On the mesas of Tamaulipas and Jalisco, in
the dry infertile regions of Mexico south of the Rio Grande, a cactus
grows amid the rocks and sand. It is not erect and magnificent like
the Saguaro or the bearer of gorgeous flowers like the night-blooming
Cereus. It is, in fact, a thoroughly insignificant little pincushion
projecting a bare three inches above the barren soil, a round, dark
green protuberance connected to a carrot like taproot, its surface
covered with tufts of silky hairs. Though utterly uninspiring in appearance,
this humble cactus, Lophophora williamsii, (Formerly Anhaloniurn lewinii)
produces in its fleshy top one of the strangest drugs in the pharmacologists'
Antiquity shrouds the origins of the cactus cult. We do not know,
nor are we likely to discover, by what accident some wanderer in the
Mexican deserts first stumbled upon the secret of the plant's effects.
We may assume that the discovery of the drug resulted from the usual
causes, a quest for food on the part of some wanderer, reduced to
extremity by hunger and thirst, devouring anything containing moisture
and nourishment, however evil-tasting that something might be. We
can envisage that long-forgotten man, Aztec or pre-Aztec, chewing
the nauseous, bitter cactus tops and lying down to rest, then, in
a rising tide of astonishment, finding himself ringed on all sides
with fantastic visions, with shapes, colours and odours, the like
of which he had never even dreamed. Small wonder that, when he found
his way back to his tribe, he informed them that a deity dwelt in
the cactus and that those who devoured its flesh would behold the
world of the gods.
So, by the time the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they discovered that,
along with such gods as Quetzalcoatl and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztecs
also worshiped a triad of plants called teonanacatl, ololiuqui, and
peyotl. Of these three the peyotl was the chief, a veritable divine
substance, the "flesh of the gods.' This presented a challenge
to the Spanish priests, who had their own ideas on the subject of
God's flesh and had no intention of tolerating any rival claims to
that dignity. They promptly dubbed the peyotl "raiz diabolica,"
and persecuted all who used it without bothering to investigate its
nature or its properties. Thus the divine peyotl languished in the
shadow of the Church's displeasure for some three centuries, officially
excommunicated, secretly enjoyed. The Indians, having other values
and other memories, were little moved by the priestly denunciations
nor could these bringers of a foreign creed root out so easily a practice
that had been established for centuries. Though Montezuma was dead
and the glory of the Aztecs had passed away the worship of the divine
plant continued. It was still regarded as the flesh of God, the flesh
of Christ rather than that of an Aztec deity. Had not the Lord declared,
giving bread to his disciples, "Take, eat, this is my Body, which
is given for thee and for many. Do this in remembrance of me"?
And who would dare to find fault with the humble Indian if, in his
eagerness to obey the command of Christ, he chose to eat not a sacramental
wafer but a plant having properties so wonderful that it unrolled
before his eyes all the glories of the New Jerusalem?
And so over the dry plateau in northern Mexico in the states of Tamaulipas,
San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila,
Queretaro, Zacatecas, and Chihuahua, the seekers of the divine plant
would set out to gather the cactus. God, they maintained, had provided
maize as food for the body and peyotl as nourishment for the soul.
Should they then merely live on maize like hogs? Ought they not rather
to go and gather the divine food that both body and soul might receive
This site may look ancient
It is the result of an evening class in Dreamweaver 4 website construction
I attended in 2002.
But it is current and working, thank you very much.
Now in Feb. 2015.
They are all having their winter sleep.
This is a good time to travel to a new home with no disruption to