Somahuasca Hypothesis
Daniel Devatman Hromada (Union),
Goal of this talk
To present You a new hypothesis concerning the identity of the Soma/Haoma plant/drink/divinity.

The hypothesis states: Soma = Phalaris + Harmala
  1. Soma, Haoma, Vedas, Avesta, Zoroastrianism, Indo-iranian mythology, BMAC
  2. Ayahuasca, DMT, MAO-i, Harmaline, Phalaris
  3. Results of an ethnobotanic "expedition" from Eleusis (Greece) to Yazd, Persepolis (Iran), Merv (Turkmenistan), Samarkand (Uzbekistan), Balkh (Afghanistan)
  4. The cow-as-a-biofilter conjecture
  5. Moral of the story
* *

It is no sign of scientific honesty to attempt to claim for what is in reality a branch of historical research, a character of mathematical certainty. ... it is only the rawest recruit who expects mathematical precision where, from the nature of the case, we must be satisfied with approximative aimings.

F. Max Mueller, 1888

citation from article "The Soma-Haoma Problem"
J.E.M. Houben, Electronic Journal of Vedic studies
Is bull.
Is eagle.
Is plant
and its juice
Is generator of hymns, a leader of poets, a seer among priests.
Is king of plants, king of rivers, king of mortals, king of gods...

(Arthur Anthony Macdonnell, "A vedic reader for students", 1917)

अपाम सोममम्र्ता अभूमागन्म जयोतिरविदाम देवान

ápāma sómam amŕtā abhūmâganma jyótir ávidāma devân
We have drunk Soma and become immortal;
we have attained the light, the Gods discovered.
(RgVed 8.48.3)
Is Iranian counterpart of Soma.

In the Hōm yašt Haoma manifests himself to Zoroaster “at the time of pressing” in the form of a most beautiful man and exhorts him to gather and press haoma. He is frequently hailed as “the Golden-Green One”, also as “golden-green-eyed”...He is “righteous", “furthering righteousness”, and “of good wisdom”. His plants grant “speed and strength to warriors, excellent and righteous sons to those giving birth, spiritual power and knowledge to those who apply themselves to the study of the nasks”
(Encyclopedia Iranica)

other attributes: the plant has stems, roots and branches (Yasna 10.5); it is tall (Yasna 10.21, Vendidad 19.19); it is fragrant (Yasna 10.4); it is golden-green (standard appellation, Yasna 9.16 et al.); it can be pressed (Yasna 9.1, 9.2); it grows on the mountains, 'swiftly spreading', 'apart on many paths' (Yasna 9.26, 10.3-4 et al.) 'to the gorges and abysses' (Yasna 10-11) and 'on the ranges' (Yasna 10.12)
Old ritual of preparation of parahaoma (drink made out of Haoma plant). Consists of two pressings which must be made between sunrise and noon. Milk is added to second pressing. Accompanied by recitation of Yashts.

Starting point of Zoroastrian religion.
Avestan language
Language of Avesta, oldest parts of Zoroastrian scriptures
Origins somewhere in Bactria-Margiana (BMAC) region.

Oldest Iranian language of which we have existing traces.
Much is still to discover underneath the sands of Central Asia.
Closely related to Vedic Sanskrit ( !!! S = H !!! )
Vedic sanskrit
Oldest attested language of Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European family.

Language in which Vedas (AtharaVeda, SamaVeda, YajurVeda, RgVeda), the oldest layer of Indian religion and culture, were "revealed".

Purely oral during hundreds (thousands?) of years!

oldest Veda
Contains hymns to be recited by the presiding priest of the Ritual.

Hymns dedicated to deities like Agni (Fire), Soma (;) , Savitr (Celestial chariot), Indra (Thundergod), Mitra & Varuna, Ushas (the Dawn), Prithivi (Mother Earth), Apas (waters), Vayu (wind), Vac (word), Vishnu, Rudra (Shiva v0.1), Ashvins, river gods & many, many others.

Divided into sections called mandalas.
9th mandala

114 hymns devoted to Sóma Pávamāna, "Purifying Soma"
mix of hymns created in different epochs, some of them possibly oldest in RgVeda dating to Proto-Indo-Iranian times (before the split, 3000-2000 BC)

Hymn I. (Griffith translation)
In sweetest and most gladdening stream flow pure, O Soma, on thy way, pressed out for Indra, for his drink.
Flow onward with thy juice unto the banquet of the Mighty Gods: Flow hither for our strength and fame.
By means of this eternal fleece may Sūrya's Daughter purify Thy Soma that is foaming forth.
Ten sister maids of slender form seize him within the press and hold Him firmly on the final day.
The virgins send him forth: they blow the the skin musician-like and fuse the triple foe-repelling meath.
Inviolable milch-kine round about him blend for Indra's drink, The fresh young Soma with their milk.
Soma Pavamana

Vedic verbal root "SO" (avestic HO) means "to press, crush".

Soma is processed as follows: Soma's stalks are pounded by stones, the juice passes through a wollen strainer and flows into wooden vats, in which it is offered to the gods on the litter of sacred grass... In jars, filtered Soma is mixed with water and milk... Soma is spoken as having three kinds of admixture:
  • milk
  • sour milk
  • barley
The admixture being alluded to as a garment of bright robe, Soma is described as "decked with beauty".

Soma is pressed three times a day: Rbhus are invited to the evening pressing, Indra to the midday and morning one.
Soma Yajnas

Yajnas are ritual sacrifices and offerings accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras. Key components of both Vedic and Hindu religions. Among 21 Vedic compulsory rituals, 7 relate to Soma:
  • agnistoma
  • atyagnistoma
  • uktya
  • shodasi
  • vājapeya
  • atirātra
  • aptoryama
These rituals involve the extraction, utility and consumption of Soma.

Pavamana mantra
asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya
from the unreal lead me to the real, from the darkness lead me to the light, from the dead lead me to the immortal
Brhadāranyaka Upanisad (1.3.28.)
Sarcostemma brevistigma

used by Brahmins in present India
only an alternative in case the real Soma is not found
but Soma is lost since more than 2000 years!

Alcoholic beverage made from honey.

Adhvaryus, make the sweet libations ready, and bring the beautiful bright juice to Vāyu. God, as our Priest, be thou the first to drink it: we give thee of the mead to make thee joyful.

Two arms-the Soma's dexterous immolators-and the ten fingers set and fix the press-stone. The stalk hath poured, fair with its spreading branches, the mead's bright glittering juice that dwells on mountains.

also mentioned in RgVed 8.5.6

Cannot be original Soma because alcohol needs time to ferment while Soma/Haoma is drunk after the pressing.

Shamans in Siberia consume fly agaric. Ancient Indo-Europeans supposedly come from those regions.

Wasson's theory is nice & trendy but:
  • fly agaric can cause coma and is thus totally unsuitable to stimulate Indra's warriors for battle
  • based on selective reading of RgVed (e.g. hari/zari is a colour term meaning yellow, golden, yellowish-brown or reddish brown, fallow or khaki, pale yellow, green-yellow)
  • unfalsifiable

First Theory which proposed that Soma was a hallucinogen.

  • Contains ephedrine (stimulant, precursor of crystal meth)
  • well-known in chinese medicine since >4000years
  • used by some Zoroastrians until 20th century
  • called somalatA in Nepal

Most participants of 1st academic Soma workshop (Leiden, 1999) could accept Ephedra as a serious candidate.

But it does not have "hari" colour, does not have a milky character, observed priests didn't seem to be intoxicated by it...

Stimulants are not related to religion or religious experience.

Peganum Harmala, Syrian Rue, Esfand
grows everywhere in Central Asia, from Iran to India & Mongolia
antibacterial, antioxidant, antimutagenic, aphrodisiac?
apotropaic used as incense which protects against demons, djins, evil etc.
slightly hallucinogenic
contains harmaline, a MAO-inhibitor
more info in Haoma & Harmaline (Flattery & Schwartz 1989)

Pharmahuasca is a pharmaceutical version of the entheogenic brew ayahuasca. Traditional ayahuasca is made by brewing the MAOI-containing Banisteriopsis caapi vine with a DMT containing plant, such as Psychotria viridis.

In Pharmahuasca, neo-shamans usually use harmaline instead of Banisteriopsis capi vine. 50 mg N,N-DMT and 100 mg harmaline is usually the recommended dosage per person. (combinations of 50mg harmaline + 50 mg harmine + 50 mg, N,N-DMT also tested with success). As a rule, the fewer the β-carbolines, the less the nausea; the more DMT, the more spectacular the visions. The capsule with harmaline/harmine is swallowed first and the capsule containing the DMT is taken some fifteen to twenty minutes later.


another name for Ayahuasca

Fully initiated shamans continue to take yage for healing, initiations, presiding over festivities, prophesying and making decisions before hunting and battle.

A second use, in small quantities, seems to be that of a stimulant. Hunter and warrior alike may chew stems of Banisteriopsis on their way to the site of action in order to see better.

This is an attitude of courage in confrontation with the demonic presences by which he may see himself surrounded.

The agents of death - the spirits of disease - threaten the initiate; still, at other times he may feel that he is about to be devoured by fierce animals. In all such instances he must not be afraid. If he can do this, he will be transformed by experience. I have little doubt that the confrontation of death, or an intensified awareness of mortality, is a salient trait of the typical yage experience.
(Dr. Claudio Naranjo)
The Spirit Molecule

two enzymatic steps from DMT

basic aminoacid

a lot of it in cheese

eat blue cheese (fourm d'Ambert, Niva, Roquefort, blue Stilton etc.) before sleeping and enjoy Your trip ;-)

Inhibits function of Monoaminoxydase (MAO), an enzyme we all have in our stomachs

MAO is a chemical protective barrier against diverse substances

MAO-inhibitors like harmaline put this barrier "out of service"

This can be VERY dangerous! (MAO-i, tyramine and the "cheese effect")

But done wisely, it can unlock the "doors of perception"
Phalaris is a genus of grasses. P. arundinacea, P. aquatica, and P. brachystachys are known to contain the alkaloids N,N-DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and 5-OH-DMT (bufotenin).

High-alkaloid strains (up to 3%???) include Phalaris aquatica Aquilla-1 and the species P. brachystachys. Seasonal and weather patterns also appear to affect alkaloid concentration.

Regrowth after grazing or mowing also shows a considerable increase in alkaloids.

Warning: Some Phalaris species contain gramine, which can cause brain damage, other organ damage, central nervous system damage and death in sheep (c.f. "phalaris staggers" vs. "phalaris acute death syndrome")
Jardin de plants

There are many plants which look like Phalaris but are not.
Know Your limits.

Respect the diversity and complexity of kingdom of plants.

Consult professional botanists.

Visit botanic gardens.

Know the plant in all its stages! (she has many faces)

Eleusis / Ἐλευσίς
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece.They were based on very old (possibly proto-indo-european?) cult and are considered to be the "most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece". Penalty for revealing the secret of the Mysteries was death.

A drink called kykeon was used at the climax of the Eleusinian Mysteries to break a sacred fast. Iliad describes it as consisting of Pramnian wine, barley, and grated goat's cheese (XI, 638–641). In the Odyssey, magician Circe adds some honey and pours her magic potion into it (X, 234). In The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 210, the goddess refuses red wine but accepts kykeon made from water, barley and pennyroyal.
You'll see harmel-filled buckets at every market

Ohrmazd = Ahura Mazda = The Supreme Spirit
Harmala dominates the market
hill in the middle of Samarkand city, abounds with Harmel

Co-occurence of Phalaris (DMT) and Harmala (MAO-i) observed in:
  • Yazd - center of Zoroastrianism
  • Persepolis - ancient capital of Persian empire
  • Merv - main site of ancient Margiana culture
  • Termez - place where nomadism, greek philosophy and buddhism fused into one
Phalaris grass also detected in greek Eleusina, very close to site where priests brew the kykeon.

It is therefore possible that Harmel + Phalaris = Haoma/Soma.

Indian (Vedic) and Iranian (Zoroastrian) religion share multiple features:
  • there is a plant/juice/god
  • the plant is pressed by stones
  • there are multiple pressings
  • milk is admixed to the last pressing
  • consumption of such mixtures influences cognitive functions
  • cows are considered to be sacred and holy

The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection.
Mahatma Gandhi

The concept of "Soma" and the concept of "go" (meaning cow and milk) seem to be associated in RgVed.

  1. Cow eats Phalaris.
  2. Cow's digestive tract filters away poisonous substances.
  3. DMT-like molecules pass into maternal milk, precursors of psilocybine end in cow's dung.

The language of nature.
Language of Life
The Spirit Molecule

The advanced Soma/Haoma=Pharmahuasca hypothesis:
  • Soma/Haoma was hallucinogenic
  • its power is hidden in interaction of 2 biochemical components
  • visible component: Peganum Harmala (MAO-inhibitor)
  • invisible component: alkaloids from Phalaris grasses
  • alkaloids pass into milk*
* we need You (scientists!) to verify/falsify this
** kids, don't try this at home and without Guidance!

In past, many things were identified with "THE True" Soma|Haoma
  • Alcohol
  • Ephedra
  • Fly Agaric
  • Cannabis
  • Harmala
  • Zoroastrian Yasnas & Gathas
  • Vedas
  • The Ritual itself...
And all of these hypotheses were, in a given moment, on a given place, true...

Wirklichkeit ist was wirkt. (C.G.Jung)

All novel ideas, formulae, botanical mixtures and biochemical combinations belong to public domain. Creative Commons licence BY-NC-SA applies upon the content of this presentation.