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The Tina & R.Gordon Wasson Ethnomycological Collection Archives


Tina and Gordon Wasson

Researchers may consult materials from the archives only by appointment or written request. Send inquiries to Please allow 2-3 business days for the processing of written and e-mailed requests.

Below is a listing of the The Tina & R.Gordon Wasson archival collections. Click on a link to access specific sections of the finding aid. These will provide you with biographical information, collection scope, size, and material types.


R. Gordon Wasson (1898-1986) was an international banker, amateur mycologist, and author. He studied at the Columbia School of Journalism and at the London School of Economics.In 1926 Gordon married Valentina Pavlovna Guercken (Tina), a pediatrician. On a delayed honeymoon in 1927 in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the Wassons' lifelong gathering of "references to mushrooms and toadstools in the folklore of the world" began.

The Wassons went on to integrate mycological data with data from other fields: history, linguistics, comparative religion, mythology, art, and archaeology, exploring all aspects of mushrooms. They called their field of studies "ethnomycology" and coined the terms "mycophobe" and "mycophile" to separate the peoples of the world. Their investigations led to expeditions in Mexico beginning in 1953 to research the magico-religious use of mushrooms. In 1955, Gordon and Tina became the first outsiders to participate the Mazatec Indians' sacred mushroom rituals.

Upon retiring in 1963, Gordon began Far Eastern field investigations relating to his thesis that the Indian soma plant was the mushroom Amanita muscaria (fly-agaric). He was in the Far East almost continuously from May 1963 to February 1966; his travels included New Zealand, New Guinea, Japan, China, India, Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Nepal. The results of his investigations were published in 1969 in Soma. This work stirred controversy among Vedic scholars. The term "entheogen," was devised by RGW and his colleagues to replace the terms "hallucinogenic" or "psychedelic" or "drug" that had been used during the 1960's.

Tina & R. Gordon Wasson Archives Finding Aid
Scope & Content
Series Descriptions
Index to Correspondence
Container List

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Last updated January 2011
Copyright 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

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