Wasson has proposed the hypothesis that the use of such plants was an important factor in the origin of religious ideas among primitive peoples.-*
No one knows when "mescal buttons," the spineless heads of the small, gray-green cactus, Lophophora Williamsii, first began to be used by the Indians of Mexico. But when the Conquistadores arrived, they found that the Aztecs regarded peyote as a sacred plant and used it for ritual dances and curing ceremonies.^ Some sources indicate that peyote was known and used as a religious sacrament as far back as 300 B.C.5 The ritual and medicinal use of peyote spread northward to the United States sometime between 1700 and 1880, but there is no agreement as to whether this was by slow diffusion or because of knowledge gained while
3r. Gordon Wasson, "The Hallucinogenic Fungi of Mexico An inquiry into the Origins of the Religious Idea among Primitive Peoples," Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University. Vol. XIX, No. 7 (1961), pp. 137-162.
^Weston La Barre, The Peyote Cult ("Yale Univ. Publics tions in Anthropology," No. 19; New Haveni Yale Univ. Press, 1938), pp. 109-110.
^Bernardino Sahagun, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espaffa, ed. Carlos Maria de Bustamante, (Mexico, 1329-30), cited by R. E. Schultes, "Peyote—An American , Indian Heritage from Mexico," El Mexico Antlguo. Vol. IV, No. 5/6 (April, 1938), p. 200.
northern tribes were on warring expeditions into Mexico.6
Peyotism in Mexico, with its shamanistic emphasis on curing and divination, tribal dancing, and close association with agriculture and hunting, is compared and contrasted in detail by La Barre with the Mescalero or transitional
peyotism of the Southwest and with Plains peyotism. According to Slotkin, by 1885 "the tribal dancing rite had been changed into the form of a religion-like rite of singing, prayer, and quiet contemplation both as a symbol of the spirits being worshipped and as a sacrament."8 This peyotism of the Plains Indian spread farther northward from tribe to tribe by active proselytization all the way to Canada. The "Peyote Religion" of the Native American Church, which was officially founded in Oklahoma in 1918, has followed the form of Plains peyotism, which combines traditional Indian ritual and symbology with some Christian elenents.9
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