Shamanic or Sacred Plants and their Historic and Current Uses

This strange world has provided humans with all their needs (or we’ve evolved as creatures who can live using what is available?). What needs are these? We all first think of food, clothing, shelter and sex. But once these needs are met what else do we look for? We look for our spirits to be nurtured. Some paint or write stories or sing or dance. Some feel drawn to explore their inner depths. Just about the earliest explorations happened with the help of various plants that were available to people. It’s stunning to realize how many people must have died from ingesting the wrong plants before it was known which plants worked as food and which gave amazing effects on the mind and spirit. Over time there was a body of knowledge passed down generation to generation. There are few cultures in the Western Hemisphere that did not value at least one hallucinogenic plant in magico-religious ceremonies. Many cultures had several. In addition to hallucinogens, a number of otherwise psychoactive plants shared the honors: Tobacco, Coca, Guayusa, Yoca, Guaranca′. Some of those – especially tobacco and coca – rose to exalted positions in the sacred native pharmacopoeias. One of the earliest used psychoactive plants was actually a fungus, the Amanita Muscaria or Fly Agaric. Amanita is a beautiful mushroom growing in thin forests. We are most familiar with the ones with a red cap and white warts. Some also have yellow or orange caps with yellow warts and the Pantherina has a gray cap. The Amanita Muscaria has been identified as the Soma taken by the Aryans of ancient India. The Finno-Ugrian peoples of Siberia are well known to have used Amanita extensively and notoriously even drank the urine of those who had ingested it so as not to waste any. They are said to have fed it to their reindeer, which may account for the flying legends in the Santa Claus myths. The Blue Lotus or Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea Caerulea, N. Ampla, N. Capensis or N. Alba) were very prominent in ancient Egyptian mythology and in the Mayan world. The ancients worshipped Blue Lotus as a visionary plant and it was the symbol for the origins of life. When Blue Lotus was smoked or drunk after being soaked in water or wine, it acted as an intoxicant. Another well known shamanic plant is the Peyote cactus. 16th Century Spaniards discovered and wrote about use of Peyote by the Aztec Indians. They found Peyote firmly established in native religions, and their efforts to stamp out this practice drove it into hiding in the hills, where its sacramental use has persisted to the present time. It is used today by some Mexican Indians and by members of the Native American Church in the United States. Peyote is a

controlled substance in the United States except for the “nondrug use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church, and members of the Native American Church so using peyote are exempt from registration.” However there are several other cacti that have similar effects and can be used for similar purposes, such as members of the Trichocereus family: T. Pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), T. Peruvianus (Peruvian Torch cactus) and T. Bridgesii (Achuma cactus). The Chavins of Peru are thought to have uses San Pedro cactus 2,500 years ago in religious ceremonies. Peyotillo is another cactus that looks similar to Peyote and is valued in Mexico as “false Peyote”. Bishop’s Cap cactus (Astrophytum Myriostigma) is also known as “false Peyote”. Bishop’s Cap is an attractive plant that is often grown as a house plant. In South America the Ayahuasca ceremony is practiced in parts of the the Amazon valley of South America. During religious ceremonies a brew containing Banisteriopsis Caapi vine (Yage’) and either Chacruna (Psychotria Viridis) or Chaliponga (Diplopterys Cabrerana). Other plants are sometimes used depending on the desired effect. Ayahuasca use has been traced as far back as 500 BC and is still used today. Seeds have been used throughout history for spiritual/psychoactive effects. Kanna seeds were used by the Hottentots of S. Africa as a vision-inducing hallucinogen. In some places in S. Africa the roots and leaves are still smoked. Syrian Rue is highly valued today from Asia Minor across to India with extraordinary esteem, suggesting former religious use as a hallucinogen. Ololiuqui is a type of Morning Glory that is valued as one of the major sacred hallucinogens of numerous Indian groups in southern Mexico. The seeds of this plant were used in Aztec ceremonies and as a magic potion. Yopo seeds sometimes mixed with tobacco were used in Orinoco region of South America. The seeds were ground into a shamanic snuff that they inhaled in order to contact supernatural beings. The use of sacred and shamanic plants has recently been growing in Western societies. However, these plants have been used by aboriginal peoples throughout time who have restricted the use of these plants to magic, medical or religious purposes. These plants were considered the gifts of the gods and never used for recreational purposes. B. Gormley Ohiotraders Botanicals