Valentina Wasson

Author, Clinician, Scientist

Valentina (Tina) Pavlovna Wasson was a pediatrician and the wife of mycologist R. Gordon Wasson. Although she is often uncredited, Tina worked alongside her husband until her death in 1958.  In fact, Tina is responsible for introducing her husband to mushrooms (he was vice president of public relations for J.P. Morgan at the time). On their honeymoon in New York’s Catskill Mountains in 1927, Tina found mushrooms similar to the ones she had known in her native Russia. This discovery sparked both their interest and they went on to study and incorporate mycology with other disciplines such as religion, art, history, and linguistics.

Beginning in 1953, Tina led expeditions with her husband to Mexico to research the religious use of mushrooms by the native people. It was here the couple were the first Westerners to witness a psilocybin mushroom velada. During a later visit, they participated in a velada led by Maria Sabina. The Wassons gathered spores from the Psilocybe mexicana that was used in the ceremony and brought them to Europe where they were cultivated. These mushrooms ended up being analyzed by Albert Hofmann, resulting in his discovery and isolation of psilocybin and psilocin.

Tina is the author of the books The Chosen Baby (1939) and Mushrooms, Russia, and History (1957). In addition, she was interviewed for an article published in This Week magazine in 1957 titled “I Ate the Sacred Mushrooms.” In the interview, Tina offered amazing insight into the potential of psychedelic mushrooms (aka magic mushrooms). The authors of the article said,”

As for the uses of the mushroom, Dr. Wasson believes that if the active agent can be isolated and a supply assured, it will become a vital tool in the study of psychic processes.