Those areas of Central America that comprised the Mayan empire is also known as a botanists paradise, especially ethno*pharmacologists seeking to understand the reasons for the rituals of trances and blood-letting. There is a common theme or series of images found on temple friezes, ceramics and stone carvings: snakes, frogs, jaguars and skulls. The last two are identifiable as being nahuatls or cult elements: the jaguar was worshiped and emulated by wearing a pelt. The skulls? Archetypes of death and rebirth.
It’s been said by notable researchers that the Maya rulers and their shamans deliberately consumed psychedelic substances* to reveal the future and predict the unknown. One of the most potent of those plants is known as datura, which grows along rivers and other water sources. It’s also known as Jimson weed, the devil’s weed and belladonna: the primary side effect or experience is hallucinations of snakes. Given the predominance of snake motifs seen throughout every Mayan city thus found, this might explain the phenomenon of the image known as the Vision Serpent.
The shamans didn’t stop there: in more than one major museum collection there are mushroom-shaped stone carvings, frog effigies and ceramics showing servants administering enemas to their lords. Why? The skin of the Bufo Marinus frog is exceedingly poisonous and the only method of safely ingesting the active ingredient, other than by smoking, is by a diluted solution. The effects? A milder form of hallucinations, propelled by the ingredient DMT(dimethyltryptamine).
The mushroom deities? Psilocybin mushrooms grow very well in hot and humid environments, such as the Yucatan and large areas of what is now Gautemala.
With over 200 psychotropic plants known world-wide, 90% are in the Americas: it would be obvious that with two thousand or so years, the Mayan priests knew the properties of more than one of these psychotropic plants. The need for constant revelations and prophecies to keep the people content with their rulers mandated the interplay between the shamans and their lords. It would’ve required strong medicine to allow oneself to be mutilated or sacrificed on the altar for the sake of the gods.
The Maya nobility were also known for drinking cacao(chocolate) with a variety of ingredients: corn, chiles, and sometimes mixed with mildly psychotropic flowers*(morning glory seeds, containing small amounts of lysergic acid). The water lily images? Another mild psychedelic, growing wild in the drained and reclaimed swamps that produced regular food crops.