- Aztec use of entheogens
The Aztec use of entheogens is a well-documented aspect of
Aztecculture. Both archaeological and historic evidence of entheogenusage within Aztec society exist. Depictions of various plants, known to have psychoactiveproperties, have been identified on murals, vases, and other objects. Descriptions of the usage of these plants are described in early ethnographic sources such as the Florentine Codexand the writings of Hernando Ruíz de Alarcón. The plants used by the Aztecs include ololiuqui(" Rivea corymbosa"), teonanácatl(" Psilocybespp."), sinicuichi("Heimia salicifolia"), toloatzin(" Daturaspp."), peyotl (" Lophophora williamsii") and many others.
There are many pieces of evidence in reference to the use of entheogens early in the history of
Mesoamerica. Spanish colonial writings suggest a heavy involvement with psychoactivesubstances in the Azteclifestyle.
Florentine codexcontains multiple references to the use of psychoactive plants among the Aztecs. The 11th book of the series contains identifications of five plant entheogens. R. Gordon Wasson, Richard Evans Schultes, and Albert Hofmannhave suggested that the statue of Xochipilli, the Aztec 'Prince of Flowers,' contains effigies of a number of plant based entheogens.
The plants were primarily used by the priests, or "tlamacazqui", other nobility, and visiting dignitaries. They would use them for
divinationmuch as the indigenous groups of central Mexicodo today. The priests would also cum on the entheogens to engage in prophecy, interpret visions, and heal.
Aztecsalso utilized the psychoactive properties of their plants to cause harm in others. " Mixitl", " Ololiuqui", " Toloatzin", " Tlapatl" and many others were used in malevolent ways, by either mixing it in the intended victims food or a beverage such as cacao. The Aztecsalso gave psychedelicsto their prisoners before sacrificing them.Fact|date=November 2007
Ololiuqui and Tlitliltzin
Ololiuqui(Coatl xoxouhqui) was identified as Rivea corymbosain 1941by Richard Evans Schultes. The name Ololiuquirefers to the brown seeds of the Rivea corymbosa(Morning Glory) plant. Tlitliltzinwas identified later as being Ipomoea violaceaby R. Gordon Wasson. This variation contains black seeds and usually has bluish hued flowers.
The seeds of these plants contain psychoactive
tryptamines, in particular a wide variety of amides of lysergic acid. The most well-known of these, d-lysergic acid amide (sometimes called LSA, LAA-111, or ergine), appears to be primarily a sedative and not a major contributor to the effects of the seeds. These effects seem to be the result of other lysergic acid amides which are typically present in lower concentrations. [Hofmann, Albert. 1971. Teonanancatl and Ololiuqui - Two Ancient Magic Drugs of Mexico. Bull Narc. 1:3-14.] The preparation of the seeds involved grinding them on a " metate", then filtering them with water to extract the alkaloids. The resulting brew was then drunk to bring forth visions.
Florentine CodexBook 11 describes the Ololiuquiintoxication:
It makes one besotted; it deranges one, troubles one, maddens one, makes one possessed. He who eats it, who drinks it, sees many things which greatly terrify him. He is really frightened [by the] poisonous serpent which he sees for that reason.
morning glorywas also utilized in healing rituals by the "ticitl". The "ticitl" would often take ololiuquito determine the cause of diseases and illness. It was also used as an anestheticto ease pain by creating a paste from the seeds and tobaccoleaf, then rubbing it on the affected body part.
Literally "god mushroom"—compound of the words "teo(tl)" (god) and "nanácatl" (mushroom)—the "
Psilocybe" genus of mushroom has a long history of use within Mesoamerica. The members of the Aztec upper class would often take "teonanácatl" at festivals and other large gatherings. According to Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, it was often a difficult task to procure mushrooms. They were quite costly as well as very difficult to locate, requiring all-night searches.
Bernardino de Sahagúnand Fray Toribio de Benavente Motoliniadescribe the use of the mushrooms. The Aztecs would drink chocolateand eat the mushrooms with honey. Those partaking in the mushroom ceremonies would fast before ingesting the sacrament. The act of taking mushrooms is known as "monanacahuia," meaning to "mushroom oneself".
At the very first, mushrooms had been served...They ate no more food; they only drank chocolate during the night. And they ate the mushrooms with honey. When the mushrooms took effect on them, then they danced, then they wept. But some, while still in command of their senses, entered and sat there by the house on their seats; they did no more, but only sat there nodding.
Perhaps the best known uses of the mushrooms are among the feasts of
Montezuma. At his coronation ceremony, many prisoners were sacrificed, and their hearts were removed. Those who were invited guests to the feast ate mushrooms, which Diego Durándescribes as causing those who ate them to go insane and many to take their lives.
Not much is known of the use of
sinicuichi(alternate spelling sinicuiche) among the Aztecs. R. Gordon Wassonidentified the flower on the statue of Xochipilliand suggested from its placement with other entheogens that it was probably used in a ritualistic context. Multiple alkaloids have been isolated from the plant; with cryogenine, lythrine, and nesodinebeing the most important. Sinicuichicould be the plant "tonatiuh yxiuh" "the herb of the sun" from the Aztec Herbal of 1552. "tonatiuh" means sun. This is interesting because today in Central and South America, sinicuichiis often called "abre-o-sol," or the "sun opener." "Tonatiuh yxiuh" is described as being a summer blooming plant, as is Heimia.
The Herbal also includes a recipe for a potion to conquer fear. It reads:
Let one who is fear-burdened take as a drink a potion made of the herb "tonatiuh yxiuh" which throws out the brightness of gold.
One of the effects of
sinicuichiis that it adds a golden halo or tinge to objects when ingested.
Tlapatl and Mixitl
Tlapatl" and " mixitl" are both " Datura" species, " Datura stramonium" and " Datura innoxia", with strong hallucinogenic qualities. The plants typically have large, white or purple hued, trumpet-shaped flowers and spiny seeds pods. The active alkaloids are atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine.
The use of
daturaspans millennia. It has been employed by both many indigenous groups in North, Central, and South America for a variety of uses. Called " toloache" today in Mexico, daturaspecies were used among the Aztecfor medicine, divination, and maleovalent purposes.
For healing, "tlapatl" was made into an ointment which was spread over infected areas to cure
gout, as well as applied as a local anesthetic. The plants were also utilized to cause harm to others. For example, it was believed that "mixitl" would cause a person to become paralyzed and mute, while "tlapatl" will cause those who take it to be disturbed and go mad.
The cactus known as "
peyotl", or more commonly peyote (" Lophophora williamsii"), has a rich history of use in Mesoamerica. Its use in northern Mexicoamong the Huicholhas been written about extensively. Peyotlwas identified from the Xochipillistatue. It is thought that since peyoteonly grows in certain regions of Mexico, the Aztecswould receive dried buttonsthrough long-distance trade. Peyote was viewed as being a protective plant by the Aztec. Sahagún suggested that the plant is what allowed the Aztecwarriors to fight as they did. The warriors fought in large numbers, often outnumbering their opponents by the thousands, and did not fear death or pain, much like the Hashishan of Egypt.Fact|date=November 2007
R. Gordon Wassonhas posited that the plant known as " pipiltzintzintli" is in fact " Salvia divinorum". It's not entirely known whether or not this plant was used by the Aztecsas a psychotropic, but Jonathan Ott(1996) argues that although there are competing species for the identification of "pipiltzintzintli", " Salvia divinorum" is probably the "best bet." There are references to use of " pipiltzintzintli" in Spanish arrest records from the conquest, as well as a reference to the mixing of " ololiuqui" with " pipiltzintzintli".
Mazatec, meaning "people of the deer" in Nahuatl, from the Oaxacaregion of Mexicoutilize " Salvia divinorum" when "Psilocybe spp." mushrooms are not readily available. They chew quidsof fresh salvialeaves to enter into a shamanic state of consciousness. The Mazatecuse the plant in both divination and healing ceremonies, perhaps as the Aztecs did 500 years ago.
Tobacco(" Nicotiana tabacum"), or "picietl" in nahuatl, was also used among the Aztecs. This plant was identified on the Xochipillistatue as well as on other items such as snuff boxes. The Aztecsmoked and chewed tobacco, and possibly drank infusions of the plant to induce visions. Certain rites and ceremonies required the use of tobacco. One dedicated to Tlalocinvolves chewing tobacco to enter an altered state:
In another ritual a priest would climb a mountain naked and painted black, carrying fir boughs and a conch trumpet. He would chew tobacco and periodically blow the horn. After piercing his ears and thighs with spines to let blood, he would retrace his steps stumbling.
* De Rios, Marlene Dobkin. "Hallucinogens, cross-cultural perspectives." University of New Mexico Press. Albuqueque, New Mexico, 1984.
* Dibble, Charles E., et al. (trans). "Florentine Codex: Book 9." The University of Utah. Utah, 1959.
* Dibble, Charles E., et al. (trans). "Florentine Codex: Book 11 - Earthly Things." The School of American Research. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1963.
* Elferink, Jan G. R., Flores, Jose A., Kaplan Charles D. " [http://www.drugtext.org/library/articles/elferink01.htm The Use of Plants and Other Natural Products for Malevolent Practices Among the Aztecs and Their Successors] ." Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl Volume 24, 1994.
* Furst, Peter T. "Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens." Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, Illinois, 1972.
* Gates, William. "The De La Cruz-Badiano Aztec Herbal of 1552." The Maya Society. Baltimore, Maryland, 1939.
* Hofmann, Albert. "Teonanácatl and Ololiuqui, two ancient magic drugs of Mexico." UNODC Bulletin on Narcotics. Issue 1, pp.3-14, 1971.
* Ott, Jonathan. " [http://www.entheology.org/salvia-ott/ottonsalvia.htm On Salvia divinorum] " Eleusis, n. 4, pp.31-39, April, 1996.
* Schultes, Richard Evans. "The Plant Kingdom and the Hallucinogens." UNODC Bulletin on Narcotics. Issue 4, 1969.
* Steck, Francis Borgia. "Motolinia's History of the Indians of New Spain." William Byrd Press, Inc. Richmond, Virginia, 1951.
* Townsend, Richard F. "The Aztecs." Thames & Hudson Inc. New York, New York, 2000.
* [http://www.erowid.org Erowid]
* [http://www.lycaeum.org Lycaeum]
* [http://www.csp.org/chrestomathy/a_title.html Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments: An Entheogen Chrestomathy]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.