An exciting new study has revealed long-hidden secrets contained within an ancient Bes vase dating back to Ptolemaic era Egypt. Researchers conducted exhaustive chemical analysis of the second century BC vase, and discovered that it once housed a potent mind-altering concoction which would have been consumed to produce an altered state of consciousness.
Ancient Egyptian Bes Vase Contained a Hallucinogenic Concoction
In their examinations the team of researchers, from various educational and scientific institutions in Italy and the United States, ascertained the key ingredients in the potent mixture discovered within the ancient Egyptian Bes vase. These were two plants that produced an ancient version of chemicals like DMT or psilocybin , hallucinogenic drugs ingested by modern-day explorers seeking access to alternate dimensions or mind realms.
“We successfully identified the presence of various nutraceutical, psychotropic, medicinal, and biological substances, shedding light on the diverse components of a liquid concoction used for ritual practices in Ptolemaic Egypt ,” the study authors declared in an article uploaded to the pre-publication feedback site Research Square . “Our analyses revealed traces of Peganum harmala , Nimphaea nouchali var. caerulea , and a plant of the Cleome genus, all of which are traditionally proven to have psychotropic and medicinal properties.”
In addition to these psychotropic or hallucinogenic substances , the ancient cocktail also included traces of a fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruit, honey and fluids that came from the human body. These first two of these may have been added to make the concoction tastier or digestible, while the adding of human fluids suggests a magical or ritual purpose.
Ancient Egyptian Bes vase housed at Tampa Museum of Art in Florida (a). Other Bes vases are from other collections (b, c, d). (Tanasi et. al / CC BY 4.0 )
The Ancient Egyptian Cult of Bes, Exposed
The study authors believe the magical potion held in the ancient Bes vase would have been consumed by members of an ancient cult active in Ptolemaic Egypt , which worshipped a part-feline/part-human deity known as Bes. This short, squat man-cat was a protective god or spirit that was said to have the power to thwart evil intentions directed toward those who sought refuge in his cult.
Bes was particularly solicitous toward mothers and their children, earning a reputation as one of the more generous and altruistic Egyptian gods. It seems that magical potions were frequently consumed by members of the Bes cult . The ceramic vessels used as drinking mugs in the cult were always decorated with the head of Bes, which is why the researchers involved in this particular study knew where the vase they studied had originated.
“As the Bes figure was revered as a protective genius, it might be assumed that the liquid drunk from these mugs was considered beneficent,” the researchers hypothesized in their paper, led by historian and archaeologist Davide Tanasi, the director of the Institute for Digital Exploration at the University of South Florida.
Optical image of sample taken from ancient Egyptian Bes vase which revealed the presence of hallucinogenic substances in residue found within. (Tanasi et. al / CC BY 4.0 )
To determine the truth of this statement, the Italian and American scientists analyzed organic residues collected from a second-century BC Bes vase held in the Egyptian collection at the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida. Using a variety of high-tech methods to identify the mixture of ingredients in the residues, the researchers were astonished by what they found.
The key ingredient in the ancient concoction was a psychoactive (hallucinogenic) plant known scientifically as Peganum harmala , but more commonly referred to as Syrian rue. “The seeds of this plant produce high quantities of the alkaloids harmine and harmaline, which induce dream-like visions,” explained the study authors. Syrian rue is still in use today and is often combined with other plants to make a hallucinogenic drink that recreates similar effects as the famous South American brew ayahuasca.
Locking down the case for the ancient Egyptians’ interest in producing altered states of consciousness, the researchers discovered a second potent hallucinogenic plant in the mixture. This one is known as Nymphaea caerulea , which is the scientific label for the blue water lily. “Combining all these data, we can conclude that Peganum harmala and Nymphaea caerulea plants were deliberately used as sources of psychoactive substances for ritual purposes,” the researchers concluded.
And what about the human fluids that were included in the mixture? The chemical analysis revealed that they included blood, breast milk and what the researchers believe was a vaginal discharge of mucus. These may have been quite unpleasant things to drink, but presumably these were added to appease Bes and ensure he would protect his minions, which apparently included many women.
Relief of the god Bes, at the temple complex of Dendera in Egypt. (Olaf Tausch / CC BY 3.0 )
Opening Doorways to Other Dimensions—and into Ancient History
The scientists responsible for this exhaustive new study are excited by the broad applicability of their findings. “This multidisciplinary study highlights the complexity of ancient cultures and their interactions with psychoactive, medicinal, and nutraceutical substances,” they wrote in their Research Square article.
“These findings contribute to our understanding of ancient belief systems, cultural practices, and the utilization of natural resources, ultimately enhancing our knowledge of past societies and their connection to the natural world,” they stressed when discussing the substances extracted from the ancient Egyptian Bes vase.
By ingesting the plant traces with mind-altering properties which were found in the Bes vase, second century BC drug experimenters in Ptolemaic Egypt would have sought to open interdimensional doorways through which their expanded consciousness could enter. In so doing, they were probably searching for answers to metaphysical mysteries and plant-based treatments for various medical ailments. They may have also been hoping to meet face-to-face with Bes, the powerful god whose protection they were seeking.
Goals such as these motivated the ancient cultures that encouraged interdimensional travel through the ingestion of hallucinogens. It seems that Egyptian people living during Ptolemaic times were true believers in the authenticity of hallucinogenic journeys, which throughout human history have been seen as a legitimate way to learn more about the true nature of reality.
By Nathan Falde