Geography Of Usage And Botanical Range

Many more hallucinogenic plants exist than those that man has put to use. Of the probable halfmillion species in the world's flora, only about one thousand are known to be employed for their hallucinogenic properties. Few areas of the globe lack at least one hallucinogen of significance in the culture of the inhabitants.

Despite its size and extremely varied vegetation, Africa appears to be poor in hallucinogenic plants. The most famous, of course, is Iboga, a root of the Dogbane family employed in Gabon and parts of the Congo in the Bwiti cult. The Bushmen of Botswana slice the bulb of Kwashi of the Amaryllis family and rub it over scarifications on the head, allowing the active principles in the juice to enter the bloodstream. Kanna is a mysterious hallucinogen, probably no longer used: the Hottentots chewed the plant material from two species of the Ice Plant family that induced gaiety, laughter, and visions. In scattered regions, relatives of Thorn Apple and Henbane were used for their intoxicating properties.

In Eurasia there are many plants employed for their hallucinatory effects. Most significant, it is the home of Hemp, today the most widespread of all narcotics: as Marijuana, Maconha, Daggha, Ganja, Charas, etc., the drug and its use have spread nearly throughout the world.

The most spectacular Eurasiatic hallucinogen is the Fly Agaric, a mushroom consumed by scattered tribesmen in Siberia and possibly the sacred god-narcotic Soma of ancient India.

Datura was employed over wide areas of Asia. In Southeast Asia, especially in Papua New Guinea, sundry poorly understood hallucinogens are used. The rhizome of Maraba, a member of the Ginger family, is believed to be eaten in New Guinea. In Papua, natives ingest a mixture of leaves of Ereriba of the Arum family and bark of a large tree, Agara, to produce a sleep during which visions occur. Nutmeg may once have been taken in India and Indonesia for its narcotic effects. Tribesmen in Turkestan drink an intoxicating tea made from the dried leaves of a shrubby mint, Lagochilus.

The heyday of the use of hallucinogens in Europe occurred in ancient times, when they were used almost exclusively in witchcraft and divination. The major plants involved—Thorn Apple, Mandrake, Henbane, Belladonna—belong to the

Nightshade family. The fungus Ergot, a parasite on rye, frequently poisoned entire regions if accidentally milled into the flour. Such attacks led hundreds of citizens to go mad and suffer hallucinations, often causing permanent insanity, gangrene, or death. This plague was known as St. Anthony's fire. Although Ergot was apparently never purposefully used in medieval Europe as a hallucinogen, there are suggestions that the Eleu-sinian mysteries of ancient Greece were associated with this fungal genus.

The famous and widely employed Kava-kava is not a hallucinogen but has been classified as a hypnotic narcotic.

It is in the New World that the number and cultural significance of hallucinogenic plants are overwhelming, dominating every phase of life among the aboriginal peoples.

There were some hallucinogenic species in the West Indies. In fact, the early indigenous populations used mainly the snuff known as Cohoba; and it is believed that this custom was imported by Indians invading the Caribbean Islands from the Orinoco regions of South America

Similarly, North America (north of Mexico) is quite poor in hallucinogens. Various species of Datura were employed rather widely, but most intensely in the Southwest. The Indians of the region of Texas and adjacent areas used the Red Bean or Mescal Bean as the basis of a vision-seeking ceremony. In northern Canada, Indians chewed the roots of Sweet Flag as medicine and supposedly also for the hallucinogenic effects.

Mexico represents without a doubt the world's richest area in diversity and use of hallucinogens in aboriginal societies—a phenomenon difficult to understand in view of the comparatively modest number of species comprising the flora of the country. Without any question the Peyote cactus is the most important sacred hallucinogen, although other cactus species are still used in northern Mexico as minor hallucinogens for special magico-religious purposes. Of almost equal religious importance in early Mexico and surviving until today in religious rituals are mushrooms, known to the Aztecs as Teonanacatl. At least twenty-four species of these fungi are employed at the present time in southern Mexico. Ololiuqui, the seeds of Morning Glories, repre-

Top: At the Shiva Temple of Pashupatinath near Kathmandu, Nepal, Indian yogis smoke Marijuana in preparation for the arduous body practice and meditation.

Below: Visions revealed by hallucinogens can be subsequently processed and rendered artistically. In this way the experience is carried into and connected with every day life. (Hallucigenia by Christian Ratsch, watercolor, circa 1993)

Datura Hallucinog Pek

sents another hallucinogen of great importance in Aztec religion and is still employed in southern Mexico There are many hallucinogens of secondary importance: Toloache and other species of the Datura group; the Mescal Bean or Frijolillo in the north; Pipiltzintzintli of the Aztecs; the diviner's sage now known as Hierba de la Pastora; Genista among the Yaqui Indians; Piule, Sinicuichi, Zacatechichi, the puffballs


known by the Mixtees as Gi'-i Wa; and many others.

South America ranks a close second to Mexico m the number, variety, and deep magico-religious significance of hallucinogens. The Andean cultures had half a dozen species of Brugmansias, known as Borrachero, Campanilla, Floripondio, Huanto, Haucacachu, Maicoa, Toé, Tongo, etc. In Peru and Bolivia a columnar cactus called San Pedro or Aguacolla is the basis of the drink cimora, used in a vision-seeking ceremony. Mapuche Indian witch doctors (who are mostly female) of Chile formerly employed a hallucinogenic tree of the Nightshade family—Latué or Arbol de los Brujos. Research has indicated the use in various parts of the Andes of the rare shrub Taique (Desfontainia), the mysterious Shanshi, and the fruits of Hierba Loca and Taglli, both of the Heath family. Most recently, a type of Pe ama has been reported as an intoxicant used in Ecuador. In the Orinoco and parts of the Amazon, a powerful snuff called Yopo or Niopo is made from the toasted seeds of a tree of the legume

Rare Hallucinogens

There does;not,however,'.seem tobe a significant differenceTietween: the; «0 hemispheres in the number of plants" possessing hallucinogenic princigfes.

Notwithstanding the greater age of culture^ and the

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have explained^his disparity on cultüraßrourids.

have explained^his disparity on cultüraßrourids.

There does;not,however,'.seem tobe a significant differenceTietween: the; «0 hemispheres in the number of plants" possessing hallucinogenic princigfes.


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