Mimosa Hostilis Tree

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EFFECTS OF VIROLA SNUFF are felt within minutes from the time of initial use. First there is a feeling of increasing excitability. This is followed by a numbness of the limbs, a twitching of the face, a lack of muscular coordination, nasal discharges, nausea, and, frequently, vomiting. Macropsia - the sensation of seeing things greatly enlarged - is characteristic and enters into Waika beliefs about hekulas, the spirit forces dwelling in the Virola tree and controlling the affairs of man. During the intoxication, medicine men often wildly gesticulate, fighting these gigantic hekulas.

CAUSE OF THE NARCOTIC EFFECT of Virola has been shown by recent studies to be an exceptionally high concentration of tryptamine alkaloids in the resin. Waika snuff prepared exclusively from the resin of Virola theiodora has up to 8 percent of tryptamines, mainly the highly active 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine Two new alkaloids of a different type—,B-carbolines— have also been found in the resin; they act as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and make it possible for the tryptamines to take effect when the resin is taken orally.

OTHER WAYS OF TAKING VIROLA RESIN besides snuffing it are sometimes employed. The primitive nomadic Maku of Colombia often merely scrape resin from the bark of the tree and lick it in crude form. The Witoto, Bora, and Muinane of Colombia prepare little pellets from the resin, and these are eaten when, to practice witchcraft or diagnose disease, the medicine men wish to 'talk with the spirit people"; the intoxication begins five minutes aher ingestion. There is some vague evidence that certain Venezuelan natives may smoke the bark to get the intoxicating effects.

USE OF VIROLA AS AN ARROW POISON by the Waika Indians is one of the recent discoveries in the study of curare. The red resin from the bark of Virola theiodora is smeared on an arrow or dart, which is then gently heated in the smoke of a fire (shown in the illustration below) to harden the resin. The killing action of the poison is slow. The chemical constituent of the resin responsible for this action is still unknown.

It is interesting that although the arrows are tipped while the hallucinogenic snuff is being prepared from resin from the some tree, the two operations are carried out by different medicine men of the same tribe.

Many other plants are employed in South America in preparing arrow poisons, most of them members of the families Loganiaceae and Menispermaceae.

Waika Indian holding poison darts in smoky fire to congeal Virola resin, applied by dipping or spreading with fingers.

MASHA-HARI (Justicia pectoralis var. stenophylla) is a small herb cultivated by the Waika Indians of the Brazilian- Venezuelan frontier region. The aromatic leaves are occasionally dried, powdered, and mixed with the hallucinogenic snuff made from resin of the Virola tree. Other species of Justicia have been reported to be employed in that region as the sole source of a narcotic snuff.

Hallucinogenic constituents have not yet been found in Justicia, but if any species of the genus is utilized as the only ingredient of an intoxicating snuff, then one or more active constituents must be present. The 300 species of Justicia, members of the acanthus family, Acanthaceae, grow in the tropics and subtropics of both hemispheres.

JUREMA (Mimosa hostilis) is a poorly understood shrub, the roots of which provide the "miraculous jurema drink," known in eastern Brazil as ajuca or vinho de jurema. Other species of Mimosa are also locally called jurema. Several tribes in Pernambuco—the Kariri, Pankaruru, Tusha, and Fulnio - consume the beverage in ceremonies. Usually connected with warfare, the hallucinogen was used by now extinct tribes of the area to "pass the night navigating through the depths of slumber" just prior to sallying forth to war. They would see "glorious visions of the spirit land . . . (or) catch a glimpse of the clashing rocks that destroy souls of the dead journeying to their goal or see the Thunderbird shooting lightning from a huge tuft on his head and producing claps of thunder . . ." it appears, however, that the hallucinogenic use of M. hostilis has nearly disappeared in recent times.

Little is known about the hallucinogenic properties of this plant, which was discovered more than 150 years ago. Early chemical studies indicated an active alkaloid given the name nigerine but later shown to be identical with N. N-dimethyltryphmine. Since the tryptamines are not active when taken orally unless in the presence of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, it is obvious that the jurema drink must contain ingredients other than M. hostilis or that the plant itself must contain an inhibitor in its tissues.

The genus Mimosa, closely allied to Acacia and Anadenanthera, comprises some 500 species of tropical and subtropical herbs and small shrubs. The mimosas belong to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the bean family, Leguminosae. Most of them are American, although some occur in Africa and Asia. Jurema is native only to the dry regions of eastern Brazil.

YOPO or PARICA (Anadenanthera peregrina or Piptadenia peregrina) is a South American tree of the bean family, Leguminosae. A potent hallucinogenic snuff is prepared from the seeds of this tree. The snuff, now used mainly in the Orinoco basin, was first reported from Hispaniola in 1496, where the Taino Indians called it cohoba. Its use, which has died out in the West Indies, was undoubtedly introduced to the Caribbean area by Indian invaders from South America.

The hallucinogenic principles found in A. peregrina seeds include N. N-dimethyltryptamine, N-monomethyltryphmine, 5-methoxydimethyltryptamine, and several related bases. Bufotenine, also present in A. peregrina seeds, apparently is not hallucinogenic. Elucidation of the chemical make-up of the seeds of the yopo tree has only recently been accomplished. Future studies may increase our knowledge of the active principle of these seeds.

THE PREPARATION OF YOPO SNUFF varies somewhat from tribe to tribe. The pods, which are borne profusely on the yopo tree, are flat and deeply constricted between each seed. Gray-black when ripe, the seed pods break open, exposing from three to about ten flat seeds, or beans. These are gathered during January and February, usually in large quantities and often ceremonially. They are first slightly moistened and rolled into a paste, which is then roasted gently over a slow fire until it is dried out and toasted. Sometimes the beans are allowed to ferment before being rolled into a paste. After the toasting, the hardened paste may be stored for later use. Some Indians toast the beans and crush them without molding them into a paste, grinding them usually on an ornate slab of hardwood made especially for the purpose.

Several early explorers described the process. In 1801 Alexander von Humboldt, the German naturalist and explorer, detailed the preparation of yopo by the Maipures of the Orinoco. In 1851, Richard Spruce, an English explorer, visited the Guahibos, another tribe of the Orinoco, and wrote: " in preparing the snuff, the roasted seeds of niopo are placed in a shallow wooden platter that is held on the knee by means of a broad handle grasped firmly with the left hand; then crushed by a small pestle of the hard wood of pao d'arco . . . which is held between the fingers and thumb of the right hand."

The resulting grayish-green powder is almost always mixed with about equal amounts of some alkaline substance, which may be lime from snail shells or the ashes of plant material. Apparently, the ashes are made from a great variety of plant materials: the burned fruit of the monkey pot, the bark of many different vines and trees, and even the roots of sedges. The addition of the ashes probably serves a merely mechanical purpose: to keep the snuff from caking in the humid climate.

The addition of lime or ashes to narcotic or stimulant preparations is a very widespread custom in both hemispheres. They are often added to betel chew, pituri, tobacco, epena snuff, coca, etc. In the case of yopo snuff, the alkaline admixture seems not to be essential. Some Indians, such as the Guahibos, may occasionally take the powder alone. The explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who encountered the use of yopo in the Orinoco 175 years ago, mistakenly stated that ". . . it is not to be believed that the niopo acacia pods are the chief cause of the stimulating effects of the snuff . . . The effects are due to freshly confined lime.' in his time, of course, the presence of active tryptamines in the beans was unknown.

Yopo snuff is inhaled through hollow bird-bone or bamboo tubes. The effects begin almost immediately: a twitching of the muscles, slight convulsions, and lack of muscular coordination, followed by nausea, visual hallucinations, and disturbed sleep. An abnormal exaggeration of the size of objects (mocropsia) is common. In an early description, the Indians say that their houses seem to ". . . be turned upside down and that men are walking on their feet in the air."

A yopo tree (Anadenanthera peregrina) in Amazonian Brazil. The seeds of this tree are the source of a potent hallucinogenic snuff.

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The ceremonial vessel used in the ayahuasca ritual is always hung by the Indians under the eaves at the right side of a house.

Although occasionally redecorated, it is never washed.

EFFECTS of drinking ayahuasca range from a pleasant intoxication with no hangover to violent reactions with sickening after - effects. Usually there are visual hallucinations in color. In excessive doses, the drug brings on nightmarish visions and a feeling of reckless abandon. Consciousness is usually not lost, nor is there impairment of the use of the limbs. In fact, dancing is a major part of the ayahuasca ceremony in some tribes. The intoxication ends with a deep sleep and dreams.

An ayahuasca intoxication is difficult to describe. The effect of the active principles varies from person to person. In addition, preparation of the drink varies from one region to another, and various plant additives may also alter the effects.

The Yuru, orb ceremony in the Colombian Amazon involves ritual ayahuasca intoxication. The Indians are blowing sacred bark flutes.

The Yuru, orb ceremony in the Colombian Amazon involves ritual ayahuasca intoxication. The Indians are blowing sacred bark flutes.

CEREMONIAL USES of ayahuasca are of major importance in the lives of South American Indians. In eastern Peru, medicine men take the drug to diagnose and treat diseases. In Colombia and Brazil, the drug is employed in deeply religious ceremonies that are rooted in tribal mythology. In the famous Yurupari ceremony of the Tukanoan Indians of Amazonian Colombia - a ceremony that initiates adolescent boys into manhood - the drug is given to fortify those who must undergo the severely painful ordeal that forms a part of the rite.

The intoxication of ayahuasca or caapi among these Indians is thought to represent a return to the origin of all things: the user "sees" tribal gods and the creation of the universe and of man and the animals. This experience convinces the Indians of the reality of their religious beliefs, because they have "seen" everything that underlies them. To them, everyday life is unreal, and what caapi brings them is the true reality.

CHEMICAL STUDIES of the two ayahuasca vines have suffered from the botanical confusion surrounding them. However, it appears that both species owe their hallucinogenic activity primarily to harmine, the major ,B-carboline alkaloid in the plants. Harmaline and tetrohydroharmine, alkaloids present in minor amounts, may also contribute to the intoxication. Early chemical studies isolated these several alkaloids but did not recognize their identity. They were given names as "new" alkaloids. One of these names—telepathine—is an indication of the widespread belief that the drink prepared from these vines gave the Indian medicine men telepathic powers.

Chemical formulas of Banisteriopis caapi and B.inebrians alkaloids.

Indole nucleus is shown in red.

Chemical formulas of Banisteriopis caapi and B.inebrians alkaloids.

Indole nucleus is shown in red.

PLANTS ADDED TO AYAHUASCA by some Indians in the preparation of the hallucinogenic drink are amazingly diverse and include even ferns. Several are now known to be active themselves and to alter effectively the properties of the basic drink. Among these are Datura suaveolens (p. 145) and a species of Brunfelsia (p. 140)—both members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and both containing active principles.

Two additives, employed over a wide area by many tribes, are especially significant. The leaves (but not the bark) of a third species of Banisteriopsis - B. rusbyana - are often added to the preparation "to lengthen and brighten the visions." Called oco-yaje in the westernmost Amazon region of Colombia and Ecuador, the liana is cultivated for this purpose, along with B. caapi and B. inebrians.

Over a much wider area, including Amazonian Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, the leaves of several species of Psychotria - especially P. viridis - are added. This 20-foot forest treelet belongs to the coffee family, Rubioceae. Like B. rusbyana, it has been found recently to contain the strongly hallucinogenic N. N-dimethyltryptamine.

N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
Banisteriopsis Rusbyana

ANOTHER KIND OF CAAPI is prepared from Tetrapteris methistica, a forest vine also belonging to the family Malpighioceae. One group of Maku Indians of the northwesternmost part of the Brazilian Amazon prepares a cold-water drink from the bark. There is no other plant ingredient. The drink is very bitter and has an unusual yellow hue. This may be the " second kind" of caapi mentioned by several explorers as caapi-pinima, meaning "painted caapi."

Although T. methystica produces effects identical with those of Banisteriopsis caapi, we still know nothing of its chemistry. However, it is closely related to Banisteriopsis and there is every probability that similar or identical alkaloids are present.

There are 90 species of Tetrapteris - vines and small trees found throughout the humid American tropics.

SHANSHI (Coriaria thymifolia) is a widespread Andean shrub long recognized as very poisonous to cattle. It has recently been reported as one of the plants used as an hallucinogen by peasants in Ecuador. Shanshi is their name for the plant. The fruits are eaten for their intoxicating effects, which include the sensation of flight. The weird effects are due possibly to an unidentified glycoside, but the chemistry of this species is still poorly understood. Shanshi is one of 15 species of Coriaria, most of which are shrubs. They are found in the mountains from Mexico to Chile, from the Mediterranean area eastward to Japan, and also in New Zealand. Corioria is the only known genus in the family, Corioriaceae.

SINICUICHI (Heimia salicifolia) is a poorly understood but fascinating auditory hallucincogen of central Mexico. Its leaves, slightly wilted, are crushed and soaked in water. The resulting juice is put in the sun to ferment into a slightly intoxicating drink that causes giddiness, darkening of the surroundings, shrinkage of the world, and drowsiness or euphoria. Either deafness or auditory hallucinations may result, with voices or sounds distorted and seeming to come from a distance. Partakers claim that unpleasant after- effects are rare, but excessive drinking of the intoxicant can be quite harmful.

Sinicuichi is a name given also to other plants that are important both medically and as intoxicants in various parts of Mexico. Other intoxicating sinicuichis are Erythrina, Rhynchosia, and Piscidia, but Heimia salicifolia commands the greatest respect. With the closely related H. myrtifolia, it has interesting uses in folk medicine. Only in Mexico, however, is the hallucinogenic use important.

Heimia belongs to the loosestrife fomily, Lythroceae, and represents an American genus of three hardly distinguishable species that range in the highlands from southern United States to Argentina. Presence of hallucinogenic principles was unknown in this family, but chemists have recently found six alkaloids in Heimia salicifolia. They belong to the quinolizidine group. One, cryogenine or vertine, appears to be the most active, although the hallucinogenic effects following ingestion of the total plant have not yet been duplicated by any of the alkaloids isolated thus far. This provides us with another example of the often appreciable difference between the effects of drugs taken as natural products and the effects of their purified chemical constituents.

SAN PEDRO (Trichocerous pachanoi) is a large columnar cactus widely cultivated as a hallucinogen in the Andes of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The natives, who also call it aguacolla, or giganton, recognize several "kinds," which differ mainly in the number of ribs, the most common type having seven. This cactus is sometimes planted along fields as a fence row to keep sheep and cattle from grazing.

An intoxicating drink called cimora is made from the San pedro cactus. Short lengths of the stem, often sold in native markets, are sliced like loaves of bread and then boiled in water for several hours, sometimes with superstitious objects such as cemetary dust and powdered bones.

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(San Pedro continued)

Although cimora is often made from San Pedro alone, several field researchers indicate that a variety of other plants may sometimes be added to the brew. These include the cactus Neoraimondia macrostibas, an Andean species the chemistry of which has not yet been determined; the shrub Pedilanthus tithymaloides of the castor oil family; and the campanulaceous Isotoma longiflora. All these plants may have biodynamic constituents. On occasion, other more obviously potent plants are added - Datura, for example.

Only recently have researchers become aware of the importance of the "secondary" plant ingredients often employed by primitive societies. The fact that mescaline occurs in the San Pedro cactus does not mean that the drink prepared from it may not be altered by the addition of other plants, although the significance of the additives in changing the hallucinogenic effects of the brew is still not fully understood.

Cimora is the basis of a folk healing ceremony that combines ancient indigenous ritual with imported Christian elements. An observer has described the plant as "the catalyst that activates all the complex forces at work in a folk healing session, especially the visionary and divinitory powers" of the native medicine man. But the powers of San Pedro are supposed to extend beyond medicine; it is said to guard houses like a dog, having the ability to whistle in such unearthly fashion that intruders flee in terror.

Although San Pedro is not closely related botanically to peyote, the same alkaloid, mescaline, is responsible for the visual hallucinations caused by both. Mescaline has been isolated not only from San Pedro but from another species of Trichocereus. Chemical studies of Trichocereus are very recent, and therefore it is possible that additional alkaloids may yet be found in T. pachanoi.

Trichocereus comprises about 40 species of columnar cacti thot grow in subtropical and temperate parts of the Andes.

There is no reason to suppose that the use of the San Pedro cactus in hallucinogenic and divinatory rituals does not have a long history. We must recognize, certainly that the modern use has been affected greatly by Christian influences. These influences are evident even in the naming of the cactus after Saint Peter, possibly stemming from the Christian belief that Saint Peter holds the keys to heaven. But the overall context of the ritual and our modern understanding of the San Pedro cult, which is connected intimately with moon mythology, leads us to believe that it represents an authentic amalgam of pagan and Christian elements. Its use seems to be spreading in Peru.

Cawe or Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum, is one of the plants combined with the San Pedro cactus by the Tarahumare of Mexico. It is not definitely known whether this tall organ cactus is hallucinogenic.

PEYOTE (lophophora williamsii), an unobtrusive cactus that grows in rocky deserts, is the most spectacular hallucinogenic plant of the New World. It is also one of the earliest known. The Aztecs used it, calling it peyotl.

Peyote is a small, fleshy, spineless cactus with a rounded gray-green top, tufts of white hair, and a long carrotlike root. It rarely exceeds 7-1/2 inches in length or 3 inches across. The Indians cut off the crowns to sun-dry into brown, discoidal "mescal buttons" that last long periods and can be shipped to distant points for use. When the top is severed, the plant often sprouts new crowns so that many-headed peyotes are common.

Peyote was first described botanically in 1845 and called Echinocactus williamsii. It has been given many other technical names. The one used most commonly by chemists has been Anhalonium lewinii. Most botanists now agree peyote belongs in a distinct genus, Lophophora. There are two species: the widespread L. williamsii and the local L. diffusa in Queretaro.

Peyote is native to the Rio Grande valley of Texas and northern and central parts of the Mexican plateau. It belongs to the cactus family, Cactaceae, comprising some 2,000 species in 50 to 150 genera, native primarily to the drier parts of tropical America. Many species are valued as horticultural curiosities, and some have interesting folk uses among the Indians.

USE OF PEYOTE BY THE AZTECS was described by Spanish chroniclers. One reported that those who ate it saw frightful visions and remained drunk for two or three days; that it was a common food of the Chichimeca Indians, "sustaining them and giving them courage to fight and not feel fear nor hunger nor thirst; and they say that it protects them from all danger." In 1591, another chronicler wrote that the natives who eat it "lose their senses, see visions of terrifying sights like the devil, and are able to prophesy their future with 'satanic trickery.' "

Dr. Hernández, the physician to the King of Spain, described the cactus as Peyotl zacatecensis and wrote of its "wonderful properties." He took note of its small size and described it by saying that "it scarcely issues from the earth, as if it did not wish to harm those who find and eat it." Recent archaeological finds of peyote buttons in the state of Texas are approximately 1 ,000 years old.

OPPOSITION TO THE USE OF PEYOTE by the Aztecs was strong among the Spanish conquerors. One early Spanish church document likened the eating of peyote to cannibalism. Upset by the religious hold that peyote had on the Indians, the Spanish tried, with great vigor but little success, to stamp out its use.

By 1720, the eating of peyote was prohibited throughout Mexico. But despite four centuries of civil and ecclesiastical persecution, the use and importance of peyote have spread beyond its early limited confines. Today it is so strongly anchored in native lore that even Christianized Indians believe that a patron saint—El Santo Niño de Peyotl—walks on the hills where peyote grows.

There is continuing opposition in certain religious organizations in the United States to the Indians' use of peyote as a ceremonial sacrament. Nevertheless, the federal government has never seriously questioned or interfered with the practice since it is essentially a religious one. Those tribes living far from sources of peyote—some as far north as Canada—can legally import mescal buttons by mail. Despite constitutional guarantees separating church and state, however, a few states have enforced repressive laws against even the religious use of peyote.

Huichol Indian art indicating the importance of peyote in a trinity involving man and the maize plant.

RELIGIOUS IMPORTANCE OF PEYOTE persists among the Tarohumare, Huichol, and other Mexican Indians. The Tarahumare believe that when Father Sun left earth to dwell above, he left peyote, or hikuli, to cure man's ills and woes; thot peyote sings and talks as it grows; that when gathered it sings happily in its bags all the way home; and that God speaks through the plant in this way.

Many legends about the supernatural powers of peyote underlie its religious importance. It might be esteemed merely as an everyday medicine, but it hos been exalted to a position of near-divinity. The peyote-collecting trip of the Huichols, for example, is highly religious, requiring pilgrims to forego adult experiences, especially sexual, for it reenacts the first peyote quest of the divine ancestors. The pilgrims must confess in order to become spirit and enter into the sacred country through the gateway of clashing clouds, a journey which, according to their tradition, repeats the "journey of the soul of the dead to the underworld."

Paraphernalia used in a typical Plains Indian peyote ceremony. Note the blend of Christian and pagan symbols on the smoke-stick.

EFFECTS OF PEYOTE on the mind and body are so utterly unworldly and fantastic that it is easy to understand the native belief that the cactus must be the residence of spirit forces or a divinity. The most spectacular of the many effects is the kaleidoscopic play of indescribably rich, colored visions. Hallucinations of hearing, feeling, and taste often occur as well.

The intoxication may be divided into two periods: one of contentment and extrasensitivity, followed by artificial calm and muscular sluggishness at which time the subject begins to pay less attention to his surroundings and increase his introspective "meditation.' Before visions appear, some three hours after eating peyote, there are flashes and scintillations in colors, their depth and saturation defying description. The visions often follow a sequence from geometric figures to unfamiliar and grotesque objects that vary with the individual.

Though the colored visual hallucinations undoubtedly underlie the rapid spread of the use of peyote, especially in those Indian cultures where the quest for visions has always been important, many natives assert that visions are "not good" and lack religious significance. Peyote's reputation as a panacea and all-powerful "medicine" - both in physical and psychic sense - may be equally responsible for its spread.

USE OF PEYOTE IN THE UNITED STATES first came to public attention about 1880 when the Kiowa and the Comanche Indians established a peyote ceremony derived from the Mexican but remodeled into a visionquest ritual typical of the Plains Indians. Use of peyote had been recorded earlier, in 1720, in Texas. How the use of peyote diffused from Mexico north, far beyond the natural range of the cactus, is not fully known. During the 1880's, many Indian missionaries were active in spreading the peyote ceremony from tribe to tribe. By 1920, the peyote cult numbered over 13,000 faithful in more than 30 tribes in North America. It was legally organized, partly for protection against fierce Christian - missionary persecution, into the Native American Church, which now claims 250,000 members. This cult, a combination of Christian and native elements, teaches brotherly love, high moral principles, and abstention from alcohol. It considers peyote a sacrament through which God manifests Himself to man.

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THE PEYOTE RITUAL as practiced by Indians in the United States varies somewhat from tribe to tribe. A typical Plains Indian ceremony takes place weekly in an all-night meeting in a teepee. Worshipers sit in a circle around a half-moon altar of sand (see p. 6) on which a large specimen called a "Father Peyote" is set and at which a sacred fire burns. The ashes are shaped into the form of a thunderbird. The ceremony, led by a "roadman," consists of chanting accompanied by rattle and drum, alternating with prayers, lessons, testimonies, and occasionally a curing ritual. At night dried peyote tops (mescal buttons) are moistened and swallowed—from 4 to 30 or more. The ritual ends with breakfast at down when the teepee is hauled down.

Indian painting of Peyote "roadman"—leader of the Peyote ceremony. (Original painting is by Stephen Mopope, Kickapoo Indian artist; in collection of Harvard Botanical Museum.)

A PEYOTE VISION was described by a scientist who experienced it as follows: " . . . clouds . . . Oil of pheasant turns into bright yellow star; star into sparks. Moving, scintillating screw; hundreds of screws. A sequence of rapidly changing objects in agreeable colors. A rotating wheel in the center of a silvery ground . . . The upper part of a man with a pale face and red cheeks, rising slowly from below. While I am thinking of a friend, the head of an Indian appears. Beads in different colors . . . so bright that I doubt my eyes are closed Yellow moss like saltwater taffy pierced by two teeth. Silvery water pouring downward, suddenly flowing upward . . . exploding shells turn into strange flowers . . . A drawing of a head turns into a mushroom, then a skeleton in lateral view . . . Head and legs are lacking . . . Soft, deep darkness with moving wheels and stars in . . . pleasant colors. Nuns in silver dress . .. quickly disappearing. Collection of bluish ink bottles with labels. Red, brownish, and violet threads running together in the center. Autumn leaves turning into mescal buttons . . . Man in greenish velvet jumping into a deep chasm. Strange animal turns into a piece of wood in horizontal position."

THE CHEMISTRY OF PEYOTE is extremely interesting and is still subject to intense study by chemists and pharmacologists. More than 30 active constituents have been found in the peyote tissues. They are mainly alkaloids of two types: phenylethylamines and isoquinolines. Much pharmacological and psychological research hos been done on mescaline, the alkaloid responsible for the colored visions, but the effects of most of the other constituents, alone or in combination, are not well understood.

"FALSE PEYOTES" are other species of cactus used by the Tarahumare and Huichol Indians of northern Mexico. One, called hikuli mulato, is believed to make the eyes so large and clear that the user can see sorcerers. This small cactus has been identified as Epithelantha micromeris. A species known as hikuli sunami (Ariocarpus fissuratus) is said to be more powerful than peyote (hikuli), and the Tarahumare believe that robbers are powerless to steal when this cactus calls soldiers to its aid.

Hikuli walula saeliami, meaning "hikuli of greatest authority," is so rare that it has not yet been identified, but it is reputedly the most powerful of all hallucinogenic cacti. Among the Huichol, tsuwiri (Ariocarpus retusus) is considered dangerous to eat; it is believed capable of sorcery and deception, driving a man mad in the desert if he has not been properly instructed by the shaman or is not in a state of ritual purity that allows him to find the true peyote plant.

Nothing is known of the chemistry of Epithelantha. Several toxic alkaloids, especially anhalonine, have been found in Ariocarpus, but mescaline is apparently absent. Pelecyphora aselliformis, another "false peyote," has recently been found to contain alkaloids.

HIERBA LOCA and TAGLLI (Pernettya furens and P. parvifolia) are two of about 25 species of Pernettya, mostly very small subshrubs that grow in the highlands from Mexico to Chile, the Galápagos and Falkland islands, Tasmania, and New Zealand. These plants belong to the heath family, Ericaceae, along with the cranberry, blueberry, Scotch heather, rhododendron, and trailing arbutus. Several species are known to be toxic to cattle and man, but only these two are known definitely to be employed as hallucinogens.

Pernettya furens, which in Chile is called hierba loca ("maddening plant") or huedhued, has fruits that, when eaten, can cause mental confusion, madness, and permanent insanity. The intoxication resembles that following the ingestion of Datura.

The fruit of tagili, of Ecuador, is well recognized as poisonous, capable of inducing hallucinations and other psychic alterations as well as affecting the motor nerves. Though the chemistry of these and other species of Pernettya needs further study, it seems that the toxicity may be due to andromedotoxin, a resinoid, or to arbutin, a glycoside. Both compounds are rather common in this plant family.

SACRED MEXICAN MORNING GLORIES of two species (Rivea corymbosa and Ipomoea violacea) provide Mexican Indians with hallucinogenic seeds. Although the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae, has been important as the source of several medicines and many ornamentals, only in recent years has it been discovered that some of the 1,700 temperate and tropical species contain highly intoxicating principles. In other parts of the world the concentration of these principles may be higher than in the Mexican morning glories, yet they seem never to have been used as hallucinogens.

Shortly after the conquest of Mexico, Spanish chroniclers reported that ololiuqui and tlitliltzin were important divinatory hallucinogens of Aztec religion, magic, and medicine. Ololiuqui is a small, round, brownish seed from a vine, coatl-xoxouhqui ( "snake plant" ), with heart-shaped leaves and white flowers; tlitliltzin is a black, angular seed. These were recently identified respectively as the seeds of Rivea corymbosa and Ipomoea violacea. Since botanical nomenclature in this fomily is not always clear, these two species are sometimes called Turbina corymbosa and Ipomoea tricolor, respectively. Whereas much was written about ololiuqui, tlitliltzin was merely mentioned in the ancient writings.

Earliest illustration of Rivea corymbosa, also known as ololiuqui (Hernandez; Rome, 1651).

MEDICAL AND RELIGIOUS USES of the morning glory called ololiuqui were of major importance to the Aztecs. Ololiuqui is presumed to have pain-killing properties. Before making sacrifices, Aztec priests rubbed themselves with an ointment of the ashes of insects, tobacco, and ololiuqui to benumb the flesh and lose all fear. Hernández, physician to the King of Spain, wrote that "when the priests wanted to commune with their gods and receive messages from them, they ate this plant to induce a delirium, and a thousand visions . . . appeared to them."

One early chronicler wrote that ololiuqui "deprives of his senses him who has taken it, for it is very powerful." Another contended that "the natives communicute in this way with the devil, for they usually talk when drunk with ololiuqui and are deceived by the hallucinations which they attribute to the deity residing in the seeds."

The seeds were venerated and placed in the idols of Indian ancestors. Offerings were made to them under the strictest secrecy in places unknown to persons not involved in the worship.

IDENTIFICATION of ololiuqui and tlitliltzin as morning glories had to wait for four centuries, because efforts of the Spanish to eradicate the use of these sacred hallucinogens drove them into the hills. Several crude drawings in the chronicles indicated that ololiuqui was a morning glory. Mexican botanists identified it as such as early as 1854. But doubts persisted because the morning glory family was thought to be devoid of intoxicating principles, and no member of the family had ever been seen employed as an hallucinogen. Mainly on the basis of similarity of the flowers, it was suggested early in the 1900's that ololiuqui was not a morning glory but a Datura (p. 142), a known hallucinogen still used in Mexico. Not until 1939 were actual specimens of Rivea corymbosa used in Mazatec Indion divinatory rituals collected in Oaxaca and identified as the ololiuqui of the ancient Aztecs. Ipomoea violacea was found 20 years later in ceremonial use among the Zapotecs of the same region and identified as tlitliltzin.

An illustration of ololiuqui in fruit, from Sahagún's Historia de las Cosas de Nueva España, vol. IV, book Xl. Sahagún, a Spanish friar, wrote about the marvels of the New World in the years 1529-1590.

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TUPA (tobelia tupa), a tall, variable plant of the high Andes, is also called tabaco del diablo ("devil's tobacco"). In Chile, the Mapuche Indians smoke the dried leaves of this beautiful red-flowered plant for their narcotic effects. Whether they are truly hallucinogenic has not yet been established. They contain the alkaloid lobeline and several derivatives of it. The same alkaloid occurs in some North American species of Lobelia, especially L. inflata, known locally as Indian tobacco. It has been used medicinally and as a smoking deterrent. There are 300 species of Lobelia, mostly tropical and subtropical, and they belong to the bluebell family, Campanuloceae. Some are highly prized as garden ornamentals.

Hallucinogenic Plants

ZACATECHICHI (Calea zacatechichi), an inconspicuous shrub ranging from Mexico to Costa Rica, is a recently discovered hallucinogen that seems to be used only by the Chontals of Oaxaca. They take it to "clarify the senses" and to enable them to communicate verbally with the spirit world. From earliest times, the plant's intensely bitter taste ( zacatechichi is the Aztec word meaning "bitter grass") has made it a favorite folk medicine for fevers, nausea, and other complaints.

After drinking a tea made from the shrub's crushed dried leaves, an Indian lies down in a quiet place and smokes a cigarette made of the dried leaves. He knows that he has had enough when he feels drowsy and hears his own pulse and heartbeat. Recent studies indicate the presence of an unidentified alkaloid that may be responsible for the auditory hallucinations.

There are a hundred or more species of Calea. They belong to the daisy family, Compositae, and grow on open or scrubby hillsides in tropical America. Some species enter into folk medicine.

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