Howard vs Terrence 

In the novel “Mexican Gothic” the premise of the plot deals with themes of manipulation, greed and betrayal through means of fungal ingestion/poisoning. Tropes of death and rebirth both follow these characters throughout, Symbolizing humanity’s own relationship and co-dependency with the very matter our own earth is made from. This story shows many life lessons when it comes to people vs nature, we as humans can be extremely alienated from the earth we inhabit, some of us forget we are also animals/living organisms.

The symbiotic relationship is one of the main points of discussion that is of peak interest, the species of mushrooms that the main characters ingest alter their perception, in relation to what we now know as “magic mushrooms’ ‘ or from a chemical viewpoint psilocybin mushrooms. When the topic of human life, perception and the human experience are brought up, the “ethnobotanist” Terrence Mckenna comes to mind. An ethnobotanist is an individual whose work adds “ to the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of indigenous (native) plants”. If you as a reader search Terrence Mckenna, there will be many videos where he philosophically deconstructs theories about the secrets of the universe, giving his many years of taking magic mushrooms credit for these findings. Many of his quotes are very profound such as “human technologies, languages, migrations, art movements, ideologies are not something different from nature, they’re the same downloads of processes that we see in the movement of continents, evolution of new species of animals. Except that these emergent situations are happening much more quickly. I see the universe as a machine that produces complexity, then uses that achieved level of complexity as a platform for further complexity.”   

 You may be wondering what Terrence Mckenna has to do with Mexican Gothic. To answer, I will start by discussing how the fungus described in this story have a special relationship with Howard, giving him an extremely elongated lifespan. This is symbolized by the serpent eating its own tail (immortality). In the non fictitious world we live in, we can compare Terrence Mckenna’s profound insight about life, death, and reality, to the type of immortality and control over nature that we see in the novel. Mckenna believed humanity is one with nature, that we have a symbiotic relationship with everything in the universe. Only it seems like Terrence used the real life mushrooms to expand his understanding, While Howard abuses these fictitious mushrooms, to live abuse the life and death cycle. Howard is a firm eugenics believer as well, possibly believing his own bloodline superior. Comparing these two mushroom takers shows the duality of man, but even if their morals were different, they still take it upon themselves to use these substances for control over nature.

 Health risks are of concern when speaking about any form of fungal ingestion. Certain Mold, fruiting bodies and many other poisonous forms of these chemical compounds can be detrimental to the human body, one may even argue that the hallucinations caused by the aforementioned psilocybin mushrooms are a response to a forign poison entering the body. Mentally the Doyle family seems to be a wreck, aside from all the incestual breeding, it seems the main root of this madness seems to be their constant indulgence of this fungi, to compare this to Mckenna, it is said in the later portion of his life he became very sickly and eventually died of cancer at the age of fifty three. While trying to do some research, I stumbled across a reddit page discussing how Mckenna’s lifestyle may have contributed to his early death. “It’s certainly possible that doing this kind of exploration adds some risks, especially to certain kinds of people. Ken Wilber, for example, has suggested his autoimmune problems may be associated with the work he did. Or, it’s possible that on some level Terrence sensed his genetic tendency to early mortality, and this was one of the forces that drove him to explore and to tell everyone of his exploration results. Shamans and psychonauts do tend to live closer to death than normal people. One of the benefits of being normal, especially now, is you get to push death further away, to not be so aware of it.” (Username susquehannock). Death is something Howard and his family manipulate with these mushrooms, always on the cusp of death, artificially alive by using this fungus to store memories and switch bodies.  

To conclude, it seems as if the relationship between the fungi and the human consciousness are often seen as co- dependent, possibly even more than any other natural plant product. Even today while driving, I saw a car sticker that said “mushrooms are people too”. Our culture has a fascination with these plants. Silvia Moreno Garcia takes this fascination to an extraordinary level by showing a family and a house completely consumed by this obsession, depending on what angle we look at it from, we can say that this fungus is intertwining with humanity by bonding with people like Terrence Mckenna, but they can also strip humanity away if abused, which is the case for the Doyles. Either way we look at it, it’s important to understand that we do not rule nature, nature rules us. We may be the most capable species of animal, but the mystery of mother nature will always be superior, it was around long before us, and it will be around when we are all gone. 

Work Cited

Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. Mexican Gothic. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2021.

“U.S. Forest Service.” Forest Service Shield, 

“Https:// …” Terrence McKenna Final Interview , 

“R/Psychonaut – Terence McKenna’s Death?” Reddit, 

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