Jamestown, Virginia, in 1676, when leaves of D. stramonium were inadvertently added (o (heir dinner salad» According to a later report, the soldiers were stoned for 1 1 days, remembering nothing afterwards. Other names for North American datura are devil's' weed, stink weed, and loco weed ((horn apple is a common name for (lie European species).
The species D. inoxia has been called "the most universally used drug" by the Indian tribes of California. Arizona and New Mexico* and is of even greater importance in the magico-religious ceremonies of Mexican Indians. The Navaho, Paiute, Zulu and Tarahumara tribes make a beverage (toloache) of the seeds, roots and leaves for rite-of-passage (used in this way also by (lie Algonquins of the northeast U.S.), divination rituals and communing with the dead. The Aztecs used a species of datura now called torna loco (^maddening plant"), which they refeired to as the "sister of ololiuqui," after one of their major ritual psychedelics: morning-glory seeds. Tree daturas in South America have many shamanistic. uses: interpreting visions, diagnosing illness, appiehending thieves, foretelling the future. A species of tree datura has been found near (he ruins of an Incan operating room, where it may sometimes have substituted for coca as an anesthetic.: The Jivaro Indians of Ecuador use it (o quiet unruly children (as ritalin has been given to hyperkinetic schoolchildren in the U.S.). It is added to the yage' brew in the Upper Amazon.
Different species of datura have different relative concentrations of various alkaloids, and this accounts for the variety of effects. Datura leaves may be smoked (theyjre milder (his way) or crushed in a drink (with or without additives) or a powder made from grinding the roots may be snuffed. Effects are usually felt, within 2D minutes or half' an hour. Nausea, diarrhea, chills, dry mouth and a lack of motor coordination may be noticed, but (lie predominant experience is intense disorieniation, mental confusion and nervous agitation. Datura and die other nightshades apparently (wist the mind open rather violently, a( (lie same (ime ravaging the body, so that the visions and hallucinations often produce a fear, rather than the euphoria of the psychedeiics. If a large enough dose is taken, powerful hallucinations can last for several days. Ritualistic use and guidance can provide a (enable set for tripping. Don Juan used jinison weed (o teach his apprentice Castaneda (lie experience of astral (ravel,and he valued the smoke as his ally. But overdoses can he fatal., and (here have been reports of deaths following the recreational use of datura in the U.S. in recent years.
One of the most potent tree daturas is the huge, 25-foot Culebra borrachero found in what Sch ultes calls "the most narcotic conscious area of the New World," the Sihundoy Valley at (lie headwaters of the Orinoco. (The province of Oaxaca in Mexico would surely be a close second.) Known as the "snake intoxicant," this species of datura1 has an 8D-percent scopolamine content and is used hy local lirujos for their most difficulty healing cases. In Chile the fruit of (lie arbol de los bruios (^sorcerer's tree") causes strong hallucinations and occasionally permanent madness. CJsed by (he Mapuche Indian medicine men, i(s dosage is a guarded secret . Datura shrubs include the cliiric-caspi and chiric-sClnClngo (species of Brunjelsm)'. which are the active agents in a hallucinatory beverage imbibed in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, probably once a magico-religious drug. Another nightshade that allows some Ecuadorean Indians to travel astrally is a species of petunia called shunin.
Belladonna (Atropo bcffCfdonnCI) is so named hecause of i(s cosmetic uses in medieval Italian society and among actresses. The atropine in its poisonous beiiies dilates the pupil,, which has also made it valuahle in eye examinations. It is indigenous to Europe hut has been cultivated in the U.S. for its medical uses as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. . The plant is found in woody hills and near waste areas. Belladonna is the chief commercial source for the tropane alkaloids, which are found in its leaves, roots and dark purple berries. Known as (he deadly nightshade and death's herb, belladonna was a major ingredient in witches' brews and ointments. It brought on hallucinations similar in content and intensity (o (hose produced by datura. Belladonna is a dangerous plan(, potentially harmful even in doses as small as 5 to ID mg.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) was known (o (he ancient Greeks and Romans as a poison and a means to provoke madness and inspiie prophecy. It is the most vision-producing of the deadly nightshades. A tela led species is used as a smoke in India and Africa The action of the tropane alkaloids on I lie peripheral nervous system causes a wild visionary inebriation followed by: a deep
sedation. Henbane was in fact commonly used as a sedative in the nineteenth century.
Mandrake Ovtandragora ofjicinorum) was the prototype "magic hypnotic" of European folk medicine and witchcraft. . Its man- or woman-shaped toot, wherein the potent Uopane alkaloids arc found, made it a particular^ memorable example of the Doctrine of Signatures. A brew made from boiling its root caused severe hallucinations, followed by a deathlike trance. Extract of mandrake has been used for centuries as a sedati.ve. (American mandrake, or Mayapple, is not related to the European species.)
Pituri is a species of So}onocecw native to Australia. The aborigines chew a lumpy mass of the powdered leaves, mixed with Acacia leaves, often passing it from mouth to mouth. It's also smoked in the form of a cigar. Chewing releases the alkaloids, chiefly scopolamine. A South American solanaceous hallucinant is iochroma, which is either smoked or made into tea.
Pharmaceutical preparations of the deadly nightshades iiudude atropine sulfate (dosage: 0.5 to 5 mg. orally), which is more stimulant than sedative, causes hallucinations and potentiates the effects of a wide number of psychoactive drugs, from opium to cannabis to mescaline. Another pharmaceutical. . scopolamine hydro bromide, is a stimulant/depressant in small doses (under 1 mg.) and a euphoriant and hallucinogen in larger doses, with effects lasting up to 12 hours. It carries many contra indications and is dangerous for recreational use. JB-329, a synthetic drug developed in the 1960s, produces reactions similar to the tropane alkaloids.
AMANITA MUSCARIA MUSHROOMS The toadstools of fairy tales and mythology, their brilliant red caps flecked with white waits, are among the most controversial of all psychotropic plants. Not to be confused with the magic mushrooms of Mexico and elsewhere, Amanita _ muscaria grows only in the northern.'- temperate zones of North America (around the Great Lakes, Rockies, New England and the Pacific Northwest) and parts of Europe and Asia. The most potent variety is found in the outer readies of Siberia. Commonly called fly agaric because of its toxicity to flies (an extract is supposed to have been used on flypaper), this mushroom is related to the deadly A. phollnides, the pale white "destroying angeL" Another', variety similar in appearance to A. muscaria but somewhat stronger in its effects, is the brown- or yellow-capped A, pantherina. All. species of Amanita are chiefly found in the birch and larch forests, occasionally among pines, spruce and fir.
THE DEPTHS OF THE NIGHT ¿The Mazatec Indians ent thu mushrooms only a! night in absolute darkness. II is thfcir belief thai if you eat them in the daylight you will go mad. The depths of the night are recotfntxod as the time most condu- ' cive to visionary insights into the obscurities, tht mysteries, this perplexities existence. Usually sev- i eral members of a family eat the mushrooms together. it is not uncommon for * father, mother, children, uncles and aunts to .ill participate in Ihest tran9forrn.itions of the mind that elevate conscious? ncSs onto a higher plane. The kinship relation is thusfj the basis of the transcendental subjectivity that Hussi.rl snid is intursubjeclivity. The mushrooms themselves are oaten in ptiirs, a couple representing man and wornnn that symbolizes the dual principle of procreation and creation. Then Iheysil together in their inner light, dream and realize an*! converse with each other, presences seated there together^ their bodies immnterialized by the blackness, voices from without thoir communality." * i • i. Henry Mynn ,
"Thf Mushroom tf Language.' J973
Reports of eighteenth-century Lavelers to Siberia who observed its use as an intoxicant among native tribes, the publication of Alice in WonderlCInd and R. Gordon Wasson's recent theories have added to the fame and controversy of llie fly agaric. Wasson identified it as llie Old World's first recorded turn-on, the chief ingredient of I lie intoxicating beverage soma, which the invading Aryans introduced into Northern. __ India around 1500 b.c. Soma was deified in the earliest Hindu scriptures; about 120 hymns sing its praises in the Rig-Veda. Linguist and Dead Sea scholar John Allegro proposed that the authors, of the New Testament cleverly covered up the fact that Christ and his disciples were enlightened by A_-. muscorlo mushrooms. A thirteenth-century fresco found in France displays this mushiooom in place of the apple in the Garden of Eden. Other theories hold that the Viking "beserkers" were reacting to the effects of A_.. muscoriu. The poisoned apple the Wicked Queen gives to Snow White may have symboli2ed a toxic variety of Arnunilo.
The active principle, originally, thought to have been muscarine, bufotenine or atropine, is now believed to be muscimol (an hallucinogen) and ibotenic aojd, precursor of muscimol. . A., in use aria can be eaten fresh or sun-dried; the latter is believed to increase potency and reduce toxicity.; Smaller, dark red specimens are supposed to be more active.
It's best to start by eating portions of a single mushroom, increasing llie intake at half-hour intervals as desired. It is prudent to not exceed lliiee-lhe number traditionally used by Siberian tribesmen, who maintained their high over a much longer period of lime through the novel practice of drinking their own urine or that of another mushroom eater. Three or four successive urinations slilL retained some approximation of the original potency of the fungi, for muscimol is excreted from the body unchanged. Siberian women sometimes pre-moistened the mushrooms but were otherwise excluded from ingesting them. Reindeer are said to be extremely partial to fly agaric, a possible explanation of their role in the Santa Claus myth. These animals were sometimes traded for1 a batch of muscClrio, indicating both the scarcity of the mushroom and the economy behind the practice of urine drinking.
Potency and toxicity of A. muscurio varies from place to place. The effects begin in a half hour to one and a half horns- (faster when the dried caps are smoked, a recent innovation in the U.S.) and last two to six or eight hours. The initial reactions of dizziness or drowsiness (falling asleep is not unusual), numbness in the legs, loss of
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