xvii. The Point of Creation
There is now overwhelming anthropological, epigraphical and scientific evidence to demonstrate that a high percentage of Upper Palaeolithic cave art in Western Europe depicts shamans in altered states of consciousness. It shows also expressions of their hallucinatory visions, which include everything from abstract geometric forms to chimeras (purely animal hybrids), therianthropes (human-animal hybrids), and other types of perceived spirit intelligences. What is more, there is every reason to suppose that these encounters were initiated by the oral ingestion of psychedelic plants and/or mycetes, i.e. psychoactive mushrooms.
As already shown, the Early Neolithic peoples of South-east Turkey practised their own death cult, symbolised by the vulture, seen most likely as a personification of Cygnus as the celestial bird atop the cosmic axis. Thus it is no surprise to find that there are various examples of symbolic art showing mushrooms in association with key shamanic symbols such as the vulture, serpent and egg at the Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites of Southeast Turkey.
Quite separate to this hard evidence of mushroom consumption during the Early Neolithic era, is the work of celebrated Semitic language scholar and Dead Sea Scrolls expert John Allegro. He put his career on the line in 1970 when he published details of widespread philological evidence of a mushroom-based cult of creation encoded within the Sumerian and Akkadian languages. Their joint civilization, arguably the oldest anywhere in the world, sprang from the Early Neolithic culture responsible for sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe. Allegro associated this mushroom cult directly with the symbol of the swan (and the stork), which he saw as a representation of the female reproductive parts. Even though he only recognised the origins of this cult as going back to 4000 BC, it can be traced back to Palaeolithic times, with the most common themes cosmic life and death.
Cygnus was the original destination of the shamanic journey, as well as the deemed place of cosmic creation. Yet why was Cygnus seen in this role, long after the end of the Palaeolithic age, which coincided with the cessation of the last Ice Age, c. 9500-8500 BC? Did later Neolithic priest-shamans merely continue to venerate Deneb and the stars of Cygnus since they wished to follow well-established astronomical beliefs held true by their ancestors, or was there something more profound behind their knowledge of these crucially important stars?