Transcript of Disc II, Chapter IV: Entheogens
© 2013 Max Dashu

Momoy, sacred datura
Out of all the medicines, some plants and fungi possess the power to induce vision, spiritual journeys and transformation. Many of them belong to the same botanical family as sacred datura...

known as Grandmother Momoy to the Chumash in California, and as toloache to the Aztecs. Some peoples used this poisonous intoxicant in rites of passage.

Also in the psychoactive Datura family is tobacco, used by medicine people over most of the Americas in prayer and ceremony

Ohio rodent pipe
In Ohio, the ancients carved pipes in the form of innumerable animals for ceremonial use.

Woman pipe
They also carved pipes in the shape of sacred women, like this one from Preble County, Ohio,

Woman pipe 2
These women-pipes are also found in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and in Cherokee country...

Far to the west in Arkansas, this pipestone carving may portray Corn Mother holding kernels in her upturned hands.

In Colombia, the Quimbaya people made poporos, containers for lime used in coca ceremonies, in the shape of dreaming women

Poporo 2
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Colombia, many of the mohanes were women, and some still are today.

Nazca coca chewer
Further south, a Nazca medicine woman reaches into her coca pouch, with a quid already bulging in her cheek, and face paint across her cheeks.

Jamacoaque long pipe
Shamans in South American and the Caribbean used long tubes to snuff up coca, conibo, and tobacco, whose southern forms are strongly psychoactive.

Numerous Moche pots show medicine women chewing Huachuma, buttons of the entheogenic San Pedro cactus.

Huachumera 2
Still holding the medicine, a seeress enters into a profound and blissful state of consciousness as she absorbs its power.

Huachumera 3
This one seems to be praying, gesturing, prophesying, as the spirit moves her.

This gesture also shows up in Venezuela, the woman’s eyes closed in the same beatific rapture.

Iboga plant
In the Bwiti religion of Gabon, they make the bark and roots of iboga into a visionary elixir. The Fang people say that...

Gabon forest people cloth
... a Baka woman named Disumba “was the beginning of Bwiti.” She became its first voyager after her dead husband asked her to eat from the iboga bush at a cave. Another account says a Fang woman Benzogho learned this medicine from the Babongo people. So it originates with the small forest peoples.

Bwiti, painted up
Consumed in night ceremonies, the iboga frees the soul to journey out of the body, allowing people to commune with ancestors and the spirits of nature, and to perceive their real being.

Sacred mushrooms have similar powers. Stone sculptures of mushroom spirits were found at Kaminaljuyú, Guatemala, each with a small metate

Kaminaljuyú 2
They show humans, birds, animals, all topped with mushroom caps

Kaminaljuyú 3
and this old woman with a metate, or grinding stone

Kaminaljuyú 4
The early, pre-classic dating of these stones shows the long roots of sacred mushroom curanderismo and visionary ceremonies...

Mexican shrooms
...which are also reflected in clay figurines from western Mexico.

Aztec codices call the mushroom spirits Teonanácatl, here shown as a bird-like being

Across Asia and Europe, the Amanita Muscaria mushroom was used as a potent, if toxic, entheogen. It lingered as a familiar symbol in fairy books. [Mukhomor is its Russian name.]

Along the Pegtymel river in northeastern Siberia, the ancestors of the Chukchi made rock engravings of people

Pegtymel 2
with this psychoactive mushroom hovering over their heads,

Pegtymel 3
Women are prominent among them, and elk appear often. These petroglyphs date to 4000-3000 years ago.

Pegtymel 4
Some shamans are flanked by boats filled with people, often interpreted as spirit boats journeying to the watery ancestral realm, amidst sea mammals, and floating entranced people.

Chad mushroom heads
Around the same time period, rock art with mushroom-headed people is found in Chad, north Africa.

Chad cave
Spotted mushrooms replace their heads, which wear the antennae-like strands of other Saharan spirit people

Chad, women with cow
These women also seem to have the spotted mushroom-heads -- unless they’re unusually horizontal and lopsided coiffures

Tin Aboteka
A much older Algerian painting at Ti-n-Aboteka shows a woman dancing in ecstasy amidst mushroom shapes.

Tageuit, Tenere petroglyphs
With or without entheogens, some Saharan petroglyphs clearly reflect a vision of spiritual and energetic states, like the “chakras” on this broad-hipped woman, to say nothing of her head!

Eleusis, Greece
This relief at Eleusis suggests use of  entheogenic mushrooms in the Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. Some suggest that the ritual barley drink kykeon may have contained ergot, a fungal precursor of LSD.

The famous poppy-crowned Goddess from Gazi, Crete, is one of many, including Demeter, who hold or wear opium poppies.

Poppy goddess
This one stands on a lion, attended by a crane. Many clay vessels imitated the shape of poppy capsules. [Goddess on lion is a west Asian theme absorbed in Cyprus.]

Cypriot opium jars
From Cyprus, special opium pots were traded around the Mediterranean, in heavy demand for birth and other mysteries we can’t track, though the juglet at left has ... that serpent.

Cyprus clay birth scene
Guiding women through the life and death passage of birth is a medicine path of its own, and so too the women’s chants that guided the dead to the Otherworld. [like the Moiralogia, Greek women’s chants "Words of the Fates."]

Birthing Mother, Ecuador
As many mothers attest, giving birth is a transformative and sometimes ecstatic experience, as shown in this Ecuadorian ceramic

Manabí stela
Also in Ecuador, stone stelas from Manabí show women in birth-giving posture undergoing shamanic transformations: her expression is blissful, her hands have turned into swans.

Laud Codex 36
Birth can be painful, dangerous, even fatal-- or an exalted experience of divine union and creation.


Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu

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