mang" at his "initiation", which is still commemorated by Zoroastrians at the New Year...A reflection of the initiation of kings with sauma may be preserved in Plutarch's Life of Artaxerxes III. 1-3: "A little while after the death of Darius [II], the new king made an expedition to Pasargadae that he might receive the royal initiation at the hands of the Persian priests. Here there is a sanctuary to a warlike goddess whom one might conjecture to be Athena. Into this sanctuary the candidate for initiation must pass, and after laying aside his own proper robe must put on that which Cyrus the Elder used to wear before he became king; then he must eat a cake of figs, chew some turpentine-wood, and drink a cup of sour milk. Whatever else is done besides this is unknown to outsiders". Zoroaster also put on a garment when he came up from the hom liquid as, it seems, did his father Porushasp when he approached the hom and as also did Arda Wiraz. This suggests that a change of clothes may have been a regular feature of sauma-drinking in the initiation of Iranian rulers.

41. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, a Selection, J. F. Healy trans. (New York, 1991) XXX.17, p.271. Russell, p. 268 disputes this.

42. David of Sasun, Artin K. Shalian, trans. (Athens, Ohio, 1964) p. 5 n. 3. Hereafter DS. [On another page of our website, David of Sasun is available in HTML format.] On the derivation of Dzovinar see Abeghian, Erker vol. 7 (Erevan, 1975) pp. 70-72.

43. DS, "sea-born" dzovayin: Sanasar and Baghdasar, Battle against the Khalif of Baghdad, 7. p. 21, 47; "fiery beings" (hreghen): 15. p. 44.

44. DS, I. 10. p. 29.

45. DS, I. 15. p. 45.

46. DS, I. 15. p. 46.

47. DS, I. 15. p. 47.

48. DS, I. 15. pp. 48-49.

49. DS, Sanasar and Baghdasar, The Marriages of Sanasar and Baghdasar, 5. pp. 77-78.

50. DS, 6. p. 81.

51. DS, 6. p. 84.

52. DS, 9. pp. 94-97.

53. DS, p. 18. Dzurh is sometimes translated "foolhardy" or "daredevil", and the epic itself is sometimes called "The Daredevils/Fools of Sasun". "The Bent Ones of Sasun" is more accurate, though, perhaps, less dignified for the title of a "national epic".

54. DS, II. Medz Mher, Medz Mher administers Sassoun, 4. p. 114.

55. DS, ibid pp. 114-115.

56. DS, II. 12. p. 129.

57. DS, II. Medz Mher's fight against Msrah Melik, 11. p. 146-148. After death, his tomb emitted a strange red-green light III. David's fight against Msrah Melik (II) 5. p. 223.

58. DS, III. David's fight, I. 22. p. 182.

59. DS, David the shepherd, 1. p. 185, 187.

60. DS, ibid p. 188.

61. DS, David's fight II. 8. p. 200.

62. DS, David's fight II. 6-8, pp. 196-99.

63. DS, David's fight II. 13. p. 234.

64. DS, The duel between David and Melik, 11. p. 268. David was killed by a poisoned arrow, shot by his own daughter, III. David and Khantout, 4. p. 334.

65. DS, IV. Pokr Mher avenges the death of David, 2. p. 343.

66. DS, IV. Marriage of Pokr Mher, and his end, 2. pp. 357-58.

67. DS, ibid p. 360.

68. DS, ibid 4. pp. 366-367.

69. DS, ibid pp. 368-369.

70. Russell. p. 273.

71. Russell, pp. 377-380; Ananikian, p. 30.

72. Ananikian, p. 46; On the diffusionists, see R. Bedrosian, "Eastern Asia Minor and the Caucasus in Ancient Mythologies" (1993), page 4, and notes 10, 11.

73. A medieval Armenian letter describes an interesting reference to this in an account of the Apostle Bartholomew's activities at a site originally sacred to the goddess Anahit, called "Rock of the Blacksmiths":

Many dews lived in that Rock and seduced the men of that place, giving [them] there potions of passion for the fulfillment of the corruption of their passions. They made blows of the hammer, terrors by dread wonders. The men of the country became learned in these and lingered by the crucible, taking from the non-gods talismans dripping with the corruption for seduction to the passions, like the talismans of Cyprian for the seduction of Justine, and they named the place Rock of the Smiths. The Holy Apostle arrived, drove out the smiths—the ministers of evil—and smashed the idols, which were in the name of Anahit. Russell, p. 404.
See also note 25 above.

74. The psychoactive effects of Amanita muscaria are experienced both by ingesting the dried caps, and/or by smoking fragments of the dried cap mixed with cannabis, tobacco, or other substances. The caption to a drawing in the manuscript of the famous medieval magical text, "The Book of the Six Thousand", may be describing a case of Amanita smoking:

The Ms. contains also a drawing of a tripod from which a box is suspended over a fire, with the caption "What you are to smoke. And this is the shape of the pipe you must suspend"...There follow these instructions: "When you hang this, let it stand there that way, and you stand one or two hours long and ask your wish again, and implore and pray and ask for God's help to accomplish your concern. And when it is morning, pick it up with a pipe and take it to a warm place and keep it there. When night falls, bring it out again and smoke that which you are to smoke beneath the stars, and prayerfully ask your desire, and go and stand singleminded and keep your thoughts on it, singleminded. (If) it was not fulfilled, and morning comes, keep it the same way again and do it every night until the days are done. After that keep it on you. Keep it on you and wash your head with it, and go and ask what you want from that man or great one or king". James R. Russell, "The Book of the Six Thousand" (Bazmavep) 1989 1-4 pp. 234-235.
Russell speculates: "The number of days is not specified nor is it clear whether it is incense or some substance such as cannabis (well known in Armenia) that is burnt (or actually inhaled) in the pipe" ibid p. 235.


Soma among the Armenians
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The goddess Demeter gives her daughter Persephone a hallucinogenic mushroom. Relief (ca. 450 B.C.) from Eleusis, at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.