Vines Of The Serpent

Top left: The Ololiuqui vine Turbina corymbosa.

Top right: Flying Saucers are a favorite cultivated strain of the enchanting Morning Glory, Ipomoea violacea.

Above: An early painting of Ololiuqui from Sahagún's Historia de las Cosas fe Nueva España, written in the second half of the sixteenth century, clearly depicts the plant as a Morning Glory

Four centuries ago, a Spanish missionary in Merico wrote: "Ololiuqi li.. .. deprives all who use it of their reason .. . The natives communicate in this way with the devil, for they usually talk when they become intoxicated with Ololiuqui, and they are deceived by various hallucinations which they atti bute to the deity which they say resides in the seeds ..."

A recent report indicates that Olol;u qui has not lost its association with the deity in Oaxaca: "Throughout these references we see two cultures in a duel to death [the Spanish and the Indians] [with] the tenacity and wiles of the Indians defending their cherished Ololiuqui. The Indians seem to have won out. Today in almost all the villages of Oaxaca one finds the seeds still serving the natives as an ever present help in time of trouble." As with the sacred mushrooms, the use of the hallucinogenic Morning Glories, so significant in the life of pre-Hispanic Mexico, hid in the hinterlands until the present century

A Spanish report written shortly after the Conquest stated that the Aztecs have "an herb called coatl-xoxo uhqui [green snake], and it bears a seed called Ololiuqui.'" An early drawing depicts it as a Morning Glory with congested fruits, cordate leaves, a tuberous root, and a twining habit. In 1651, the physician of the king of Spain Francisco Hernández, dentified Oloh. qui as a Morning Glory and professionally reported: "OloWu-qui, which some call Coaxihuitl or snake plant, is a tv. ining herb with thin, green, cordate leaves; slender, green, terete stems; and long, white flowers. The seed s round and very much like coriander, whence the name [in Nahuatl, the term Ololiuqui means 'round thing'] of the plant. The roots are fibrous and slender. The plant is hot in the fourth degree. It cures syphilis and mitigates pain which is caused by chills. It relieves flatulency and removes tumors. If mixed with a little resin, it banishes chills and stimulates and aids in a remarkable degrei n cases of dislocations, fractures, and pelvic troubles in women. The seed has some medicinal use. If pulverized or taken in a decoction or used as a poultice on the head or forehead with milk and chili, it is said to cure eye troubles. When drunk, it acts as an aphrodisiac. It has a sharp taste and is very hot. Formerly, when the priests wanted to commune with the.r gods and to receive a message from them, they ate this plant to induce a deli- um. A thousand visions and satan_c hallucinations appeared to them In its manner of action, this plant can be compared with Solanum mamacum of

The Chemistry of the Ololiuqui

Lysergic acid alkaloids are the hallucinogenic compounds of Ololiuqui. They are indole alkaloids that have also been isolated from Ergot. Lysergic acid amide, also known as ergine. and lysergic acid hydroxyelnylamide are the main components of the alkaloid mixture in Ololiuqui. Their molecular arrangement is shown on page 187. The tryptamine radical in the ring structure of lysergic acid establishes its relationship with these ergoline alkaloids as well as with the active principles of Psilocybe and of the brain hormone ser-otonine.

LSD. lysergic acid diethylamide, a semi-synthetic compound is the most potent hallucinogen known today. It differs from 'ysergic acid amide only by replacement of two hydrogen atoms for two ethyl groups (p. 187). The active principle of O'oliuqui (hallucinogenic dose 2-5mg), however, :s about 100 times less potent than LSD (hallucinogenic dose 0.05 mg)

Dioscoi les. It grows in warm places in the fields "

Other early references stated that "Ololiuqui is a kind of seed like the len-ti'1 . .. produced by a species of ivy. . .; when it is drunk, th 5 seed deprives of his senses him who has taken it, for it is very powerful" and that "it will not be wrong to refrain from telling where it groes, for it matters little that this plant be here described or the Spaniards be made acquainted with it." Another writer marveled: "It is remarkable how much faith these natives have in the seed- for. . . they consult it as an oracle to learn many things . . . especially those . . . beyond the power of the human mind to penetrate . . . They consult it through one of thei" deceiving doctors, some of whom practice Ololiuqui drinking as a profession ... If a doctor who does not drink Ololiuqui wishes to free a patient of some trouble, he advises the patient himself to partake . . . The doctor appoints the day and hour when the drink must be taken and establishes the reason for the patient's drinking it. Finally, the one drinking Ololiuqui . . . must seclude himself in his room . . . No one must enter during his divination He . . . believes the Ololiuqui ... is revealing what he wants to know When the delirium is passed, the doctor comes out of seclusion reciting a thousand

Above left: The very woody trunk of the Ololiuqui vine.

Above right: The capsules and seeds of Ipomoea violacea are characteristic.

Be/ow:The European bindweed Convolvulus tricolor also contains psychoactive alkaloids, although there is no knowledge of any traditional use.

Right: In Soutn America the bindweet' Ipomoea carnea is used as an inebriant. II alsc has the psychoactive alkaloid erqoline

Above. An ancient Indian Mother Goddess ano her priestly attendants with a highly stylized vine of Ololluqui in one of the murals from Teotihuacan, Mexico dated about a. d. 500. Hallucinogenic nectar appears to flow from the blossoms of the plant, and "disembodied eyes" and birds are other stylistic fea tures associated with hallucinogenic intoxication

Above. An ancient Indian Mother Goddess ano her priestly attendants with a highly stylized vine of Ololluqui in one of the murals from Teotihuacan, Mexico dated about a. d. 500. Hallucinogenic nectar appears to flow from the blossoms of the plant, and "disembodied eyes" and birds are other stylistic fea tures associated with hallucinogenic intoxication fabrications . . . thus keeping the patient deceived." The confession of an Aztec penitent illustrates the Ololiuqui association with witchcraft: "I have believed in dreams, in magic herbs, in Peyote, in Ololiuqui, in the owl..."

The Aztecs prepared a salve that they employed in making sacrifices: "They took poisonous insects . . . burned them and beat the ashes together with the foot of the ocotl, Tobacco, Ololiuqui and some live ..isects. They presented this diabolical mixture to their gods and rubbed their bodies with it When thus anointed, they became fearless to every danger." Another reference asserted that "they place the mixture be fore their gods, saying that it is the food of the gods . . . and with it they become witch-doctors and commune with the devil "

In 1916, an American botanist suspected erroneously that Ololiuqu was a species of Datura. His reasons were several: Datura; was a well-known intoxicant; its flower resembled a Morning Glory; no psychoactive principle was known from the Morning Glory family; the symptoms of Ololiuqui intoxication resembled those caused by Datura; and "a knowledge of botany has been attributed to the Aztecs which they were far from possessi ig . . . The botanical knowledge of the early Span-

Left: The Morning Glory Ipomoea viola■ cea as awildflower in southern Mexico.

Above: Depiction of Morning Glories and visionary eyes on an ancient Indian wall painting in Tepantitla (Teotihuacan).

ish writers . . . was perhaps not much more extensive " This misident'fication was widely accepted

Only in 1939 was identifiable mate rial of Turbina corymbosa collected among the Chinantec and Zapotec of Oaxaca, where it was cult'' ated for hallucinogenic use. The Chinantec name A-mu-kia means "medicine for divination." Thirteen seeds are usually ground up and drunk with water or in an alcoholic beverage. Intoxication rapidly begins and leads to visual hallucinations. There may be an intervening stage of giddiness, followed by lassitude, euphoria, and drowsiness and a somnambulistic narcosis. The Indian may be

Above: Depiction of Morning Glories and visionary eyes on an ancient Indian wall painting in Tepantitla (Teotihuacan).

Left: Xtabentun, "the Jewel Cordial" as is called, is made out of honey from the Ololiuqui flower

fiOLERA M

Below: A Zapotee shaman in San Bartolo Yautepec Mexico, preparing a i infusion of seeds of Ipomoea violacea.

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