DOI: 10.14704/nq.2016.14.2.944

Modeling the Flesh of God: Semantic Hyperpriming and the Teonancátl Cults of Mexico

Kaleb R. Smith


The ritualistic use of the ancient psychoactive sacrament teonanácatl, or “The Flesh of God,” represents an integral aspect of pre-colonial Mesoamerican culture and continues, in various syncretic forms, to this day. Providing a brief history of various tribes of Mexico known to utilize Psilocibe species within a shamanic context, focusing primarily on the Mazatec people of Oaxaca, this paper attempts to utilize contemporary cognitive research of psilocybin to better understand and contextualize the ancient teonanácatl ceremony; specifically, research into psilocybin’s induction of the hyperpriming state of cognition. Hyperpriming, or indirect semantic priming, is characterized by its expansive branched hierarchical associative structure within the semantic network and presents us with a valid and useful explanatory framework with which to interpret many of the reported psychological, linguistic, and perceptual effects underlying the traditional teonanácatl ceremony.


teonanácatl; transpersonal; indirect semantic priming; psilocybin; semantic network; hyperpriming

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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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