Beans Of The Hekula Spirit

In the beginning, the Sun created various beings to serve as intermediaries between Him and Earth. He created hallucinogenic snuff powder so that man could contact supernatural beings The Sun had kept this powder in His navel, but the Daughter of the Sun found it. Thus it became available to man—a vegetal product acquired directly from the gods.

center of use of this snuff's and probably always has been the Orinoco. The West Indian tribes are thought to have been, in the main invaders from northern South America. It is very probable that the custom of snuffing the drug, as well as the tree itself, was introduced by invaders from the Orinoco area.

It is now suspected that Yopo was

Left: The beans of the Yopo Tree (Ana-denanthera peregrina) are used by many Indians as a shamanic snutf (specimen collected in Guyana)

Right: Baron Alexander von Humboldt and his co-collector Aimé Bonpland carefully explored the flora of the Orinoco River, the frontier between Colombia and Venezuela, and while there they encountered the preparation and use of Yopo snuff in 1801.

Left: The beans of the Yopo Tree (Ana-denanthera peregrina) are used by many Indians as a shamanic snutf (specimen collected in Guyana)

Right: Baron Alexander von Humboldt and his co-collector Aimé Bonpland carefully explored the flora of the Orinoco River, the frontier between Colombia and Venezuela, and while there they encountered the preparation and use of Yopo snuff in 1801.

A.s far back as 1496, an early Spanish report mentioned that the Taino of H;-paniola inhaled a powder called Cohoba to communicate '^h the spirit world. It was so strong that those who took it lost consciousness; when the stupefying action began to wane, the arms and legs became loose and the head nodded, and almost immediately they bel'eved that they saw the room turn upside down so that men were walking with their heads downward. Mainly because of the disappearance of aboriginal peoples in the West Indies, this snufi is no longer employed anywhere in the Antilles.

In 1916, ethnobotanical research established the identity of tfci Cohoba—quite generally until then thought to have been a very potent kind of Tobacco snuff—with the hallucinogenic snuff of the Orinoco called Yopo and derived from the beans of Anade-nanthera peregnna, better known in the literature as Pi] tadenia peregnna. The used much more widely in earlier peri ods. There is evidence that in pre-Hispanic times, th snuff was used by Chibchan tribes from the Colombian Andes east across the llanos, or plains, to the upper Orinoco.

In 1560 a missionary in the Colorn bian llanos wrote that the Indians along the Rio Guaviare "are accustomed to take Yopa and Tobacco, and the former is a seed or pip of a tree . ,. they become

Below left: The finely pinnate leaves of the Yopo tree are important for identification, but contain no active properties.

Right: In the open grasslands, or campos, of the northern Amazon of Brazil Anadenanthera grows profusely The. tree bears long pods w;th usually six to fweive seeds, which are the source of the hallucinogenic snuff

Below right: Over 125 years ago, the English explorer Richard Spruce col-■ected on tha Orinoco these artifacts assi cia'ed with the preparation and use of Yopo snuff. They are still preserved in the museum at the Royal Bot; lie Gardens, Kew

The Chemistry of Yopo

drowsy while the devil, in their dreams, shows them all the vanities and corruptions he wishes them to see and which they take to be true revelations in which they believe, even ;f told they will die. This habit of taking Yopa and Tobacco is general in the New Kingdom." Another chronicler wrote in 1599: "They chew Hayo or Coca and Jopa and

Tobacco . . going out of their minds, and then the devil speaks to them . . . Jopa is a tree with small pods like those of vetches, and the seeds inside are similar but smaller." Yopo was so important in pre-Conquest Colombia that Indians of the highlands, where the tree will not grow, traded the drug up from the tropical lowlands: the Muisca of the Colombian Andes, according to an early Spanish historian, used the snuff: "Jop: herb of divination, used by the mojas or sun-priests in Tunja and Bogotá , The Muisca "will not travel nor wage war nor do any other thing of importance without learning beforehand what will be the outcome, or this they try to ascertain with two herbs which they consume, called Yop and Osca . . ."

Yopo snuff may sometimes, is among the Guahibo, be taken daily as a stimulant. But it is more commonly employed by payés (shamans) to induce trances and visions and communicate with the

The Chemistry of Yopo

The active principles of Anadenanthera peregrina belong to both open-chained and ringed tryptamine derivatives and, therefore, to the important class of indole alkaloids. Tryptamine is also the basic compound of the amino acid tryptophane, widely distributed in the Animal Kingdom. Dimethyltrypta mine (DMT) and 5-hydroxydi methyltiyptamine (bufotenine) are representatives of the open-chained Anadenanthera tryptamines. Bufotenine has also been found in the skin secretion of a toad (Bufo sp.)—hence its name. Ringed tryptamine derivatives found in Anadenanthera are 2-methyl- and 1,2-d.-methyl-6-methoxytetrahydre-p-carboline.

Drawings right (pages 118-19)' Countless artifacts related to the rituaT use of snuff have been discovered in archaeological digs in the Caribbean and in South America (for example, Haiti, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil)

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Drawings right (pages 118-19)' Countless artifacts related to the rituaT use of snuff have been discovered in archaeological digs in the Caribbean and in South America (for example, Haiti, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil)

Chant Relating Drugs

Photo sequence pages 118-19: Undoubtedly the most intense úse of Yopo snuff prepared from Anade-nanthera peregrina is found among the various groups of Waiká living in southernmost Venezuela and adjacent parts of northernmost Brazil. These peoples consume enormous amounts of the hallucinogenic powder, blowing it forcefully into the nostrils through long tubes made from the stems of maranthaceous plants.

Before snuffing Yopo, the Waíká shamans gather and chant, invoKing the Hekula spirits with whom they will be communicating during the ensuing intoxication.

The snuff acts rapidly, causing first a profuse flow of mucus from the nasa' passages and occasionally a notable quivering of the muscles, especially in the arms, and a contorted expression on the face

This period quickly gives way to one in which the shamans begin to prarice gesticulating and shrieking violently, calling on the Hekula.

The expenditure of energy lasts from half an hour to an hour; eventually fully spent, they fall into a trancelike stupor, during which visions are experienced

Hekula spirits; to prophesy or divine; to protect the tribe against epicemics of sickness; to make hunters and even their dogs more alert. There has been a long and complicated confusion between the hallucinogenic snuff prepared from Anadenanthera and that from Virola and other plants. Consequently, the nu merous distribution maps in anthropological literature showing immense areas of South American using Anade-nanthera-derived snuff must be used with due caution.

In 1741, the Jesuit missionary Gumil-la, who wrote extensively on the gto graphy of the Orinoco, described the use of Yopo by the Otomac: "They have another abominable habit of intoxicating themselves through the nostrils v th certain malignant powders which they call Yupa which quite takes away their reason, and they will furiously take up arms . . ." Following a description of the preparation of the snuff and a custom of adding lime from snail shells, he reported that "before a battle, they would throw themselves into a frenzy ith Yupa, wound themselves and, full of blood and rage, go forth to battle like rabid jaguars

The first scientific report of Yopo was made by the explorer Baron von Humboldt, who botanically identified the source and reported that the Maypure Indians of the Orinoco, where he witnessed the preparation of the drug in

1801, broke the long pods, moistened them, and allowed them to ferment; when they turned black, the softened beans were kneaded into cakes with cassava flour and lime from snails. These cakes were crushed to ■ make snuff. Humboldt, quite erroneously, believed that "it is not to be believed that the . . . pods are the chief cause of the . . . effects ®f the snuff These effects are due to the freshly calcined lime."

Later, Spruce offered an extremely detailed report on the preparation and use of Yopo among the Guahibo of the Orinoco. He collected a complete set of ethnographic material Connected with the substance, and seeds that he collected for chemical study 'n 1851 were chemically analyzed only in 1977

"A wandering horde of Guahibo Indians . . . was encamped on the savannas of Maypures, and on a visit to their camp I saw an old man grinding Niopo seeds, and purchased of him his apparatus for mai Jig and taking the snuff . . . The seeds, being first roasted, are powdered on a wooden platter ... It is held on the knees by a broad thin handle, which is grasped in the left hand, while the fingers of the right hold a small spa tula or pestle . . . with which the seeds are crushed . . . The snuff is kept in a mull made of a bit of the leg-bone of the jaguar . . . For taking the snuff, they use an apparatus made of the leg bones of herons or other long-shanked birds put together in the shape of the letter Y »

A contemporary observer described the effects of Yopo snuffing as follows: "H:s eyes started from his head, his mouth contracted, his limbs trembled It was fearful to see him. He was obliged to sit down or he would have fallen. He was drunk but only for about five minutes; he was then gayer."

There is appreciable variation from tribe to tribe and from one area to another in the preparation of Yopo. The seed_ are usually toasted and pulverized. Lime from snails or the ashes of certain plants are normally added, but some Indians use the snuff without this alkaline admixture. It appears that other plant admixtures are never employed with Anadenanthera snuff.

Anadenanthera peregrina occurs naturally and sometimes apparently cultivated in the pliins or grassland areas of the Orinoco basin of Colombia and Venezuela, in light forests in southern British Guyana, and in the Pdo Branco area of the northern Amazonia of Brazil. It may occur also in isolated savanna areas in the Rio Medeira region. When it is found elsewhere, it may probably have been introduced by Indians. There is evidence that, a century ago, it was cultivated in more localities outside of its natural range than at present.

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