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What is a Shaman?
• Shaman can have various roles
– Healer
– Spirit Guide
– Interpreter
• The status of a Shaman in society can vary. Some people are
designated Shaman while others are ordinary citizens with Shaman
• A Shaman will often consume a drug (entheogen) to enter a trance
to communicate with the spirits or better understand the world.
• Shaman have expert understanding of their culture and their
surrounding environment. Their cultural knowledge of rituals and
practices helps preserve tradition.
• An entheogen is a drug used for religious or
ritual purposes. It is often consumed by the
Shaman and those seeking his aid.
• Examples of entheogens:
– Iboga by the Bwiti tribe in Africa
– Mescaline by the Aztecs in South America
– Peyote by the Native Americans in North America
– Amanita Muscaria by Siberian Tribes in Siberia
Shamans in Siberia
• Birthplace of Shamanism
• Ordinary people
• Amanita Muscaria
Amanita Muscaria
• Amanita Muscaria
• Native to the Northern Hemisphere
• Active Ingredients
– Ibotenic Acid
– Muscimol
• NT Receptors
– NMDA Glutamate Agonist
• Effects
– Hallucinations
– Sweating
– Tremors
• Varying Quality
– Not distributed evenly throughout the mushroom (Cap > Base)
• Potentially dangerous
Product of decarboxlyation of Ibotenic Acid
Hippocampus, Cerebellum, Cerebral Cortex
Full GABA Agonist
Responsible for Hallucinogenic effect
Other Uses of Amanita Muscaria
Early Pesticide (Milk)
Vikings – Berserker Rage?
Aztec Use of Entheogens
The Florentine Codex
• 12 books written 1540-1585
by Aztec natives under the
supervision of Spanish
• Catalogues specifics of
everyday Aztec life
• Extensive records of Aztecs
using a plethora of plants
for supernatural and
everyday purposes
• Titles of Priest or Healer
were obtainable by any
person of noble descent
Plant Species and their Respective Uses
• Ololiúqui (Christmas Vine)
• Seeds contain LSA, a precursor to LSD
• Used by priests to communicate with the gods
• Tlitliltzin (Beach Moonflower)
• Contains alkaloids with mild hallucinogenic effects
• Used to induce a trance and communicate with the dead for the
purpose of divination
• Peyotl (Peyote)
• Administered to warriors by shaman before battle as protection
• Pipiltzintzintli (possibly Salvia Divinorum)
• Applied as a poultice
• Boiled in water and ingested to reduce fatigue
The God Mushroom
• Aztec name: Teonanacatl
• Psilocybin mushroom
• Eating these mushrooms
granted gifts from the
Mushroom God
• Clairvoyance
• Relief from fever and gout
• Used very extensively
• “Whenever there was
singing and dancing,
mushrooms were to be
eaten” – Florentine Codex
• Cult of the Mushroom still
exists today in Central
Use During Sacrificial Feasts
• Human sacrifices given in honor of Quetzalcoatl
• Feathered serpent god, creator of mankind
• Eaten with honey and chocolate for 4 days
• Attendees would feast on day 1, then eat only
Teonanacatl for the remaining 3 days.
• On the 4th day, nobles would choose a slave to
• Slave would be displayed in front of entire settlement
• Chest cut open, heart removed and eaten
• Noble would keep the slave’s head for the rest of his
Pharmacological Violence?
• A common symptom of extremely high psilocybin
doses is dysphoria (unpleasant, anxious, irritable
and aggressive mood), and vivid hallucinations.
• Florentine Codex documents that many would see
Quetzalcoatl while on trips, and be absolutely
• “He who eats many of these mushrooms sees many
things which make him afraid…he flees, hangs himself,
or hurls himself from a cliff”- Florentine Codex
• Would these sacrifices occur without the influence
of psilocybin mushrooms?
Additional Influence of Mushrooms
• The Florentine Codex
catalogues over 20 species
of mushrooms eaten as a
staple by the Aztecs
• Many of these species are
highly neurotoxic
• Cooking and preparation
reduces neurotoxicity, but
not always in its entirety
• How much of Aztec
religion was derived from
extremely high doses of a
huge variety of drugs?
Mictlantecuhtli, ruler of the underworld.
Also something you’d see on a bad trip.
•Small, spineless cactus
naturally growing from
Rio Grande to Chihuahuan
Desert, usually in warm
•Very slow growing – up
to 30 years to reach
flowering stage!
•Considered “endangered”
HUICHOL – “Wixáritari”
•Indigenous group of western
central Mexico
•Deities: Trinity of Corn, Blue
Deer, Peyote, and the Eagle.
•They fought for a long time to
avoid Catholic influences by
Spanish settlers.
- Rejected priests
Huichol practices
•Paint faces with icons, wear embroidered clothes to invoke
the presence of ancestors
•During the dry season, the ceremony included the “Peyote
•Brother Blue Deer transforms to Peyote, Mother Peyote
shot by bows and arrows at dawn
•Ceremonial officer
•5 year term
Native Americans
•Native American Church =
peyotism (Orig. in Oklahoma)
•Apache people spread it up to
what is U.S. area from the south
•Peyotism is an integration of Catholism with their own
shamanistic religion
•Weekend rituals from Saturday night 8pm to Sunday
morning breakfast
• Crowns sliced off and dried to form mescal buttons
• These buttons are usually chewed and swallowed.
(or boiled and drank as tea)
• About 30% of total alkaloid content is mescaline
– Plus 50-60 other alkaloids
• So much variation that the ED50, LD50, potency
are all unknown
– Season, age, etc.
• Primary active ingredient of peyote
• Half life: ~6 hours but some studies suggest
that it is not metabolized at all before
– Can be excreted as carboxylic acid form of
mescaline = result of MAO degradation
• Binds to serotonin receptors as partial
• Can build cross-tolerance to LSD
Effects of Peyote
– Feelings of insight/access
to spiritual ideation
– kaleidoscope vision of
bright colors
– euphoria
– increase energy and tactile
– dreamy feelings
– feeling of hope
unusual body
shortness of breath
changes in body temp.
inhibition of sex drive
paranoia, fear, etc…
• Schedule I
– Illegal to sell and possess peyote
– Native American Church and members are exempt
from registration
– Manufacturers/distributers to NA Church are
required to obtain registration annually.
• Law varies state to state
• Still used as medicine to treat alcoholism, drug
abuse or other social ills
Last thoughts…
• Why is it Schedule 1 if we have no scientific
proof of its addictiveness, especially since
there’s evidence of medical uses?
• Notice a pattern in western influence invasion
over these ethnic cultures?
– Huichol vs. Spanish Catholics
– Native Americans vs. federal government
Iboga and the Bwiti
What is Bwiti?
• A West Central African
religion - Gabon
• The name of the people
who practice Bwiti
• A syncretistic religion
composed of animism,
ancestor worship, and
• Hallucinogenic rootbark of Tabernathe
• Taken by the Bwiti to produce psychoactive
• Psychoactive substance in
iboga: ibogaine
• Bark can be pulverized,
swallowed, chewed, or taken
as a pill
•A “dirty” drug – acts on multiple NT
systems: 5-HT, DA, GABA
•Primarily taken orally
•Low doses for therapeutic effects, high for
psychedelic effects
•Iboga substance tastes like “sawdust
mixed with battery acid”
•Ibogaine is 1 out of 12
alkaloids in iboga
Oral onset: 45 min-3 hrs
Iboga use among the Bwiti
• 2 main uses:
– Small doses used as a
stimulant, 3-5mg/kg
– High doses (>10 mg)
used for Bwiti
initiation rituals
• Bwiti “rebirth”
ceremony used
required of teenagers
for group
Effects and Problems
+ Dreamlike visual hallucinations last 3-4 hours
+ Most intense period may last 24 hours or
+ Lingering effects 1-2 days after
-Ataxia, dry mouth, nausea,
-Heart arrhythmia resulting in
1/300 deaths
-Neurotoxic at high doses
Therapeutic Applications
• Reduction or elimination of
addiction to opiates, etc.
• “Ibogaine scene” quadrupled in
the last 5 years
– Ibogaine clinics
• Therapeutic effects may last up
to 3 months
– Depot binding, ibogaine
metabolized slowly
• Diminishes morphine and
cocaine self-administration in
• Blocks DA release
Something to consider…
• Ibogaine is a Schedule I drug in the U.S.
• Unavailable to the majority of addicts
• But, it has proven therapeutic effects for
treating opioid, methamphetamine,
nicotine, and alcohol addictions
• If in good hands and used in a clinical
setting, ibogaine can be a lifesaver
Works Cited
• Ibogaine Therapy: A 'Vast, Uncontrolled
Experiment’. Brian Vastag. Science, New
Series, Vol. 308, No. 5720 (Apr. 15, 2005), pp.
• Tabernanthe iboga: An African Narcotic Plant
of Social Importance. Harrison G. Pope, Jr.
Economic Botany, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun.,
1969), pp. 174-184
• Addiction Alleviator?: Hallucinogen's
Popularity Grows. Brian Vastag. Science News,
Vol. 173, No. 1 (Jan. 5, 2008), p. 6
Works Cited cont’d
Works Cited cont’d
• Albert Hoffman, “Teonanacatl and Ololiuqui, two
ancient drugs of Mexico.” Bulletin on Narcotics, Issue 1,
• Elferink, Jan G. R., Flores, Jose A., Kaplan Charles D.
“The use of Plants and Other Natural Products for
Malevolent Practices Among the Aztecs and Their
Successors.” Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl Volume 24,
• Mike Hughes, “Teonanacatl: The Secret History of
Magic Mushrooms.” 30 September, 2010.
• Sagahun, Bernardino. Historia general de las cosas de
Nueva Espana. 1590.
Works Cited cont’d
• Amanita Muscaria and Siberia
– Nyberg, H. (1992). "Religious use of hallucinogenic fungi:
A comparison between Siberian and Mesoamerican
• Muscimol
– S. R. Snodgrass (1978). "Use of 3H-muscimol for GABA
receptor studies".
• Berserker Rage
– Ödman S. (1784) “An attempt to Explain the Berserkraging of Ancient Nordic Warriors through Natural
• Early Pesticide Use
– Clusius C. (1601). "Genus XII of the pernicious