The Disciples of Jesus Drinking Wine at the Last Supper.
The Disciples of Jesus Drinking Wine at the Last Supper.

The Holy Communion, also known as the Eucharist is one of the most sacred rituals of Catholicism and is usually performed at every mass. A re-enactment of the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles, Communion involves the ingestion of wine and a wafer that are believed to be the blood and body of Jesus himself. Christianity was not the first religion in the area to practice Communion however, and ritual ingestion remains a common practice in many religious traditions worldwide.

The Dionysus Connection

Ritual ingestion of wine was already common and sacred at least 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Known as Bacchus in Rome, Dionysus was the Greek god of fertility and ecstasy. He was celebrated through ritual wine drinking and yearly festivals that also included dancing and intoxication. In the "Bacchae," by Greek playwright Euripides, written in the 5th century B.C., it is revealed that not only is Dionysus born of a virgin but his blood is wine to be shared.

The Mithras Mystery

Another prominent pagan religion that was at the height of its popularity at around the same time as Jesus was the cult of Mithras. Mithras actually shares many attributes with Jesus, including a last supper just before Mithras ascended to heaven. Initiates of the Mithras cult partook of a sacred meal in honor of Mithras that included both bread and wine, which were believed to be the flesh and blood of a great bull that was slain by Mithras.

The Mushroom and the Cross

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1955 helped shed some light on early Christianity, as the manuscripts include documents that predate the formation of Christianity. According to one of the most prominent scholars in charge of translating the scrolls, John Allegro, Christianity was really based on ancient fertility rites from the Near East that revolve around the ingestion of psychoactive mushrooms. Allegro published "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross," which contends that the Christian Last Supper and Communion are metaphors for these older practices.

The Flesh of the Gods

Interestingly, hallucinogenic mushrooms were ingested in massive quantities by the Aztec peoples, who called them Teonanactl, or the "Flesh of the Gods." Like the intoxicating wine of Dionysus that induces an ecstatic state of union with the divine, these mushrooms were used in rituals of fertility. If John Allegro's theories about Christianity being based on similar cults in the Old World are correct, then the roots of Christian Communion may be based in pagan rites that have world-wide commonalities.