W Urametelof The North Star

Datura

9Q DATURA STRAMONIUM ^ Thorn Apple

Above left: The Datura stramonium var. tatula is the most common in the Hima-ayas It is easily recognized by the violet color of the flower.

Above right: The sacred Thorn Apple (Datura metel) is often found in the Himalayas on altars to the gods of the mountains (photo taken in Tukche, Nepal)

Below right: A yellow-flowered Datura metel in full bloom.

A beautiful Zuf; Indian legend tells of the divine origin of Aneglakya, Datura innoxia, their most sacred plant:

"In the olden time a boy and a girl, brother and sister (the boy's name was A'neglakya and the girl's name A'negla-kyatsi'tsa), lived in the interior of the earth, but they often came to the outer world and walked about a great deal, observing closely everytmng they saw and heard and repeating all to their mother. This constant talking did not please the Divine Ones (twin sons of the Sun Father). On meeting the boy and the girl the Divine Ones asked, 'How are you?' and the brother and sister answered, 'We are happy.' (Sometimes Aneglakya and A'neglakyatsi tsa appeared on Earth as old people ) They told the Divine Ones how they could make one sleep and see ghosts, and how they could make one walk about a little and see one who had committed theft. After fliis meeting the Divine Ones concluded that A'neglakya and A neglakyatsi'tsa knew too much and that they should be banished for all time from this world; so the Divine Ones caused the brother and sister to disap pear into the earth forever. Flowers sprang up at the spot where the two descended—flowers exactly like those that they wore on each side of their heads when visiting the earth. The Divine Ones called the plant 'a'neglakya' after the boy's name. The original plant has many children scattered over the earth; some of the blossoms are tinged with yellow, some with blue, some with red. some are all white—the colors belonging to the four cardinal points."

This and related species of Datura

The various species of Datura contain the same major alkaloids as related solanaceous plants (Angel's Trumpet, Belladonna, Henbane, and Mandrake) hyoscyarnlne and, in greatest concentration scopolamine. Meteloidine is a characteristic secondary alkaloid of D. mete!.

The Chemistry of Datura

Top: Traditional depiction of the Thorn Apple on a Tibetan medicinal painting.

The various species of Datura contain the same major alkaloids as related solanaceous plants (Angel's Trumpet, Belladonna, Henbane, and Mandrake) hyoscyarnlne and, in greatest concentration scopolamine. Meteloidine is a characteristic secondary alkaloid of D. mete!.

The Chemistry of Datura have long been employed as sacred hallucinogens, especially in Mexico and the Ame ican Southwest, and have played major roles :n native medicine and magico-religious rites. Their undoubted danger as potent narcotics, however, has never been challenged, even from earliest times.

In the Old World, Datura has had a long history as a medicine and sacred hallucinogen, although the genus has apparently never enjoyed the ceremonial role that it has had in the New World. Early Sanskrit and Chinese wri n'ngs mention Datura metel. It was undoubtedly this species that the Arabian doctor Avicenna reported in the eleventh century under the name Jouz-mathal ("metel nut"); this report was repeated n Dioscorides' writings The name metel is taken from this Arabic term, while the generic epithet Datura was adapted to Latin by Linnaeus from the Sanskrit Dhatura. In China, the plant was considered sacred: when Buddha was preaching, heaven sprinkled the plant with dew or raindrops. A Taoist legend maintains that Datura metel is one of the circumpolar stars and that envoys to earth from this star carry a flower of the plant in their hand. Several species of Datura were introduced into Chii.a from India between the Sung and Ming dynasties—that is, between a. d 960 and 1644—so they were not recorded n earlier herbáis. The herbalist Li Shih-chen reported the medicinal uses of one of the species known as Man-t'o-lo in 1596: the flowers and seeds were employed to treat eruptions on the face, and the plant was prescribed internally for colds, nervous disorders, and other problems. It was taken together with Cannabis in wine as an anesthesia for minor surgical operations. Its narcotic properties were known to the Chinese, for Li Shih-chen personally experimented on himself and wrote: "According to traditions, it ;> alleged that when the flowers are picked for use with wine while one is laughing, the wine will cause one to produce laughing movements; and when the flowers are picked while one is dancing, the wine will cause one to produce dancing movements. [I have found out] that

Top: Traditional depiction of the Thorn Apple on a Tibetan medicinal painting.

Above left: The hanging fruit of Datura innoxia. The seeds that a>-e chewed by shamans to induce a clairvoyant trance are clearly visible.

Above middle: Many species of Datura have played a vital medicinal and ineb-riant role in Mexico since early times. This page from the "Badianus Manu script" (Codex Berberini Latina 241, Folio 29) depicts two species of Datura and describes their therapeutic uses. This document of 1542 is the first herbal to be written in the New World.

Above right: A Datura flower is left as an offering on a Shiva Lingam at Pashupa tinath (Nepal).

Flight: The typical fruit of the Datura Below: It was believed that when Bud-

metel. In India it is given to the god dha preached, dew or raindrops fell

Shi a as an offering from heaven on Datura. This bronze shrine from the Sui period of China de picts Amitabha Buddha seated under the jeweled trees of Paradise

such movements will be produced when one becomes half-drunk with the wine and someone else laughs or dances to induce these actions."

In India, it was called tuft of Shiva, the god of destruction. Dancing girls sometimes drugged wine with its seeds, and whoever drank of the potion, appearing in possession of his senses, gave answe to questions, although he had no control o his will, was ignorant of whom he was addressing, and lost all memory of what he did when the intoxication wore off. For this reason, many Indians called the plant "drunkard," "madman," "deceiver," and "foolmaker." The British traveler Hardwicke found this plant common in mountain villages in India in 1796 and reported that an infusion of the seeds was used to increase the intoxication from alcoholic drinks. Durin the Sanskritic period, Indian medicine

valued Datura metel for treating mental disorders, various fevers, tumors, breast inflammations, skin diseases, an 1 diarrhea.

In other parts of Asia, D. metel was valued and similarly employed in native medicine and as an intoxicant. Even today, seeds or powdered leaves of this plant are often mixed with Cannabis or Tobacco and smoked in Indochina. In

1578, its use as an aphrodisiac in the East Indies was reported. From earliest classical times, the dangers of Datura were recognized. The English herbalist Gerard believed that Datura was the Hippomanes that the Greek writer Theocritus mentioned as driving horses mad.

Datura stramonium var. ferox, a spe c^cs now widely distributed in the war mer parts of both hemispheres, has uses almost identical with those of D metel. It is employed especially in parts of Africa. In Tanzania, it is added to Pombe, a kind of beer, for its inebrLting to induce visual hallucinations bur also for a great variety of medicinal uses, especially when applied to the body to relieve rheumatic pains and to reduce swellings.

Writing shortly after the conquest of Mexico, Hernández mentioned its med icinal value but warned that excessive use would dri^e patients to maaness with "various and vain imaginations " Neither its magico-religious nor its therapeutic use has diminished in Mexico. Among the Yaqui, for example, it is taken by women to lessen the pain of childu:rth. It is considered so powerful that it can be handled only by "someone of authority." One ethnobotanist wrote: "My collecting these plants was often accompanied with warnings that I would go crazy and die because I was mistreating them. Some Indians refused to talk to me for several days afterward *

108 bottom right; The opening blossom of a Datura innoxia. The Mayans call It xtohk'uh, "toward the gods," and still use it for shamanic purposes such as divination and medicinal healing.

Above left: A Datura fruit has beer left as an offering at the image of Nandi, Shiva's sacred steer.

La co solución ! Cono-idj por los tribus intzonicos del Alto Ucayali El pc^me CHAMICO te do euergia poro hacer el onor tientos <>ces tetras i omorror a. a perscno que quiera'-. Qu¡¿r*r ser 'ensunl? Uso est*

Bottom left: In northern India Datura fruit is threaded into garlands and offered to the Hindu god Shiva.

effects. A common medicr.l use in Africa is smoking the leaves to relieve asthma and pulmonary problems.

In the New World, the Mex> -ans call Datura Toloache, a modern version of the ancient Aztec Toloatzin (that is, "inclined head," in reference to its nod-riing fruit). It was also known in the Nahuatl language as Tolohuaxihuitl and Tlapatl. It was employed not only

Toloache is rather widely added to mescal, a distilled liquor from Agave, or to Tesguino, a fermented maize drink, as an added intoxicant—"as a catalyst and to induce a good feeling and visions." Some Mexicans prepare a fatty ointment containing seeds and leaves of Toloache, which is rubbed over the abdomen to induce visual hallucinations.

Among the Indians of the Southwest,

La co solución ! Cono-idj por los tribus intzonicos del Alto Ucayali El pc^me CHAMICO te do euergia poro hacer el onor tientos <>ces tetras i omorror a. a perscno que quiera'-. Qu¡¿r*r ser 'ensunl? Uso est*

Bottom left: In northern India Datura fruit is threaded into garlands and offered to the Hindu god Shiva.

Bottom right: The Curanderos (local healers) of northern Peru enjoy using a perfume that is named Chamico (Thorn Apple).

Bottom left: The blossoms of the Thorn A,pple (Datura stramonium) open in the evening, exude a delightful scent throughout the night, and fade in the morning.

Right: A purple variety of the Datura metel, better known as Datura fastuosa. In particular, this plant is used in Africa as an inebriant in initiation rites.

Top left: The thorn-protected fruit of a rare species of Thorn Apple.

Bottom left: The blossoms of the Thorn A,pple (Datura stramonium) open in the evening, exude a delightful scent throughout the night, and fade in the morning.

Right: A purple variety of the Datura metel, better known as Datura fastuosa. In particular, this plant is used in Africa as an inebriant in initiation rites.

"I ate the thorn apple leaves And the leaves made me dizzy.

I ate the thorn appledeaves And the leaves made me dizzy

I ate the thorn apple flowers A.nd the drink made me stagger.

The hunter's bow remaining He overtook and killed me.

Cut and threw my horns away,

The hunter, reed remaining.

He overtook and killed me Cut and threw my feet away

Now the flies become crazy And drop with flapping wings.

No drunken butterflies sit With opening and shutting wings "

D. innoxia has assumed extraordinary importance as a sacred element and is the most v/idely used plant to induce hallucinations. The Zunis believe that the plant belongs to the Rain Priest Fraternity and rain priests alone may collect its roots. These priests put the powdered root into their eyes to commune with the Feathered Kingdom at night, and they chew the roots to ask the dead to intercede with the spirits for rain. These priests further use D. innoxia for its analgesic effects, to deaden pam during simple operations, bone-setting, and cleaning ulcerated wounds The Yokut, who call the plant Tanayin, take the drug only du ng the spring, since it is considered to be poisonous in the summer; it is given to adolescent boys and girls only once in a lifetime to ensure a good and a long life.

Boys and girls of the Tubatulobal tribe drink Datura after puberty to "obtain life," and adults use it to obtain visions. The roots are macerated and soaked in water for ten hours; after drinking large amounts of this liquor, the youths fall into a stupor accompanied by hallucinations that may last up to twenty-four hours. If an animal—an eagle, a hawk, for example- -is seen during the visions, it becomes the child's "pet" or spiritual mascot for life: if "life" is seen, the child acquires a ghost. The ghost is the ideal object to appear, since it cannot die. Children never may kill the animaj "pet" that they see in their Datura vision, for these "pets" may visit during serious illness and ef feet a cure.

The Yuman tribes believe that the reaction of braves under the influence of Toloache may foretell their future. These people use the plant to gain occult power. If birds sing to a man in a Datura trance, he acquires the power to cure

The Navajo take Datura for its visionary properties, valuing it for diagnosis, healing, and purely intoxicating use. Navajo use :s magic-oriented. Visions induced by this drug are especially valued, since they reveal certain animals possessing special significance. Upon learning from these visions the cause of a disease, a chant may be prescribed. If a man be repulsed in love by a girl, he seeks revenge by putting her saliva or dust from her moccasins on a Datura. then the singing of a chant will immediately drive the girl mad.

Datura stramonium is now believed to be native to eastern America, where the Algonquins and other tribes may have employed it as a ceremonial hallu-c "togen. Indians of Virginia used a toxic medicine called wysoccan in initiatory rites: the Huskanawing ceremony. The active ingredient was probably Datura stramonium. Youths were confined for long periods, given "no other substance but the infusion or decoction of some poisonous, intoxicating roots" and "they became stark, staring mad, in which raving condition they were kept eighteen or twenty days." During the ordeal, they Kunlive their former lives" and begin manhood by losing all memory of ever having been boys

There is in Mexico a curious species

Right: A magician of Kuma in northeast Africa leads entranced women in a ritual dance. The substance that tney ingest consists of a secret mixture of many different plants, most of which are unknown. Evidence suggests that Datura Is among them. The women are possessed by the spirits who use them as their medium.

Left: The illustration from the early writings of Sahagun. the Spanish friar who wrote shortly after the conquest of Mexico, pictures the utilization of an infusion of Datura to relieve rheumatism. This use Is still found recommended in modern pharmacopoeias.

of Datura, so distinct that a separate section of the genus has been set up for its classification. It is D. ceratocaula, a fleshy plant with thi;k, forking stems of bogs, or growing in water. Known as Torna Loco ("maddening plant"7, it is powerfully narcotic. In ancient Mexico, it was considered "sister of Ololiuqui" and was held m great veneration. Little is known concerning its use today for hallucinogenic purposes

The effects of all species are similar, since their constituents are so much alike. Physiological activity begins with a feeling of lassitude and progresses into a period of hallucinations followed by deep sleep and loss>c*f consciousness. In excessive doses, death or permanent insanity may occur. Se potent is the psy-choactivity of all species of Datura that it is patently clear why peoples in indigenous cultures around the world have classed them as plants of the godi

TABERNANTHE Iboga

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Enneagram Essentials

Enneagram Essentials

Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment