Rh0ra the tracks of the little deer

Page 145 top:' 'he Peyote crowns take on many different forms depending on age and growing conditions.

Page 145 below: A group of large Peyote cacti in their native habitat of southern Texas.

Ever since the arrival of the first Europeans in the New World, Peyote has provoked controversy, suppression, and persecution. Condemned by the Spanish conquerors for its "satanic trickery," and attacked again and again by local governments and religious group»,' the plant has nevertheless continued to play a major sacramental role among the Indians of Mexico, while its use has spread to the northern tribes in the United States in the last hundred years The persistence and growth of the Peyote cult constitute a fascinating chapter in the history of the New World—and a challenge to the anthropologists and psychologists, botanists and pharmacologists who continue to studv the plant lished in native religions, and their efforts to stamp out this practice drove it into hiding in the hills, where its sacramental use has persisted to the present time

How old is the Peyote cult? An early Spanish chronicler, Fray Bernardino de Sahagtin, estimated on the basis of several historical events recorded in Indian chronology that Peyote was known to the Chkhimeca and Toltec at least 1,890 years before the arrival of the Eur opeans. This calcula ion would give the "divine plant" of Mexico an economic history extending over a period of some two millennia. Then Carl Lumholtz, the Danish ethnologist who did j oneer work among the Indians of Chihuahua.

Left: The flowering Peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii).

Right: A Hi-chol yarn painting shows the nurturing and fertils gifts of the Peyote cactus.

and its constituents in connection with human affairs

We might logically call this needleless Mexican cactus the prototype of the New World hallucinogens. It was one of the first to be discovered by Europeans and was unquestionably the most spectacular vision-inducing plant encountered by the Spanish conquer ors. They found Peyote firmly estab suggested that the Peyote cult is far older He showed that a symbol employed in the Tarahumara Indian Peyote cere monv appeared in ancient ritualistic car vings preserved in Mesoamerican lava rocks More recently, archaeological discoveries in dry caves and rock shelters in Texas have yielded specimens of Peyote. These specimens, found in a context suggesting ceremonial use, indi-

cate that its use is more than seven thousand years old

The earliest European records concerning this sacred cactus are those of Sahagun, who lived from 1499 to 1590 and who dedicated most of 1rs adult ure to the Indians of Mexico. His precise, firsthand observations were not published until the nineteenth century. Consequently, credit for the earliest published account must go to Juan Cardenas, whose observations on the marvelous secrets of the Indies were published as early as 1591.

Sahagun's writings are among the most important of all the early chroniclers. He described Peyote use among the Chichimeca, of the primitive desert pLteau of the north, recording for posterity: "There is another herb i-ke tunas '[QpunVa spp.] of the earth. It is called peiotl. It is wl !te. It is found ;n the north country. Those who eat or drink it see visions either frightful or laughable. This intoxication lasts two or three days and then ceases It a common food of the Chichimeca, for it sustains them and gives them courage to fight and not feel fear nor hunger nor thirst. And they say that it protects them from all danger."

It is not known whether or not the Chichimeca were the first Indians to discover the psychoactive properties of Peyote. Some students believe that the Tarahumara Indians, living where Peyote grew were the first to discover its use and that it spread from them to the Cora, the Huichol, and other tribes. Since the plant grows in many scattered localities in Mexico, it seems probable that its intoxicating properties were independently discovered by a number of tribes

Several seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuits testified that the Mexican Indians used Peyote medicinally and ceremonially for many ills and that when intoxicated with the cactus they saw "horrible visions." Padre Andréa Pérez de Ribas, a seventeenth-century Jesuit who spent sixteen years in Sinaloa, reported that Peyote was usually drunk but that its use, even medicinally, was

The Chemistry of Peyote

The active principle of Lophophora williamsii, the first hallucinogenic plant to be chemically analyzed, was already identified at the end of the ni eteenth century as a crystallized alkaloid (see page 23). Because the dried cacti from which the alkaloid was extracted are called mescal buttons, it was named mescaline. In addition to mescaline, responsible for the visual hallucinogenic effects, several related alkaloids have been isolated from Peyote and related cacti.

When the chemical structure of mescaline was determined, it could be produced synthetically. The chemistry is relatively simple: 3,4,5,-trimethoxy-phenylethyiamine. The model of this structure is shown on page 186.

Mescaline is chemically related to the neurotransmitter noradren; line (nor epinephrine), a brain hormone, also shown here. The active dose of mescaline is 0.5-0.8 gram when applied orally

Left: Following visions received during the Peyote ritual, the Huichol bring beaded "Peyote snakes" decorated with designs of the Peyote to remote mountain shrines of Earth Mother as an offering of gratitude

Right: An old and very large Peycte cactus that is addressed as "Granc-father" by the Indians. Notice the young crowns.

forbidden and punished, since it was connected with "heathen rituals and superstitions" to contact evil spirits through "diabo'i.: fantasies."

The first full description of the living cactus was offered by Dr. Francisco Hernandez, who as personal physician of King Philip II of Spain was sent to study Aztec medicine. In his ethnobo-tanicaJ study of New Spain, Dr. Hernandez described, peyotl, as the plant was called in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs: "The root is of nearly medium size, sending forth no branches or leaves above the ground, but with a certain woolliness adhering to it on account of which it could not aptly be figured by me. Both men and women are said to be harmed by it. It appears to >e of a sweetish taste and moderately hot. Ground up and applied to painful joints, it is s„_d to give relief Wonderful properties are attributed to this root, if any faith can be given to what is commonly said among them on this point. It causes those devouring it to be able to foresee and to predict things ..."

In the latter part of the seventeenth century, a Spanish missionary in Na-yarit recorded the earliest account of a Peyote ritual. Of the Cora tribe, he reported: "Close to the musician was seated the leader of the singing, whose business it was to mark time. Each had his assistants to take his place when he should become fatigued. Nearby was placed a tray filled with Peyote, which is a diabolical root that is ground up and drunk by them so that they may not become weakened by the exhausting effects of so long a function, which they begin by forming as large a circle of men and women as could occupy the space that had been swept off for this purpose. One after the other, they went dancing in a ring or marking time with their feet, keeping in the middle the musician and choir-master whom they invited, and singing in the same unmusical tune that he set them. They would dance all night, from five o'clock in the evening to seven o'clock in the morning, without stopping nor leaving the circle. When the dance was ended, all stood who could hold themselves on their feet; for the majority from the Peyote and wine which they

"In consciousness dwells the wondrous, w;th it man attains the realm beyond the material, and the Pevote tells us, j 7

where to find it." —Antonin Artaud. The Tarahumars (19417

Above: Different cacti that are known in Mexico as Peyote, Hikuii, Peyotillo, or False Peyote. They primarily contain the substance mescaline and other psychoactive alkaloids. Above left: Ariocarpus retusus Above right: Astrophyton asterias Below left: Aztekium riterii Below right: Ariocarpus fissuratus drank, were unable to utilize their i » egs

The ceremony among the Cora, Huichol, and Tarahumara Indians has probably changed little in content over the centuries: it still consists4 in great part, of dancing

The modern Huichol Peyote ritual is the closest to the pre- Columbian Mexican ceremonies. Sahagun's description of the Teochiohimeca ritual could very well be a description of the contemporary Huichol ceremony, for these Indians still assemble together in the desert three hundred miles northeast of their homeland in the Sierra Madres of western Mexico, still sing all night, all day, still weep exceedingly, and still so esteem Peyote above any other psychotropic plant that the sacred mushrooms, Morning Glories, Datura, and other indigenous hallucinogens are consigned to the realm of sorcerers

Most of the early records in Mexico were left by missionaries who opposed the use of Peyote in religious practice. To them Peyote had no place in Chris tianity because of ts pagan associations. Since the Spanish ecclesiastics were intolerant oj any cult but their own, fierce persecution resulted. But the Indians were reluctant to give up their P^ote cults established on centuries of tradition.

The suppression of Peyote, however, went to great lengths. For example, a priest near San Antonio, Texas, published a manual in 176C containing questions to be asked of converts. Included were the following: "Have you eaten the flesh of man? Hfve you eaten Peyote?" Another priest, Padre Nicolas de Leon, similarly examined potential converts: "Art thou a soothsayer? Dost thou foretell events by reading omens, interpreting dreams or by tracing circles and figures on water? Dost thou garnish with flower garlands the places where idols are kept? Dost thou suck the blood of others? Dost thou wander about at night, calling upon demons to help thee? Hast thou drunk Peyote or given it to others to drink, in order to discover secrets or to discover where stolen or lost articles were?"

During the last decade of the nine teenth century, the explorer Carl Lum-hoitz observed the use of Peyote among the Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, primarily the Huichol and Tarahumara, and he reported on the Peyote ceremony and on various kinds of cacti employed with Lophophora williamsii or in its stead.

Above: Different cacti that are known in Mexico as Peyote, Hikuii, Peyotillo, or False Peyote. They primarily contain the substance mescaline and other psychoactive alkaloids. Above left: Ariocarpus retusus Above right: Astrophyton asterias Below left: Aztekium riterii Below right: Ariocarpus fissuratus

Left: The earliest known botanical illustration of Lophophora williamsii, published in 1847. It has been found in archaeological sites more than seven thousand years of age. It was probably the first and most spectacular vision-inducing plant encountered by the Spanish conquerors of Mexico.

"You see how it is when we walk for the Peyote. How we go, not eating, not drinking, with much will. All of one heart. How one goes being Huichol. That is our unity. That is what we must defend." —Ramón Medina Silva

Left: In Huichol geography, Wirikuta, the place of the ancestor-gods, Is the local ■ ity of the origin of the sacred life oi the tribe. Peyote grows here and is collected on the annual pilgrimages made by small groups of devout Huichols. The trip to Wirikuta is long and arduous, with the pilgrims traveling as Ancient Ones. Like the gods, they refrain from food, sex, and sleep during this extraordinary trip When they first enter the domain of their Paradise the mara'akame Ramon Medina Silva gestures toward Kau kayari (power spots) that once were the living forms of the gods

However, no anthropologist ever participated in or observed a Peyote hunt until the 1960s, when anthropologists and a Mexican writer were permitted by Huichols to accompany several pilgrimages. Once a year, the Huichols make a sacred ti p to gather Hikuri, as the sacred cactus is called. The trek is led by an experienced mara'akame or shaman, who is in contact with Tatewari (Our grandfather-fire). Tatewari is the oldest Huichol god, also known as Hikuri, the Peyote god. He :s personified with Peyote plants on his hands and feet, and he interprets all the deities to the modern shamans, often through visions, sometimes indirectly through food taken for the stay in Wirikuta is corn tortillas. The pilgnims, however, eat Peyote while in Wirikuta. They must travel great distances. Today, much of the trek is done by car. but formerly the Indians walked some two hundred miles.

The preparation for gathering Peyete involves ritual confes: Dn and purification. Public recitation of all sexual encounters must be made, but no show of shame, resentment, or jealousy, nor any expression of hostility, occurs. For each offense, the shaman makes a knot in a string that, at the end of the ritual, is burned. Following the confession, the group, preparing to set out for Wirikuta—

Kauyumari (the Sacred Deer Person and culture hero). Tatewari led the first Peyote pilgrimage far from the present area inhabited by the nine thousand Huichols into Wirikuta, an ancestral region where Peyote abounds. Guided by the shaman, the participants, usually ten to fifteen in number, take on the iden tity of deified ancestors as they follow atewari "to find their life."

The Peyote hunt is literally a hunt, r il grims carry Tobacco gourds, a necessity for the journey's ritual. Water gourds are often taken to transport water back home from Wirikuta. Often the only an area located in San Luis Potosi—-must be cleansed before journeying to paradise

Upon arriving within sight of the sacred mountains of Wirikuta, the pilgrims are ritually washed and pray for rain and fertility. Amid the praying and chanting of the shaman, the dangerous crossing into the Otherworld begins. This passage has two stages: first, the Gateway of the Clashing Clouds, and second, the opening of the Clouds. These do not represent actual localities but exist only in the "geographv of the mind"; to the participants the passing

flfcfif: A Peyote hunter spreads out his harvest at home

Left: The baskets carried to Wirikuta contain only a few personal and ceremonial objects. On the return trip they are filled with the Peyoie buttons collected on the pi1-grimage. The Huichol say that Peyote is "very delicate," so the heavily laden baskets are carefully transported back to the Sierras in order to avoid bruising the cactus Leaning against the basket is a Huichol violin, used to provide music for the Peyote dancing.

Below right: Huichol Indians returning from a pilgrimage.

Below left: A Psyoie hunter with a basketful of Pevote cacti

Page 148 right: Each pilgrim ha« brought offerings to Peyote. After these gifts are carefully displayed the pilgrims raise candles in the direction of the ascending sun. They weep and pray that the gods accept their offering while Ramón (second from right) fervently chants.

from one to the other is an event filled with emotion.

Upon arrival at the place where the Peyote is to be hunted, the shaman begins ceremonial practices, telling stories from the ancient Peyote tradition and invoking protection for the events to come. Those on their first pilgrimage are blindfolded, and the participants are led by the shaman to the "cosmic threshold," which only he can see. All celebrants stop, light candlesi and murmur prayers, while the shaman, imbued with supernatural forces, chants.

Finally, Peyotf is found. The shaman has seen the deer tracks. He draws his arrow and shoots the cactus. The pil grims make offerings to this first Hi-kun. More Peyote is sought, basketfuls of the plant eventually being collected. On the follow' ig day, more Peyote is collected, some of which is to be shared with those who remain at home. The rest is to be sold to the Cora and Tara humara Indians, who use Peyote but do not have a quest.

The ceremony of distributing Tobacco is then carried out. Arrows are placed pointing to the four points of the compass; at midnight a fire i-S built.

Page 148 right: Each pilgrim ha« brought offerings to Peyote. After these gifts are carefully displayed the pilgrims raise candles in the direction of the ascending sun. They weep and pray that the gods accept their offering while Ramón (second from right) fervently chants.

Page 151 left: The Huichol "trinity" ot deer, maize, and Peyote is a hypersym-bolir complex, a concept harkemng back to the time of creation. This para disiacal era antedates the separal ion of plants from animals, with Peyote representing the trans-temporal link with the supernatural. On the annual Peyote hunt of the Huichol, the pilgrims shoot the first found Peyote with an arrow and that special Peyote is likened to a dying deer and accorded particular chants; offerings of maize seeds are likewise made.

Page 151 right. The Yaqui Indians of northern Mexico symbolize the Peyote cactus as a buck as in this wood carving.

Right: A Huichol sacrificial bowl deco rated with Peyote designs.

Above: "It is one, it is a unity; it is our selves." These words of Huichol mara'akame Ramón Medina Silva describe the mystical rapport unfolding among communicants in the Peyote ceremonies that is such an important dimension in the lives of these people In this yarn painting, six peyoterosand the shaman (on top) achieve that unity in a field of fire. In the center of the peyoteros is Tatewari, the First Shaman, as a five-plumed tire

According to the Huichol, Tobacco belongs to lire

The shaman prays, placing the offering of Tobacco before the fire, touching it with feathers, then d: tributing it to each pilgrim, who puts :.t into his gourd, symbolizing the birth of Tobacco.

The Huichol Peyote hunt is seen as a return to Wirikuta or Paradise, the archetypal beginning and end of a mythical past. A modern Huichol mara'akame expressed it as follows: "One day all will be as you have seen it there, in Wirikuta The First People will come back. The fields will be pure and crystalline, all this is not clear to me, but in five more years I will know it, through more revelations. The world will end, and the unity will be here again. But only for pure Huichol."

Among the Tarahumara, the Peyote cult is less important. Many buy their supplies of the cactus, usually from Huichol. Although the two tribes live several hundred miles apart and are not closely related, they share the same name for Peyote—Hikuri—and the two cults have many points of resem blance.

The Tarahumara Peyote dance may be held at any time during the year for health, tribal prosperity, or for simple worship. It is sometimes incorporated into other established festivals. The principal part of the ceremony consists of dances and prayers followed by a day of feasting. It is held in a cleared area, neatly swept. Oak and pine logs are dragged in for a fire and oriented in an east-west direction. The Tarahumara name for the dance means "moving about the fire," and except for Peyote itself, the fire is the most important element.

The leader has several women assistants who prepare the Hikuri plants for use, grinding the fresh cacti on a metate, being careful not to lose one drop of the resulting liquid. An assistant catches all liquid in a gourd, even the water used to wash the metate. The leader sits west of the fire, and a cross may be erected opposite him. In front of the leader, a small hole is dug into which he may spit. A Peyote may be set before him on its side or inserted into a root-shaped hole bored in the ground. He inverts half a gourd over the Peyote, turning it to scratch a circle in the earth around the cactus. Removing the gourd temporarily, he draws a cross in the dust to represent the world, thereupon replacing the gourd. This apparatus serves as a reso nator for the rasping stick: Peyote is set under the resonator, since it enjoys the sound.

Incense from burning copal is then offered to the cross. After facing east, kneeling, and crossing themselves, the leader's assistants are :;iven deer-hoof rattles or bells to shake during the dance.

Below: The Huichol shaman Ramón Medina Silva silently awaits his Peyote visions. Wrapped in his blanket, gazing into the ceremonial fire he sits motionless for many hours as he receives messages from the gods. He said of th<> Peyote pilgrimage: "Our sym

The ground-up Peyote is kept in a pot or crock near the cross and is served in a gourd by an assistant: he makes three rounds of the fire if carrying the gourd to the leader, one if carrying it to an ordinary participant. All the songs praise Peyote for its protection of the tribe and for its "beautiful intoxication."

Heal:ng ceremonies are often carried out like the Huichol's.

The Tarahumara leader cures at daybreak. The first terminates dancing by giving three raps. He rises, accompanied by a young assistant, and. circling the pauo, he touches every forehead with water. He touches the patient thrice, and placing his stiii to the patient's head, he raps three times. The dust produced by the rapping, even though infinitesimal, is a powerful health- and life-giver and is saved for medicinal use

The final ritual sends Peyote home. The leader reaches toward the rising sun and raps thrice. "In the early morning. Hikuli had come from San Ignacio and from Satapolio riding on beautiful green doves, to feast with the Tarahumara at the end of the dance when the people sacrifice food and eat and drink. Having bestowed his blessings, Hikuli forms himsel into a ball and flies to his shelter at the time."

Peyote is employed as a religious sacrament among more than forty Amer ican Indian tribes in many parts of the United States and western Canada. Because of its wide use, Peyote early attracted the attention of scientists and bols—the deer, the Peyote, the maize of five colors— all, all that you have seen, there in Wirikuta, when we go to hunt the Peyote—thesa are beautiful. They are beautiful because they are right." (From Barbara Myerncff, Peyote Hunt)

bols—the deer, the Peyote, the maize of five colors— all, all that you have seen, there in Wirikuta, when we go to hunt the Peyote—thesa are beautiful. They are beautiful because they are right." (From Barbara Myerncff, Peyote Hunt)

legislators and engendered heated and. unfortunately, often irresponsible opposition to its free use in American Indian ceremonies.

It was the Kiowa and Comanche In-d'-.ns. apparently, who in visits to a na tive group in northern Mexico first learned of this sacred American plant. Indians in the United States had been restricted to reservations by the last half

Right: The red Mescal beans (Sophora secundiflora)

IFp0^

,4£>oi/e left: The roadman in the Native American Church officiates at the Peyote meeting as a representative of the Great Spirit. It is his duty to show the ' Peyote road" to the participants. The roar'man in Stephen Mopope's pair ling holds traditional ceremonial objects associated with the religion: the fan, staff, and rattle. On his cheek is painted the crown of a Peyote plant. In the center picture, also by Mopope, chanting participants sit inside the sacred tepee, in the middle of which is Father Fire and the crescent moon altar. Above the tepee is the Peyote water drum. The photograph on the 'ar right depicts the Sioux medicine man Henry Crow Dog chanting at a Peyote meeting on the Rosebud Reservation

Above middle: Also jy Mopope. This shows the participant who sits singing in the interior of his sacred tipi. In the middle is rather Fire and the sickle shaped altar. Above the tipi is the water container.

Above right: Sioux Medicine Man Henry Crow Dog at a Peyote Gathering on the Rosebud reservation.

of the nineteenth century, and much of their cultural heritage was disintegrating and disappearing. Faced with this disastrous inevitability, a number of Indian leaders, especially from tribes relocated in Oklahoma, began actively to spread a new kind of Peyote cult adapted to the needs of the more advanced Indian groups of the United States

The Kiowa and Comanche were ap parently the most active proponents of the new region. Today it is the Kiowa-Comanche type of Peyote ceremony that, with slight modifications. prevs"'s north of the Mexican border. T1 -; cere mony, to judge from the rapid spread of the new Peyote religion, must have appealed strongly to the Plains tribes and later to other groups.

Success in spread.ng the new Peyote cult resulted in strong opposition to its practice from missionary and local gov ernmental groups. The ferocity of this opposition often led local governments to enact repressive legislation, in spite of overwhelming scientific opinion that Indians should be permitted to use Peyote in religious practices. In an at tempt to protect their rights to free reli gious activity, American Indians orga nized the Peyote cult into a legally recognized religious group, the Native American Church. This religious movement, unknown in the United States before 1885, numbered 13,300 members in 1922. In 1993 there were at least 300,000 members among seventy different tribes,

Indians of the United States, living far from the natural area of Peyote, must use the dried top of the cactus, the so-called mescal button, legally acquired by either collection or purchase and distribution through the U.S postal services. Some American Indians still send pilgrims to gather the cactus in the fields, following the custom of Mexican Indians, but most tribal groups in the United States must procure their supplies by purchase and mail.

A member may hold a meeting in gratitude for the recovery of health, the safe return from a voyage, or the success of a Peyote pilgrimage; it may be held to celebrate the birth of a baby, to name a child, on the first four birthdays of a child, for doctoring, or even for general thanksgiving

Above right: The photograph portrays the roadman's feathered staff of authority: two smoking sticks for lighting the ritual cigarettes, one of which indicates in the combination of the thunderblrd and the cross the melding of Christian and Native elements; corn shucks for cigarettes; a drumstick; several gourd rattles; two Mescal bean necklaces, part of the roadman's dress; a bundle of sagebrush; Peyote buttons; a Peyote ceremony necktie; a black "Peyote cloth," an eagle wing-bone flute and a small pile of "cedar" needles for incensing.

The Kickapoo hold a Peyote service for the dead, and the body of the deceased is brought into the ceremonial tepee. The I iowa may have five services at Easter, four at Christmas and Thanksgiving, s;" at the New Year Especially among the Kiowa, meetings are held only on Saturday night. Anyone who is a member of the Peyote cult may be a leader or "roadman." There are certain taboos that the roadman, and sometimes all participants, must observe. The older men refrain from eating salt the day before and after a meeting, and they may not bathe for several days following a Peyote service. There seem to be no sexual taboos, as in the Mexican tribes, and the ceremony is free of licentiousness. Women are admitted to meetings to eat Peyote and to pray, but they do not usually participate in the singing and drumming. After the age of ten, children may attend meetings, but do not take part until they are adults.

Peyote ceremonies differ from tribe to tribe. The typical Plains Indian service takes place usually in a tepee erected over a carefully made altar of earth or clay; the tepee is taken down as soon as the all-night ceremony is over. Some tribes hold the ceremony in a wooden round-house with a permanent altar of cement inside, and the Osage and Qua-paw Indians often have electrically lighted round-houses.

The Father Peyote (a large "mescal button" or dried top of the Peyote plant) is placed on a cross or rosette of sage leaves at the center of the altar. This crescent:shaped altar, symbol of the spirit of Peyote, is never taken from the altar during the ceremony As soon as the Father Peyote has been put in place, all talking stops, and all eyes are direc ted toward the altar

Tobacco and corn shucks or black jack oak leaves are passed around the circle of worship^*, each making a cigarette for use dui 'ng the leader's open ing prayer.

The next procedure involves purifica tion of the bag of mescal buttons in ce dar incense. Following this blessing, the roadman takes four mescal buttons from the bag, which is then passed around in a clockwise direction, each worshiper taking four. More Peyote

Above right: The photograph portrays the roadman's feathered staff of authority: two smoking sticks for lighting the ritual cigarettes, one of which indicates in the combination of the thunderblrd and the cross the melding of Christian and Native elements; corn shucks for cigarettes; a drumstick; several gourd rattles; two Mescal bean necklaces, part of the roadman's dress; a bundle of sagebrush; Peyote buttons; a Peyote ceremony necktie; a black "Peyote cloth," an eagle wing-bone flute and a small pile of "cedar" needles for incensing.

Top right: A Huichol man with the small Peyote garden he has planted In his ■ lage and which he lovingly cares for.

Top left: The Peyote Goddess, or Earth Mother, of the Huichol in a modern depiction. Her dress is decorated with symbols of trie sacred cactus. The Peyote Is her gift to humans in order that they may enter into contact with her. By knowing her, man learns to respect and honor the earth and use her wisely

Above: A Huichol shaman (mara'akame) sings with his assistants in front of the temple in which the Peyote ceremony will take place

Top right: A Huichol man with the small Peyote garden he has planted In his ■ lage and which he lovingly cares for.

Top left: The Peyote Goddess, or Earth Mother, of the Huichol in a modern depiction. Her dress is decorated with symbols of trie sacred cactus. The Peyote Is her gift to humans in order that they may enter into contact with her. By knowing her, man learns to respect and honor the earth and use her wisely

Above: A Huichol shaman (mara'akame) sings with his assistants in front of the temple in which the Peyote ceremony will take place

Page 155 top The ground Peyote is mixed with water and given to the parti cipants at the intoxicating ceremony.

may be called for at any time during the ceremony, the amount consumed being left to personal discretion. Some peyo-tists eat up to thirty-six buttons a night, and some boast of having ingested up wards of fifty. An average amount is probably about twelve

Singing starts with the roadman, the initial song always being the same, sung or chanted in a high nasal tone. Trans-ated, the song means: "May the gods t :ss me, help me, and g:ve me power and understanding."

Sometimes, the roadman may be asked to treat a patient This procedure varies in form. The curing ritual is almost always simple, consisting of pray ing and frequent use of the sign of the cross

Peyote eaten in ceremony has as sumed the role of a sacrament in part because of its biological activity: the sense of well-being that it induces and the psychological effects (the chief of which is the kaleidoscopic play of richly colored visions) often experienced by those who indulge in its use. Peyote is considered sacred by Native Americans, a divine "messenger" enabling the individual to communicate with God without the medium of a priest It is an earthly representative of God to many peyotists. "God told the Delawares to do good even before He sent Christ to the whites who killed Him . . .," an Indian explained to an anthropologist. "God made Peyote. It is His power. It is the power of Jesus. Jesus came afterwards on this earth, after Peyote . . . God (through Peyote) told the Dela wares the same things that Jesus told the whites."

Correlated with its use as a religious sacrament is its presumed value as a medicine. Some Indians claim that if Peyote is used correctly, all other medi cines are superfluous. Its supposed curative properties are responsible probably more than any other attribute for the ra pid diffusion of the Peyote cult in the United States

The Peyote religion is a medico religious cult. In considering Native American medicines, one must always

bear in mind the difference between the aboriginal concept of a medicinal agent and that of our modern Western meaicine. Indigenous societies, in general, cannot conceive of natural death or illness but believe that they are due to supernatural interference. There are two types of "medicines": those with purely physical effects (that is, to relieve toothache or digestive upsets^ and the medicines, par excellence, that put the medicine man into communication, through a variety of visions, with the malevolent spirits that cause illness and death.

The factors responsible for the rapid growth and tenacity of the Peyote re ligion in the United States are many and interrelated. Among the most obvious, however, and those most often cited, are: the ease of legally obtaining supplies of the hallucinogen; lack of federal restraint; cessation of intertribal warfare; reservation life with con sequent intermarriage and peaceful exchange of social and religious ideas; ease of transportation and postal communication; and the general attitude of resignation toward encroaching Western culture.

In the year 1995 the use of peyote by members of the Native American Church was made legal by Bill Clinton!

Above: A modern Peyote bird of the Navajo.

Left: A Peyote fan (Navajo) made from peacock feathers is used by the Indians to induce visions.

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