An Ancient Mushroom Ceremony

"The first thing which they ale at the gathering was small, black mushrooms which lliey calLed nonoeotl. These are intoxicating and cause visions lo be seen and even provoke sensuousness. They ale these [mushrooms] before dawn, and they also drank chocolate before daylight . They ate these little mushrooms with honey, and when they began lo be excited by them, lliey began lo dance, some singing, others weeping, for they were already intoxicated by the mushrooms. Some did not want lo sing but sat down in their quarters and remained there as if in a meditative mood. Some saw themselves dying in a vision and wept; others saw themselves being eaten by a wild beast; others imagined that lliey were capturing prisoners in bailie, thai lliey were rich, I hat they possessed many slaves, that they had committed adultery and were lo have llieir heads crushed for the offense, thai they were guilty of a theft for which lliey were to be killed, and many other visions which lliey saw. When the intoxication from the little mushrooms had passed, lliey talked over among themselves ilie visions which lliey had seen." Fray Bernardino de Sahagun sixteenth century drug practices, a development epitomized in Ihe tremendous success of the series of books aboul don Juan, Yaqui brujo (sorcerer and drug plant guru). The value placed on the educational and recreational uses of psychedelics, or hallucinogens, by the generation thai spans the Fifties Beats, the Sixties Hippies and the Seventies occult . seekers and spiritual adveiilurers-in short, the Generation of Heads-has helped encourage renewed interest in psychoactive herbs and plants in the comext of organic highs, natural foods, body consciousness, conventions with dolphins and house plants, paganism, astrology and genelic mysticism.

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An Arabian caravan

A ha 11 ucioogenic milestone occurred when Dr. Albert Hofmann, discoverer of LSD and director of the prestigious Sandoz Pharmaceutical Laboratories, personally took his synthetic psilocybin pills to the Mazatec cuiandera in her hut in the mountains of Oaxaca in 1962. A group of hippies passing a DMT joint in a Haiglu-Ashbuiy flat in 1966 would have known from the pages of Psychedelic Review they were counterparts of Ecuadorean Indians who blew virola snuff (a DMT-loaded substance) into each other's nostrils through long bone lubes.

In recent years, herbal teas, capsules and cigarettes have been increasingly consumed by people seeking ways other than the restricted national psychedelics to get energized, cooled out and otherworldly. Health food stores and head shops offer products like legal hash, "Not Pot," organic speed. Of 200 commercially sold herbal smoking mixtures, nearly half contain psychoactive substances. (The FDA doesn't take action against substances that are not sold as food; and the DEA is mainly interested in busting traffickers of glamour drugs, like cocaine.) According to recent studies, one-quarter of the 400 different herbs and spices used in teas are also psychoactive-though in most cases the amounts are too small to get people off (unless, perhaps those people have been sensitized by a number of psychedelic trips, or have had their minds opened by the most famous herb or our times, Cannabis sativa).

A modern herb emporium

Magazines like High Times carry ads for lettuce opium, magic mushroom spores, aphrodisiac yohimbine smoking mix, cosmic think-drink (Gotu kola). "Legal grass" contains Korean ginseng leaves, damiana, high-grade lobelia herb, yohimbine bark and hops. A combination of yohimbine bark and kavakava root is described as feeling like "mellow acid." Kola nut and chia seeds are combined in organic speed. Sales of pamphlets on legal highs and herbal aphrodisiacs and numerous magic-mushroom field guides testify to the mania for organic highs. Far more species of psychoactive plants exist than have been declared illegal, and new ones await discovery. The Ch urch of the Tree of Life and other Neo-American religious groups have followed the example of the peyote using Native American Church in declaring as their sacrament plant hallucinogens that are presently legal..

Dosage, set and setting play central roles in the hallucinogenic plant consumption of primitive societies, having been intensely ritualized through centuries of trial.. The poly drug experience is quite common. Dosage is of extreme importance, as many of the su bstances used are highly toxic and even a small error could be fatal.. Age and body weight are major determinants. Methods of preparation and consumption, even of the same drug plant, vary from tribe to tribe. Recreational use occurs, but what has mostly been observed and reported is ceremonial use, always lead by a shaman (curandero. medicine man. witch doctor) who programs, guides and controls the divinatory event, . Chanting, singing and dancing are almost always part of the ceremony. Except for the African i bog a cults and the Mazatec sacred mushroom ritual, . women are decidedly outcast from actually ingesting mind-altering substances but often playa central role in the ceremonial preparation and rite.

More than 100 hallucinogenic plants have been identified in the New World, compared to 15 or 20 in the Old World. Only two branches of the plant kingdom have hallucinogenic species: the most evolutionary advanced of the lower fungi (Agaricales) and the highly evolved flowering piauts (angios perms). The hallucinogenic effects (striking changes in sense perception accompanied by dramatic and profound alterations in mood and thought) are-except in the case of marijuana-caused by the presence in the plant of certain alkaloids (nitrogen-containing compounds). There are four main types of hallucinogenic alkaloidal derivatives: trepane (datura, belladonna, henbane, mandrake); isoxazole (Amanita muscaria mushroom); phenylcthylaminc (peyote and San Pedro cactus, possibly kavakava, nutmeg); and indole. Indole

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