Author of the Month

Enter the Jaguar (cont.)
By Mike Jay

So Chavín remains a mystery, but perhaps in a more specific sense. If we want an analogy for its function drawn from Western culture, it might be the Eleusinian Mysteries, originating as they did in subterranean chambers near Athens a little later than Chavín, around 700BC. Like Chavín, Eleusis persisted for nearly a thousand years, under different empires, in its case Greek and Roman; like Chavín – and like the Haj at Mecca today – it was a pilgrimage site which drew its participants from a diverse network of cultures spanning virtually the known world. Classical written sources attest to some of the exterior details of the Eleusinian mysteries: its seasonal calendar, its processions, the ritual fasting and the breaking of the fast with a sacred plant potion, the kykeon. But over the thousand years that these mysteries endured, the deepest secrets of Eleusis – the visions that were revealed by the priestesses in the chambers in the bowels of the earth – were never revealed, protected under penalty of death. At Chavín the only surviving records are the stones of the site itself, but the mystery is perhaps of the same order.

Article © Mike Jay

Photos © Aliya Saleem

Related book: Blue Tide

About the Author:
Mike Jay has written widely on the history of science, medicine, drugs and consciousness. He is currently working on High Society, an illustrated history of mind-altering drugs to accompany a major exhibition at Wellcome Collection in London in November 2010. He is a trustee of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation ( and his website is

Read this article in its original context at and read more from Mike and many others on related subjects at

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